7 Best Free Payroll Software for Small Business and Accountants | Reviews and Pricing

Whether you’re a small business owner or the head of human resources at a large enterprise, you’d agree that manually processing payroll is time-consuming, and not to mention, risky. Thanks to payroll software, however, employers can streamline and automate this administrative nightmare.

From managing direct deposits to sorting out payroll taxes, there are a lot of tasks that an automated solution can handle, leaving your teams with enough time to focus on other things.

However, the current market for payroll programs is saturated. In this article, I’m going to review 7 of the best payroll software in 2023 to help you pick the right one.

Let’s jump right in.

Why Choose Zenefits as Your Payroll Software

Payroll software does a lot more than help you create pay stubs. In addition to streamlining the entire payroll data, they help with tax filing, garnishments, direct bank deposits, and much more. In a way, it’s a mix between accounting software and HCM systems.

While different payroll systems offer different features, the basic capabilities are pretty much the same. They only vary on the basis of your requirements.

However, Zenefits is one of the few payroll software that can handle the payroll requirements of companies of all sizes.

It’s a state-of-the-art payroll software that’s packed with all the essential and cutting-edge features, such as onboarding synchronization, time tracking, tips reporting, salary distribution, and much more.

Zenefits offers unlimited payroll runs, which you can perform from any corner of the world, thanks to its lightning-fast mobile app.

All in all, Zenefits is easily the best payroll processing and management software in terms of integrations, ease-of-use, and capabilities.

7 Best Payroll Software Solutions in 2023

It’s not easy to pick a payroll software solution, especially in 2023 when there are hundreds of options to choose from.

Some of these tools exist as stand-alone systems, whereas others are available as add-ons/modules with complete HR software.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of 7 of the best payroll software to try in 2023.

1.      Zenefits

Zenefits is human capital management (HCM) software with a wide range of capabilities, including benefits administration, basic HR functions, and of course, payroll management.

It’s fully self-service payroll software integrates easily with your HR ecosystem, immediately providing you with access to some of the most advanced features.

What makes this platform unique is its scope. Unlike most modern payroll software that are only suitable for either small businesses or large enterprises, Zenefits is a promising choice for all businesses.

Key Features and Specialties

Here are the features that make Zenefits the ultimate choice when it comes to picking a payroll software:

  • Integrated Payroll – from syncing the information of new hires to managing deductions arising from benefits (and tracking PTO in between), the tool will handle all of the usual payroll-related tasks.
  • Administration – the tool also automates prorating salaries, generates digital paystubs, allows you to send special payments (bonuses and commissions) in bulk, and much more.
  • Payrun – these include features such as direct deposits, reporting on tips (for restaurants and hospitality industries), calculations for garnishments, and more.
  • Taxes – Zenefits will also handle the filing of both state and federal taxes, along with 1099 filings, ensuring compliance.

As you can see, the payroll system of Zenefits is the perfect combination of an intelligent accounting system and an HR program.

Zenefits Pricing

The payroll option of Zenefits exists as an add-on for the following packages:

  • Essentials – a basic plan, perfect for small businesses, that includes core HR features, time tracking, integrations, and the mobile app. It costs $8/month/employee (annually) or $10/month/employee (monthly).
  • Growth – includes all features of the Essential plan, along with compensation and performance management capabilities. It costs $14/month/employee (annually) or $18/month/employee (monthly).
  • Zen – in addition to all features of the Growth plan, you’ll also get employee engagement surveys, employee well-being features, and a native communication platform called “People Hub.” It’s priced at $21/month/employee (annually) or $27/month/employee.

The base price of the payroll software is $6. However, to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Zenefits is offering free 1-year access to their payroll software to all of their Growth and Zen clients.

Visit Zenefits

2.      Gusto

Gusto is another leading HR, benefits, and full-service payroll provider that offers cloud-based solutions.

From automatically filing federal and local taxes to tracking time and benefits deductions, there’s hardly anything that Gusto’s payroll solution can’t do as far as compliant processing is concerned.

Like Zenefits, it allows you to run unlimited payrolls. Simply opt for a suitable pricing package and run as many payrolls as you want.

Thanks to its highly intuitive user-interface, you can run payrolls in a matter of minutes.

As of now, it’s one of the most in-demand online payroll services in the market.

Key Features and Specialties

Let’s take a look at the key payroll features and capabilities of Gusto:

  • Payroll Taxes – automate your filings and get access to all tax forms (along with other compliance documents) all in one place.
  • Auto-Calculations for Compliance – Gusto keeps a pulse on tax laws and automatically performs calculations to ensure that you’re always compliant.
  • Time Tracking – track time off, lunch breaks, and more for employees that get paid on an hourly basis.
  • Workers’ Compensation – offer worker’s comp insurance to your team. Simply set up your policy and pay as you go.
  • Employee Self-Service – you can allow your employees to set up their accounts themselves on a very user-friendly platform.

Furthermore, the platform works well with other popular HR tools, including Xero, Quickbooks, Tsheets, and more.

Gusto Pricing

Gusto is available in the following packages, all of which include full-service payroll processing:

  • Basic – a beta plan that’s suitable for very small teams. It includes full-service payroll for just 1 state. Apart from a base price of $19/month, the plan costs an additional $6/month/person.
  • Core – built for smaller teams, the package includes payroll services that are available in all 50 states. The base price is $39/month, plus $6/month for every employee on your team.
  • Complete – includes more advanced features and is perfect for larger teams. The plan costs $39/month (base price) and will set you back by $12/month for every employee you have.
  • Concierge – the most advanced package, made for HR pros. The base price is $149/month and the per-employee monthly cost is $12.

Visit Gusto

3.      GoCo

Next on the list is GoCo – a modern solution that can automate even the most complicated HR, benefits, and payroll workflows.

GoCo gives you the option to either bring your own payroll (i.e., stick with your current payroll provider) or opt for their embedded payroll solution (which is powered by Execupay).

That makes GoCo one of the most flexible payroll software out there.

It seamlessly integrates with most payroll providers, such as Quickbooks, Paychex, and Paylocity, and doesn’t require you to set up new systems.

Key Features and Specialties

GoCo offers the following useful features:

  • New Hire Payroll Setup – GoCo’s “Onboarding Wizard” makes it easy to welcome new employees and collect their payroll information (W-4 withholdings, deductions, etc.).
  • Benefits Deductions – automatically calculate deductions arising from benefits and pay the right amount to your employees.
  • Time Tracking – track the total time worked along with PTO. The tool also complies with the new regulations regarding COVID-19.
  • Employee Changes – don’t worry about changes to the payroll data of your employees, as everything is always synced-up.

GoCo Pricing

Unlike most HR and payroll software, GoCo doesn’t have a fixed pricing plan.

However, it starts at $5, and the final price tag will depend on your special requirements.

To find out how much it’d cost, you can request a quote from their sales team on their website.

Visit GoCo

Honorable Mentions

4.      QuickBooks (by Intuit)

QuickBooks is an accounting software by Intuit, that’s packed with advanced payroll and employee benefits features.

Most suitable for small businesses, QuickBooks offers a flexible list of capabilities that can automate the payroll processing needs of most modern companies – from direct deposits to workers’ compensation.

As of now, it’s one of the most popular platforms out there.

Key Features and Specialties

Here’s what QuickBooks payroll has to offer:

  • Direct Deposits – run payroll anytime you want and your employees will get paid on the very same day.
  • Auto Payroll – set up your policy and put your payroll processing on auto-pilot. QuickBooks will send you notifications to help you stay on top of things.
  • Tax Penalty Protection – Intuit promises to pay $25,000 as compensation in case you get slapped with a tax penalty (not every company is offering that).
  • Health Benefits – you can offer dental, vision, and medical insurance through SimplyInsured (a partner of Intuit). All deductions are automatically calculated.
  • Workers’ Compensation – with the help of AP Intego (another Intuit partner), you can offer workers’ comp insurance to your employees. What’s more is that you can simply set up a policy and provide compensation automatically (whenever needed).
  • Time Tracking – last, but not least, the employee time data is always in-sync with the payroll.

In addition to the above, QuickBooks payroll software also offers expert HR support to their clients.

QuickBooks Pricing

You can opt for any of the following packages to start using Intuit QuickBooks:

  • Core – this includes all of the basic payroll features. The base price is $45/month (with an additional $4/employee/month).
  • Premium – a slightly advanced plan, packed with more powerful features. It’s priced at $75/month and will cost an additional $8/employee.
  • Elite – the most advanced package, perfect for teams that require more hands-on assistance from on-demand experts. It costs $125/month, plus an additional $10/employee.

Visit QuickBooks

5.      RUN (Powered by ADP®)

RUN (by ADP®) is a lightning-fast and affordable small business payroll software.

Not only can this software handle basic payroll activities, but tax compliance and some basic HR tasks as well.

The tool has been designed specifically to make payroll processing simple and much quicker – without all the extra complicated systems that most businesses with a handful of employees don’t need (however, they’re still available with certain packages).

All things considered, it’s one of the best payroll software for small business owners.

Key Features and Specialties

Here are the main features offered by ADP RUN:

  • Advanced Reporting – get all the payroll and HR-related data on a highly intuitive dashboard.
  • Tax Filing – automate federal and state tax filings and reduce your chances of errors to avoid hefty penalties.
  • New Hire Setup – easily sync up the information of new hires to your payroll.
  • ADP® Employee Access – an employee self-service feature that lets your teams view payment histories, easily manage direct deposits, and much more.
  • Garnishment Payments – a separate service, available in all plans except for the essential/basic one (more on that later).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of HRM features as well. But as mentioned earlier, they’re only available with the advanced packages.

ADP Pricing

ADP® currently offers the following plans for RUN (and hasn’t shared any fixed pricing for any of them):

  • Essential (Payroll) – the most basic package that has everything a small business needs to manage its payroll.
  • Enhanced (Payroll) – a more advanced plan for payroll processing that offers additional features such as State Unemployment Insurance management and garnishment reporting.
  • Complete (Payroll & HR Plus) – this plan includes basic HR functionalities, in addition to advanced payroll features.
  • HR Pro (Payroll & HR) – get premium HR support along with cutting-edge payroll features.

You can request a price quote for any plan you like on their website.

Visit RUN

6.      Paychex

Paychex offers premium payroll services to both SMEs and large businesses.

Whether you have a team of less than 50 employees or more than 1,000 individuals, the online payroll service of Paychex can help.

From automating payroll tax filings and garnishment payments to providing advanced HR analytics, there’s a lot that Paychex has to offer, making it one of the most comprehensive payroll services out there.

Key Features and Specialties

Here are some of the key features that make Paychex stand out:

  • Paychex Flex – the main payroll software that allows you to easily import your payroll directly to the system.
  • Payroll Options – Paychex provides the flexibility of choosing payroll options that you feel are right for you, including direct deposits to bank accounts, the ability to pay with standard checks, etc.
  • Workers’ Comp – set up your policy and offer workers’ compensation insurance through the Paychex Insurance Agency.
  • Automatic Payroll Taxes – stop worrying about filing federal, state, and local taxes.
  • Employee Self-Service – let your employees fill out tax forms, access/change their information, and much more.
  • End-to-End HCM (for Larger Players) – this is a comprehensive human capital management solution that’s only available for medium and large businesses.

The offerings are flexible and can change according to your requirements.

Paychex Pricing

As of now, Paychex has the following pricing plans:

  • Paychex Go – the most basic plan that starts at $59/month and costs an additional $4 per employee.
  • Paychex Flex Select® – a slightly advanced package that doesn’t have any fixed pricing. The final tag will depend on your special requirements.
  • Paychex Flex Enterprise® – the most advanced plan for larger enterprises. You can request a quote from their sales team by sharing your requirements.

Visit Paychex

7.      Patriot Payroll

Patriot is a software company that offers accounting and payroll tools – ideal for small businesses.

Their online payroll software offers both advanced and basic payroll capabilities. Based on your requirements, you can easily select the depth of functionalities/services you want.

All in all, Patriot Payroll is a lightweight, fast, and highly affordable platform that’s perfect for a business that doesn’t need help with its basic HR and benefits-related tasks (Patriot offers separate smaller tools as add-ons for that purpose).

Key Features and Specialties

Patriot offers a wide range of payroll features, some of which include:

  • Free Payroll Setup – simply provide your information and Patriot will set up your payroll. You may also choose to do that yourself.
  • Employee Portal – provide safe and secure access to payment histories, PTO balances, and more.
  • Pay Frequencies – whether you pay your employees weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, or monthly (or you have different groups of employees), you can streamline their payments with ease.
  • Contractor Payments – use the same payroll to manage the payments made to your contractors.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition to all of the features listed above (along with the others not mentioned), Patriot will handle all of the administrative tasks related to payroll processing.

Patriot SoftwarePricing

Patriot is selling its services through the following two plans:

  • Basic Payroll – an entirely self-service package where you’ll do everything yourself by leveraging Patriot’s platform. It starts at $10/month and costs an additional $4 for every employee you’ve got.
  • Full-Service Payroll – with this plan, you’ll only have to run payrolls yourself, and Patriot will handle the taxes. The base price for this plan is $30/month (with an additional $4/month/employee).

Visit Patriot Payroll

How to Select the Right Payroll Software for Your Company

As with everything else, selecting the perfect payroll software for your company depends on the specific requirements of your business.

For instance, if running payroll yourself seems like a daunting task, you should definitely opt for a software that offers complete automation.

Or if you require a complete HCM solution, go for a more comprehensive HR platform.

Whatever the case or the size of your company, Zenefits is the only platform that can offer you the functionality you need to effortlessly process your payroll, stay compliant, and get enough time to focus on your business.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is a business strategy consultant and founder. He's written several world-recognized books on software configuration, speaks Spanish, ballroom dances, and owns The Product Company and Squibler.