Let’s face it – doing payroll is a menial, yet time-consuming task! Even small businesses spend more than a week just doing payroll every year. And yet, it is a necessary process for every business.
It makes sense, then, that you’d want to automate as much of that as possible!
That’s why I’ve decided to test and review the best payroll software for 2020 to help you choose wisely from the huge number of available options.
First, I read a large number of reputable independent company payroll software reviews as well as customer ratings and feedback to come up with a list of capable payroll providers.
Second, I studied their websites and signed up for a free trial, where it was available.
Third, I explored the software and ran payroll.
I assessed each software for the following factors:
Excited to get cracking? I bet you are.
There are numerous benefits to using affordable payroll software solutions.
Among other things, payroll software increases efficiency, improves labor management, decreases the potential for mistakes and errors, and provides employees with access to past and present data.CLICK TO TWEET
It’s easy to get lost in the vast jungle that is the payroll software industry. Capterra lists 191 providers, and this number grows each year.
You’re probably wondering:
“So, how do I compare payroll software and choose the right one for my business?”
I recommend considering the following factors:
But before you start doing any of that, make sure you read our thorough reviews.
Lots of options and features
Fast, simple interface
Easy to learn
Issues with complex features
As the winner of multiple awards and available at a low price, Zenefits stands out as one of the better payroll software packages out there. The comprehensive administration features and reporting services packaged into an easy-to-use interface make for a great all-round user experience that will appeal to both new and seasoned payroll staff.
Zenefits offers a 14-day free demo and three packages that are billed per month per employee. These include Essentials at $8, Growth at $14 and Zen at $21.
All packages include Core HR services, time and scheduling, integrations and a mobile app. The Growth package has additional features like compensation and performance management. The Zen package has all the above with a well-being package included.
Payroll is an add-on for all packages and comes in at $6 per month per employee, so take this into account if you want to use this for payroll. Other add-ons include an advisory service at $8 and the option to use an external benefits broker for $5 per month.
The platform is easy to use and is quite highly rated (4.3/5 on Capterra) but users have noted some minor glitches with timecards and custom emails.
The simplicity of the UI is noted by many users to be the platform’s biggest benefit. It’s easy to learn and most employees pick it up quickly without the need for any external training.
This can explain why Zenefits has managed to win a G2 Crowd award for Best Core HR Software and an Editor’s Choice Award from PCMAG.com.
Support is offered only online and during business hours so you may find yourself waiting up to two days for a reply. Reviews regarding support have been mixed, with some customers citing a lack of personal attention and product knowledge.
Zenefits is a simple system, which means a lot of users may never need support. Still, it seems the product could benefit from improved customer service.
A great piece of software for small businesses that are just starting out and need to get payroll running quickly. The configuration is simple and requires minimal training and support to get going. This is fortunate since the customer service is lacking. Ideally, you will want to keep your procedures simple.
For small businesses looking for a cheap and cheery payroll solution without too many hassles or extras, Zenefits will impress.
Wide variety of plans
Same day direct deposit for premium products
Can’t test payroll on demo account
Somewhat limited features on basic products
No W-2 forms on basic products
QuickBooks pro proudly proclaims itself as the number one payroll software for small businesses. An impressive 85% of its 1.4 million customers recommend it.
Is it really the best, though? Let’s try to find out.
You can choose from one of several payments and package options depending on if you want the desktop or online version. Each one comes with either a one-month free trial option or a 60-day money-back guarantee. The main differences are largely based on how big your business is and the complexity of your payroll needs.
QuickBooks Pro is the standard desktop version of QuickBooks Pro and offers almost everything that a business requires to complete its payroll and tax requirements to tax agencies. These features include income and expenses tracking, contact management, invoices and estimates, inventory tracking, over 120 reports, sales tax and tax form capabilities, bill management, budgeting, more than 200 integrations. The standard version costs $299.95 for a 3 years subscription.
QuickBooks Pro Plus is the upgraded desktop version of QuickBooks Pro, offering everything the standard one does and a fair bit more. It builds on the desktop version by adding a few more specialized features for companies with more pressing needs and complex operations. Notably, these include dedicated tech support and automatic backups. It costs $299.95 per year.
Self Employed Plan is the cheapest version of Quickbooks and is aimed at self-employed individuals or freelancers, offering only tax-reporting for a single user. It provides users with the ability to calculate quarterly estimates of income taxes and costs only $15 / month
Simple Start Plan offers the simplest version of Quickbooks for small businesses and startups. It provides users with the following services: unlimited invoices and estimates, expense tracking, contact management, reporting, live bank feeds, and over 500 integrations for $25 / month
Essentials Plan has everything that the Simple Start Plan has plus some added features for larger businesses. This upgraded plan includes accounts payable and time tracking for the slightly higher cost of $40 / month.
Plus Plan is for companies that need a full suite of services that include tax and project support. The Plus plan has all the features of previous versions plus tax support, project management, inventory, and class tracking – all for only $70 / month!
Advanced Plan is for the biggest of corporations out there. QuickBooks offers one final big-daddy of plans with even more features packed in like a dedicated account manager, priority care, advanced Fathom reporting, customized permissions, five training classes included, tax support, and project management. All this, plus the previously mentioned features is offered at $150 / month.
Creating a new account with QuickBooks payroll takes no time at all. You’re up and running straight away, and the software greets you with friendly, conversational language and helpful encouragements.
The whole process is a breeze. On top of that, the dashboard comes with charts and graphs that help you visualize your invoices and expenses.
As an accounting software that does payroll management as well, QuickBooks allows you to keep track of net and gross income, expenses, banking, and much more in a simple electronic format.
QuickBooks is a desktop and web-based service that offers software for Windows and mobile apps for both Android and iOS. While the majority of features work well across a range of business sizes, the reports do tend to have a cumbersome feel to them at times and occasionally lose fields.
The QuickBooks Pro desktop apps run well on Windows 8.1 and 10 and Windows Server 2008 to 2019 with relatively low resource requirements. The desktop software can also be hosted on a cloud-based system for an additional cost.
App support is good, especially among the higher-priced premium versions, but the learning curve required to master QuickBooks is quite steep. This could make the applications feel a bit less user-friendly to non-technically minded employees.
As a top 10 payroll software, QuickBooks has useful online tutorials to guide you through the process. The company’s YouTube channel is particularly entertaining and helpful at the same time – a rare combination indeed.
Apart from a large number of educational step-by-step guides, there is a series of 15-second long “Danny DeVito Teaches” videos. Apparently, he thinks doing payroll with QuickBooks Pro is so easy, he doesn’t even need the full 15 seconds to guide us through the process – “this is just dead air.”
Sure, buddy. Whatever you say.
QuickBooks’s resource center is also on point, with plenty of informative articles packed with great tips and the most recent crucial stats and facts.
Like Gusto, QuickBooks has a fully set up demo account – but I couldn’t get access to payroll!
QuickBooks Enterprise family, offering accounting, payroll and inventory management, has long been a firm favourite amongst professionals all around the globe. While it represents a far more complex interface than some similar competitors, it also provides the most feature-rich service in its class. The desktop version remains a powerful tool for large corporations and the online version is a welcome addition for small to medium-sized businesses.
Customer support may not be the quickest at responding, but they generally manage to provide answers for the majority of issues. For users willing to put in the extra reading time, there is a wealth of documentation available online with solutions to almost any problem.
QuickBooks is certainly a piece of software that rewards its customers with a powerful payroll platform, so long as a bit of time is spent learning its ins and outs.
Easy to set up and use
A bit pricey
Customer service is limited
Founded in 2011 as ZenPayroll, Gusto is a company that provides a cloud-based payroll, benefits, and employment contract management software for over 100,000 US-based businesses in all 50 states. It’s also Xero’s preferred payroll partner in the US, so if you’re looking for payroll software on Xero’s US website, you’ll be invited to sign up with Gusto.
All Gusto products come with a one-month free trial, which is fairly standard with payroll software free trials. You can customize any plan by adding extra benefits like pay-as-you-go workers’ comp, health benefits, 401 (k) retirement, and 529 college savings. Gusto calculates, files, and pays automatically all local, state, and federal payroll taxes.
It gets better:
There’s an Autopilot feature, which automatically runs payroll for you one day before your payroll deadlines. Nice! Gusto is clearly a leading payroll automation software.
Here’s what you can choose from:
Core is an easy-to-use payroll for smaller teams that want to keep it simple. It’s priced at $6/mo per person plus a $39 base price. You get full-service payroll, employee profiles and self-service, health benefits administration, workers’ comp administration, best-in-class support, and paid-time-off policies.
Complete, which is the company’s recommended product, is aimed at busy, growing businesses. It costs $12/mo per person plus a $39 base price. You get everything in Core plus permissions, employee offers and onboarding, simple time tracking, PTO policies and time-off requests, and employee directory and surveys
Concierge, priced at $12/mo per person plus a $149 base price, is Gusto’s premium product, which provides payroll and certified HR support to protect your business and team by certified HR pros and an HR resource center.
Setting up an account with Gusto payroll is easy and hassle-free. The interface is pared-down and intuitive, and you know exactly how far along the process you are and what to expect next. You can even invite your employees to enter their own personal information to save yourself the bother.
Before you move on to the next step, you get a bulleted list with all the necessary information and/or documents you need to have handy (for example, company bank routing and account number and online banking credentials for step 5, adding a bank account). And should you need help, there’s a link that takes you straight to the relevant article in the Help Center.
You’re told approximately how long each step takes, so you can plan ahead. You can skip steps and come back to them later, which is pretty convenient. You don’t have to commit to a plan until the very end of the setup. Then again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from one of the top 10 payroll software options on the market.
And once you’re done with the setup, you’re good to go! The software is sleek and easy to navigate. Everything is broken down into easily manageable steps, and the dashboard allows you to find your way around without any trouble.
Gusto offers a cloud-based or SaaS application that can be easily implemented into the IT services of any sized company. The application can be tailored to fit your needs depending on the package you choose, from Core to Concierge.
The software interface is intuitive and easy to use, although it doesn’t offer much in the way of improvement over other similar apps. However, it runs very smoothly and efficiently on multiple browsers and different platforms. It is consistently ranked highly by the majority of users.
The GustoBot offers to put you through to a friendly human if you want to discuss pricing, which is a nice touch. You can chat or speak on the phone with one of the company’s reps from the San Francisco or Denver offices Monday through Friday, 6 am to 5 pm PST. There’s a ticketing system, but you need to create a Gusto account before you can use it.
Apart from that, the help center is well organized and packed with useful information, as is the FAQ section.
You can also read customer stories to get some personal feedback. They’re all from small business owners, which gives you a pretty good idea of Gusto’s target audience.
Lastly, there’s a really neat interactive demo that lets you explore the software’s various features using a fictitious company. You need to have an account to access, but it’s available immediately once you’ve registered, even if you haven’t finished the setup process. You can check out both the admin and employee profiles.
Gusto is one of the most widely used web-based payroll software solutions with a long history of customer satisfaction – which is why it ranks highly in our best payroll software review. The simple, attractive interface and calm yet professional demeanour exhibited by both developers and support staff help to make Gusto a highly enjoyable experience for users.
The range of pricing options is an especially important feature that makes Gusto stand out from similar software in the payroll industry. This versatility makes Gusto the perfect product for businesses of any size, without watering-down or overcomplicating its implementation.
Useful calculators on website
Prices are quote-based
Customized demo difficult to obtain
Somewhat limited resources section on website
ADP started off as a manual payroll processing business called Automatic Payrolls way back in 1949. The company proudly boasts that mid-size companies rely on it more than on the next five most-popular payroll and HR providers combined.
Sounds impressive, right? Let’s see what features help this old-timer rank as one of the best payroll software in 2020.
Prices are quote-based. I requested a customized demo from their website but didn’t actually get one. Alternatively, you can call a toll-free number to talk to a sales rep directly.
Real-time analytics is one of ADP’s outstanding features. It provides metrics, regulatory reports, and dashboards on costs, retroactive overtime, productivity, and absences, allowing for smarter workforce management.
The interface is easy to navigate and nicely organized. I found the dashboard particularly impressive, as it’s packed full of information without being overwhelming.
Considering the number of features available, ADP Workforce is very well-presented and easy to navigate, even for first-time users. The more complex features do require a modicum of training and the initial setup should be completed with help from ADP support but beyond that, it becomes quite intuitive and efficient to run.
Some users will find the occasional feature that needs upgrading or reconfiguring as new processes become available. So far, ADP appears to be fairly proactive at ensuring updates are distributed and user concerns are addressed as they arise.
ADP Workforce is available for both Windows and Mac OS or online via any web browser. It is widely regarded as one of the best software payroll platforms out there, but as with other complex programs, it requires a fair amount of initial training. For companies that are willing to spend the time and money on training for their staff, the software will be highly beneficial.
The platform runs well on both Mac and Windows systems without the need for additional resources or expensive upgrades. During times of excessive use or when running a large earnings report, it can slow down or occasionally even crash. However, these occurrences are rare and happen no more or less frequently than with any other similar software.
There are several demos to help guide you through the process, though they’re really step-by-step tutorials. There’s also an Articles & Insights section, which features guides and blog posts on various aspects of payroll. Sadly missing is a FAQ section; a list of alphabetically-organized topics would also come in handy.
Apart from that, the Resources section has three useful tools:
ADP is one of the longest-running payroll and HR software providers in the world which gives it a certain edge over other products. While the long history of quality financial and business experience shows, the software does have an air of antiquity about it.
While some of the more modern developers offer web-based products that will impress younger employees, they don’t offer the same range of technical features that ADP Workforce does.
For this reason, ADP Workforce is a highly valued product amongst both large and medium-sized businesses that require slightly more advanced payroll calculations. It consistently receives five-star reviews from accountants and payroll specialists around the world, solidifying its place on our list of best payroll software.
Easy-to-get self-guide demo
Great Help Center
Somewhat limited basic products
Interface somewhat outdated
Customer service a bit slow to respond via email
Founded in 1986, Patriot Software is yet another company that bundles accounting and payroll software, targeting small businesses. Customers are particularly impressed with its payroll software, giving it an astonishing 4.8/5 average rating based on 384 reviews.
Is such high praise warranted? Let’s check.
Patriot offers some of the most affordable payroll software solutions.
Basic Payroll starts at $4/mo per employee plus a $10 base price. You get the basics to run your own payroll (direct deposit, employee portal, unlimited and flexible portals, and so on), but you have to file and deposit Federal, State, Local, and year-end taxes by yourself.
Full Service Payroll starts at $4/mo per employee plus a $30 base price. Turns out the software will handle your taxes for a mere 20 bucks extra a month.
You get a free 30-day trial with both available packages. Not enough? You can add Time & Attendance and/or HR Software for additional monthly fees.
There’s a neat slider calculator that lets you see the exact monthly price depending on the number of employees you have. If you have 56, for instance, Basic will cost you $234 and Full Service – $254.
It takes all of 30 seconds to get a free, self-guided demo account – and you don’t even have to verify your email. That’s what I call quick and efficient. It’s a feature any company claiming to offer the best payroll management software should have.
The interface isn’t exactly the sleekest out there, but it’s easy to navigate. I was able to run payroll quickly and without any hassle.
Except I’m not quite sure President Jefferson would appreciate his hourly rate.
Patriot is an online service accessible from most web browsers on either Mac or Windows. It can be hosted as a SaaS or web service and is aimed at companies with up to 100 employees. The online platform is simple, runs well, and has straightforward procedures that the majority of staff will get to grips with easily.
Reviews are good amongst small business owners but those with more complex processes have run into the occasional issue. As far as online software goes, it runs very smoothly and is well supported by a strong customer service team.
Free customer support via phone, email, or chat is available 8 am – 8 pm EST, Monday through Friday. The average wait time for an email query is 2 days, so Patriot’s customer service isn’t exactly the first out of the blocks.
But there’s no need to get easily disappointed.
The Help Center on the company’s website is really well set up. There are in-depth how-to guides, training videos, and a fantastic blog. Top marks!
Patriot is a great service for US-based midsize companies looking for a simple and affordable payroll processing solution. While it doesn’t offer some of the more complex features that some others do, it should have everything an SMB needs. Users who also need tax filing have the option to upgrade to the Full-Service plan, which is a nice addition.
Customer service is comprehensive and above average for what one would expect from a product in this price range. Overall, Patriot’s efficient and cost-effective business structure makes it one of the most attractive payroll software platforms out there.
Direct deposit to employees
Compatibility with common accounting packages
Only one product
Can’t set up software by yourself
No knowledge base
When it comes to online payroll management solutions, Payroll4Free.com is the only provider of free payroll – as long as your business pays no more than 25 people. The company started in a Cleveland suburb in 2012 with two local clients and has since attracted customers in nearly all 50 US states. Sounds too good to be true. But is it?
As you’d expect, there’s just the one free product, which you can upgrade by adding a couple of paid services.
It comes with all payroll processing, direct deposits to employees when using your own bank, tax calculations and forms, vacation tracking, outside software integrations, human resource functions, extensive reporting options, and unlimited live customer service and support.
The software supports both W-2 employees and 1099 contractors and allows you to set up 401 (k) deductions and contributions. It can also export your payroll information into many common accounting packages, such as QuickBooks.
These are two optional paid services:
Payroll4Free will deposit and file all payroll taxes (you’ll have to do it yourself otherwise) for $12.50 per month. You can also use Payroll4Free’s bank to transfer direct deposit funds to your employees rather than your own bank for $12.50 per month.
At the end of the day, even free payroll software isn’t free all the way if you want a bit of extra help.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t actually take a look at the software’s design and interface and assess ease of use because you can’t do the setup yourself. Instead, once you’ve signed up, you get an email with setup instructions. Basically, you need to fill out manually several forms (Federal Form 8655, New Employee Set up Form for each of your employees, and so on), get copies of several other forms, and return the lot as email attachments.
Let’s face it:
That’s not exactly an ideal setup process. Then again, you can only expect so much for free, so any payroll software comparison should take that into account.
There’s no knowledge base as such, but the FAQ page provides answers to some of the more generic questions. Apart from that, customer service is available via phone (no hours specified), email, and ticketing. According to customer feedback, support is quick and helpful.
Payroll4Free is included here because it is the only completely free software available for basic payroll processing. This is a huge pro for small businesses starting out with minimal capital. Naturally, the free services are severely limited but offer a great starting point for beginners looking to get their payroll processing off the ground.
The extra business services online that require additional payment give Payroll4Free a far more professional and detailed use case but the main attraction would be the free service. For this reason, we believe Payroll4Free deserves a spot on our Top 10 list.
Good array of features
Good customer service
Only quote-based prices
Only a 7-day free trial
No check printing
Founded in 2008, BambooHR is an American technology company that provides human resources software, including payroll, to over 13,000 small and medium businesses. It has a 4.5/5 rating on Capterra, based on an impressive 991 reviews. Could that make it the best payroll software?
Prices are quote-based, and you can request one by filling out a form or calling the company’s sales team.
There’s a 7-day free trial. You can sign up for it quickly and without much hassle, and it will tell you the exact day and time it expires. Mobile Apps for iOS and Android are available.
In terms of features, the software comes with 401(k) tracking, benefits management, direct deposit, payroll reporting, a self-service portal, tax compliance, vacation/leave tracking, W-2/1099 preparation, and paying wages. However, it does not support check printing.
Bamboo HR is incredibly user-friendly and easy to use. In fact, it’s one of the easiest payroll software to use. The interface is intuitive, and you can easily switch back and forth between the various HR service solutions the company provides. Not much to fault here.
One of the most stand-out features of Bamboo HR is the clean and clear interface on both the desktop and mobile versions. Unlike some more complex payroll software services aimed at HR professionals, even general staff will find Bamboo HR simple and easy to use.
Taking time off, reporting overtime, adding sick days and requesting holiday become effortless for all involved. This all adds up to a much smoother and accurate payroll experience at the end of the day.
Bamboo HR offers a broad range of software packages for Mac, Windows, and Cloud or SaaS services. Mobile apps for both Android and iOS are also available with a modern, sleek design that makes them enjoyable to use.
The desktop versions offer all the payroll services a company could need in a clear and concise fashion that is intuitive to navigate. From a visual standpoint, Bamboo is one of the most attractive software packages you’ll find today.
The company prides itself on being the 2018 Stevie Silver Winner for Sales & Customer Service.
So, what’s the big deal?
Call, email, and chat customer service is available during regular business hours. You can access the Help Center as soon as you sign up for your free trial.
The knowledge base is particularly helpful – there’s a blog; a content library packed full of e-books, infographics, whitepapers, video guides; a webinar library; and an HR glossary. Well done, Bamboo HR!
The software also comes with interactive tutorials. Bamboo HR’s YouTube channel is also helpful and well organized.
There is little to be said about Bamboo HR that isn’t positive because the tool really does tick all the boxes when it comes to HR and payroll processing software. Naturally, there are large corporations that require more robust software, but the vast majority of businesses will find Bamboo HR sufficient for their needs.
Benefits, leave, self-service, tax compliance, wage calculations, W-2/1099 and 401(k) tracking – Bamboo has it all! When it’s time to get your business up-to-date with a modern, attractive HR interface and provide staff with an enjoyable user-experience, you really can’t beat Bamboo HR.
Highly detailed, complex payroll solution
Perfect for businesses of any size
Tons of features
The interface is a bit traditional
Paychex Flex offers an excellent online payroll service in a modular format that makes it easy to scale between small and larger businesses. In addition to payroll, a variety of HR services are also included along with several options for training and 24/7 support.
In addition to the corporate software, employees can download the free mobile app to view and update their information remotely, check their pay and manage their tax.
At $60 a month, Paychex Flex is not the cheapest software out there since it is aimed at businesses of any size – from 1 to 1000+ employees. However, the software is generally considered to offer good value for money and has the track record to back it up.
The payroll software provides hiring and applicant tracking, onboarding, HR info, health insurance, benefits, payroll checks, time tracking, admin and retirement services. The employee self-service portal allows staff to view their payment info, company policies and job history, request time off and update their info.
The software is quite traditional and plain-looking which belies a strong, robust core that can easily complete any task. This is a serious payroll software for big corporations and dedicated finance companies so small startups might find it a bit stuffy.
However, it works great and gets the job done quickly and efficiently for even the largest and most complex of businesses. New users may need a bit of time learning to navigate the entire system but it works great once you get the hang of it.
Customer service is provided by phone 24/7 which is a huge plus in the payroll software industry. There are also in-person training and webinars available online to get you up and running. The majority of users say customer service is very helpful although they do find they have to make quite a few calls.
Paychex Flex is a great solution for bigger businesses and a strong competitor to other costly services like ADP. This is a software package aimed at big corporations so it may not appeal to small startups, especially not at this price.
For businesses that have grown and are now supporting 50+ staff, yet are running older software that is not able to keep up – Paychex will offer a significant improvement. A fair bit of training is required but in the long run, this will pay off well.
Good for both small- and mid-size companies
Multi-directional engagement tool
E-learning management system
Difficult to obtain a list of products or prices
Somewhat outdated interface
Website not easy to navigate
In January 2019, iSolved acquired Sage Payroll Solutions, the US-based payroll outsourcing business of The Sage Group, which services more than 45,000 small- and mid-size companies. Sage Payroll now comes as part of a full human capital management (HCM) solution. So, if you’re browsing this best payroll software providers list looking for Sage 50cloud – this is it!
I spent nearly half an hour trying to find a list of products in vain. And prices? “Fuggedaboutit,” as the mobsters in the 1997 crime drama Donnie Brasco kept saying.
Citing an unnamed third-party site, FitSmallBusiness state that pricing starts at $8/mo per person for small businesses and companies with up to 75 employees. In any event, I’m not sure I can easily trust a company that isn’t upfront with its pricing or doesn’t offer a quote.
In terms of features, all iSource products come with “Mojo,” a multi-directional engagement tool that provides a personalized dashboard, feed wall, and tools for idea and knowledge sharing like pulse surveys and crowdsourcing. I bet Austin Powers would have enjoyed the “Ready to get your Mojo going?” prompt immensely.
As you may have gathered by now, it’s not easy to find your way around iSolve’s website.
You have to sign up to watch the online iSolved HCM demo, but you get a link as soon as you do, as with Gusto and QuickBooks Pro. The interface design is somewhat outdated and not particularly eye-catching. However, being able to drag and drop boxes around allows users to customize their dashboard to ensure the most intuitive navigation. This is the sort of stuff that makes great personalized payroll software.
Because iSolve is a complete HCM solution, the ability to access the specific information you need – in this case, payroll reports and other documents – is absolutely crucial. Luckily, the software comes with filters, which makes this task straightforward.
iSolved is a cloud-based service that operates through any browser on both Windows or Mac OS operating systems. Its relatively simplified interface is designed to make payroll a hassle-free process for small-to-medium sized businesses.
The platform is quite intuitive, so users shouldn’t have trouble getting used to it. That said, live online training, webinars, and documentation are also available. While some access to the software has been made available via mobile apps, these are toned-down and don’t cover all features.
The online interface runs fairly smoothly but does run into the occasional glitch. As with any payroll software, it’s important to get the initial setup correct to ensure you have the smoothest operating experience.
You can contact one of the company’s seven US offices by phone during regular business hours Monday through Friday (check first because for some reason business hours are not standardized across offices) or use the online ticketing system.
The Resources section isn’t all that resourceful, especially if you’re not already a user. There’s a blog, but it had a grand total of 5 payroll-related posts as of January 2020.
That being said, things get better once you’re a user.
First, you can rely on iSolved University, a full learning management system (think BlackBoard or Moodle), which offers online courses for business owners, managers, and employees. If you’re into e-learning, it’s ideal for you.
Second, the software admin dashboard lists your account reps (customer service and implementation) and how best to get in touch with them (phone or email), so you know who to contact when you need help.
iSolved is a great package for small-to-medium sized businesses because it keeps things simple, is affordable and quite easy to get started. Larger companies will find there are some important features lacking, which is why this is purely a platform for smaller businesses.
The e-learning management tool is great for getting staff trained up and understanding the various parts of the software – something vital in small businesses. The additional mobile apps are a nice touch, especially for companies with remote workers. Once its up and running, processes are quick to initiate and staff will find the interface easy to navigate.
60-day free trial for new customers
Good array of features
Separate UK and Ireland product ranges
A bit pricey
Somewhat limited customer service
Thesaurus is an Ireland-based company that provides payroll, HR, and accounting software to over 100,000 businesses in the UK and Ireland. While quite a few of the companies I looked at have international versions of their software, BrightPay by Thesaurus is definitely one of the best payroll software solutions in the UK and Ireland. It’s rated a full 5/5 on Capterra, based on 277 user reviews. Customers clearly love it!
BrightPay won the “Payroll Software of the Year” at the 2018 & 2019 AccountingWEB’s Software Excellence Awards.
Let’s see what the company has to offer in 2020.
For the purposes of this review, I examined the UK product range for the 2020 year. All products come with a 60-day free trial for new customers.
BrightPay 2020 Standard starts at £49. It’s aimed at a single employer with multiple employees.
BrightPay 2020 Bureau starts at £249. It’s aimed at multiple employers with unlimited employees.
BrightPay Connect – Backup & Self-Service (2019/2020) starts at £49. It’s an add-on that enables automatic backup of payroll data to the cloud and a web-based self-service dashboard for employees and employers.
Standard features include additions and deductions, P11d’s (expenses and benefits) and payrolling for benefits, holiday accruals, analysis reporting, RTI submissions, HMRC payments, automatic enrolment/API submissions/CSV pension uploads, employment allowance, and journals exports.
Even though Brightpay is definitely one of the best payroll software options out there, its interface isn’t particularly snazzy and won’t win any graphic design awards. Frankly, it looks a bit outdated. That being said, it’s intuitive, well set up, and easy to use. You can skip steps and/or go back to previous steps in the process, and you can easily tell how far along you are.
One thing I found a bit unpleasant was the small size of the font – unless you enjoy squinting, you might have to zoom in.
You’ll have to download and install the software after purchasing, but you can backup your reports on the cloud after you’ve created them.
Brightpay has software available for both Windows and Mac, with additional online cloud services in the form of Brightpay Connect. The software is aimed at the UK and Ireland market and isn’t as complex or detailed as some of the bigger payroll software packages like ADP. This makes it somewhat easier to use for smaller businesses, but it does lack certain functionality.
Overall the apps run smoothly and the online integration works great. For smaller businesses, the low price tag is especially attractive, considering how impressive the software looks and how solidly it operates.
Free customer service is available via phone, email, and online from 09:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00 Monday through Friday. There’s also an extensive knowledge base, which comes with a FAQ section, video tutorials, online documentation, and guides and whitepapers.
I found the video tutorials particularly informative and insightful. What makes it even better is there are tons of them!
Make sure you start with the 38-minute long, in-depth BrightPay Payroll Demo to get a clear picture of what you can expect from the software.
One final thing:
In case you’re going to contact customer service via phone, make sure you’ve worked on your Irish accent comprehension. As one customer review noted, “I did call once over an Irish bank holiday and spoke to a chap I found difficult to understand because of his beautiful soft Irish accent…” To avoid this pitfall, I recommend watching all three series of Father Ted, preferably in one go.
Hilarious Irish comedy and a guide to the best payroll software out there? What more could you possibly want? But as Father Ted’s Father Dougal McGuire wisely put it: “Careful now!”
For UK and Ireland based users with less complex payroll procedures, Brightpay offers a more affordable alternative to other full-service payroll packages. It doesn’t have an interface as attractive as Bamboo’s but offers equally smooth operation and sufficient features.
The addition of a free version is a great bonus that many payroll packages lack. This makes it easy to test and trial run before making a paid commitment. Some small businesses may even find the free version sufficient for their needs.
Payroll is not a simple function that can be handed off to an HR assistant to save staffing costs. Getting payroll right should be one of your business’s top priorities so it’s not an area to skimp on costs.
Good payroll software can make a huge difference and save your company thousands of dollars in the long run. However, you must select the correct payroll software – just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’ll automatically solve all your problems. Larger payroll software packages include many complex features that will only complicate the process for smaller businesses.
To get the best experience, find a payroll package that is tailored to your type of business and the size of your company. These days, many payroll software platforms include a self-service portal that employees will use so the best payroll packages reflect a company’s vision and environment.
Take some time to test different services so you can make an educated choice for yourself, your employees, and your business.
Thing is, though, there are plenty more payroll software platforms out there that are still worthy. They didn’t make the cut into the top 10, but they can still be a good choice, depending on your business-specific needs.
Since this Best payroll comparison wouldn’t be complete without mentioning those, here is a short summary for each of them.
U.S based Paycom is a popular payroll tool for small businesses that offers many features – including timesheets, HRIS management, and applicant tracking. There are some shortfalls in regard to dealing with more complex situations but for small companies, it is an excellent and highly functional system.
Paycom offers great customer service and is proactive in dealing with issues, although it does ask for a fair amount of error reporting. One big advantage is the online tool that can be accessed from anywhere, especially in today’s remote working environment. While the interface can be a bit daunting to users at first, the support and training videos are very helpful and intuitive.
OnPay is a fast cloud-based payroll service that can really speed up payroll processes for small to medium businesses. The interface has a nice and attractive design, although it is somewhat spread out, requiring a lot of scrolling up and down.
OnPay features a monthly flat rate of $36 and $4 per employee, which is about average for most payroll software. The setup process is quite arduous, but OnPay support is on call to help out with any issues you may run into. Setting up schedules is very flexible and can involve multiple payment schedules for different employees.
Prime Pay is a great piece of software from a company that has been involved in payroll for over 30 years. It’s a cloud-based SaaS service with many online support services like webinars, documentation, and live training. Features include 401(k) tracking, wage garnishment, vacation tracking, W-2/1099 preparation, and benefits management.
The software doesn’t support outsourcing or multi-country payroll services, but is awash with many other very useful features that the majority of companies will find sufficient. However, there is a slight lack of customization and some timecard features are limited on the mobile version. While there are many online resources available, it can be difficult to get a quick response from customer support.
Kashflow Payroll is an award-winning cloud-based platform, aimed at helping small businesses manage the company’s finances without the need for professional accountants. Aimed primarily at automating payroll processes, Kashflow Payroll is a quick and easy piece of software for startups.
Kashflow Payroll is recognized by HMRC in the UK and integrated with IRIS solutions to give companies better control over client data. While it offers great value for money, customer support is quite bad and the software lacks complex features. Some users report problems cancelling their subscriptions or receiving refunds for incorrect charges.
Justworks aims to be a fully functional, cloud-based, HR solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The platform makes managing deductions for employee benefits easy and offers compliance, HR processes, and payroll all into one powerful piece of software. At only $39.00 per month, it offers one of the best value-for-money solutions for companies looking to set up quick and easy HR and payroll processes.
Features include management of payroll, benefits, compensation, time, and attendance. In addition, access to 24/7 online support, employee databases, and a self-service portal. However, there is no applicant tracking, performance management or recruitment control.
The APS Payroll software is a slightly more complex cloud-based package than most others in its class, with additional features like multi-state support, 401(k) tracking and W2/1099 preparation. At $50.00 a month, it is slightly more costly than average but promises a better experience for medium-sized companies.
There are some delays reported with direct deposits and a fair amount of initial training required but overall, APS Payroll is viewed by most companies as an improvement on cheaper software. There is a large amount of integration with HR processes which can help to streamline processes and reduce overheads.
Wagepoint is a cloud-based payroll processing service available in Canada and the U.S. It includes in-person and online training to get started, with business hour support and expansive documentation. At $40 per month and $2 per employee, it is slightly higher than the average price of similar cloud-based payroll software.
While the software benefits from multi-country support, it lacks benefits management, payroll outsourcing and 401(k) tracking. Tax compliance, vacation tracking, wage garnishment and W2/1099 preparation is included and users find the simple interface user-friendly and concise. Great software for small businesses with relatively simple procedures.
Square Payroll is a well-presented and highly functional web-based payroll platform at a decent price, offering simplified processing to companies up to 100 employees. It has a host of features including 401(k) tracking, W2/1099 preparation, check printing, and tax compliance. It is averagely priced at $29 per month with a $5 per employee charge.
No training is offered and support is limited to business hours. Still, a free demo is available for testing. Some features are a bit limited – like time card customization, multiple pay rates, and direct deposit labelling. However, for small businesses, the simplicity and versatility are highly-valuable.
Netchex is an excellent cloud-based complete employee life-cycle solution for businesses of all sizes. However, at a cost of $12.00 per user per month, it could become quite expensive for large businesses. Support is very comprehensive, with in-person and online training, business hours and online support, and additional documentation and webinars.
Features are quite in-depth, with a large number of business admin forms, tax compliance procedures, vacation tracking, 401(k) support, a self-service portal and payroll outsourcing. Scheduling can be complex to manage for bigger companies and calendar and onboarding software integration is lacking but overall, users rate the software highly.
Hourly is a popular new payroll service that has convenient online and mobile support at only $4.00 per user per month. Both Android and iOS are supported and a free trial is available. The software is quite simple though, with some limited features. There is no support for vacation tracking, 401(k) tracking or benefits management, making the software generally only useful for small businesses.
However, for simplicity, it scores high points and shows great promise with new features being developed and released regularly. Customer support is quick and efficient although some users have noted periods of downtime and problems connecting with the online apps.
SaaS-based payroll and HR software Viventium is a high-quality solution for larger businesses that require excellent customer service. It’s online and phone support is widely regarded as some of the best in the industry although complex problems have been known to take time to get resolved.
An excellent user-interface is backed up by equally efficient processing with support for application tracking, employee profiles, onboarding, and time and attendance management. Unfortunately, there is no support for recruitment and benefits management, which holds back this otherwise fully-featured tool.
Sage is a highly adaptable payroll software platform that caters do a variety of business sizes, from small companies of 15 or fewer employees to large corporations with up to 200 employees. The full-service package also provides tax withholdings compliance, complex forms and a dedicated payroll expert to support your business.
At $49.95 per month, Sage isn’t the cheapest option but is certainly one of the most comprehensive. The SaaS and cloud-based system covers the full range of features from all forms of business, pension and tax tracking, compliance and benefits management. Support is 24/7 via phone or online and live in-person training is provided.
Emplloy Payroll offers a wide range of features to all 50 states in the U.S, offering companies of all sizes the ability to complete both a local and federal tax return. Additional features include multiple schedules and pay rates, unlimited payroll runs, direct deposits, W2/1099 support, off-cycle payrolls, pre-tax benefits, onboarding, and a digital paycheck manager.
Emplloy Payroll offers multiple software formats for both Windows and Mac, as well as mobile and online web versions, making it highly versatile and available to a broader set of businesses. At only $5.00 per month, per employee with a $25 once-off fee, it’s on the cheaper side of payroll software packages. There is a minor learning curve when getting started but decent training and support are provided online and in person where available.
Checkmark is one of the few software-based payroll platforms still available today, with a one-off cost of $429.00. It’s available for both Mac and Windows and caters to small to medium-sized businesses with a more traditional approach to payroll processing. While the system lacks certain modern features like a self-service portal and W-2/1099 support, it’s a well-known and long-trusted platform with a solid reputation for satisfactory payroll processing.
Features include 401(k) tracking, vacation tracking, manage benefit payments, tax compliance, reporting, and check printing. With over 20 years of experience, this is the software for those who want a reliable and trustworthy solution.
This is pure simplicity and instant efficiency out-of-the-box: a payroll and HR solution for small to medium-sized businesses that doesn’t waste any time. JustLogin will sort out all your administrative requirements, from payroll, time tracking, benefits, onboarding and performance management.
With no overly complex features, JustLogin is intended to solve the immediate employee and HR needs of a small business without complicating things. At only $5 per month per employee, it can be very affordable – but lacks applicant tracking, compensation, recruitment management and 24/7 customer support.
Ceridian’s Dayforce payroll software is a feature-packed cloud and mobile platform offering a range of training options and excellent customer support with a 24/7 representative. Just a few of its extra features include applicant tracking, onboarding, self-service, employee databases and profiles, benefits, attendance, performance and time management.
However, integration is lacking and some users have noted a lack of comprehensive setup procedures to ensure systems are running smoothly from the start. The platform is highly scalable and various different formats are available, making it affordable for a wider range of businesses but more difficult to integrate initially. It is available a SaaS cloud service with mobile support for both Android and iOS.
Payroll software calculates employees’ and independent contractors’ salaries and deposits them directly into bank accounts, cuts deductions, produces tax forms and payslips, and possibly much more. It helps to produce paychecks and reduce manual errors as well as the overall time spent on running payroll.
Some of the best payroll software providers focus solely on this service. However, a few of the best accounting software solutions come with payroll software as part of their packages. Some HR technology vendors also offer payroll software, and it can be included in an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.
Even if you have only one employee, you should start using payroll software straight away. A quick and early start will help you avoid complications down the road as your business grows.
It’s easy to set up and use. In addition to saving you time and eliminating potential errors, payroll software offers other benefits. These include secure financial transactions, efficient handling of employee data, and easy access to detailed reports on staff payroll.
In fact, the majority of firms with more than five employees now use an external payroll company. And now that you know what the best payroll software companies are, you won’t find it hard to choose the best one for your business needs and join their ranks.
Payroll can be part of both HR and finance, and at times it can be an entirely separate function, depending on the size of the company. Since payroll takes into account things like sick leave, overtime rate, and bonuses, it often requires input from both HR and finance advisors.
Naturally, anybody working in payroll would require expertise in financial administration. For many smaller companies, the finance department is mainly the one to look after it. In bigger corporations, it becomes more important to track HR costs in relation to turnover, so both departments overlap and become more involved.
Aside from dealing with employee payments, payroll is also involved in filing companies local, state and federal taxes. These may also involve the legal department.
Gusto is generally considered the overall most user-friendly and intuitive payroll software. While it may not offer some advanced features like those in QuickBooks Pro, it fulfils the needs of 90% of businesses. It is also the most accessible platform for the majority of users.