Online payroll software is an easy and simple way to do your payroll financials, like paying employees proper wages and filing taxes. With so many payroll companies out there, how do you find the one that is best for your individual business needs?
We’ve made it easy for you to decide by comparing the different features, services, usability, and price of the top three online payroll software: Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll), Intuit, and Patriot Software. We will go through the summary of each platform, as well as detailed comparisons of price, features, and customer service. At the end, we will also go through other payroll options.
Our Top Online Payroll Software 2018: Gusto
We put Gusto at the top of our list because it offers the simplest and most convenient services and support for its price. Gusto has top-rated customer service and full tax support that makes it nearly unbeatable for the cost of the package.
|Best For:||Ease of use, features, support||Inexpensive Quickbooks bundle||Affordable and simple|
|Monthly Price:||$39/month + $6/employee per month||$39/month + $2/employee per month||$10/month + $2/additional employee per month|
|Price of 5 Employees||$69/month||$49/month||$18/month (Not including 1099s)|
|Integrations||Quickbooks, Xero, Freshbooks, TSheets and more||Quickbooks||None|
|1099 Support||Yes, included in package||Yes, $16 additional per contractor per year||Yes, additional $7.50/month|
|Federal and State Payroll Taxes||Gusto handles all payroll taxes||Intuit fills out tax forms and you must submit manually||Patriot calculates tax liabilities, but must file and submit manually unless pay for additional service|
|Customer Support||Phone/email 11am-9pm EST||Phone/Email 9am-9pm EST||Phone/live chat 8am-5pm EST|
Why Gusto Is Top Pick
Your employees are emailed a questionnaire to fill out, which enables weekly or monthly paychecks automatically direct deposited to their accounts—without you having to spend any time or effort uploading info or writing checks! Gusto also automates taxes, W-2s, and workers’ comp in a timesaving, user-friendly way.
Gusto is also expanding to health benefits, transportation benefits, and retirement plans to make it a one-stop-shop for all of your employee needs. With available US-based customer support alongside its intuitive software, it is a stress-free “all-in-one HR” system.
The price for all of these services is unbeatable. A “full service” program with Gusto is only $45/month, where comparable programs can be upwards of $70/month.
Why Use Intuit
Intuit QuickBooks is a good option if you need advanced features like multiple payment schedules, accrued paid time off, or split-bank direct deposits. Gusto is beginning to offer these features as well, though.
An essentials enhanced payroll package with Intuit is $69/month + $2/employee per month. However, if you want the essentials plus full service it jumps to $129/month + $2/employee per month. They are offering 50% off the first six months and a free 30-day trial to see if you like it!
Over 1 million small businesses use Intuit Online Payroll, and it is best for those owners that need a high level of control over complex payroll and benefits.
Why Use Patriot Software
Patriot Software is the cheapest option at $10/month for general payroll. Saving money will take you a little more manual work, especially for taxes.
Patriot calculates your tax liabilities, but you need to file and pay them yourself. Although they offer a package that does your taxes for you, it is only slightly cheaper than Gusto.
Setup is done over the phone or live chat, or Patriot Software can even import your data for you. They have free expert support and guaranteed security.
Patriot Payroll is a basic, simplistic option for those companies looking to save money and keep high control over their payroll—and don’t mind doing some of the work.
Online Payroll Software: Price Comparison
For basic features for 5 employees, the least expensive option is Patriot Payroll at $18/month, followed by Intuit at $49/month and Gusto at $69/month. However, it is important to take into account both the price and features of each package beyond the basic services.
Although Gusto seems the most expensive, they don’t offer a basic edition as the other companies do. Gusto’s $69/month for 5 employees package has an Intuit equivalent of $109/month and a Patriot equivalent of $41/month with additional charges for optional features.
Gusto’s base price is always $39/month + $6/month per employee for all features in their one package—no hidden fees or extra charges.
Intuit’s enhanced package is also $39/month + $2/month per employee. However, you have to pay extra to file 1099s at the end of the year, which is a one time payment of $16 per contractor. Their basic package is $25/month + $2/employee, but it does not include taxes or W-2 services. There is a “Full Service” package for $99/month + $2/employee, where all payroll, taxes, and W2s are included.
Their fully automated service is the best option, but Gusto does the same thing for a lower price than Intuit’s Full Service. Thus, Intuit is the cheapest option if you are willing to do some work yourself with the basic or standard packages.
Patriot’s full service package, including taxes and W-2s, is only $25/month for 1 employee + $4/month for each additional employee. Although this is cheaper than Gusto’s base price of $39/month for the same services, Patriot is less user friendly and does not offer the same features like accrued vacation, health benefits, automatic payroll, etc.
However, one great option for applicable businesses is a “Time and Attendance” add-on for only $5/month + $1/per employee.
Below are the features you get from all 3 programs:
- Calculates employee gross pay based on hours, salary, and bonuses per pay cycle
- Individual employee paychecks after withholdings, payroll taxes, and deductions
- Automatically pays employees with direct deposit or printed checks
- Automatically pays contractors and prints year-end 1099 forms
- Creates and prints tax forms, like W-2s, W-3s, Form 940, 1099s
- Calculates payments to government agencies and State and Federal Unemployment Insurance
Gusto has significant additional features to make payroll simple and easy:
- Self-onboarding: employees enter personal information themselves
- “Auto-pilot” payroll: automatically processes direct deposit each pay period
- Manage sick/vacation days: can allot pre-set number of days or set to accrue over time
- Integration with Quickbooks, Xero, Freshbooks, TSheets, Zenefits, Receipt Bank, BambooHR, and more
- Benefits management: easily purchase workers comp, transportation and health benefits, and setup retirement plans
- Self-service portal: employees can manage their own benefits
Intuit was always the biggest player in the payroll software industry due to its advanced list of features, but now Gusto shares those same quality (as seen in the list above)—making the two nearly equivalent.
Intuit offers a unique feature called Poster Compliance, which gives copies of necessary federal and state labor posters for $70-$88 per year However, Gusto offers more integrations, while Intuit only offers integration with Quickbooks.
Patriot is the cheapest basic service, because you choose to pay for specific add-ons and tailor the software to your needs. Their services include time and attendance, tracking, accounting, HR, and more. However, it does lack some features, such as accruing paid time off. Patriot is best for its basic payroll features.
Customer Service Comparison
All 3 companies offer phone support for customer service. Gusto and Patriot are the leaders in good reviews, whereas Intuit seems hit or miss.
Gusto users speak highly of their customer service, and the support staff is helpful and friendly. Gusto offer phone and email support 8am to 6pm, Monday through Friday. They also have a simple, searchable support guide with useful articles and video tutorials.
Intuit receives mixed experiences with their phone support, but they offer the most amount of available hours: 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday and 6am to 3pm on Saturdays. They also have a searchable FAQs and support page with relevant articles and guides.
Patriot has a highly rated support time with the shortest wait times. Their phone support and live chat is available 8am to 5pm EST, Monday through Friday. Their help center has articles and videos that are embedded into the software, making it easy to follow along.
There are other online options to consider outside of Gusto, Intuit, and Patriot Payroll. Although we love Gusto’s one-stop-shop for paperwork, payroll, and taxes, it isn’t cheap. Especially if your business is just starting out, you may want to consider more inexpensive payroll software options.
For example, Xero offers free payroll for up to 5 employees when you purchase their standard accounting software. They make invoices, inventory, expenses, payroll, and purchase orders easy and fast, and you can even convert your current QuickBooks data to Xero within three hours. Although not specifically a payroll company, their accounting software with similar features has lower rates, with a standard plan of $21 per month.
You have likely also heard of ADP and Paychex, two of the more popular payroll companies. However, these options are better for medium and large sized businesses; for small businesses, their price is twice that of Gusto for nearly the same service. Traditionally these companies were known for their full-service payroll benefits, but now other payroll companies—like Gusto, Intuit, and Patriot—also offer similar services along with their software.
The Best Choices for Payroll Software Online
We’ve rated Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) as our number one payroll company due to its unbeatable price for an extensive list of features and customer service. However, depending on the size and needs of your business, you may find that Intuit or Patriot Software is the right solution. Figure out your employees’ and business’ needs to find the right online payroll software fit.