The Best Payroll for Small Businesses

Man writing on a tablet
Zara Chechi
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor

Our expert research has found that OnPay and Gusto are best payroll providers for small businesses. We love them for their simple, easy-to-use platform and great pricing!

Payroll can be the least exciting part of running a business, which is why we’ve made it easy and found the best payroll services for your small business. Outsourcing payroll frees up your staff, so they can focus on other tasks whilst knowing that the payroll and tax side is being taken care of. 

You can read our reviews of our hand-picked payroll providers below, or you can also use our free quote tool. Just provide us with a few brief details and we’ll match you up with the best payroll providers for your business. 

The ever-changing tax regulations and the overwhelming task of ensuring your employees are always paid correctly and on time can be a lot to keep up with. This is where outsourcing payroll comes in. Outsourcing frees up your staff's time and resources to focus on other aspects of your business whilst being certain that the payroll and tax side is being taken care of. 

Best For Price (per month)TrialOur Expert Verdict 
OnPay Businesses looking for an affordable full-service platform$36 + $4/employeeOne-month free trial 4.5/5
Gusto Startups $39-$149 + $6-$12/employeeOffers a demo4.5/5
Deluxe Businesses looking for payroll and HR services$39 + $7-$12/employeeNo trial3.5/5
Square Businesses with up to 100 employees$35 + $5/employeeNo trial 3/5
Wave Businesses already using Wave products$20-$35 + $6/employee30-day free trial 3/5

1. OnPay

Best For Businesses Looking For An Affordable Full-Service Platform 

OnPay is our overall winner for small businesses. OnPay is a simple, affordable, and easy-to-use service that makes payroll a breeze. OnPay’s team will set up your payroll themselves, for free! 

The one-month free trial provides you with a great opportunity to test out this platform before you commit. The platform has been designed for a variety of businesses and industries including startups, hospitality, NGOs, gyms, franchises, accounting and more. 

With great integrations including Xero and QuickBooks Time, you can streamline your business’s operations and ensure your employees are well looked after. You can integrate 401k plans seamlessly into OnPay, making deductions and 401k matches & contributions easy. 


  • Unlimited payrolls
  • Flexible frequency
  • Easy for employees to use
  • Simple, intuitive platform


  • No automatic payroll

How Much Does OnPay Cost?

$36 + $4 per employee, per month 

2. Gusto 

Best For Startups 

Gusto is our runner-up, boasting a full-service payroll platform. However, the poor customer service reported by some users keeps it in second place. Gusto offers great tax management, taking away any tax-related headaches and ensuring your tax filings and payments are correct and done on time. Payroll taxes are automatically filed at the same time as payroll – at no extra cost to you. 

Gusto’s intuitive platform has been hailed by users as well-designed and easy to use. It sends timely email reminders to run payroll as well as keeping you informed on any tax updates. The platform has no steep learning curve, making it suitable for those of us who aren’t so tech-savvy.

Insurance and 401k plans are automatically deducted and you can integrate with other platforms such as Xero or Quickbooks, creating one easy-to-use financial platform for your business. 

Your employees can easily set themselves up and can view their payslips or W2s at any time. Gusto also provides a unique feature where employees can request an advance on their paycheck directly through the platform without needing to approach anyone in person. 


  • Full-service payroll provider
  • Easy to use and implement
  • Tax filings and payments are made easy
  • Employees can access the platform
  • Pricing is clear


  • Poor customer service

How Much Does Gusto Cost?

  • Core – $39 per month plus $6 per month, per person
  • Complete – $39 per month plus $12 per month, per person
  • Concierge – $149 per month base plus $12 per month, per person

3. Deluxe

Best For Businesses Looking For Payroll And HR services

In third place, we have Deluxe, a full-service payroll provider. Deluxe offers a digital onboarding and hiring process, making it easier for your business to hire and onboard new employees. Deluxe promises to file your taxes and make running payroll simple. 

The system is well priced, easy to use and flexible – you can run payroll from anywhere in the world from your cell phone. You can also easily change payroll dates, making it a dynamic system that can suit your business needs if you predict you may want to change those dates in the future. 

Deluxe offers tax filings for all 50 states and keeps you up to date on any tax changes or legislation updates. You can be confident that your business is compliant without doing any of the dirty work yourself. 

Deluxe provides integration with Swipeclock, a time management app where your employees can clock in and out with ease. This data will allow you to manage your payroll much more effectively. However, Deluxe  is limited in terms of customizability – so if that’s important to your business, this may not be the app for you. However, it’s well priced, a full-service provider and fairly flexible. 


  • Full-service payroll provider
  • Offers digital onboarding and hiring
  • Payroll can be processed from anywhere in the world


  • Lacks customizability
  • No free trial
  • Pricing plans can be confusing

How Much Does Deluxe Cost?

  • Lite Package (Payroll + HR Essentials) – $39/month + $7 per employee
  • The Works Package (Payroll + HR) – $39/month + $12 per employee

4. Square Payroll 

Best For Businesses With Up To 100 Employees

Although Square comes in at 4th place, we recommend this system to new payroll users as it provides all the basics for a payroll system. The pricing is offered at a flat rate and can be cancelled at any time, so you aren’t locked into a contract. This flexibility makes it accessible for new or small businesses. Square also provides a contractor-only version, making it suitable for various business models. 

This payroll system can be integrated with other Square apps, so if you already use them or want to streamline operations by integrating payment processing with payroll, this could be a great option. Running your business from one platform makes things much more efficient and increases productivity, as data and information can flow between different tools. For example, you can use Square’s payroll software to pay your employees using funds from your Square checking account or Square balance. 

Tax filings and payments are automated, ensuring you’re never in trouble with the tax man. Tax is one of the more intimidating aspects of payroll and is one the main reasons you might choose to outsource some of these responsibilities. New or small businesses need to ensure they’re tax compliant, and Square provides an easy-to-use, bare-bones payroll system to help with just that. 


  • Easy to use
  • Has all the essential tools
  • Can cancel anytime
  • Unlimited payroll runs


  • Not suitable for medium-to-large businesses
  • Not as comprehensive as other payroll providers

How Much Does Square Cost?

  • Square Payroll – $35 per month plus $5 per employee
  • Square's Contractor Only Payroll – $5 per month per contractor paid

5. Wave

Best For Businesses Already Using Wave Products

Last but not least, Wave is here to make waves in the payroll industry. Especially price-wise, as it offers a flat rate depending on the state you’re in. Other payroll providers tend to increase the price based on the features offered. 

Wave’s software is simple, taking only a few hours to set up. Invoice and accounting software can be combined with payroll services, free of charge. Wave provides a full tax filing service, although this is only currently available in 14 states (AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, MN, NY, NC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WI). Wave promises this feature is coming to more states soon, but in the meantime, users in the rest of the country will have to file and pay taxes themselves. That said, Wave tries to make this process painless by providing the necessary information, like how much money is needed per payroll. 

Some Wave users have complained about poor customer service, with bots providing automatic answers that aren’t always helpful. It seems to be difficult to speak to someone on the phone and deal with enquiries quickly and efficiently. 

However, small business owners will have access to workers’ compensation and employees can access their own payslips and W2s. Depending on your location and business setup, Wave could be a great option. Its 30-day trial means you can test out for yourself how well the service would work for your business. 


  • Simple system
  • 30-day free trial
  • Well priced (with no hidden surprises)


  • Poor customer service
  • Tax filings only available in 14 states

How Much Does Wave Cost?

  • $35/ month in the 14 states Wave files taxes in
  • $20 per month in all other states
  • Plus, $6 per employee or independent contractor per month

Our Methodology: How Did We Find the Best Payroll Services?

Five researchers carried out in-depth research into payroll services according to a comparison framework designed by our research team leader. For each provider we've asked these questions:

  • What accreditations and industry recognition do they have?
  • How easily can your employees engage with and access the payroll process?
  • How compliant are they with data security and privacy?
  • Are they a scalable service that includes other HR functions should you grow to need them?

We've factored all these questions into our rating system and come out with a ranking of the best payroll services.

Our Expert Verdict

The IRS claims that 40% of small businesses pay around $845 in penalties, for incorrect filing, depositing the wrong amount of withholdings, or for failing to deposit them at all – so picking a payroll service can help you run your business more smoothly in more ways than one. 

Regardless of your budget, needs, and payroll experience, there’s a payroll service out there that’s perfect for your business. Our guide should help you make up your mind as to the best provider for your business, but if not, there’s an easy and quick way for you to find the right service for you. Use our free quote tool to be matched with the best payroll service for your business – all you need to do is give us some brief details such as the size of your business and your current payroll provider. You’ll then receive no-obligation quotes from trusted providers. 


Does a Small Business Need a Payroll Provider?

Yes, small businesses benefit massively from using a payroll provider. Payroll services can calculate, file and pay your payroll taxes, increase efficiency, and provide your employees with access to their own payroll portal. 

Outsourcing some or all of your payroll services means that you can focus on other aspects of your business – instead of trying to keep Uncle Sam off your back, ensure payroll is accurate, hand out payslips and complete all the other tasks that come with running payroll manually. 

Outsourcing payroll might seem like a no-brainer for larger businesses. But it comes in incredibly handy for small businesses as well, especially as it ensures that you file and pay your payroll taxes on time. 

How Much Does Payroll Cost for Small Businesses?

Payroll providers like the ones mentioned above generally charge a base fee of around $20-$39. Alongside this base fee, there is also usually a fee per employee, which tends to be around $4-$12

The base fee is fairly affordable and the cost for each business will depend on how many employees you have. This pricing structure is a flexible and affordable way to pay for payroll services, as you are paying based on the size of your business. 

Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara Chechi Business Services Expert

Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.

Reviewed by:
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor
Heleana Neil Business Services Editor

Heleana Neil specialises in Business Services, managing the strategy and production of content for SMBs, helping businesses with the challenges and opportunities they face today. Covering everything from payroll to payment processing, Heleana uses her expertise to help business owners make better, informed decisions and grow their companies.