The 10 Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses 2021

We reviewed dozens of top payroll software solutions to bring you the ten best. To rate each payroll software program, we assessed payroll and HR features, ease of use, price, plan scalability, and customer service reviews.
Best overall
Gusto
Gusto
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Starting from
$39.00/mo. + $6.00/payee/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Expansive employee benefits
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Free multi-state payroll
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No fees for automatic tax-form filing
Best for growth
Paychex
Paychex
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Starting from
$39.00/mo. + $5.00/payee/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee benefits (addt’l. fee)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Multi-state payroll (addt’l. fee)
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Addt’l. fees for tax-form filing
Best for new employers
OnPay
OnPay
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Starting from
$36.00/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Expansive employee benefits
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Free multi-state payroll runs
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No fees for automatic tax-form filing
Best payroll + HR packages
ADP
RUN Powered by ADP
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Contact for quote
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee benefits (addt’l. fee)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Multi-state payroll (addt’l. fee)
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Addt’l. fees for tax-form filing
Best customer service
SurePayroll
SurePayroll
3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4
Starting from
$19.99/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Standard benefits (addt’l. fee)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Multi-state payroll (addt’l. fee)
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    No fees for automatic tax-form filing (full-service plan only)

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The bottom line: If you’re looking for the best payroll software for small business, Business.org recommends Gusto. With comprehensive payroll features, automated payroll tax administration, and scalable plans, Gusto works nicely for small and midsize businesses in many industries.

But even though we love Gusto, it’s not the only payroll software on the market. We also recommend Paychex and ADP for fully fledged HR management, OnPay for comprehensive-but-affordable payroll, and SurePayroll for cheap self-service payroll. So which payroll provider is right for you? Keep reading: we review the ten best payroll software products for businesses like yours.

Best payroll software for small business 2021

Compare the best payroll software costs and features

Provider
Starting base price
Fee per employee
Free year-end tax filing
Free trial
Learn more
Gusto

Gusto

$39.00/mo.

$6.00/payee/mo.

Icon Yes  Dark

Yes

1 mo.

Paychex

Paychex

$39.00/mo.$5.00/payee/mo.
Icon No  DarkAdditional fee
1 mo.
OnPay

OnPay

$36.00/mo.

$4.00/payee/mo.

Icon Yes  Dark

Yes

1 mo.

ADP

ADP

Contact for quote

Contact for quote

Icon No  DarkAdditional fee

3 mos.

SurePayroll

SurePayroll

$19.99/mo.

$4.00/payee/mo.

Icon Yes  DarkYes (full-service plan only)

2 mos.

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

What should you look for in payroll software?

The best payroll software for you depends in large part on your company’s HR and payroll needs—but what does that really mean in practice? We recommend taking these four steps to start:

  • First, look at price—not just the base price, but also the additional price per employee. Decide upfront how much you can and are willing to spend on payroll system software.
  • Second, examine features—do you need payroll features only, or do you prefer a combined HR and payroll software solution?
  • Third, determine how much time and effort you want to (and can) spend on payroll. For instance, are you okay paying less for software and filing taxes yourself?
  • Finally, check out each payroll program’s customer service reputation, tax guarantees (your payroll provider should pay IRS fines if it makes any payroll tax errors), and user reviews.

If you want more guidance, check out our in-depth article on how to find the right payroll management solution. And if you want to learn more about payroll processes generally before signing up for a provider, our Ultimate Payroll Guide can get you started.

Gusto: Best overall

Best overall payroll provider
Gusto
Gusto
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
  • Starting at $39.00/mo. + $6.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration
  • Check
    Affordable insurance options (in-house brokers)
  • Check
    Two-day direct deposit

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The heartily named Gusto is our favorite payroll software for small businesses. Its beautifully designed, full-service payroll system includes plenty of payroll and HR features, including these:

  • Automatic local, state, and federal payroll tax filing
  • Automatic end-of-year tax-form filing, including W-2s and 1099s
  • Automatic state new-hire form filing
  • Health benefits administration and workers compensation administration
  • Multiple employee benefit options, including HSAs, FSAs, commuter benefits, and college savings plans
  • Employee self-service portal for pay stub, direct deposit, and W-2 access

Even better, Gusto includes these features for free when many payroll providers charge extra. For instance, Gusto’s in-house insurance brokers ensure that if you sign up for employee medical insurance and workers compensation insurance through Gusto, you’ll pay the premium only.

In contrast, ADP, which outsources its insurance integrations, charges an extra fee on top of the premium. Ditto Paychex, which does have an in-house insurance team but still charges extra for insurance add-ons. ADP and Paychex also charge extra for end-of-year tax-form filings. Gusto doesn’t.

Pin
Heads-up: Gusto's Contractor plan

Do you hire contractors on an individual basis instead of working with a full-time team of employees? Gusto’s new Contractor plan has no monthly base cost. You pay only $6 per month per payee.

However, in the last few months, Gusto's customer service has taken a few hits: for instance, on the review site Trustpilot, Gusto’s rating dropped from nearly four to just 2.4 (yikes!) out of 5 from more than 1.2K reviews.1 In particular, users call out slow response times and payroll errors. Thanks to its expansive employee benefits and built-in free tax filing, Gusto’s still our top payroll solution, but we did lower its star rating to account for its lowering user reviews.

Additionally, while Gusto has more employee add-ons than many other online payroll systems, it’s not a total HR management solution. Our Gusto HR review can tell you more, but if you need more than the most basic HR, you’ll want to look elsewhere—like at Paychex.

Pros
Pro Bullet More employee benefit options than most competitors
Pro Bullet No extra fee for payroll tax filing
Pro Bullet No extra fee for insurance add-ons
Cons
Con Bullet Poor customer service ratings
Con Bullet High monthly per-payee fee
Con Bullet Limited HR management and administration

Paychex: Best for growth

Best for growth
Paychex
Paychex
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
  • Starting at $39.00/mo. + $5.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration (additional fee may apply)
  • Check
    Workers compensation and health insurance add-ons (additional fee applies)
  • Check
    Direct deposit, check, and debit card payment options

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Does your business need thorough HR assistance without full-on HR outsourcing? Paychex Flex combines cloud-based payroll management and human resources software for small and midsize businesses that want thorough, affordable HR management.

All Paychex payroll programs include new-hire state reporting, payroll tax filing, and an employee financial wellness program. And with three customizable packages, Paychex is one of the most scalable payroll options on our list. Growing businesses won’t have to look elsewhere for plans that support additional employees—growth is built into Paychex’s model.

Info
Paychex's payroll app for employers

If you frequently run payroll on the go, Paychex might be the best small-business payroll software for you. Only a few payroll providers offer employer-facing mobile payroll apps. Of the five or so that do, Paychex’s is easily the best: the Paychex Flex app has 4.8 stars (out of five) on Apple’s App Store and 4.4 on Google Play.2,3 

Even though Paychex’s cheapest plan has a lower per-employee fee than Gusto, Paychex’s add-on fees can dramatically increase your monthly payroll costs. Unlike Gusto, OnPay, and QuickBooks Payroll, Paychex may charge additional fees for payroll tax administration, time and attendance software integration, accounting software integration, and workers comp and employee benefits administration. With all the extra fees, Paychex is better suited to midsize businesses that care more about built-in scalability than cost.

Pros
Pro Bullet Combined HR and payroll plans
Pro Bullet Affordable starting per-payee price
Pro Bullet Customizable plans for growing businesses
Cons
Con Bullet Additional fees for payroll tax administration
Con Bullet Additional fees for third-party software integration
Con Bullet Pricier plans with limited pricing transparency

OnPay: Best for new employers

Best for new employers with one employee
OnPay
OnPay
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
  • Starting at $36.00/mo. + $5.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration
  • Check
    Affordable insurance add-ons (in-house brokers)
  • Check
    Direct deposit, check, and debit card payment options

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Like Gusto, OnPay is a straightforward payroll and HR program with a beautiful, easy-to-use platform. If you ask, OnPay can tailor its payroll services to your industry at no additional cost. And if you just hired your first employee and are still a little unclear on the payroll process, OnPay is a great fit. Its interface is extremely intuitive—but its experts also set up the software for free, then talk you through your first run.

OnPay further stands out from the crowd by offering key payroll services for free, namely automatic tax filing and end-of-year paperwork. Plus, thanks to its in-house team of insurance brokers, you pay just the premium with no integration fees.

While we love OnPay (as do its users), it’s not the best fit for businesses that want more perks and support as they grow. The base price ($36) and per-employee price ($4) never change—but neither do the features. If you’re hoping for scalable, comprehensive HR packages, you might consider Paychex or Gusto instead.

Pros
Pro Bullet Extremely affordable full-service payroll
Pro Bullet Comprehensive payroll tax administration at no additional cost
Pro Bullet Solid employee benefits and insurance options
Cons
Con Bullet One plan only (limited scalability)

ADP: Best payroll + HR packages

Best payroll with HR add-ons
ADP
ADP
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
  • Starting price: Contact for quote
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration (additional fee for some services)
  • Check
    Workers compensation and health insurance add-ons (additional fee)
  • Check
    Direct deposit, check, and debit card payment options

ADP is the biggest name in the world of PEOs, or professional employer organizations. But if your business isn't big enough to warrant a PEO, RUN Powered by ADP distills ADP’s decades of HR expertise into an easy online payroll service with thorough HR add-ons.

All of ADP’s payroll system plans include direct deposit, automatic payroll tax filing, and W-2 submissions. It also goes heavy on the HR help. Even the cheapest plan, Core Payroll, includes HR perks like employee onboarding, health care compliance forms, and a regular HR checkup. And if you want more than the HR basics to support your growing team, ADP’s more expensive plans include employee background checks, ZipRecruiter assistance, and dedicated HR assistance.

In contrast to Gusto, OnPay, and QuickBooks Payroll, some of ADP’s basic payroll services cost extra, namely W-2 form filing. So how much does ADP payroll cost? Unfortunately, we don’t know, since ADP doesn’t list its payroll cost online. You have to contact the company directly to get a quote—useful if you want to build a custom package, but less useful if you’d rather not deal with a pushy sales rep.

Pros
Pro Bullet Dedicated HR and payroll assistance
Pro Bullet Multiple customizable plans
Pro Bullet Heavy focus on human resources support
Cons
Con Bullet Additional fee for payroll tax administration
Con Bullet Additional fee for insurance add-ons
Con Bullet No transparent pricing

SurePayroll: Best customer service

Best customer support
SurePayroll
SurePayroll
3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4
  • Starting at $19.99/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration
  • Check
    Workers compensation and health insurance add-ons (additional fee)
  • Check
    Two-day direct deposit (full-service plan only)

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

SurePayroll’s customer service, affordable self-service, and easy HR add-ons make it a good payroll option for small-business owners with just one or two employees.

With self-service online payroll software starting at $19.99 a month and full-service software starting at $29.99 a month, SurePayroll is the most affordable payroll system in our top five. Its extended customer service hours on weekdays and Saturdays are perfect if you want (nearly) round-the-clock assistance for payroll problems, which can cause major issues for your employees if they aren’t resolved ASAP.

SurePayroll is cheap, but it has a few additional costs. For instance, multi-state payroll tax filing costs an extra $9.99 a month. And SurePayroll lacks the expansive employee benefits, scalable plans, and HR perks you’ll get with Gusto or Paychex—another reason it works best for the smallest of small businesses. If you have just a few employees and want to offer good benefits without going all-in on expensive add-ons, SurePayroll’s online payroll system could work well for you.

Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable full- and self-service plans
Pro Bullet Extended customer service hours
Pro Bullet Affordable insurance add-ons
Cons
Con Bullet Limited scalability
Con Bullet Limited employee benefits
Con Bullet Limited HR assistance
Still not sure?
Tired of payroll? Gusto handles payroll taxes and more

With unlimited payroll runs and automatic tax filing, Gusto helps small-business owners worry less about payroll and put more time into growing their business.

  • Get automatic payroll tax filing, including end-of-year tax forms
  • Manage workers compensation insurance
  • Track paid time off, sick leave, and holiday pay

More payroll software solutions for small businesses

We gave you our top recommendations above, but the payroll software market is a crowded one. Here are more small-business payroll solutions worth considering.

Compare top payroll features: Honorable mentions

Provider
Starting base price
Fee per employee
Free year-end tax-form filing
Free trial
Learn more
Quickbooks

QuickBooks

$45.00/mo.$4.00/payee/mo.
Icon Yes  DarkYes
30 days
Square

Square

$0.00/mo.*$5.00/payee/mo.
Icon Yes  DarkYes
3 mos. (Business.org readers only)
Patriot Software

Patriot

$10.00/mo.$4.00/payee/mo.
Icon Yes  DarkYes (full-service plan only)
30 days
Wagepoint

Wagepoint

Varies by pay frequency$2.00/payee/pay cycle
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Free until first payroll run
Wave Payroll logo

Wave Payroll

$20.00/mo.$6.00/payee/mo.
Icon Yes  DarkYes (full-service plan only)
30 days

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Monthly base price waived with contractor-only plan only. Employee payroll plan starting at $35.00/mo. + $5.00/payee/mo.

QuickBooks Payroll: Best interface

Most user-friendly interface
Quickbooks
QuickBooks Payroll
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
  • Starting at $45.00/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration
  • Check
    Health insurance add-ons (no workers comp add-on with cheapest plan)
  • Check
    Next-day direct deposit

Data as of 8/13/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

QuickBooks Online, known best for its high-quality accounting software, also offers three full-service payroll plans. The cheapest starts at $45 a month and includes automatic payroll runs, employee health care options, next-day direct deposit, and 1099 contractor management. But its best feature might be its ease of use—QuickBooks Payroll’s interface has next to no learning curve, and its well-reviewed employer-facing mobile app makes on-the-go payroll easier.

However, QuickBooks Payroll’s above-average starting price means it’s not the most affordable payroll management software for employers with just one or two employees. (On the other hand, its low per-employee cost makes QuickBooks’ basic plan cheaper than Gusto’s, as long as you have at least 10 employees.) And while you’ll enjoy full-service payroll management with every plan, only the two more expensive plans include workers compensation insurance options, mobile time tracking, and HR support.

Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable starting per-payee price
Pro Bullet User-friendly interface with straightforward QuickBooks Online integration
Pro Bullet No additional fee for payroll tax administration
Cons
Con Bullet No workers comp insurance options with cheapest plan
Con Bullet Additional fee for insurance add-ons

Square Payroll: Best for contract work

Best contractor-only payroll
Square
Square Payroll
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Starting at $0.00/mo. + $5.00/contractor/mo.*
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration
  • Check
    Health insurance add-ons
  • Check
    Direct deposit, Cash App, and check payment options

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Monthly base price waived with contractor-only plan only. Employee plans start at $35.00 per month.

Do you only employ freelancers and other 1099 contractors? Square Payroll’s contractor-only plan skips the typical monthly base fee. Instead, you pay just $5 per month per payee with unlimited payroll runs.

If you employ a mix of 1099 workers and W-2 employees, Square Payroll’s base fee is a perfectly reasonable $35 a month. And since Square Payroll includes multi-state payroll at no additional cost, it’s even cheaper than SurePayroll if you have two or three W-2 employees working in separate states.

However, Square Payroll has some of the same drawbacks as other single-plan payroll providers. If you’re planning to hire more workers and expand locations, Square is probably too simple for your business’s future needs. A payroll provider with scalable plans, thorough employee benefits, and HR add-ons could work better.

Pros
Pro Bullet No base for contractor-only plans
Pro Bullet Low per-payee price
Pro Bullet Easy integration with Square suite of products
Cons
Con Bullet Limited HR administration
Con Bullet One plan only (limited scalability)

Patriot Software: Most affordable self-service

Most affordable self-service plans
Patriot Software
Patriot
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
  • Starting at $10.00/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration (full-service plan only)
  • Check
    Workers compensation add-on (no employee health benefits)
  • Check
    Direct deposit and paper check payment options

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

If payroll pricing is your top priority, we can’t recommend Patriot Software highly enough. With a monthly base price of just $10 plus $4 per employee, Patriot Payroll’s self-service plan is easily one of the cheapest out there. If you want a few more features, you can add HR assistance starting at $6 a month and time and attendance integration at the same price.

On top of its $10 basic payroll price, Patriot Software offers super affordable add-ons, including HR assistance for $4 per month and time and attendance tracking for $5 per month. If you want the full-service option, the cost bumps up to a $30 base price, which still makes Patriot Payroll one of our cheapest recommendations.

Pros
Pro Bullet Extremely affordable self-service plans
Pro Bullet Affordable HR add-ons
Pro Bullet Responsive customer service
Cons
Con Bullet Limited HR administration
Con Bullet Two plans only (limited scalability)

Wagepoint: Most user-friendly

Easiest payroll software to use
Wagepoint
Wagepoint
  • Starting at $12.00/wk. + $2.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration
  • Check
    Workers comp integration (no employee health benefits)
  • Check
    Direct deposit only

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

It might seem weird to describe a payroll company’s software as “cute and friendly,” but Wagepoint’s software is just . . . so cute and friendly. Based on the smiley face in its logo and the little cartoons on the payroll dashboard, Wagepoint’s thing is clearly friendliness, ease of use, and simple payroll help. 

Wagepoint used to charge just $20 a month plus just $2 per employee, but it recently changed its pricing structure. Now, your cost is based on both the number of employees you’re paying and how often you’re running payroll (weekly, bi-weekly, semi-weekly, or monthly). The new payroll tool pricing structure is a little confusing, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Wagepoint.

Bear in mind, though, that Wagepoint doesn’t offer combined HR payroll software. You can get time tracking and similar accounting and payroll features, but Wagepoint’s human resource features are very limited.

Pros
Pro Bullet User-friendly interface
Pro Bullet Affordable starting price
Pro Bullet Payroll tax administration at no additional cost
Cons
Con Bullet Limited HR management
Con Bullet No built-in health insurance add-ons
Con Bullet One plan only (limited scalability)

Wave Payroll: Best payroll and accounting software

Best accounting and payroll integration
Wave Payroll logo
Wave Payroll
3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1
  • Starting at $20.00/mo. + $6.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Automatic payroll tax administration (full-service plan only)
  • Check
    Workers comp add-on (no employee health benefits)
  • Check
    Direct deposit only

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Wave Payroll honestly doesn’t have much to set it apart. Its $20 self-service plan has all the basics, including self-service employee portals, contractor payments, and direct deposit. And its $35 full-service plan (currently available in 14 states) includes federal, state, and local payroll tax filing plus end-of-year tax forms.

So if Wave Payroll is so basic, why do we recommend it? Because Wave Accounting, Wave Payroll’s sister product, is a completely free accounting solution. (In our opinion, it’s the best free accounting solution for many small businesses.) For now, Wave Accounting only syncs with Wave Payroll—so if you’re already benefiting from Wave Accounting’s free software and just hired an employee, Wave Payroll is a perfectly serviceable, affordable payroll system.

If you aren’t using Wave’s accounting program, though, most of the other picks on this list will give you more payroll and HR features for less.

Pros
Pro Bullet Straightforward integration with Wave's free accounting software
Pro Bullet Affordable starting price
Pro Bullet No additional charge for payroll tax administration (full-service plan only)
Cons
Con Bullet Basic HR features only
Con Bullet Limited third-party integrations
Con Bullet One plan only (limited scalability)

The takeaway

Unless you can afford to pay an in-house bookkeeper, we recommend most small businesses use software for payroll so they can pay employees and calculate tax deductions. The right payroll software provider should remove much of the hassle, cost, and risk from managing payroll and free you up to do what you’d rather be doing: growing a successful business.

Still wondering which of our top payroll software options is right for you? For all-in-one automatic payroll with built-in HR tools, it’s hard to beat Gusto. For ease of use, affordability, and useful benefits for business owners with one or more employees, we recommend OnPay. If you own a midsize business and need more comprehensive HR management, ADP or Paychex could fit nicely. And if you want affordable payroll without all the fancy extras, we recommend SurePayroll.

Looking for great accounting software to complement your new small-business payroll application? We can help: read through our list of the year’s best accounting software for small businesses.

Related reading

Sources
1. Trustpilot, “Gusto.” Accessed September 9, 2021.
2. App Store, “Paychex Flex on the App Store.” Accessed September 9, 2021.
3. Google Play, “Paychex Flex—Apps on Google Play.” Accessed September 9, 2021.

Payroll software FAQ

What is the best payroll software for small businesses?

In our opinion, Gusto offers the best small-business payroll features for your buck. Starting at $39 a month plus $6 per person paid, Gusto calculates and files your payroll taxes. It also submits your end-of-year tax paperwork at no additional cost, which HR-first providers like ADP and Paychex don’t. Gusto also has more versatile employee benefits than most payroll providers, and its online payroll service is popular enough to sync with most accounting software options.

However, the best small-business payroll software for you depends on your business’s needs, including how many people you pay and what benefits you want to add. If you want thorough human resource management, you might want to try a provider like Paychex or ADP. If you’re looking to save money, Patriot Software’s $10 self-service plan might be the best payroll solution for you. Before you commit to a payroll plan, thoroughly assess your own needs and make sure they mesh with your preferred plan.

Still not sure which payroll platform to pick? Get more in-depth guidance by reading our article on how to find payroll software that meets your needs.

Is there free payroll software?

Yes, but free payroll options are pretty limited. In our opinion, the best free payroll software is Payroll4Free, which lets you run payroll for up to 25 employees. There are also a handful of other trustworthy choices out there. And if you’re not sold on software, you can always try a free payroll software alternative, such as free payroll calculators and payroll templates.

In general, though, we don't recommend free payroll management software for employers with more than one or two employees (unless you’re using Payroll4Free). Paying your employees the right amount—and withholding the right amount in payroll taxes and other wage deductions—is a big, complicated issue. Paid payroll software companies are often more secure, effective, and trustworthy than free payroll management systems.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t find cheap payroll processing software. Of all the options listed here, our favorite cheap payroll program is Patriot, a self-service payroll platform starting at $14 a month for one employee. (Its full-service payroll program starts at $35 a month for one employee.) UZIO offers similar payroll pricing for its full-service plan, and Wave Payroll’s $26 payroll service isn’t bad either.

Can you use Excel to run small-business payroll?

Yes, you can use an Excel template for basic payroll calculations. If you’re interested, we have a list of the best free payroll templates you can use to calculate payroll by hand.

However, we recommend using spreadsheet software in combination with a payroll calculator and only if you have 15 or fewer employees. (You should also be super confident in your document organization skills.) While spreadsheets can help you calculate payroll taxes, they can’t guarantee that those calculations are accurate. If you can afford it, we recommend using cheap self-service plans from payroll providers like Wave, SurePayroll, or Patriot Software. All three options give you a solid organizational system, accurate tax calculations, and accounting software integration to make bank reconciliation super easy.

What's the best payroll software for accountants?

QuickBooks Payroll, OnPay, and Gusto are three of the top payroll software systems for accountants. But most of the programs on our payroll software list should work just as well for accountants (and other payroll professionals) who work with small businesses as they do for small-business owners themselves.

Our advice? If you’re an accountant looking for small-business payroll platforms, make sure the online payroll processing software you’re looking into includes a page specifically for accountants. (OnPay has a pretty thorough page for accountants, and so does QuickBooks Payroll.)

Our brand ranking methodology

To create rankings (including star ratings) for our best payroll software list, we assessed payroll software programs in five key areas:

  • Pricing, such as the balance between cost and features, additional fees, and more
  • Payroll and HR features, such as employee benefits options, automatic payroll tax filing, tax compliance, workers compensation insurance integration, and more
  • Scalability, such as the number of plans and payroll features
  • Customer service, including customer service hours, overall company reputation, user reviews, and more
  • Ease of use, including mobile payroll app access, employe self-service features, interface, learning curve, and more

We also weighed our own expert opinion when deciding which payroll features and HR software factors to prioritize. Please note that star ratings are reviewed frequently and are subject to change.

States with the best (and worst) pay in 2020

If you want to make a good living—and we're pretty sure you do—it isn't just the amount you make that matters. It's also where in the United States you make that money. Sure, California's median salary is higher than Wyoming's, but Californians have to work around 68 hours to afford one month's rent on a one-bedroom apartment. Meanwhile, Wyomingans work 30 hours to afford rent, which means they have 38 more work hours than Californians to spend (or save) on something other than housing.

In the midst of this pandemic, making sure your salary goes as far as possible matters more than ever. Now isn't exactly the greatest time to pull up stakes and move from one of the best states to get paid to one of the worst. Curious to know where your state falls in the ranking? Check out our results below.

 

Methodology

For this year’s state rankings, we looked at each state’s median hourly wage as recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We then used info on apartmentlist.com to determine the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in each state.

After calculating how many hours you’d need to work at the median salary to make the median rent, we ranked the states (plus the District of Columbia) in order of working hours required for rent. Both data points come from May 2019, which makes our data blissfully pre-COVID. We’re interested in seeing how COVID impacts these numbers in next year’s report.

Key findings

The Aloha State is gorgeous, but island life comes at a steep price: in Hawaii, you have to work over 68 hours to make rent for a one-bedroom apartment. Compare that hourly rate to North Dakota, the best state to get paid, where you can afford a one-bedroom apartment after just 27 hours of work.

Besides pinpointing the best and worst states, we found a few other interesting facts:

  • A whopping 6 of the top 10 worst states to get paid in are on the East Coast. (Yikes.)
  • In contrast, with the exception of Kentucky, all of the 10 best states to get paid are in the West or Midwest.
  • Just two Southern states made the bottom 10: Florida and Virginia. If you want to live in the South, you'll get much more bang for your buck in Kentucky.
  • California is the second-worst state in which to get paid, but Oregon and Washington both escaped our bottom 10. If you want to live in a coastal state, we recommend the good old PNW.
  • People in the 10 best states have to dedicate less than one week's full-time salary to paying rent. In contrast, people in the 10 most expensive states dedicate closer to a week and a half of full-time salary to rent a one-bedroom apartment.

Top 10 states with the best pay

Rank
State
Median yearly wage
Median monthly rent for 1 BR apartment
Hours of work to afford apartment

1

North Dakota

$42,510

$571

27.9

2

Wyoming

$41,650

$614

30.7

3

Iowa

$38,280

$603

32.8

4

South Dakota

$34,750

$567

33.9

5

Oklahoma

$35,730

$600

34.9

6

Montana

$36,420

$618

35.3

7

Nebraska

$38,390

$653

35.4

8

Kentucky

$35,540

$605

35.4

9

Ohio

$38,560

$661

35.7

10

Arkansas

$32,940

$574

36.2

Bottom 10 states with the worst pay

Rank
State
Median yearly wage
Median monthly rent for 1 BR apartment
Hours of work to afford apartment

1

Hawaii

$44,400

$1,456

68.2

2

California

$44,180

$1,442

67.9

3

New Jersey

$45,000

$1,254

57.9

4

New York

$46,680

$1,285

57.3

5

Maryland

$45,970

$1,263

57.1

6

Florida

$35,850

$975

56.6

7

Massachusetts

$50,200

$1,313

54.4

8

Virginia

$42,220

$1,065

52.5

9

New Hampshire

$41,490

$1,036

51.9

10

Delaware

$40,900

$1,003

51

Salaries aren't everything

It's great to bring home a nice check at the end of the day, but especially these days, it's even better to have as much leftover cash as possible after paying rent. Before setting your sights on the highest-paying job in your field, take a look at where you're living: a lower salary in the right state might prove more valuable overall.

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie McQuarrie has been writing for and about small businesses since 2014. Prior to writing full-time, she worked with a variety of small-business owners (from freelance writers to real-estate solopreneurs), which gave her a front-row look at small-business owners' struggles, frustrations, and successes. Currently, she’s Business.org’s accounting and payroll staff writer. Her work has been featured on SCORE.org, G2, and Fairygodboss, among others.
Recent Articles
business-owners reveal payroll mistakes
14 Small Business Owners Reveal Their Cringiest Payroll Mistakes
They say there’s nothing certain in life but death and taxes. Well, we at Business.org...
A Black woman in a pink sweater sits at a table calculating sums
Gusto Payroll Review 2021
We dive into Gusto’s payroll features, HR add-ons, pricing, scalability, customer reviews, and ease of...
a middle-aged white woman in glasses and a white collared shirt holds a paycheck in her hand and smiles across the table at a dark-haired woman
QuickBooks Payroll Review 2021
We carefully assessed QuickBooks Payroll’s payroll and HR features, ease of use, payroll tax guarantees,...
two women in a conference room
The 10 Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses 2021
We reviewed dozens of top payroll software solutions to bring you the ten best. To...