Patriot Payroll vs. QuickBooks Payroll 2021

We spent over a dozen hours analyzing these two competing payroll solutions from the eyes of both smaller, modest businesses and growing mid-sized entities. These are our findings.
Best for simplicity
Starting price:
$30 + $4/employee
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    More affordable
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Easy to use
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Tax accuracy guaranteed on all plans
Best for growth
Starting price:
$45 + $4/employee
  • Icon Pros  Dark
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Complex and full-featured
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Accuracy guarantee only on top-tier plan

Data effective 8/11/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

When considering the best payroll software for your small business, think of the Patriot Software payroll service as your friendly hometown barbershop. Sure, it isn’t the biggest or most complex around. But it’s welcoming, high on charm, and gives you a sincere deal for the money.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Payroll parallels a big department store in the city. It’s a complex operation that has everything you need under one roof. However, you’ll likely pay more for many things, and it takes patience and effort to sort through each aisle.

So, which payroll solution is right for your small business? Let’s find out.

Patriot Payroll vs. QuickBooks Payroll: Table of contents

Compare Patriot Payroll and QuickBooks Payroll features and pricing

Starting price for full-service payroll (monthly)
Each additional US state
Manual payroll available
Get Started
Patriot Software

Patriot Payroll

$30 + $4/employee$12
Icon Yes  DarkYes, $10 and $4 a worker, monthly

QuickBooks Payroll

$45 + $4/employee$12 (free on top-tier Elite plan)
Icon No  DarkNo

Data effective 8/11/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Most affordable: Patriot Software

The entry-level plans on both QuickBooks Payroll and Patriot Software cost nearly the same, with each charging a small base fee plus $4 a worker monthly. However, digging deeper reveals Patriot is the winner in the pricing game.

Say you’d rather save a few bucks and file payroll taxes on your own. In that case, Patriot offers a manual plan for $10 flat and $4 an employee each month.

By contrast, QuickBooks Payroll doesn’t offer such an option. Instead, manual payroll is only provided via the core QuickBooks Desktop software, which starts at about $200 annually for one user. Multiple users can quickly inflate that amount to over $1,000 a year. Unless you already have Desktop, Patriot is clearly the more affordable choice.

But what if the opposite is true and you want to splurge on the works? Patriot is still victorious. QuickBooks Payroll’s mid-range Premium plan adds on time-tracking, same-day direct deposit, and workers compensation options for $75 and $8 a worker per month. Compare this to Patriot, which offers similar perks (except same-day pay) for only $36 and $6 monthly.

Oh, and for bonus points: Patriot guarantees accurate calculations and promises to pay penalties and interest if it gets something wrong, no matter which plan you choose. On the other hand, QuickBooks only makes such a promise on its top-tier Elite subscription, which costs triple digits to start.

We can go on and on about the differences in price and value, but the end result is almost always the same: Patriot costs less to cut checks while still offering a full array of features.

Most user-friendly: Patriot Software

Patriot is superior if you want an easy-to-use platform without complicated bulk. That’s because the vendor delivers a user interface filled with large print text, jargon-free explanations, and streamlined processes.

For example, the software title boasts it only takes th ree mouse clicks to disperse paychecks. While it technically takes a little extra mousework, the overall theme of simple, intuitive design is omnipresent. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Payroll focuses more on complexity and plugging into other tools from its parent company, Intuit.

And you’re in luck if you’re constantly on the move: Patriot’s cloud-based platform is natively mobile-friendly. This means you don’t need to download any software on your smartphone or tablet. Instead, you have access to every feature via a mobile browser, such as Chrome or Safari. For comparison, QuickBooks Payroll settles for a mobile app that has a limited amount of functions.

The two platforms are tied when it comes to customer service, though. Both offer US-based chat and phone support 12 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Ultimately, the tiebreaker might lie in your geographic location: Ohio-based Patriot’s support runs in the eastern time zone, while QuickBooks’ parent company Intuit operates in the Pacific time zone.

Bottom line, Patriot’s easy-to-understand and visually alluring user interface takes the cake when it comes to handling payroll like a champ, regardless of your technical background.

Best for growth: QuickBooks Payroll

Although Patriot Software pumps out plenty of value, QuickBooks Payroll still delivers far more horsepower suitable for long-term growth. This is accomplished through a native connection to the broader Intuit ecosystem. Let’s paint a picture of how this might play out down the road.

Say your business is expanding into ecommerce, or perhaps you’re fleshing out a sizable vehicle fleet. You could tap into QuickBooks Commerce to build your online empire. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Online logs mileage either manually or automatically via convenient GPS tracking. Both of these tools can then feed into Intuit’s TurboTax platform, making annual tax filing a breeze.

We’ll take it a step further. If you need fresh working capital to fund your entrepreneurial expeditions, you can count on the convenience of QuickBooks Capital for loans. This is yet another hypothetical need that many competitors, such as Patriot Software and  usto, simply can’t solve.

Bottom line, QuickBooks Payroll is our best pick for long-term growth since it’s ripe and ready to solve a slew of evolving business needs.

Best for last-minute payroll: QuickBooks Payroll

What if you could hold on to your business’s revenue for longer? This gift of time could help you make payroll without needing short-term loans or worse—potentially delaying payday.

If your business is prone to cash crunches, QuickBooks Payroll is your best bet. That’s because the platform offers next-day or even same-day direct deposit without requiring costly wire transfers. Since there’s no charge to use this service, you could regularly take advantage of this nifty perk without breaking the bank.

Patriot Software, in comparison, requires a four-day lead time, meaning a Monday payroll initiation will disperse on Friday. You could score next-day delivery, but only if you deposit funds ahead of time. This won’t work for most small businesses, which often don’t have five- or even six-figures of cash lying around gathering dust.

Plus, as an added bonus, QuickBooks includes automatic, hands-free payroll runs. This allows you to schedule this duty ahead of time, which is particularly crucial to avoiding missed deadlines during last-minute payouts. As you can guess Patriot requires manual approval every time you cut a check.

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

Patriot Payroll vs. QuickBooks Payroll FAQ

Does Patriot payroll integrate with QuickBooks Online?

Yes, Patriot Software payroll solution integrates with both QuickBooks Online and Desktop. The company clarifies that there are some limitations, although it plans to bridge these feature gaps eventually.

Most payroll services offer similar third-party integrations that still leave many features unaddressed. That’s why we’d recommend sticking with QuickBooks Payroll if you’ll depend heavily on the broader Intuit ecosystem.

Is QuickBooks Payroll any good?

We think Patriot Software is the better choice for most small businesses. That’s because QuickBooks Payroll is more expensive despite offering many similar features. Plus, it has a steeper learning curve, and there is no tax accuracy guarantee on the lower-level plans.

It’s not all bad, though. People already using other Intuit products and those who value functionality over aesthetics will likely feel right at home with QuickBooks Payroll.

Best Small Business Payroll Software
Best overall
Best HR add-ons
Best reporting
Simplest setup
Best customer service
Learn more about our top brands.

What payroll service works with QuickBooks?

Most of the top payroll services, including Patriot Software, integrate with QuickBooks Online and Desktop. You can also manually run payroll with QuickBooks Desktop, although this costs extra each month.

How does Patriot Payroll work?

Patriot Software works by offering full-service payroll, which means it automatically files federal, state, and local taxes for you. This is a massive time-saver for resource-strained small businesses lacking accounting staff. You can also use Patriot for employee time-tracking and some light human resource administration functions.

The takeaway

Patriot Software delivers a wonderfully user-friendly payroll service that’s suitable for modest small businesses. No previous technical background is necessary since the interface is quite intuitive and most functions require just a few mouse clicks. While this sounds sweet, you’ll eventually outgrow the platform as your needs evolve to require features beyond payroll, such as human resource administration and accounting.

QuickBooks Payroll, on the other hand, can grow to encompass the entire Intuit ecosystem. This means you can nail down solutions for accounting, IRS tax filing, and professional guidance from human resource experts, to name a few things. The platform is far more complex and costly, however.

Want to snag a standalone human resource administration platform? Check out our picks for the best human resource software for small businesses.

Related content


We made our recommendations after a careful review of each platform’s suitability for small businesses and applicability to different stages of growth. We also considered the following factors (not an exhaustive list):

  • Value for the money
  • Ease-of-use
  • Required learning curve
  • Long-term value
  • Customer service quality


At, 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.

Ian Agar
Written by
Ian Agar
Ian covers human resource administration at His expertise stems from his four years as a military HR generalist in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he held the title of yeoman and became an Oracle Peoplesoft maestro. Ian also owned an ecommerce small business for over three years and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He was previously a venture capital reporter at PitchBook Data, and his work can be seen on Seeking Alpha, The Motley Fool, and Yahoo! Finance.
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