QuickBooks Payroll Review 2021

We carefully assessed QuickBooks Payroll’s payroll and HR features, ease of use, payroll tax guarantees, and overall customer service reputation to help you decide if it’s a good fit for your business.
Best for growth
QuickBooks Payroll
4 out of 5 stars
  • Starting at $45.00/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Three full-service payroll plans
  • Check
    Optional employee benefit add-ons
  • Check
    Easy employee access self-service portal
  • X
    Limited HR features with cheapest plan

Data as of 8/3/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The bottom line: QuickBooks Payroll is a user-friendly payroll solution with a comprehensive payroll app for on-the-go employers. Its basic plan has a high starting price—but it’s offset by a low per-employee price that makes QuickBooks Payroll more affordable if you have more employees.

However, QuickBooks Payroll lacks the expansive employee benefits and HR tools that competitors like Gusto and OnPay include with every payroll plan. And if you pay employees in multiple states, you’ll want to look elsewhere: QuickBooks Payroll charges extra for multi-state payroll, while Gusto offers built-in multi-state payroll for free.

QuickBooks Payroll pros
Pro Bullet Affordable per-employee starting price
Pro Bullet Automatic end-of-year form filing
Pro Bullet Multiple plans for growing businesses
Pro Bullet Automatic wage garnishment
QuickBooks Payroll cons
Con Bullet Limited employee benefits
Con Bullet Additional fees for HR add-ons
Con Bullet Extra charge for multi-state payroll processing

QuickBooks Payroll review: Table of contents

QuickBooks Payroll discounts

First-time customers can get 50% off the base price of any QuickBooks Payroll plan for their first three months. However, the three-month discount requires you to waive your free trial: you can claim one or the other, but not both.

Compare QuickBooks Payroll pricing and plans 2021

Plan name
Starting price
Price per employee
HR features
Get Started



Optional health benefit add-ons



Core + HR support center



Premium + dedicated HR advisor

Data as of 8/3/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

QuickBooks Payroll’s key features

If you already use QuickBooks Online, love the interface, and just hired your first employee, adding a QuickBooks Payroll plan to your accounting software subscription just makes sense. (When you’re dealing with something as complicated as payroll, it helps to use an interface you already know and love with next to no learning curve—you have enough to deal with as it is.)

QuickBooks offers three full-service payroll plans: Core, Premium, and Elite. All three plans include the same base payroll features:

  • Automatic end-of-year tax form filing
  • Automatic federal and state payroll tax filing
  • Automatic payroll runs (if all employees are salaried and use direct deposit)
  • Employee self-service for accessing W-2 forms, PTO accruals, and pay stubs
  • Wage garnishment and deduction management
  • Health benefits through SimplyInsured (not available in DC, VT, and HI)
  • Crucial payroll reports
  • Tax accuracy guarantee
  • Mobile payroll app for employers

The Premium plan adds some limited HR features:

  • Built-in time tracking
  • HR support center access
  • Same-day direct deposit

And QuickBooks Payroll’s priciest plan, Elite, adds a personal HR advisor and additional customer service options. Plus, while QuickBooks’ two cheaper plans include an industry-standard tax-filing accuracy guarantee, Elite includes tax penalty protection: if the IRS fines you for an error you made while using QuickBooks Payroll, the company will cover your fine for up to $25,000.

Compare QuickBooks Payroll to top competitors

Brand name
Starting base price
Starting price per payee
Employer-facing app
Get started

QuickBooks Payroll

Icon Yes  DarkYes (iOS and Android)


Icon No  DarkNo (mobile-friendly website)


Icon Yes  DarkYes (iOS and Android)


Icon No  DarkNo (mobile-friendly site)

Square Payroll

Icon Yes  DarkYes (iOS and Android)

Data as of 9/9/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Base price waived with contractor-only plan

QuickBooks Payroll drawbacks

If you’re looking for comprehensive HR and employee-benefit features on top of basic payroll tasks, QuickBooks Payroll might not be the best fit. Sure, it offers all the basics, like workers compensation insurance, health insurance management, and 401(k) plans. But Gusto includes more varied perks, such as health savings accounts and life insurance options. And competitors like ADP, Paychex, and UZIO have better payroll-plus-HR packages with more comprehensive HR solutions than QuickBooks.

Plus, QuickBooks Payroll outsources its health insurance options to a third party, which means you’ll pay an additional fee to work with a broker. In contrast, Gusto has an in-house team of insurance brokers: you only pay the insurance premiums with no additional fees for integration.

Then there’s the issue of customer service. Intuit (QuickBooks’ parent company) only has a B rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and customers have logged more than 2,100 complaints.1 Most users complain of slow, unhelpful phone support—a huge frustration when a software problem keeps you from paying employees on time. And on the review site TrustRadius, QuickBooks Payroll scores only 5.6 out of 10,2 which is lower than the industry standard. (Gusto, for instance, scores 8.3.3)

Best Small Business Payroll Software
Best overall
4 out of 5 stars
Best for growth
4 out of 5 stars
Best for new employers
4 out of 5 stars
Best Payroll + HR packages
3.5 out of 5 stars
Best customer service
3.4 out of 5 stars
Learn more about our top brands.

Additional QuickBooks Payroll features

Easy QuickBooks Online syncing

If you’re already using QuickBooks Online to calculate expenses, generate invoices, run reports, produce financial statements, and accept payments, setting up payroll for QuickBooks is the next logical move. Your payroll numbers will automatically sync with your QuickBooks Online account, which makes e-filing payroll taxes about as easy as possible.

On the other hand, if you love QuickBooks Online but aren’t thrilled about QuickBooks Payroll, you have dozens of options. Competitors like Gusto, Paychex, OnPay—honestly, most payroll software solutions—all sync easily with QuickBooks Online.

Employer-facing mobile app

QuickBooks Payroll is one of the only payroll software solutions with an employer-facing mobile payroll app on the market—and it's a good one, too. Both the iOS and Android apps are well reviewed: the mobile app has 4.3 stars out of 5 on Apple’s App Store and 4 stars out of 5 on Google Play.4,5

Of course, QuickBooks Payroll isn’t the only payroll provider with an app for employees. If paying employees anytime, anywhere is high on your list of payroll priorities, you have a handful of software options. (For the record, Paychex has our favorite payroll app, but QuickBooks Payroll’s is a close second.)

Tax penalty protection

Like most payroll software, QuickBooks Payroll includes a tax-filing accuracy guarantee with each plan. This guarantee means that QuickBooks Payroll will pay any IRS fines incurred by a QuickBooks-caused problem.

With the Elite plan, though, you also get what QuickBooks calls tax penalty protection. With this enhanced protection level, QuickBooks Payroll will cover up to $25,000 of IRS fees if you incurred those fees while using QuickBooks Payroll software.

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

The takeaway

QuickBooks Payroll’s low learning curve, user-friendly mobile app, and low per-employee starting fee make it a good fit for small-business owners who are just getting into payroll. Plus, if you’re already familiar with QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Payroll’s similar interface and seamless integration can simplify your payroll and accounting processes.

But if you pay employees in multiple states, a QuickBooks competitor (like Gusto) with free multi-state payroll will cost less in the long run. And QuickBooks Payroll lacks some key HR features, so if you want more employee benefits and in-house insurance brokers, you’ll get more bang for your buck with Gusto or Paychex.

Related reading

QuickBooks Payroll FAQ

Is there a difference between QuickBooks and QuickBooks Payroll?

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Payroll are two separate products. QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based accounting software solution for small businesses, while QuickBooks Payroll is a cloud-based small-business payroll solution. The two products integrate easily with each other, which means it’s easy to add a QuickBooks payroll plan to your QuickBooks accounting subscription and vice versa.

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Payroll are owned and distributed by the same company, Intuit, which also owns TurboTax. You can also find desktop versions of both QuickBooks products—you’ll see them referred to as QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Payroll Desktop.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is the only QuickBooks accounting product that doesn’t integrate with QuickBooks Payroll. If you’re using QuickBooks Self-Employed and want to start paying employees with QuickBooks Payroll, you’ll need to upgrade to a small-business QuickBooks Online plan first.

Is QuickBooks Payroll any good?

QuickBooks Payroll is a good payroll software choice for many small businesses. Its detailed, user-friendly interface is easy for non-accountants to use. In contrast to most small-business payroll solutions, QuickBooks Payroll has a stand-out mobile app for employers. And while it has an above-average starting base price, QuickBooks Payroll’s low starting price per employee makes it affordable for businesses that have lots of employees and don’t mind simplified benefit options.

Does QuickBooks automatically pay payroll taxes?

Yes, every QuickBooks Payroll plan includes automatic payroll tax calculation, deductions, and filing. Unlike some competitors, like ADP, QuickBooks Payroll also automatically files end-of-year tax forms like W-2s at no additional charge.

Compare other options

Our methodology

To evaluate QuickBooks Payroll and calculate our star rating, we compared it to other payroll providers, and reviewed several crucial aspects of payroll software:

  • Pricing and affordability
  • Scalability and number of plans
  • Payroll and HR features
  • Overall user-friendliness
  • Customer service, including customer service hours and reviews

We weighted each category equally to calculate our star ratings. Star ratings are frequently reviewed and subject to change.

Looking for more payroll software options? If QuickBooks Payroll isn’t a good fit for you, check out our page comparing payroll software to find a payroll plan that is.


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.

1. Better Business Bureau, “Intuit, Inc.” Accessed August 9, 2021.
2. TrustRadius, "Intuit Payroll Reviews." Accessed August 9, 2021.
3. TrustRadius, "Gusto." Accessed August 9, 2021.
4. Apple Store, “QuickBooks Payroll.” Accessed August 9, 2021.
5. Google Play, “QuickBooks Payroll for Employers.” Accessed August 9, 2021.

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.
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