Wave Payroll Review 2022

We looked at Wave Payroll's plans, pricing, HR add-ons, employee benefits, payroll and tax features, customer service reputation, and third-party app integration to bring you a thorough review.
Best payroll for Wave Accounting users
Wave Payroll logo
Wave Payroll
3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2
  • Check
    Starting at $20.00/mo. + $6.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Workers compensation insurance add-ons
  • Check
    Self-service and full-service plans (varies by location)
  • X
    Limited employee benefit add-ons

Data as of 1/3/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

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The bottom line: Wave Payroll is a middle-of-the-road payroll solution that works best for current Wave Accounting users. Its plans, prices, and features are fairly standard, comparable to competitors like SurePayroll and Square Payroll. But Wave Payroll's full-service payroll plan is only available in 14 states, so if you want fully automated tax filing in all 50 states, Wave might not be right for you.

Additionally, Wave Payroll integrates with fewer third-party accounting software than solutions like Gusto and OnPay. So while employers who don't use Wave Accounting can certainly use Wave Payroll, it makes the most sense for employers already taking advantage of Wave's completely free accounting solution—which, naturally, integrates perfectly with Wave Payroll.

Pros
Pro Bullet Reasonable full-service and self-service starting prices
Pro Bullet Workers compensation insurance add-on
Pro Bullet Access to business tax-filing professionals (Wave Advisors)
Pro Bullet Thorough integration with Wave Accounting
Pro Bullet Built-in time-tracking software
Cons
Con Bullet Customer service via chat and email only
Con Bullet No HR administration or employee benefit add-ons
Con Bullet Automatic tax filing limited to 14 states
Con Bullet Limited third-party software integrations

Our top-rated payroll software: Gusto

Gusto’s friendly design and full-service payroll system with HR features make it the best overall payroll software provider.


Wave Payroll review: Table of contents

Money
Wave Payroll discounts

Wave Payroll doesn't usually run discounts on its payroll software, but it does include a 30-day free trial that we recommend you take advantage of.

Wave Payroll plans and pricing

Plan type
Starting price per month
Automatic tax filing
Availability
Get started
Self Service$20.00 + $6.00/payee
Icon No  DarkNo
All 50 states
Tax Service$35.00 + $6.00/payee
Icon Yes  DarkYes
AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, MN, NY, NC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI

Data as of 1/3/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Wave Payroll's key features

Like we said, Wave Payroll is pretty typical. It doesn't have much to set it apart from the crowd—but hey, reasonably priced payroll software with standard features is nothing to scoff at, right? 

Whether you choose Wave Payroll's self-service or full-service plan (and remember, full-service plans are only available in 14 states), you'll get the most important payroll features:

  • Paycheck calculation, including tax withholding amounts
  • Direct deposit or self-service check printing
  • Automatic syncing with Wave Accounting software
  • Vacation, PTO (paid time off), and sick leave tracking
  • Workers compensation insurance coverage via AP Intego
  • Automatically generated end-of-year tax forms (W-2 and 1099)
  • Employee self-onboarding
  • Employee self-service portal for access to W-2s, 1099s, pay stubs, and bank account information

Wave's tax-service (aka full-service) plan adds automatic payroll tax filing to its list of software tasks. You won't have to worry about calculating payroll taxes correctly or about filing them on time—Wave Payroll does it for you. However, that's the only difference between it and Wave's self-service payroll option. Otherwise, the two plans are identical.

Best Small Business Payroll Software
Gusto
Best overall
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Paychex
Best for growth
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
OnPay
Best for new employers
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
ADP
Best Payroll + HR packages
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
SurePayroll
Best customer service
3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4
Learn more about our top brands.

Wave Payroll vs. top competitors

Brand name
Starting price per month
Automatic payroll tax administration
Employee benefits add-ons
Workers compensation administration
Get started
Wave Payroll logo

Wave Payroll

$20.00 + $6.00/payee (self-service)
Icon Yes  DarkYes (full-service plan only)
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Gusto

Gusto

$39.00 + $6.00/payee
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
SurePayroll

SurePayroll

$19.99 + $4.00/payee (self-service)
Icon Yes  DarkYes (full-service plan only)
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
OnPay

OnPay

$36.00 + $4.00/payee
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Patriot Software

Patriot

$10.00 + $4.00/payee (self-service)
Icon Yes  DarkYes (full-service plan only)
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes

Data as of 1/3/22. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Wave Payroll's key drawbacks

Were you hoping to run payroll on the go? Unfortunately, Wave Payroll doesn’t offer a mobile app. (Neither does Wave Accounting, which you can use via a browser only.) Honestly, few payroll companies have solid employer-facing payroll apps—it's just a shame Wave Payroll isn't one of them. 

Additionally, Wave Payroll doesn’t include automatic payroll runs. While Wave will send you payroll alerts and emails, it lacks the automatic payroll feature of competitors like SurePayroll.

Essentially, running payroll yourself just means reviewing the numbers and pressing a button on the software to pay out your employees. But nothing can match the convenience of scheduling automatic payroll runs, so if you're looking for more thorough automation, Paychex or ADP could be a better fit. 

Wave Payroll also lacks benefits add-ons beyond workers compensation packages. Gusto, for instance, offers not only workers compensation plans but also health benefits administration and other employee benefits add-ons. OnPay's benefits are comparable to Gusto's and cost a little bit less. 

Finally, if you use Wave Payroll, you can only access customer service via live chat on weekdays or via email. Wave doesn't have any over-the-phone support, so if you run into technical problems on a weekend, expect to deal with them on your own. 

Additional Wave Payroll features

We've said this a few times now, but Wave Payroll doesn't have much to set it apart beyond its straightforward integration with Wave Accounting. Still, it has a handful of unique perks that could appeal to business owners in niche industries: 

  • COVID-19 information portal (ideal for employers in the hospitality and restaurant industries, plus employers who applied for PPP loans in 2020)
  • Optional tax-filing advice and assistance from Wave Advisors (ideal for sole proprietors who want help filing separate business tax returns)
  • Payroll expense reporting broken down by expense type, employee, etc. (ideal for business owners who want basic payroll reporting focused on expenses for taxes and profit management)

The takeaway

Wave Payroll isn’t the most comprehensive payroll service in the business. It lacks features like automatic payroll runs, mobile apps, and nationwide full-service plans that competitors like Paychex and QuickBooks Payroll include as a matter of course. But if you’re looking for affordability, simplicity, and easy integration with Wave’s free accounting software, Wave Payroll is a solid option.

Not sold on Wave? No worries—just check out our list of the year’s best payroll companies for small businesses.

Related reading

Wave Payroll FAQ

Can you pay independent contractors with Wave Payroll?

Yes, you can use Wave Payroll to pay independent contractors and regular employees alike. Regardless of the type of payee, the cost per person is an extra $6 per month on top of your monthly base fee.

Megaphone
Seasonal employment

Do you work with independent contractors during only certain parts of the year? You can pause your payees’ payroll accounts, meaning you won’t be charged the extra $6 a month if you aren’t paying that person. You can also put your entire Wave account on hold if your business operates only part of the year.

Wave Payroll also automatically generates the end-of-year tax forms you need to distribute to both types of employees: W-2 forms for your regular employees and 1099 forms for your independent contractors.

Can your bookkeeper or accountant use Wave to collaborate with you?

Yes. If you have a Wave account, you can give your accountant or bookkeeper access for easy collaboration (for instance, during tax season).

How good is Wave customer service?

You can’t call Wave for help, which is frustrating. Instead, you can access Wave customer service only online, either by submitting a request on the Wave site or pressing the “help” button on your Wave account.

In general, though, customers are satisfied with Wave’s products and customer support. The company has 4.3 stars on review site GetApp, with most reviewers indicating they’re satisfied with their customer service experience.1 Wave Accounting is also accredited with the Better Business Bureau, which gives Wave an A+ rating.2, though you shouldn't rely too heavily on the BBB’s ratings.

Methodology

To evaluate Wave Payroll, calculate our star rating, and compare Wave Payroll to other top competitors, we evaluated Wave Payroll's strengths and weaknesses in several key areas: 

  • Payroll features, including automatic direct deposit, paycheck calculation, and alternative payroll methods like paper checks
  • HR features, including workers compensation administration, health insurance administration, and employee benefit add-ons
  • Full-service and self-service plans and availability
  • Pricing, including monthly base prices and per-payee prices
  • Scalability, including number of users and number of plans
  • Overall software usability, including mobile app access and interface
  • Customer service reputation, hours, and methods of contact

We reevaluate our star ratings on a frequent basis, and star ratings may change without notice.

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.

Sources
1. GetApp, “Wave Payroll.” Accessed January 3, 2022.
2. Better Business Bureau, “Wave Financial.” Accessed January 3, 2022.

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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