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Payroll software can dramatically simplify and streamline your in-house payroll processes, but it typically costs both a monthly base fee and a monthly per-employee fee. Fortunately, if your microbusiness operates on a tight budget, free payroll software products can help you pay employees at no additional cost.

Payroll4Free is the best free payroll software pick for most small businesses. It has the most features of any free payroll software, and its helpful add-on tax preparation service is available at a comparatively low cost. Find out if Payroll4Free or one of our other four best free payroll software picks is the right payroll solution for your business.

Free payroll software: Feature comparison

Plan and pricing information up to date as of 2/29/2024.

Payroll4Free: Best overall free payroll software

The Payroll4Free logo.
Image: Payroll4Free

Payroll4Free is easily the most fully featured free payroll software for small businesses. It tackles basic payroll tasks like calculating employee paychecks, including for hourly and salaried workers as well as contractors. On top of that, it includes features like thorough reporting, PTO tracking and pre-filled tax forms — features that many paid payroll plans don’t offer without an additional fee.

Pricing

Payroll4Free is entirely free for businesses paying 10 or fewer employees. Its optional paid payroll services include a payroll tax service ($35 a month), which covers federal and state tax filing. You can also pay employees via Payroll4Free’s bank for a fee of $35 per month. If you want both paid services, you’ll pay a discounted price of $40 a month (or $400 a year if you pay annually).

Features

  • Free for businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
  • Employee self-service portal.
  • State, federal and local tax calculations.
  • Multiple employee pay options (direct deposit and paper check).
  • Third-party time tracking, accounting and expense tracking integrations.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

  • Free direct deposit.
  • Live customer support.
  • Pre-filled end-of-year tax forms.

  • Available only with Windows operating systems.
  • Distracting in-software advertisements.
  • No employee- or employer-facing apps.

HR.my: Best for global businesses

The HR.my logo.
Image: HR.my

HR.my’s multilingual, international HR software takes care of most business processes that involve employees, including payroll, time tracking, document sharing and time-off requests.

Along with helping businesses pay their employees, HR.my helps businesses connect their global workers on one unified platform. Employees can claim business expenses, request time off, apply for leave and see company-wide notifications. Companies can also build employee directories and help employees connect via discussion boards, forums and surveys.

Pricing

HR.my is completely free with no hidden fees or pricing plans — because it’s crowdfunded by its community.

Features

  • Time clock access.
  • Employee self-service portal with self-guided onboarding and payslip access.
  • Geolocation-enabled time tracking.
  • Mobile employee app for both Android and iOS.
  • Document and form sharing.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

  • Extensive customizable workflows.
  • Support for multiple pay schedules (weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly and monthly).
  • Free for an unlimited number of employees.

  • No employee pay options.
  • Limited online information
  • No customer service.

TimeTrex: Best time and attendance software

The TimeTrex logo.
Image: TimeTrex

TimeTrex is a payroll service, scheduling tool and time and attendance tracker. Businesses can access a paid version of TimeTrex’s software, but the open-source, community version of the software is available for free and is nearly as fully featured as the paid version.

Pricing

TimeTrex’s Open Source Community Edition is entirely free and doesn’t limit you to only paying a certain amount of employees. It also has three paid plans if open-source software isn’t your style:

  • Professional Edition: Starting at $30 per month for up to 10 employees, with special rates available for larger teams.
  • Corporate Edition: Starting at $50 per month for up to 10 employees, with special rates available for larger teams.
  • Enterprise Edition: Starting at $80 per month for up to 10 employees, with special rates available for larger teams.

As a bonus, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial for any plan.

Features

  • Employee scheduling tool.
  • Federal and state tax calculation.
  • Check printing.
  • Direct deposit.
  • Employee attendance monitoring (includes tardiness tracking, missed punches and more).

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

  • Basic HR hiring tools included with free plan.
  • Flexible leave management and employee scheduling.
  • Integrates with third-party accounting and HR software.

  • No customer service (community discussion forum only).
  • Community plan limits time clock to web browser (no app access).

ExcelPayroll: Best payroll spreadsheet template

The ExcelPayroll logo.
Image: ExcelPayroll

Microsoft Excel, Microsoft’s spreadsheet software, isn’t a free product. However, ExcelPayroll’s third-party payroll template is completely free. If you’re already paying for Excel, ExcelPayroll makes processing payroll via spreadsheet as simple as possible.

The template itself is pre-formatted with Excel formulas for easy paycheck calculation. You can also use the template to generate payslips and paychecks that can be printed directly from your computer.

Pricing

ExcelPayroll’s spreadsheet templates are completely free to download.

Features

  • Pre-filled tax form printing.
  • Workers’ compensation reporting.
  • Paycheck printing.
  • Paycheck deduction calculation, including wage garnishment.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

  • Straightforward, user-friendly templates.
  • Useful for pre-existing Microsoft clients.

  • Not up to date with current versions of Microsoft Windows.
  • Not a truly free payroll solution (Microsoft Excel costs a monthly fee).

eSmart Paycheck: Best free paycheck calculator

The eSmart Paycheck logo.
Image: eSmart Paycheck

eSmart Paycheck isn’t a truly free payroll software solution. Instead, businesses can take advantage of its free, completely comprehensive paycheck calculator. Along with calculating employees’ gross and net pay, the calculator will also let you create and print paychecks.

To process payroll and get access to pre-filled tax forms, businesses will need to subscribe to one of eSmart Paychecks’ paid plans. Plans start at $75 per year and include a three-month free trial, which makes them cheaper by far than almost any other payroll service

Pricing

eSmart Paycheck’s paid plans cost an annual fee based on the number of employees you have. For instance, businesses with between one and five employees pay $75 a year to print tax forms, $35 a year for federal tax filing and $30 a year for state tax filing.

Features

  • Federal, state and local payroll tax calculation.
  • Check printing.
  • Optional paid features include automatic federal and state tax filing and pre-filled tax forms.

Pros and cons

Pros Cons

  • Paid plans include three months free.
  • Paycheck printing directly from your computer.

  • Free calculator only (not additional free payroll features).
  • No direct deposit option, even with free plan.

The best free payroll software trials

Free payroll software isn’t the ideal solution for every small business, especially those with more than 25 employees. If you haven’t found the ideal solution in our list of the best free payroll software, you can still save money on payroll by taking advantage of free trials from top payroll providers.

Best free payroll trials: Feature comparison

Plan and pricing information up to date as of 2/29/2024.

SurePayroll (six-month trial)

Starting price: $19.99 per month + $4 per payee per month

SurePayroll is one of the top providers of small-business payroll software — and it’s one of the cheapest payroll companies too:

  • Self-Service Payroll: $19.99 per month + $4 per payee per month. (Includes tax calculations but leaves the filing up to you.)
  • Full-Service Payroll: $29.99 per month + $5 per payee per month. (Adds automatic full-service federal, state and local tax filing.)

Unlike the free payroll providers on our list, SurePayroll also offers optional add-on employee benefits and workers’ compensation insurance.

Our SurePayroll review can help you decide if SurePayroll is right for you.

 

ADP (three-month trial)

Starting price: Custom quotes only

ADP offers a variety of payroll plans to suit a range of business sizes and needs. Its most popular small-business payroll app, RUN Powered by ADP, has several fully automated full-service payroll plans. All plans include direct deposit, state and federal tax filing, on-demand pay options, employee self-service and optional healthcare benefits.

Microbusinesses can take advantage of ADP’s newest product, Roll by ADP, a chat-based payroll app that starts at $29 a month plus $5 per employee. Both Roll by ADP and RUN Powered by ADP come with three months free for new users.

Our ADP review can help you decide if ADP is right for you.

 

QuickBooks Payroll (30-day trial)

Starting price: $45 per month + $6 per payee per month

QuickBooks Online Payroll is Intuit’s cloud-based payroll plan that syncs perfectly with its hyper-popular accounting software, QuickBooks Online. There are three QuickBooks payroll plans for small and midsize businesses:

  • QuickBooks Payroll Core: $45 per month + $6 per payee per month. Includes all full-service payroll features, benefits administration, workers’ comp and next-day direct deposit.
  • QuickBooks Payroll Premium: $80 per month + $8 per payee per month. Adds same-day direct deposit, HR support center access and time tracking.
  • QuickBooks Payroll Elite: $125 per month + $10 per payee per month. Adds dedicated HR support, project tracking and white-glove setup.

QuickBooks Online Payroll gives new users two discounted options: Either a 30-day free trial or 50% off the base price of any plan for three months. Crucially, you can’t opt for both — you have to choose one or the other.

Our QuickBooks Payroll review can help you decide if QuickBooks Payroll is right for you.

 

OnPay (30-day trial)

Starting price: $40 per month + $6 per payee per month

OnPay’s single plan includes more payroll and HR features with fewer hidden costs than most other key payroll providers. On top of full-service payroll with free multi-state tax filing, OnPay offers employee benefits, HR library access, live customer support, free white-glove setup and workers’ compensation insurance.

Our OnPay review can help you decide if OnPay is right for you.

 

Patriot Payroll (30-day trial)

Starting price: $17 per month + $4 per payee per month

Like SurePayroll, Patriot Payroll has both a self-service and full-service plan:

  • Basic Payroll: $17 per month + $4 per employee. Includes payroll tax calculation (not filing).
  • Full-Service Payroll: $37 per month + $4 per employee. Includes payroll tax calculation and state and federal tax filing.

Both Patriot Payroll plans include free expert setup and live, U.S.-based customer service. However, Patriot integrates with just one other software provider — QuickBooks Online — and doesn’t offer any built-in benefits administration, which can make it a clunkier solution than other paid payroll providers.

Our Patriot Payroll review can help you decide if Patriot Payroll is right for you.

 

Methodology

To find the best free payroll software for small businesses, we started out with 10 of the most popular free payroll options available around the globe. We then narrowed down our choices to the top five free payroll providers by evaluating each product’s performance in the following categories:

  • Price: Number of payees included for free, hidden costs (if any), paid add-on services, etc.
  • Payroll features: Paycheck calculation, direct deposit, paper check printing, recordkeeping, etc.
  • Ease of use: Mobile app, employee self-service portals, browser interface, software dashboard, third-party integrations, etc.
  • Customer service: Responsiveness, modes of communication, etc.

Take a look at our payroll methodology page for a more detailed overview.

How to choose the best free payroll software for your small business

The best free payroll software for your business depends largely on your workforce’s needs as well as your own time and budget constraints. While sorting through the top free payroll tools for your small business, consider which employee payment methods you need, how important customer service is to you, whether you need a mobile payroll app and how many employees you plan to hire down the road.

SEE: How to Choose Payroll Software

Signing up for your top free payroll services and running payroll once or twice is the best way to figure out if the payroll software you’re considering really is the best fit for your company.

However, bear in mind that free payroll software has far fewer features than most paid plans, especially in terms of automations and HR support. As your workforce grows, you’ll likely outgrow free payroll software and should consider upgrading to a paid plan — though one with an extended free trial (like SurePayroll) or optional discount (like QuickBooks Payroll) can soften the financial blow.

Your accountant can also give you personalized, specific advice about which accountant-friendly payroll software will work best for your unique business and workforce.

Frequently asked questions

Is free payroll software secure?

Different payroll software brands have different levels of data security and encryption. Look for free payroll providers that specify their security measures upfront: Payroll records contain extremely sensitive employee data, and keeping that information safe is part of your responsibility as an employer.

How can I process payroll for free?

A free payroll software provider like Payroll4Free can calculate paychecks and pay employees through direct deposit. Business owners can also use free spreadsheet software, such as Google Sheets, in combination with a payroll template to calculate paycheck amounts and print employee payslips.

What payroll software is best for small businesses?

Payroll4Free is easily the best free payroll tool for small-business owners. Unlike most other free payroll companies, Payroll4Free includes live support, optional add-on tax service and free direct deposit.

However, Payroll4Free is only free for up to 10 employees. If you have more workers than that or need features you can only get through paid plans (such as benefits administration), Gusto is the best payroll software choice for most small businesses. Although Gusto doesn’t offer a free trial, it does let you set up an account for free — you won’t be charged until you run payroll with Gusto for the first time.

Read next: The Best Payroll Software for Enterprises


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