Best Payroll Software 2021

Payroll software automates the employee payroll process for all types of small businesses. Payroll software systems can come in the form of standalone applications, or as a module inside all-in-one human resource software platforms.

These solutions typically offer features that automate payroll and help run off-cycle payments. Additional features include expense management and benefits management. Payroll software provides value for a wide range of businesses. The best payroll solution for your company will depend on whether you require a dedicated payroll tool or payroll packaged in a more robust HR solution.

Payroll software is one of the foundational software systems that all small businesses should use along with document management software and accounting software.

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Highest Rated Payroll Software

Payroll software is used by all types of businesses to manage their payroll and benefits. Payroll software is often used for running payroll, time tracking employees, and managing company benefits.

Rating: 95
Starting Price: $10 per month per user

Zenefits is a human resource software solution used by over 11,000 businesses. It is used by businesses primarily to run payroll, onboard employees, and manage employee benefits. It is primarily built for businesses with 50-200 employees.

  • Zenefits’ payroll can compensate contingent workers such as part-time employees and interns
  • Zenefits can run automated background checks for your new hires
  • Zenefits can create Google Workspace, Salesforce, and Slack accounts for new hires
  • You cannot create and distribute job postings directly from Zenefits
  • Zenefits does not offer native expense management features
  • You cannot preview reports in Zenefits which hinders your workflow
Rating: 93
Starting Price: $49 per month per user

Justworks is a human resource software solution used by over 130,000 employees. It is primarily built for businesses with 2-200 employees.

  • Justworks’ interface is user-friendly for newer businesses
  • Payroll in Justworks can be used in all 50 states
  • Justworks comes with a number of free training courses to assist with compliance
  • Justworks allows you to set permissions for your employees
  • Justworks cannot create and distribute job postings
  • Justworks does not offer native expense management features
  • You cannot preview reports in Justworks, which hinders your workflow
  • Justworks does not offer a high number of native integrations
Rating: 92
Starting Price: $39 per month

Gusto is a human resource software solution used by more than 100,000 businesses. Gusto started as a payroll solution, but has since added a variety of HR features including benefits and compliance support. Gusto is generally used by small businesses with less than 500 employees.

  • Payroll is very user-friendly and simple to set up in Gusto
  • Gusto offers features that help your business stay compliant with state and federal policies
  • Gusto allows you to create highly customizable and detailed reports
  • You cannot post and manage job listings with Gusto
  • Gusto does not include a dedicated applicant tracking system
  • Employee benefits are not available for 11 states in Gusto
  • Gusto does not include expense management features
Rating: 83
Starting Price: Custom

ADP RUN is a human resource software solution used by over 700,000 businesses. It is used by businesses primarily to run payroll. It is built for businesses with 1-49 employees.

  • Payroll in ADP RUN can be used in all 50 states
  • ADP RUN assists with selecting business insurance
  • ADP RUN allows you to send physical checks for payroll
  • Creating reports in ADP RUN is flexible and easy to do
  • ADP RUN’s pricing is not transparent
  • ADP RUN’s user interface and lack of guidance make onboarding and offboarding difficult for newer businesses
  • ADP RUN does not support both performance and expense management features
  • Creating and distributing job posts must be done through ADP Run’s ZipRecruiter integration

Payroll Software Prices

Payroll software prices range from $5 to $50 per month per user. Most small businesses will pay around $5 to $15 dollars per month per user for payroll software. Here are details that will help you compare prices for the most popular payroll software platforms.

Software VendorStarting Monthly PriceFree TrialPricing Details
Zenefits$10 per userYes
  • Free for up to five employees
  • Additional $1.50 per month per user for base plan
  • 15% off if your company has 25 to 99 employees
  • Additional $6 per month per user
  • None

Payroll Software FAQs

Payroll software allows small and medium sized businesses to automate and run payroll for their employees. Additional features include time tracking and benefits management.

There are numerous benefits that payroll software offers. This includes:

  • Running payroll for your company
  • Selecting benefits for your employees
  • Tracking expenses for reimbursement
  • Tracking and approving employee hours

The cost of payroll software depends on how many team members you have. You can expect to spend about $50 to $500 per month per user depending on which software and plan you're purchasing.

The best payroll software for you depends on what your business needs. The best software for companies who simply want to run affordable payroll for their small business is Gusto. Companies in need of more advanced solutions should consider Zenefits or Justworks.

ADP RUN is one of the most popular payroll software solutions on the market today. It serves over 700,000 customers.

The most common payroll software features are:

  • Payroll automation
  • Benefits management
  • Time tracking
  • Analytics and reporting

Why You Should Trust Our Recommendations

The team at SoftwarePundit has been testing software since 2017. We’ve hand-tested over 250 software products in that time, including four in the payroll category. We applied the same rigorous process to each piece of payroll software that we analyzed. The specifics of our payroll category research process are outlined below.

Yousef led our analysis of payroll software. He has spent more than 250 hours evaluating leading payroll software solutions.

In addition, all research and content was overseen by Bruce Hogan, SoftwarePundit’s Co-founder & CEO. Bruce has more than a decade of experience researching, building, and reviewing the world’s best software products. His technology advice has been featured on a wide range of media sites such as AngelList, CMSWire, Dental Economics, iPhone Life, Reader’s Digest, Thrive Global, U.S. News, and the Zapier Blog.

How We Selected the Best Payroll Software

We selected the best payroll software based upon a number of criteria. The most important criteria were each software tool’s features, usability, price, and customer support. The details of our analyses are captured in the in-depth reviews we publish about each software tool.

There are a handful of critical features that you should look for in payroll software. We prioritized the following features in our analysis:

  • Payroll: Automating payroll is one of the main reasons any company seeks out payroll software. Solutions vary in how they handle payroll. For example, some solutions have specific limitations when it comes to contractors or part-time employees. Make sure to review each software’s payroll capabilities before making a purchase decision.
  • Expense Management: Expense management in payroll software includes adding and tracking any expenses your company has made. This can include tracking what purchase was made, when it was made, who it was made by, and with what payment method. This is an effective way to visualize and approve reimbursements for your employees.
  • Time Tracking: Time tracking in payroll software allows you to monitor and approve your employees’ hours. More advanced solutions allow hourly employees to clock in and out using a desktop or mobile app.
  • Analytics and Reports: Each payroll software should come with a number of premade analytics and reports about your business. This is a high level way to visualize your company’s performance, employees, and payroll. More advanced solutions come with robust custom report creators.

How We Evaluated Payroll Software

We used the same rigorous process to evaluate payroll software as all other software categories. For the payroll category, Yousef invested several weeks researching the market, testing out key payroll features, and publishing his insights about the tools.

Yousef signed up for free trials of each solution listed above to gain a deeper understanding of each payroll tool. This allowed him to authenticate the features offered by each solution. He spent hours testing each tools’ recruiting, payroll, onboarding, performance management, and expense management capabilities. He also downloaded the mobile app version of payroll solutions to understand the mobile experience for small businesses.

In addition to conducting conversations with the software companies and hand-testing every piece of software, Yousef also spent dozens of hours interviewing real customers of the software tools listed above. Payroll software customers that provided insights that were included in our analysis and reviews were:

  • Michael Cupps: Michael Cupps is vice president of marketing at ActiveOps. His company currently uses Justworks.
  • Karl Rinderknecht: Karl Rinderknecht is the COO of WhoCo. His company currently uses Gusto.
  • Jon Torres: Jon Torres is the founder of His company currently uses Gusto.