Top 5 Payroll Options for 2019

The Importance of Payroll

No matter how long you have been a business owner and regardless if you have three employees or 30, making sure your employees are paid correctly and on time is imperative. Not only for business purposes but also because your employees need to know that they can rely you you as an employeer, that you value their contribution to your mission and respect the work that they do. With something so important, there is no room for error. Mistakes can affect employees’ lives and cost you a great deal of time, energy, and of course, money. Choosing a payroll system that is within your budget and provides the services you need can seem like a daunting task. There are a number of factors that must be considered to determine which payroll service is best for you. 

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Factors to Consider

Free Trials:
Many of the best payroll service providers offer free trials and discounts to entice you to give them a try. You should absolutely take advantage of these offers to get hands-on experience with a particular service as well as to discover how different payroll services integrate with your business in particular.

Pricing:
Typically payroll service pricing follows a tierd pricing model, beginning with a base price and charging per employee you add. the different tiers will start with less expensive and less comprehensive levels and options to upgrade – adding in more features and the ability to add more employees as your business grows. 

Tax Guarantee:
According to one study, a third of all small business owners will end up owing penalties to the IRS. One key feature offered with many payroll providers are tax services. Some will offer a tax guarantee, meaning that if any mistakes are made and the IRS is owed money, it becomes the responsibility of the payroll provider handling your payroll.

Ease of Use:
Which ever payroll system you go with, it is important to understand the user-friendliness of the interface, especially if your employees will be interacting with the interface – you don’t want to stress them out. This is where free trials can really come in handy. If a payroll company offers the services you need at a reasonable price, but it is difficult or confusing to interact with, you may decide to use a different provider even if it costs more.

Customer Reviews:
Regardless of how good a deal might look, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Better Business Bureau is an excellent qualified source of information on a company. You can visit their website to see if there are reviews or any complaints filed on any business registered to them and make sure that you are dealing with a reputable enterprise.

Features Offered:
Most payroll companies will offer the same type of services as their competitors, but also, often in different combinations. So it really is important to list out the features that are most important to you in order, then see who lines up the best with your needs and budget. Things like on-call service representatives, mobile access and self-service that allows employees to view their digital paystubs, and tax information, integration into software for other services such as accounting or scheduling software, or any number of other features are worth taking into account. 

Look to the Future:
While it is important to meet your companies immediate payroll needs, it is also important to look down the road a bit. A cheaper option today might ballon in the future when you need to add more employees and have access to more features, so be sure and take both the near-term and futures in to account when choosing the best payroll provider.

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Top 5 Payroll Providers

Now that you have your head wrapped around the importance of Payroll and a few key items to remember when considering a payroll service provider you are ready to start looking at the field of options. Since there are so many payroll providers available to choose from, we have compiled a short list of our top 5 picks for Payroll Service providers for 2019 – in no particular order.

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1. Gusto

Gusto is one of the most popular online options for small business owners. It is user-friendly and offers a one-stop shop with payroll, including retirement account options and worker’s compensation as well as human resources. Formerly known ZenPayroll, Gusto also has a high degree of software compatibility and takes care of taxes both federal and state. You can get a one-month free trial and the entry-level tier; Gusto Core starts at just $39 per month plus $6 per employee.

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2. Intuit Payroll

Intuit, powered by QuickBooks, is another common choice for small business owners, namely because QuickBooks Accounting software is widely used and the name is trusted. There is a self-service version of Intuit Payroll (Intuit Basic) that will do the handles basic payroll but requires you to calculate, file, and pay taxes yourself. This requires more time and effort and also creates the potential for human error on your part resulting in fines and fees, but is more affordable.

Then there is their Enhanced tier option that will calculate taxes and do both state and federal filing which still requires you to make the payments, but reduces the amount of time to get this done and allows you to pay taxes online.

Their Full-Service tier will run your payroll for you. It guarantees taxes are properly filed and paid in full and on time meaning they will correct any potential mistakes and pay any fees or penalties owed to the IRS. This tier also offers the processing and printing of W-2 forms for employees.

A one-month free trial is available for any version, and after that, the Basic option costs $29 monthly, Enhanced tier is $45 monthly, and Full Service comes in at $109 monthly. All levels have the same per-employee fee of $2 and the first six months get a 20 percent discount.

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3. OnPay

OnPay is an excellent option for business owners that are just starting out or have a very small employee roster. If your company does not have an extensive list of employees for whom you are responsible for paying, investing in a payroll service that has all the bells and whistles can be unnecessary or downright fiscally irresponsible.

With a smaller staff, not only is there simply less work involved when it comes to payroll, taxes, etc., there is just no reason to have a great deal of resources dedicated to it. Larger companies may have use for a full-service payroll system in place that fulfills what would otherwise need an additional employee to be able to complete. Corporate sized companies may actually have an employee, or perhaps an entire department dedicated to payroll. But a small business has the specific need for a comprehensive service since they cannot afford dedicated personnel or the time it takes to use a basic payroll service provider.

OnPay is perfect for this situation. They do not offer different tiers, but rather a comprehensive service for one price that is competitive with other providers, but because functions are limited to a smaller number of people, they can provide the kinds of services that would only be available in top tier options offered by other companies.

For $36 per month plus $4 per employee OnPay takes care of payroll and tax requirements – calculations, filling out forms, and making payments guaranteed by their promise to correct any mistakes and cover any fees or fines owed to the IRS incurred by potential errors. OnPay is also known for accessible and comprehensive custom services

Of course, there are limitations with a structure like this. Little things like not having a mobile app are how OnPay save money and pass the savings onto business owners. Additionally, there is a charge to receive year-end forms, and unfortunately, they are not registered with the Better Business Bureau, so while according to testimonials, small business owners have had positive experiences with this company, there is no way to really know if there have been people who have had negative experiences using OnPay.

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4. ADP

The company Automatic Data Processing, or more commonly referred to simply as ADP, has been a well established and reputable company for decades. They offer payroll services for companies that have up to 49 employees and are also equipped to provide services to companies up to and beyond 1000 employees. If you plan to expand your business to that level of scale, using ADP from the start may just be a smart move looking towards the future. Instead of using a provider meant for smaller businesses and then changing things up once your company exceeds the capability of the smaller agencies, ADP offers services appropriate from day one through the potential point of becoming a multinational entity.

Anything you can expect from a top tier payroll service is available through ADP. Of course, this comes with a price tag that is proportionate to what you as a client can receive. Their pricing structure is not necessarily tiered in the same way other providers are. They don’t merely list a base price as a take it or leave it, so depending on the size of your company and the services you’re looking for, pricing can vary. One of the most significant advantages of using ADP is its ability to grow with your company. They hold a 12% share of the entire payroll industry.

They offer unique features, such as check printing and poster compliance. They can do direct deposit or provide paper checks. They also have a self-service feature for employees to get online access to their information and documentation. They of course offer full-service payroll and tax services and they are in great standing with the Better Business Bureau.

The downside is, of course, cost. As mentioned, because of their wide range of available services pricing will be higher than some of the other options, and they charge for a number of things that their competitors include in the monthly fee like processing W-2 forms and tax filings.

ADP offers a two-month trial, so if you are looking to find a payroll service that can stick with you for the duration of the life of your company and can afford to spend a little more, it can be very much worth it to give them a try.

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5. Paychex

If you already have an established company that exceeds what would be considered a small business, Paychex is a great option for larger entities. Like ADP, they don’t have a structured tier system. They will work with you to determine precisely what you need for your business and give you a customized quote for their services. They are a similar company to ADP in many ways, but for larger companies, there is more opportunity to save money. At face value, this is the most expensive option on the list. However, by offering benefits and discounts to their largest clients, Paychex is likely to be a better bang for the buck if your company is large enough.

They do charge for some of the features that are included in the price of the smaller agencies, but like ADP, when working with Paychex, the quality of service from top to bottom is unparalleled if you can afford it. They have a dedicated mobile app for employee self-service although it is not as comprehensive as ADPs app – it mainly exists for employees to view pay stubs and tax information but not things like benefits or access to funds directly. They do comprehensively deal with tax filings and payments and have a record of doing so in impeccable fashion, but again is the most option on this list.

Paychex is also not known for their ease of use. It is more complex to set up than even ADP, requiring you to send files to a rep and wait for them to set up your account. While this does allow you to transfer the responsibility of doing so to the company, it lacks the element of control a smaller company might want. Additionally, the user interface is not meant for an amateur. It is rather complicated, which is ultimately a benefit if you can afford to have someone dedicated to this process, but it again is better catered towards an established business that can afford to delegate this work, most often because there are simply larger tasks at hand with a company of the size for which this is appropriate. In that case, the higher price tag is worth it to be able to dedicate personnel to tasks more directly relevant to the company’s bottom line.

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There is No Wrong Answer

Regardless of the needs of your business, there is a payroll service that is right for you; it just requires you to be aware of the needs and capabilities of your business and your budget. While these are the most popular choices for payroll services for businesses of all sizes they are certainly not the only choices. If it costs too much or not operating efficiently for you, then you might want to consider a different option. Between free trials, monthly payments, the option to upgrade or downgrade accordingly you should be able to find the right fit fairly quickly. Ideally, you want a payroll service that provides you with the freedom from worrying about payroll, giving you services and features you need without breaking the bank.

Let us know what Payroll service or software you currently use, or are considering. What do you like/dislike about it and what are the most important features you are looking for in a Payroll service or software provider.

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June 1, 2019

Mary Elizabeth Dean is an educator with over 10 years’ experience as a teacher and writer. Her educational background includes doctoral studies, a Master’s in Business (MBA), and two undergraduate degrees in science. 

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