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by Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: December 8, 2016


It wasn’t too long ago that when Mac users wanted payroll software, they had very few options to choose from. The best products and the widest selection were only available for PC users with the widely adopted Windows operating system.

In recent years, however, that has all changed. According to StatCounter, Apple’s OS X is now the third most popular desktop operating system (after Windows 7 and Windows 10), and with that growth in popularity has come an increasing number of payroll software options built for those that love their Apple hardware.

But with increased options comes increased complexity. How do you know which Mac payroll software system is the right one for you and your business?

That’s where Software Advice comes in. In this guide, we’ll cover:

What Is Payroll Software for Mac?
Benefits of Mac Payroll Software
Common Functionality Found in Mac Payroll Software
Important Considerations

What Is Payroll Software for Mac?

When it comes to processing payroll, you can choose to either outsource this essential function to a third party or to process it internally. Outsourcing can bring a number of benefits—it relieves your company of the burden of processing and you don’t have to hire a full-time payroll employee—but there are a number of drawbacks as well, including taking a lot of flexibility and control when it comes to payroll out of your company’s hands.

Should you choose to process payroll in-house, payroll software allows you to do so in a digital environment with ease. Mac payroll software can calculate salaries and wages for your employees, withhold the right amount for taxes and benefits, enable direct deposit into worker bank accounts, generate necessary reports and more.

Mac payroll software, or payroll software for Mac, simply refers to those solutions that can run on Apple’s OS X operating system. This software typically comes in one of two methods for deployment:

  • On-premise. In this scenario, the software is installed onto your company’s servers or directly on the Apple computers that will be using the software.
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  • Web-based. Also known as cloud-based or software-as-a-service (SaaS), the software in this scenario is hosted on the vendor’s servers (the company that makes the software) and is accessed by you and your company via a web browser (e.g., Safari).

Payroll summary in QuickBooks Full Service Payroll

Knowing their audience, many Mac payroll software vendors have products with user interfaces (UIs) similar to what Apple users are already accustomed to, with some even including dedicated mobile apps for iOS devices (e.g., iPhone and iPad).

Benefits of Mac Payroll Software

In a 2015 report, Software Advice found that a quarter of small business payroll software buyers still rely on manual methods like pen and paper or spreadsheets to do company payroll. Here are a few benefits that Mac payroll software offers over these simple tools:

  • Fewer errors. Payroll errors can add up over time, costing your company thousands of dollars in lost wages and tax penalties. Payroll software can accurately calculate hourly wages and automatically identify any strange discrepancies, resulting in fewer errors.
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  • More security. A simple Google search will unveil a number of ways to hack a password protected Excel spreadsheet. Payroll software, on the other hand, can include features like SSL encryption and multi-factor authentication to keep your employees’ sensitive information secure.
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  • Less time doing payroll. Half of all small businesses spend at least 40 hours a year just doing federal payroll taxes, according to a survey by the National Small Business Association. Templated pay schedules and one-click payroll runs are just some of the features found in payroll software that can cut down the time you spend on employee payroll significantly.

Common Functionality Found in Mac Payroll Software

Most Mac payroll software includes some or all of the following functionality:

Employee profiles Allows users to create profiles with each employee’s pay rate, hourly or salaried status, withholding information and more. Tracks the employee’s accrued and used paid time off.
Payroll processing Allows employee hours to be entered or imported, then automatically calculates wages based on hours and employee profiles and generates paychecks. Often includes direct deposit capabilities.
Tax preparation and filing Automatically calculates, prepares and files federal and state payroll taxes. Handles payroll tax deductions. Sends automatic reminders to users when tax forms and payments are due.
Employee forms Allows users to print important employee forms (940, 941, W-2, W-3 etc.) and store completed forms digitally for safekeeping. May include e-filing of forms W-2 and W-3.

Important Considerations

Though they all perform the same function, Mac payroll software products can still differ in a lot of ways. When looking at your options for payroll software for Mac, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

Best-of-breed or suite? Many payroll products are sold on a standalone (otherwise known as a best-of-breed) basis. If you just need software to process payroll, and want to save some money, these products are your best option. If, however, you’re a larger business that needs more HR functionality for things like personnel tracking, time and attendance, benefits administration or even recruiting, consider looking into more comprehensive HR suites.

Pricing model. In a perfect world, all payroll software would have a price tag tied to it that you pay upfront. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Many payroll products, especially web-based ones, are priced on a subscription basis where you pay a monthly or annual fee to use the software. This fee isn’t a set amount either—some products base it on how many employees your organization has while others base it on how many payroll runs you do. Make sure you understand your vendor’s pricing model to budget accordingly.

Employee self-service. More and more payroll products are embracing employee self-service portals, which allow employees to not only access their personal pay history but to also add or edit personal information like their home address or bank account details themselves. Look for products with user-friendly employee self-service portals to ease the administration burden on you or your payroll professional.

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