Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped hundreds of businesses choose the right payroll software for compensation, keeping up with tax laws, and maintaining pay-related records.

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Paycor

Paycor creates HR software for leaders who want to make a difference. Paycor's Human Capital Management (HCM) platform modernizes every aspect of people management, from the way you recruit, onboard and develop people, to the way ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 100 recommendations

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BambooHR

BambooHR is a cloud-based HR management software solution for small and midsize businesses. BambooHR offers small and growing companies a human resource information system (HRIS) that includes an applicant tracking system (ATS), t... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 79 recommendations

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isolved

isolved is an employee experience leader, providing intuitive, people-first HCM technology. Their solutions are delivered directly or through their partner network to more than five million employees and 145,000 employers — who us... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 79 recommendations

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RUN Powered by ADP

RUN Powered by ADP (RUN"), is a web-based payroll solution designed for small businesses. The solution can be deployed on either iPhones, iPads or on any touchscreen device. RUN can integrate with multiple third-party accounting s... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 62 recommendations

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RipplingFrontRunners 2021

Rippling makes it easy to manage your company's Payroll, Benefits, HR, and IT—all in one, modern platform. It brings all of your employee systems and data together, and helps automate your busy work. Take onboarding, for exa... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 59 recommendations

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UKG Ready

UKG Ready (formerly Kronos Workforce Ready) is a flexible and seamless HR solution that provides a connected people experience to easily manage the entire employee journey, from a single solution. Designed for flexibility and ease... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 56 recommendations

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Deluxe Payroll and HR

Deluxe's online payroll solution provides your business with comprehensive, full-service payroll and HR solutions with dedicated customer service. ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 54 recommendations

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UZIOFrontRunners 2021

UZIO is a SaaS-based online marketplace that provides cloud-based HR, payroll, and benefits management software and services. It is built for businesses of all sizes. This integrated solution offers local/regional brokers, employe... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 53 recommendations

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NamelyFrontRunners 2021

Namely offers a cloud-based solution for companies seeking a single comprehensive system to manage their human capital. Namely helps midsize companies manage compliance and streamline everything payroll, benefits and talent manage... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 50 recommendations

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ZenefitsFrontRunners 2021

Zenefits is an all-encompassing HR SaaS platform designed specifically for small to midsize businesses. The Zenefits People Platform includes a robust offering spanning HR, Benefits, Payroll, Well-being and Performance apps that c... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 49 recommendations

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Eddy

EddyHR’s mission is to help small and midsize businesses move out of paper and spreadsheets, and into an intuitive, modern, all-in-one HR platform. EddyHR is unique because of its seamless combination of hiring, onboarding, and pe... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 45 recommendations

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ADP Workforce NowFrontRunners 2021

ADP Workforce Now is a comprehensive solution for managing HR, payroll, talent, compliance, and employee benefits. This workforce solution is suited for businesses with more than 50 employees looking to streamline HR processes. AD... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 44 recommendations

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UKG Pro

UKG Pro (formerly Ultimate UltiPro) is a powerful, global HCM solution. Transform your business with a truly connected global workforce experience delivered through resilient and mindful HR technology. From payroll, to talent, to ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 44 recommendations

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Dayforce HCM

Dayforce, provided by Ceridian, is a cloud-based solution for Payroll, Benefits, Workforce Management, Human Resources, Talent Management, Document Management, and Analytics. As a single application, Dayforce provides organization... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 42 recommendations

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Patriot PayrollFrontRunners 2021

Patriot Payroll from Patriot Software is an integrated human resource (HR) and payroll management solution that helps to streamline the different processes associated with managing payroll payments and tax submissions. The solutio... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 36 recommendations

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APSFrontRunners 2021

APS has a mission: to make payroll and HR easier. They have been providing payroll and tax compliance services to companies since 1996. In 2004, APS released its cloud-based solution for workforce management. APS delivers a s... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 34 recommendations

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PaycomFrontRunners 2021

Paycom is a cloud-based payroll management solution that enables organizations to automate payroll processes. The platform stores all employee-related data in one place and ensures that changes are reflected in real-time across th... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 24 recommendations

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Workful

Workful is a cloud-based payroll and employee management solution designed to help small businesses automate processes for internal communication, time tracking, onboarding and more. Key features include direct deposit, geo-fenced... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 22 recommendations

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Humi

Humi is Canada’s HR, Payroll, and Benefits solution for Canadian small-medium sized businesses. Companies use Humi to manage their employee data, employee onboarding, time off tracking, performance management, recruiting, reportin... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 21 recommendations

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PowerpayFrontRunners 2021

Powerpay by Ceridian is a cloud-based payroll and HR software for small businesses in Canada. This solution is designed to help eliminate the need for manual processes and paperwork when managing employee information. Powerpay can... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 19 recommendations

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2021 Payroll Software Pricing Guide

Learn about the key aspects of accurate software pricing before you make your purchase decision.

Includes:

  • Pricing models & ranges

  • Unexpected costs

  • Pricing of popular systems

Buyers guide


Last Updated: June 17, 2021

What is payroll software?

Payroll software is a system that handles payroll services including payroll taxes, compensation, year-end bonuses, pay stubs, paid time off, benefits management, and organizing employee records. Many organizations outsource the payroll process, but you may decide that in-house is best for your company, and there are many payroll software solutions available to streamline the task.

But determining which solution is best for you can be overwhelming. We’ve created this guide to help you navigate the vendor landscape.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Payroll software functionality

This type of solution tracks a variety of information related to employee compensation and often includes benefits administration features. This includes everything related to wages (pay type and frequency, bonuses, withholdings, garnishments, etc.): paid vacation and time-off benefits and one-time or recurring benefits such as health insurance, educational assistance, moving expenses, and retirement plans.

In preparing a run, the system will calculate payroll deductions such as federal taxes, local taxes, and state taxes (including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and disability insurance). They will then print payroll checks or execute direct deposits and export data directly to accounting software or in a format that's compatible for import to an accounting system. It should also support reimbursements for mileage, relocation for new hires, and other travel expenses, as well as any other expenditures fronted by employees.

Finally, the software should prepare tax forms and reports for the employer, employees, and contractors, such as the 940, 941, 944, 1099, W2, W3, and 1099-MISC.

Benefits of payroll software

If your company is tracking employee information and processing payments manually, payroll solutions could save you time, money, and a lot of headaches by mitigating compliance risks.

Save time. The biggest and most obvious benefit of a payroll management system is that it saves time, which, in turn, saves money. These solutions are designed to be user-friendly so the learning curve to set up and start processing payroll is very low. These time savings add up. 

(Source: IRIS Software and Services)

Increase accuracy and decrease risk. Additionally, a payroll software solution can help business owners ensure they remit the correct amount of paycheck-related taxes and file applicable reports on time. When running payroll manually, even an honest mistake, such as a multiplication or rounding error, can have significant effects. These solutions will complete tax filings and reports for you, and remind you when they’re due.

And simply keeping up with the changes to the tax code is a time-consuming task. The payroll software will track these changes so you don’t have to.

Generate reports. Finally, payroll solutions allow you to track payroll information over time and quickly produce useful reports for internal decision makers, accountants, and auditors. Examples of what’s in a payroll report include summaries of quarterly costs, annual tax remittances and historical employee benefits participation.

What type of buyer are you?

For many companies, payroll is just one component of their software needs, but not always. There are several different levels of buyers, and these categories will help you determine the software that will best fit your needs:

Small businesses: A small business owner looking to streamline their payroll processing will want a solution dedicated 100% to payroll, but at a very affordable base price. Odds are you own payroll yourself at this time, so you need to find the best payroll software for your small business. (See our small business payroll guide for example vendors.)

Midsize businesses: Human resources professionals at midsize companies or larger (50+ employees) will benefit from more than just basic payroll functions. At this level, onboarding, direct deposit, tax filing, and other features such as attendance tracking and time tracking become more valuable, and for that the buyer will want a more comprehensive human resources management system.

Large businesses: These buyers are looking to expand beyond the human resources department into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) package that incorporates full service payroll processing, talent management, and possibly the human capital management system. This will ensure tight integration between payroll and other HR functions, as well as accounting and other department-specific systems.

Another consideration is the type of operating system (OS) you'll be running the software on. For example, if you're a Mac user, you may want to look at products designed specifically for the Mac interface. Alternatively, an increasing number of products are OS agnostic, meaning that they are optimized to run in a web browser and are not dependent on a particular OS. See our list of payroll products well suited to Macs for more.

The availability of a mobile app could also be a factor when considering online payroll software. Not that you'll be able to run payroll or perform tax filings, but employees could submit time-off requests, update their personal info such as phone numbers, and make changes to other payroll options.

Businesses such as professional employer organizations (PEO) and administrative service organizations looking to track payroll services for their employees should consider PEO software.

Popular payroll software comparisons

Market trends to understand

  • More payroll software is now web-based. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)—a deployment model where the vendor hosts the software on its own servers and clients access the solution through their web browser—is becoming more normal for payroll applications. Because tax laws change frequently, any online payroll software you buy will need to be updated at least annually. Online payroll systems provide an excellent answer to that concern, as vendors automatically update the software with legal changes so that tax compliance is uncomplicated for you.
  • Employee portals are becoming more popular. Across the board, HR software is becoming more employee-centric. The availability of employee portals, on both SaaS and on-premise solutions, is growing. Look for more functionality that’s targeted toward employees; for example, employee self-service tax filing, access to personal payroll data, personal benefits, bank account details for direct deposit, paystubs, timesheet data, and absence planning and reporting.

Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

FrontRunners

Your Guide to Top Payroll Software, April 2021

Software Advice uses reviews from real software users to highlight the top-rated Payroll Software products in North America.

Learn how products are chosen

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“Usability” includes user ratings for Functionality and Ease of Use.“Customer Satisfaction” includes user ratings for Customer Support, Likelihood to Recommend and Value for Money.Reviews analysis period: The reviews analysis period spans two years and ends on the 15th of the month prior to publication.