|Payroll4Free: Best overall free payroll software|
|HR.my: Best for global businesses|
|TimeTrex: Best time and attendance software|
|ExcelPayroll: Best free payroll template|
|eSmart Paycheck: Best free paycheck calculator|
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
- The best free payroll software for small businesses
- The best free payroll software trials
- Our methodology
- How to choose the best free payroll software for your small businesses
Free payroll software: Feature comparison
|Employee limit||25 employees||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Add-on tax service||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Learn more||Try Payroll4Free||Try HR.my||Try TimeTrex||Try ExcelPayroll||Try eSmart Paycheck|
Plan and pricing information up to date as of 8/2/2023.
The best free payroll software for small businesses
Payroll4Free: Best overall free payroll software
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.
- Free for businesses with 25 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.
- 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 payroll apps.
Payroll4Free is entirely free for businesses paying 25 or fewer employees. Its optional paid payroll services include a payroll tax service ($25 a month), which covers federal and state tax filing. You can also pay employees via Payroll4Free’s bank for a fee of $25 per month. If you want both paid services, you’ll pay a discounted price of $30 a month (or $300 a year if you pay annually).
HR.my: Best for global businesses
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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- Employee scheduling tool.
- Federal and state tax calculation.
- Check printing.
- Direct deposit.
- Employee attendance monitoring (includes tardiness tracking, missed punches and more).
- 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).
TimeTrex’s community edition is entirely free and doesn’t limit you to only paying a certain amount of employees. It also has three paid plans: Professional, Corporate and Enterprise. Pricing is unavailable online, though you can sign up for a 30-day free trial for any plan.
ExcelPayroll: Best payroll spreadsheet template
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.
- Pre-filled tax form printing.
- Workers’ compensation reporting.
- Paycheck printing.
- Paycheck deduction calculation, including wage garnishment.
- Straightforward, user-friendly template.
- 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).
ExcelPayroll’s spreadsheet templates are completely free to download.
eSmart Paycheck: Best free paycheck calculator
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
- Federal, state and local payroll tax calculation.
- Check printing.
- Optional paid features include automatic federal and state tax filing and pre-filled tax forms.
- 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 plans.
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.
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
|Feature||SurePayroll||ADP||QuickBooks Payroll||OnPay||Patriot Payroll|
|Free trial||6 months||3 months||30 days||30 days||30 days|
|Starting base price||$19.99/mo.||Custom||$45/mo.||$40/mo.||$17/mo.|
|Starting per payee price||$4/mo.||Custom||$6/mo.||$6/mo.||$4/mo.|
|Learn more||Try SurePayroll||Try ADP||Try QuickBooks Payroll||Try OnPay||Try Patriot Payroll
Plan and pricing information up to date as of 8/2/2023.
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.
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.
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.
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 25 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
Featured payroll solutions
Paylocity’s modern HR and payroll software just doesn’t simplify administrative tasks to save you time and money. Our flexible solutions can help you attract the talent you need and keep them engaged – improving retention, productivity, and the bottom line. See the Paylocity difference and get to know your people better so you can build a thriving, resilient workforce for the future.
Payroll can be a time-consuming, administrative task for HR teams. Paycor’s solution is an easy-to-use yet powerful tool that gives you time back in your day. Quickly and easily pay employees from wherever you are and never worry about tax compliance again. Key features like general ledger integration, earned wage access, AutoRun, employee self-service and detailed reporting simplify the process and help ensure you pay employees accurately and on time.
Deel's full-suite of HR tools allows companies to manage the entire employee lifecycle—from recruitment and onboarding and beyond—in 150 countries. All this from a single, easy to use interface. US and Global Payroll allows you to pay any type of worker in 100+ countries, and all 50 states, in whatever currency you choose. And with 200+ in-house legal experts and entities in 120+ countries, using Deel means you’ll always be compliant with local regulations.
Justworks Payroll is a lightweight solution that simplifies Payroll and HR operations so you can focus on what matters most – running your business. Our user-friendly navigation, paired with reliable support, helps you monitor and maintain compliance, onboard and manage your teams, and navigate the complex world of payroll with confidence.
Designed for today's needs and tomorrow's ambitions, our adaptable solutions will elevate your operations & provide the tools for your business to thrive.
QuickBooks from Intuit is a small business accounting software that allows companies to manage business anywhere, anytime. It presents organizations with a clear view of their profits without manual work and provides smart and user-friendly tools for the business.