May 27, 2024

Tricia Oak

Business & Finance Excellency

Best Payroll Services For Small Business of 2023

Congraulations, your small business is expanding. Getting to a place where you can begin hiring and growing your team is a sign of financial success. On the other, managing payroll, especially if it’s your first time, can feel daunting.

Fortunately, there are a number of payroll services on the market that help streamline the process while handling a comprehensive array of employee benefits — like 401(k) plans and workers’ compensation — and onboarding logistics.

Below, CNBC Select highlights four of the best payroll services for small businesses. We evaluated each payroll service based on a range of features, including pricing, features, benefits administration and HR tools. (Read more about our methodology below.)

Best payroll services for small businesses

Best overall


Information about OnPay has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by OnPay prior to publication.

  • Cost

    $40/month + $6/month per person (one month free)

  • Benefits Administration

    Health insurance, retirement, vacation and PTO, life and disability insurance, liability insurance, commuter benefits, HSA and FSA

  • HR tools


  • One month free trial
  • Offers the capability to provide employees with a wide array of benefits
  • Health insurance available in all 50 states
  • Offers automated tax payments and filings
  • Free W-2 and 1099 processing available


  • Other platforms offer longer free trial periods

OnPay packs all of the payroll features your business could need into a simple platform at an affordable price. At a flat rate of $40 per month plus $6 per employee per month, OnPay offers some of the lowest pricing on the market.

It offers a number of HR and benefits tools and features including W-2 and 1099 processing, PTO, health insurance, 401(k) plans, life and disability insurance, liability insurance, commuter benefits, HSA and FSA. When people think of working for small businesses or startups, one of the biggest concerns is often that they don’t want to lose health insurance or retirement planning account contributions. So having access to “corporate” benefits makes the platform appealing to business owners who want to offer competitive perks.

Best for user experience


  • Cost

    Starts at $40/month + $6/month per person

  • Benefits Administration

    Medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401(k) retirement plans, HSA and FSA, Commuter benefits, 529 college savings plan

  • HR tools


  • Contractor-only option available
  • Offers the capability to provide employees with a wide array of benefits
  • Offers different tiers for flexible price points
  • Offers automated tax payments and filings
  • Offers employee performance review tools and survey insights


  • Doesn’t offer a free trial

Gusto offers simple, automated processes for business owners, including automatic W-2 and 1099 forms, unlimited payroll runs, state tax registration, international contractor payments, time off requests and approvals, PTO reporting, cost reports, tax credits and more.

The platform also offers a number of employee benefits administration and HR tools, including applicant tracking, custom onboarding checklists, offer letter templates, benefits advisors, 401(k) plans, 529 plans, HSA, FSA accounts and more. However, you may need to pay more to access all features. Gusto offers a limited “Simple” plan for $40 per month plus $6 per employee per month and a more comprehensive “Plus” plan for $80 per month plus $12 per employee.

Reviews suggest Gusto is easier to navigate than other platforms because of its simplicity and well-designed user interface. Both employers and employees describe the platform as user-friendly but even instances where users had to reach out to customer service for assistance received positive feedback on the experience.

Best for affordability

Wave Payroll

  • Cost

    Starts at $20/month + $6/month per employee + $6/month per contractor

  • Benefits Administration

  • HR tools


  • Offers a 30-day free trial
  • Generates W-2 and 1099 forms for tax season
  • Offers two pricing tiers for US-based businesses


  • Complete payroll tax service, which automatically pays and files state and federal payroll taxes for businesses, only available in AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, MN, NY, NC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WI at this time
  • Doesn’t offer employee benefits administration

Wave Payroll offers more limited features compared to bigger-name competitors, but can be a more affordable options for some businesses. That’s because Wave charges lower rates to businesses based in “self-service” states, where Wave doesn’t file payroll taxes automatically. However, Wave still allows you to export the appropriate forms, making it easy to go through the filing process manually.

States where businesses have the option to automatically file taxes include Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. All other states are considered self-service states.

Businesses in self-service states pay just $20 per month (plus $6 per month per employee and independent contractor). Businesses in states eligible for automatic tax services pay $40 per month plus $6 per month per employee and contractor. Best of all, you’ll only be charged that $6 fee for contractors you actually pay each month, so you won’t be charged for contractors or seasonal employees that are not actively working for you.

Best for payroll and bookkeeping

Quickbooks® Payroll

  • Cost

    Starts at $37.50/month + $5/month per employee (with discount; regular price starts at $75/month + $5/month per employee)

  • Benefits Administration

    401(k) plans, health benefits, workers’ compensation administration

  • HR tools


  • 50% off discount for the first three months across all tiers
  • Offers HR resources and ability to talk to an HR advisor
  • Ability to only sign up for payroll services


  • Base cost is on the pricier side compared to competitors

Intuit Quickbooks is a household name in the business bookkeeping space. So if your business has already been using this service for bookkeeping, the good news is you can also use the same platform for payroll.

At the same time, if you haven’t previously signed up for the bookkeeping service and want that in addition to payroll, there are plans for new customers as well. The packages are pricier compared to most other options, though. Without the 50% off three-month discount, plans start at $75 per month plus $5 per month per employee and can be as expensive as $170 per month. The more expensive the plan, the more features you get, such as same-day direct deposits, access to an HR Support Center and mobile time tracking.

Compare offers to find the best savings account


What are the benefits of using payroll software as a small business?

Payroll software can help business owners save time, reduce the likelihood of error and even make it easier to manage payments to contractors or employees who may reside in other countries. It’s the business owner’s responsibility to make sure employees are paid on time and payroll software and services can assist with this.

What information do you need to add an employee to payroll?

To add employees to the payroll, you’ll need their full legal name, address, a completed W-4 form and often an email address.

What are payroll taxes?

Payroll taxes are a type of tax paid on wages, tips and salaries. The business owner must withhold payroll taxes from their employee’s paychecks and send them to the IRS on their employees’ behalf.

Bottom line

While growing your team as a business owner can be exciting, it’s important to make sure you have your ducks in a row when it comes to payroll. Fortunately, there are a variety of services on the market that don’t just help you handle payroll but also employee benefits, onboarding, bookkeeping and more. Aside from the features, be sure to also keep price points and user experience in mind when selecting the right payroll service for you.

Why trust CNBC Select?

Our methodology

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.