For any small business owner, processing payroll can be challenging. It is both time-consuming and costly. If you are a business owner that needs a little extra time and money, and a little less stress, consider a free online payroll service.
These free online payroll services may come with a payroll portal of their own. This payroll portal can help you monitor and access payroll metrics easily online.
These programs will help you and your business better understand payroll processing by offering access to important documents, tax forms, and information management. The latest online payroll software companies work best overall for small businesses because they offer essential services like automated taxes, HR outsourcing, professional employer organizations, automated payroll, and PTO tracking.
Features to Look for in Your Online Payroll Service
Pricing varies between each payroll service, however, there is a standard pricing structure that the majority of payroll services reference when setting their fees. For those payroll providers, they will charge a base fee, either by month or pay period. Some will offer a range of pricing plans to choose from, depending on what type of service you are looking for.
The average base fee will range between $20-$100 – all dependent on which payroll service you choose to work with.
On top of those base fees, there are usually additional charges – some may charge per employee, or each time you process payroll, or monthly and/or quarterly. The average cost of these charges will range anywhere from $1 per additional service to $15.
There is also the potential that services will charge for system setup, utilizing direct deposit, and tax services.
Ease of Use
Whichever payroll service you decide to use, make sure that it is not too complex to understand and user-friendly for whoever will be running it through your company.
The payroll service should offer an easy-to-use user platform that makes adding employees and running payroll into the system a highly-time efficient and accurate matter.
For most payroll services, there is a built-in security measure that safeguards the company’s private data. Depending on which payroll service you are looking into, systems will offer intricately multi-layered security protection, automated to track salary and wage adjustments, while preserving the system’s integrity as a whole from potential outside attacks.
The security system provided by the payroll service you decide to use will be closely related to your business’s overall financial security. If you are running a payroll system with little to no security and easily infiltrated, your employee’s personal information is not the only data that could be exposed. Access to your business’s financial data and bank accounts could also be threatened, resulting in a major financial crisis.
Payroll services should offer the ability to withhold employee taxes, file payroll tax reports on a quarterly basis, as well as pay tax withholdings to taxing agencies within the county, state, and federal.
Payroll services also issue annual employee tax forms – W-2’s and 1099’s – at the end of each year. One benefit of using a payroll service is that if any errors are made due to a fault in their system, they cover the charge of any potential fine or interest cost acquired by correcting the error themselves.
Software Integration and Reports
Online payroll services combine various programs related to payroll that the vast majority of businesses are already using – such as account management, timesheets, and human resource software.
Whether these services are provided to you as part of the pricing package you choose, or you can individually create them within the system, is an important feature you will want to search for in your payroll service.
Payroll services that offer 24/7 customer support are more than ideal – especially when it comes to the finances of your business’s employees. Although some services do not provide round-the-clock customer service, ensure the one you choose offers some type of customer care package in case you run into issues regarding setup, maintenance, and system data errors.
Free Online Payroll Services for Small Businesses
- eSmart Paycheck
Offers free payroll services, similar to what other businesses would charge for. Proprietary software used for business payroll. Basic services are available at no cost for every client who is operating a business with no more than 25 employees.
Services offered include all payroll processing, direct deposits or paper checks to employees, tax forms and calculations, PTO tracking, ability to integrate with outside software, human resource capabilities, financial reporting, and 24/7 customer support. Payroll tax calculations, pre-filled tax forms, direct deposit or paper check options, and PTO tracking.
Best for: For small businesses with fewer than 25 employees or contractors
Positive: Great selection of standard features; Very useful employee portal – provides access to current and previous paycheck stubs – and annual W-2’s, ability to set up and utilize direct deposit
Negative: Payroll4Free handles all product setup so small business owners are still required to complete employee information sheets and provide legal documents
TimeTrex utilizes a cloud-based system that tracks employee time and attendance, calculates payroll that includes taxes and other deductions, direct deposit and paper checks, accessible tax forms, and human resource management software. Inclusive administrative software solution that offers automation of complex government regulations and business policies.
Mobile app available and equipped with a timeclock that uses precise biometric facial recognition. Easy-to-generate tax forms, employee pay stub access, and time-tracking syncing.
Best for: Multi-location organizations or small businesses with less than 50 employees or contractors that require time tracking and payroll services.
Positive: Employee tracking made easy, easy-to-learn software, time-efficient, great customer service, extremely beneficial service that generates automated schedule reports
Negative: Needs stronger messaging features, the set-up process can be difficult, requires software updates on a mobile app that has little to no functionality
A simple and affordable program that calculates payroll. Excel spreadsheet with payroll features requires you to manually enter employee earnings and deductions, federal, state, and county tax data, vacation, and overtime.
Import and export data to generate tax compliance and worker compensation reports, create bookkeeping entries, track 401(k)s, wage garnishments, and payroll deductions. Offers you the means to print paychecks and tax forms.
Best for: Businesses who are already utilizing Excel software for bookkeeping and payroll.
Positive: Can add up to 50 employees and will process payroll according to manually set payroll cycle
Negative: Does not offer tax or benefits administration, customer service is only available via email
HR.my offers payroll services, along with HR tools for free. Manages payroll schedules – set up to run monthly, weekly, or biweekly – and delivers payment via direct deposit, check, or cash.
It has the ability to import timesheets, expense reports, and purchase requests needing approval from managerial staff. HR.my provides data security and secures data using off-site backups and exporting. Time and attendance syncing, easy PTO requests, and unlimited users.
Best for Global companies that are seeking payroll processing and HR features for free.
Positive: No limit to the number of employees added to the payroll system, efficient employee portal, connections to HR.my are encrypted using an SSL protocol
Negative: Does not support tax and benefits administration
5. eSmart Paycheck
State-specific payroll calculators, paycheck and pay stub printing. Input data – tax year, state, earnings, deductions – to generate paystub. Standard payroll tax reports are provided, and data can be exported to the desired format.
Best for: Businesses looking to calculate one-off paychecks for free.
Positive: Customer support is offered via phone, fax, email, and mail. Payroll software allows you to run payroll anytime and is tax compliant in the United States
Negative: Free calculator not capable of saving data entered once the browser is left. Only payment options are cash or check
Finding a payroll system that is free and supports your financial needs – payroll, taxes, HR, accounting, etc. – keep in mind that most online payroll software offering free services is an all-inclusive deal, where there may be a limit on the services they will provide to you, or placing a cap on how many employees you can add to the payroll program.
For most small businesses, this is not an issue as those free payroll services typically set a maximum of 20-25 employees that can be added to the system.
That said, if your company employs more than 25 people, it is highly recommended that you invest in a paid payroll service as they are better equipped to handle businesses and/or corporations on a larger scale.
If you are a small business owner or manager, choosing a free payroll service could mean you save a substantial amount of money, which can then be directly invested in your business. Not only will you be saving on your financials, but you will also save time that would otherwise be allocated towards processing payroll.
For smaller businesses, automating payroll processing by using a free online payroll service will benefit your employees because it takes away your need to budget for the cost of a paid payroll service. Adding to that, an automated payroll service will use a systemized process that minimizes the number of potential errors, saving you both time and money.