How Much Does Payroll Software Cost? 2024 Pricing Guide

Businesses in the market for payroll software will want to carefully consider pricing before they make a decision. Although it can save companies time and money, the software requires setup and additional expenses.

Only a few payroll software vendors offer pricing plans on their websites. Most require companies to contact them directly for a price quote.

To help you better understand the payroll software market, we’ve put together this extensive pricing guide with common pricing models, additional costs to consider and examples of popular vendor pricing.

What is Payroll Software?

Payroll software helps businesses streamline complex payroll processes through automated calculations and payments. It reduces costly errors and time spent on administrative tasks, such as reviewing timecards and printing checks. Companies can also simplify tax filing and manage compliance with federal, state and local regulations.

Common features of payroll software include:

Payroll processing – The payroll processing feature automatically calculates employee gross pay based on hours worked, as well as any deductions for taxes, insurance and retirement contributions. It also takes into consideration bonuses, raises and overtime pay.

Tax management – With the tax management feature, companies can calculate federal, state, local, Social Security and Medicare taxes and deduct them from employee paychecks. This feature is regularly updated when tax codes change.

Tax form preparation – Tax forms, such as W-2, W-4 and 1099, are prepared at the end of each year or quarter. Companies can either print these forms or file them electronically when they need to report employee withholdings or submit taxes to the IRS.

Time and attendance – Time and attendance can capture employee hours via time-clock software or a manual time clock. Hours can then be used to calculate pay. This feature also keeps track of vacation and sick time. Some payroll systems have time and attendance features built in, while others may require integration with a separate module.

Benefits management – Benefits management keeps track of insurance, retirement, vacation/sick time and other benefits. This may be a built-in feature or a separate module.

Payment processing – Companies can process employee payments by printing paychecks or sending direct deposits to their bank accounts. In some cases, businesses can pay employees via paycards, which are similar to debit and credit cards.

Reporting – Reporting functionality includes templates and custom reports for metrics such as gross-to-net payroll register, compensation analysis, taxes and deduction analysis.

Employee self-service – The employee self-service portal lets employees view payroll, time and attendance, and benefits info through a web browser or mobile app.

Payroll: Keep it In-House or Outsource?

Payroll is more than just cutting employees a check. There are taxes to withhold, deductions for specific benefits and even wage garnishments. And for independent contractors, the process gets more complicated.

Larger companies may have the resources to hire a dedicated in-house payroll administrator. But for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), payroll duties may fall to accounting, human resources (HR) or even the business owners.

Businesses may decide to outsource the payroll function entirely to a third-party provider, especially if the company is small and doesn’t want to handle complex tax codes and employment laws internally.

However, outsourcing payroll has its own challenges: Services can cost more than payroll software, mistakes can happen with an employee’s paycheck and businesses can’t be sure if their employees’ personal info is secure.

Payroll software vendors have responded by rolling out hybrid solutions that combine payroll software and payroll outsourcing. This option generally means companies handle payroll internally throughout the year, except when an accountant reviews and files taxes.

This option can benefit companies that want control over payroll data, but not the headaches of running the entire payroll process. Both Patriot Software and Quickbooks (listed below) offer monthly software packages that outsource tax filing to third-party professionals.

Payroll Software vs. Payroll Module

Payroll is often included as a module within accounting software, human resources management systems (HRMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

Payroll modules generally have fewer features than dedicated payroll solutions, but better integration with other business processes. For companies that already have comprehensive accounting, HRMS or ERP software, purchasing separate payroll software adds extra costs.

In either case, if a company needs advanced payroll functionality, it may want to consider a specialized payroll solution.

Payroll Pricing Models

Payroll software prices usually depend on the number of employees and level of features. There are three common payroll software pricing plans:

Per month, plus per employee monthly subscription plan – In a software-as-a-service (SaaS) pricing model, companies pay a monthly fee to access software through the cloud. The most common subscription plan for payroll software is a per month, plus per employee monthly fee.

For example, Patriot Software charges companies $17 per month, plus $4 per employee each month for the Basic plan. A company with 100 employees would pay $417 per month.

Monthly subscription plans often come in several tiers with varying levels of features and services. The most expensive plans may include more technical support, HR advice and a dedicated accountant to review and file taxes.

This option is popular with companies of all sizes because the monthly fee is small and the per employee, per month fee is scalable. Companies also have flexibility in the features they choose to deploy.

Per month subscription plan – Some vendors offer a per month subscription plan that includes an unlimited number of employees. These solutions, however, generally have limited functionality and support.

The ideal customers for per month subscription plans are small businesses that don’t have extensive payroll needs. Larger companies will likely need more comprehensive features like tax filing and the ability to edit employee checks.

Perpetual license fee – Companies that deploy ERP, HRMS or accounting solutions on-premise can often purchase a perpetual license for a payroll module as well. This one-time fee is generally much higher than a monthly subscription price and doesn’t include upgrades.

With a perpetual license, however, companies have more opportunities to customize the software. In addition, the payroll module is better integrated with other modules for accounting, HR, and time and attendance.

Additional Costs to Consider

There are additional costs for payroll software beside the subscription or license fee. Here are a few expenses that businesses should consider:

Implementation – Implementation includes adding employee info and business tax data, as well as integrating the software with other solutions, such as accounting, time and attendance, or an HR self-service portal. Some vendors include implementation with their more expensive monthly subscription plans, while others will charge an extra fee.

Support – Limited support (e.g., knowledge base, email support) is generally included in basic subscription plans. Priority support and access to a dedicated customer service manager, however, are generally offered with the higher tiers of features.

Maintenance – Payroll software often requires ongoing maintenance, including updates, patches and upgrades. This is particularly important because tax codes can change from year to year. For companies with a perpetual license, obtaining software upgrades usually requires additional fees.

Payroll Software Vendor Pricing

We’ve compared pricing for several popular payroll solutions. Note that many vendors don’t publicly list pricing info, so you’ll need to contact them directly for a quote.

CheckMark Payroll targets small businesses and has two pricing plans.

The Pro plan costs $549 for full features, online access to program fixes and up to 90 minutes of support within the first year. The Pro+ plan is $619 and includes up to five hours of priority support in the first year, exclusive live chat support and reduced data recovery rates.

CheckMark now has an online payroll version, CheckMark Online Payroll, for companies that prefer the software hosted in the cloud. It has two pricing tiers. The Small Business Payroll tier, intended for organizations with up to 99 employees, starts at $24 per month ($20 per month base price plus $4 per employee, per month). Then, there’s a Mid & Large Business Payroll tier for companies with 100 up to 999 employees that adds on features, such as a lifetime volume discount, a dedicated account manager, premium support, setup and onboarding assistance and role-based access control. Pricing for this tier is not currently available, but the vendor indicates that it will be announced soon.

Equip Payroll helps small business owners efficiently run payroll and manage their basic HR tasks in the cloud. Its Core Payroll tier has a base price of $39 per month, plus $6 per employee, per month. Its optional Time and Attendance feature costs $4.50 per employee, per month, while the HR Support feature is priced at $2 per employee, per month. Note that each feature requires a minimum spend of $50 and $20, respectively.

Gusto is an online payroll system that includes benefits management and compliance for small businesses. It has three pricing tiers.

The Simple plan has a base rate of $40 per month, plus $6 per employee, per month. It includes full-service payroll in all 50 states, employee self-service, two-day and four-day direct deposit, basic hiring and onboarding, integration with third-party software, health insurance administration, employee financial benefits (e.g., Gusto Wallet), payroll and time off reports, custom admin permissions and full support (e.g., 24/7 help center, phone, email or chat support, access to extended live support).

The Plus plan has a base rate of $80 per month, plus $12 per employee, per month. It adds on multi-state payroll, next-day direct deposit, advanced hiring and onboarding, PTO management and policies, time tracking and project tracking, workforce costing and reports, team management tools, performance management and employees surveys and insights.

The Premium plan is intended for larger teams that want advanced features and services. Additional features include an HR resource center, advice from certified HR experts, compliance alerts, personalized priority support (e.g., access to a dedicated customer success manager, direct phone and email with expedited responses), full-service payroll migration, integration with an existing health insurance broker and R&D tax credits and discounts. Prospects are encouraged to contact Gusto for pricing.

There’s a Contractor plan for companies that want to pay their 1099 contractors. It has a base rate of $35 per month (although that is free for the first six months) plus $6 per contractor, and it includes unlimited contractor payments, contractor self-service and 1099 form creation and filings.

OnPay – OnPay has an all-inclusive pricing plan (e.g., features, onboarding, support) that costs $40 per month, plus $6 per person. Note that the client is billed for only the employees paid in a particular month.

Patriot Software is a web-based payroll system for small businesses with four plans.

The Basic plan is $17 per month, plus $4 per employee. It includes paychecks, direct deposit, printable W-2s, setup and expert support.

The Full Service Payroll plan is $37 per month, plus $4 per employee. The vendor will file federal, state and local taxes on behalf of the company.

Patriot Software has two additional products that companies can add on to:

HR Software – This product costs $6 per month plus $2 per employee. It includes HR functionality, such as document management, employee information tracking and the ability to designate managers or assign direct reports.

Time and Attendance – This product costs $6 per month plus $2 per employee. It includes time and attendance features, such as custom overtime rules, clock-in/clock-out and time-off management.

Paychex Flex is a cloud-based human resources (HR) and payroll software that empowers businesses to streamline their processes. It offers three pricing packages clients can choose based on their needs.

Paychex Flex Essentials costs $39 per month, plus $5 per employee, per month. Some of its features include online payroll processing, a mobile app, tax administration, direct deposit and new-hire reporting.

Paychex Flex Select includes all of the features of the Paychex Flex Essentials package, plus a dedicated payroll specialist and the Paychex Learning Management System.

Paychex Flex Pro includes all of the features of the Paychex Flex Select package, plus an employee handbook builder, state unemployment insurance services and background screening.

Pricing for the Paychex Flex Select and Paychex Flex Pro packages isn’t publicly available. Contact the vendor directly for a quote.

PeopleGuru – PeopleGuru offers a per-employee, per-month model that includes both the software and its services. Its average price points range from $10 to $22 per employee, per month, depending on the modules and features the client selects. Contact PeopleGuru for a custom quote.

QuickBooks is a comprehensive business accounting solution from Intuit. As discussed in our research on Quickbooks pricing, companies can purchase the online payroll module separately or have it integrated with the desktop software.

The online payroll module has three pricing plans.

The Core plan costs $45 per month, plus $6 per employee, per month. This plan includes full-service payroll, unlimited payroll runs, calculating paychecks and taxes, next-day direct deposit, 1099 e-file and payment, employee self-service, health benefits, 401(k) plans, workers’ compensation administration, expert product support and availability in all 50 states.

The Premium version is $80 per month, plus $8 per employee, per month. It adds same-day direct deposit, mobile time tracking, 24/7 expert product support, expert payroll setup review and a HR support center.

The Elite Plan costs $125 per month, plus $10 per employee per month. This plan includes tax penalty protection, mobile time and project tracking, expert payroll setup and a personal HR advisor.

Payroll for the Quickbooks Desktop software costs $55 per month plus $6 per employee, per month – users can also choose an annual payment of $550 per year plus $6 per employee, per month.

Rippling Payroll is a module within Rippling’s HR platform that provides flexible features for quick payroll processing. It is priced at $8 per employee, per month, and the vendor also offers optional HR outsourcing packages. If interested, please contact the sales team for a quote.

Workful is payroll and HR solution that helps small businesses run their operations more efficiently. It has an all-inclusive price that starts at $35 per month, plus an additional $6 per employee, per month.

Zenefits is a comprehensive HRMS solution. To access the payroll module, companies must purchase the entire software, which has three pricing options.

The Essentials plan is $10 per employee, per month ($8 if billed annually).

The Growth plan costs $20 per employee, per month ($16 if billed annually).

The Zen plan is $33 per employee, per month ($27 if billed annually).

The vendor also offers add-on features. The payroll module costs $6 per employee, per month (although it’s included in the Zen plan), benefits administration is $5 per employee, per month with an existing broker (it’s free if the company uses a Zenefits partner), and HR services cost $8 per employee, per month.

Bottom Line

Most of the payroll software vendors listed above have monthly per employee subscription plans with varying levels of features.

Companies looking for payroll software should carefully consider their needs and whether they want like assistance from an accountant or HR professional.

If you’d like to compare solutions, check out our reviews for over 25 payroll software vendors.