While most payroll service providers offer mobile apps for employees, software lags on the small-business employer side. Only a handful of payroll software companies have employer-focused apps for small-business owners who value paying employees anywhere, anytime. Luckily, the few brands that do offer employer-facing payroll apps have put in the time, energy, and labor to make absolutely stellar products. Here are our picks for the best small-business payroll apps of 2021.
The 5 Best Payroll Apps for Small Business 2021
We recently checked this page to bring its app ratings and review numbers up to date. We also updated Paychex’s and SurePayroll’s plans and pricing, which have changed a lot over the last few months.
Luckily for the user, accounting software is consistent and reliable—including when it comes to pricing. We recently reviewed this piece to make sure none of the prices or offers have changed (they haven’t) and that our rankings are the same (they are). We still think Xero gives users the most value with its unlimited users and comparatively affordable plans.
We’ve updated this article to include the most up-to-date pricing and plans for each piece of accounting software we reviewed. We also added Zoho Books to our top five recommendations thanks to its comprehensive features, helpful automation services, and easy integration with customer relationship management software. Meanwhile, we moved GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping to our runner-up position, not because the software isn’t affordable and effective but because it focuses solely on bookkeeping, not on comprehensive accounting services.
The best payroll apps for small business in 2021
- : Best overall
- : Most affordable
- : Best notifications
- : Best HR
- : Most user-friendly
- : Most comprehensive plans
- : Most affordable self service
Best payroll apps plans and pricing
iOS or Android
Starting base price
Additional cost per employee
Self service and full service
|RUN Powered by ADP|
Contact for quote
Contact for quote
|QuickBooks Online Payroll|
Data effective 12/3/20. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.
Paychex Flex: Best overall
App Store rating: 4.8 stars (199.5K reviews)1
Google Play rating: 4.5 stars (16.1K reviews)2
Paychex Flex’s plans aren’t the cheapest, but its payroll app is easily the best one out there. If running payroll from anywhere in the world on any web-enabled device is a must for you, Paychex Flex is the way to go.
Paychex Flex’s app is far and away the most popular payroll app for small businesses. So what makes it so great? For one thing, it does basically everything Paychex's stellar cloud-based payroll software can do—and it does quite a lot. Paychex's plans include standout HR support, including dedicated HR specialists with pricier plans. Accessing all that info on the go on a fantastic app that nixes bugs and app crashes is a bargain.
Speaking of bug- and crash-free apps, Paychex's software and app also sync effortlessly with each other. If you start entering payroll data on your office laptop but have to take off early to make a meeting, you can pick up right where you left off on your phone after you're through. Employees can use the employee-facing version of the app to access their payroll data, check out their W-2 forms and paystubs, and even tweak their 401(k) contributions.
Square Payroll: Most affordable
App Store rating: 4.8 stars (3K reviews)3
Google Play rating: 4.4 stars (493 reviews)4
If you work primarily with contractors, don’t want to pay extra for running payroll as many times as you need during the month, and need a super intuitive app, Square Payroll is the best (and most affordable) payroll option for you.
The Square Payroll app is super versatile—it’s just as easy to pay your W-2 hourly and salaried employees as it is to pay your contractors.
Plus, Square’s payroll app syncs easily with its point-of-sale app; you can import employee and contractor hours and then pay them in just a few clicks.
Want to take payroll off your plate entirely? Square Payroll’s app includes an automatic payroll option. If your salaried workers get paid on a consistent pay schedule and make a consistent rate, automatic payroll keeps things simple and ensures employees are paid—even if you forget about payday completely.
Finally, along with running payroll, you can use Square’s app to track employees’ paid time off (PTO), sick leave, and overtime. That's not bad for a straightforward, completely affordable app.
SurePayroll’s mobile alerts, customer service access, and detailed reporting keep you on top of on-the-go payroll.
SurePayroll is owned by Paychex, our top pick—which goes to show that Paychex’s team is absolutely committed to making user-friendly, accessible apps.
With the SurePayroll app, you can record your employees’ hours worked as well as their vacation days, sick leave, and other PTO accruals. Access customer service right from your phone or tablet, pull up payroll reports on individual employee earnings and tax deductions, and pay both W-2 employees and 1099 contractors.
SurePayroll also proactively addresses some of the key concerns users have with payroll apps—namely accuracy and security. Most importantly, it protects your data with industry-leading encryption and never sends account information via the app.
Want a little extra help staying on top of payroll? SurePayroll sends mobile alerts that let you know when your payroll has been submitted and approved. You can also see compliance changes and payroll deadlines with the app.
With unlimited payroll runs and automatic tax filing, Gusto helps small-business owners worry less about payroll and put more time into growing their business.
- Get automatic payroll tax filing, including end-of-year tax forms
- Manage workers compensation insurance
- Track paid time off, sick leave, and holiday pay
RUN Powered by ADP: Best HR
App Store rating: 2.2 stars (249 reviews)7
Google Play rating: 2.6 stars (1.8K reviews)8
If you need HR solutions alongside mobile payroll, RUN Powered by ADP puts HR management tips, compliance assistance, and new-hire onboarding at your fingertips.
We know you're looking at those user reviews and thinking, this app? Really? But hear us out: while ADP's app isn't the strongest, its software is one of our absolute favorites. Like Paychex, ADP offers a slew of HR features, which makes it a great fit for midsize and large businesses. With multiple plans and price points, it's also a scalable choice for businesses planning on growth.
But the app? Well, the app leaves a little to be desired. Customers report problems with forced logouts, and many are frustrated with the app's lack of features—for the most part, it works for payroll runs only and doesn't offer the support of ADP's software.
Still, the app does offer some payroll features alongside its HR assistance:
- Access to employees’ contact information and pay rates
- HR tips and alerts
- HR document access
- Report sharing
We know that's vague, but bear in mind that ADP is still one of the few payroll providers to even have an employer-facing app. And we've got our fingers crossed that they bring the app up to par with the software sooner than later.
QuickBooks Payroll: Most user-friendly
App Store rating: 4.3 stars (1.1 reviews)9
Google Play rating: 4.2 stars (1.7K reviews)10
Already using QuickBooks Online? QuickBooks’ payroll app syncs easily with your existing accounting software, making bookkeeping a breeze.
QuickBooks’ payroll app is a little less robust than the others we’ve reviewed so far. But that doesn’t mean it skimps on features: you can use the app for payroll runs and reminders, direct deposit, bank-grade security, and even e-filing your taxes.
Like QuickBooks Online's accounting app, its payroll app has a low learning curve. With a sleek dashboard and few glitches, we'd say it's the most user friendly of all our app options listed here. In fact, QuickBooks Payroll's app is much better than ADP's—so why'd we give it a lower rating?
Unfortunately, while QuickBooks Payroll's app is great, the software itself isn't. It's pricier than similar providers without adding more features, but most importantly, QuickBooks Payroll only includes an industry standard tax filing guarantee with its most expensive plan. Without that guarantee, you're on the hook for any payroll errors QuickBooks makes when it files your taxes for you—and yes, that's as ridiculous as it sounds. So while we like the app, we can't recommend QuickBooks' payroll solution over ADP's.
Mobile-friendly honorable mentions
Using an app is often the most convenient way to run payroll on the go, but it isn’t the only way. In fact, a company can optimize its software to work just as well on a full-width laptop screen as on a small mobile screen, and that's just what Gusto and Patriot Software—two of our favorite payroll providers—have done.
Gusto: Most comprehensive plans
Gusto’s affordable plans include workers compensation insurance and health benefits administration. As long as you’re comfortable using an internet browser app to access payroll, it’s hard to do better than Gusto.
Gusto offers three plans: Core, Complete, and Concierge. Each full-service payroll plan includes health benefit add-ons, workers compensation administration, and PTO policy creation. At $39 a month with a $5 additional fee per employee, it’s reasonably priced (more so than QuickBooks), and like we said above, you can access all of Gusto’s features online on your mobile device, app-free.
Patriot Software: Most affordable self service
Don’t mind dealing with taxes yourself? Patriot Software’s $10-a-month plan still includes key features like workers comp integration and unlimited payroll processing.
Patriot’s plans are cheaper than Gusto’s at $30 a month for full-service payroll with a $4 add-on cost per employee. It also offers a self-service plan, meaning a plan without automatic payroll tax filing, at just $10 a month with the same per employee cost. If you have only a handful of employees and aren’t too stressed about taxes, Patriot’s reliable self-service software could be a good choice. Both the self- and full-service plans include free direct deposit, employee self-service payroll portals, workers compensation integration, and unlimited payroll runs.
Payroll app FAQ
Are payroll apps free?
The apps listed here are free with the purchase of the associated software. For example, Paychex Flex’s app is included at no additional cost with your Paychex Flex payroll subscription.
None of the payroll software we listed here is free, but you can hop over to our piece on the best free payroll software to learn more.
The online payroll services listed here are way ahead of the curve in making payroll management as easy, accessible, and convenient as possible—and their apps have the features to prove it. Whether you’re on the road heading to your next farmers market, or taxiing on the runway before your next business trip, these cloud-based solutions give you the flexibility to pay your employees on time, every time.
Looking for more than payroll software? Check out our favorite cloud-based accounting software for small businesses—most of which pair easily with your preferred payroll solution.
At zhulitouzi.com, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
1. App Store, “Paychex Flex.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
2. Google Play, “Paychex Flex.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
3. App Store, “Square Payroll.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
4. Google Play, “Square Payroll.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
5. App Store, “SurePayroll for Employers.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
6. Google Play, “SurePayroll for Employers.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
7. App Store, “RUN Powered by ADP.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
8. Google Play, “RUN Powered by ADP Mobile Payroll for Employers.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
9. App Store, “QuickBooks Payroll.” Accessed December 4, 2020.
10. Google Play, “QuickBooks Payroll for Employers.” Accessed December 4, 2020.