8 Best Free Payroll Software Tools for 2021

Detailed Reviews

Looking for a free software solution for managing payroll? Look no further. We have tested the market’s offerings and compiled a list of the best of the best. Not only do these software solutions offer fast and easy payroll services, but they also help you calculate tax withholding and organize your workflow. Read our reviews and choose the free payroll software that fits you best.

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Top 8 Free Payroll Software Tools for 2021

1. Payroll4Free.com

Payroll4Free.com offers free payroll service for small businesses and startups with up to 25 workers. The software manages payroll for both employees and contractors. Payroll4Free.com calculates taxes and prepares forms, but it doesn’t file the taxes or deposit the funds. That service is available for a small monthly fee. This software is perfect for users who are less technical. Its simple, clear interface simplifies the payroll process. And if you have trouble, well-versed customer agents will help immediately. Full Review

  • Tax calculation features for both 1099s and W-2s
  • Various payment methods
  • Advanced security

Payroll4Free.com offers free payroll service for small businesses and startups with up to 25 workers. The software manages payroll for both employees and contractors. Payroll4Free.com calculates taxes and prepares forms, but it doesn’t file the taxes or deposit the funds. That service is available for a small monthly fee. This software is perfect for users who are less technical. Its simple, clear interface simplifies the payroll process. And if you have trouble, well-versed customer agents will help immediately. Full Review

2. HR.my

HR.my offers payroll software that’s free for an unlimited number of employees. In addition to payroll processing tools, the software is equipped with lots of HR functions that can help you organize your company’s workflow and a portal where workers can request pay stubs and leaves. The disadvantage of the software is that it doesn’t handle taxes, so you’ll need to calculate, file, and pay taxes on your own. Full Review

  • Available for macOS, iOS, and Windows
  • Unlimited number of workers
  • SSL encryption

HR.my offers payroll software that’s free for an unlimited number of employees. In addition to payroll processing tools, the software is equipped with lots of HR functions that can help you organize your company’s workflow and a portal where workers can request pay stubs and leaves. The disadvantage of the software is that it doesn’t handle taxes, so you’ll need to calculate, file, and pay taxes on your own. Full Review

3. TimeTrex

Looking for a single comprehensive platform to help you manage payroll for a small business for free? TimeTrex is the perfect solution. Since the app integrates with scheduling and time-tracking tools, you’ll be able to finish payroll with just a few clicks. TimeTrex software is loaded with tax forms and data sheets that you can use to calculate taxes for your US and non-US workers. Unfortunately, there is no option for tax filing services. Full Review

  • Easy-to-use tax calculator
  • Integration with scheduling and time tracking apps
  • Tax forms for US & foreign workers

Looking for a single comprehensive platform to help you manage payroll for a small business for free? TimeTrex is the perfect solution. Since the app integrates with scheduling and time-tracking tools, you’ll be able to finish payroll with just a few clicks. TimeTrex software is loaded with tax forms and data sheets that you can use to calculate taxes for your US and non-US workers. Unfortunately, there is no option for tax filing services. Full Review

4. ExcelPayroll

ExcelPayroll is one of the best free payroll programs for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals who are skilled at calculating payroll manually. ExcelPayroll doesn’t provide state, federal, and local tax information. However, the software performs calculations based on information you enter manually. For Excel fans, managing payroll with this software is a breeze. Full Review

  • Good for individuals and small businesses
  • Comprehensive users guide
  • Prints checks

ExcelPayroll is one of the best free payroll programs for small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals who are skilled at calculating payroll manually. ExcelPayroll doesn’t provide state, federal, and local tax information. However, the software performs calculations based on information you enter manually. For Excel fans, managing payroll with this software is a breeze. Full Review

5. Rise Lite

Rise Lite is a free payroll software service that works best for companies with fewer than 20 employees. Businesses with 20+ employees can use Rise’s paid plan with extra features and benefits like team hub and custom workflows. The platform itself minimizes manual data entry and provides both reliability and accuracy in tax-related issues. Full Review

  • ROEs submission to Service Canada
  • Extensive T4 reporting to CRA
  • Invoice statement report and payroll register

Rise Lite is a free payroll software service that works best for companies with fewer than 20 employees. Businesses with 20+ employees can use Rise’s paid plan with extra features and benefits like team hub and custom workflows. The platform itself minimizes manual data entry and provides both reliability and accuracy in tax-related issues. Full Review

6. Paycheck Manager

Paycheck Manager acts as a free payroll software for the first three months of its trial period. It is a platform that specializes in payroll tax calculations and preparing templates for the printing of paychecks and pay stubs. It is designed especially for small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees). Full Review

  • Year-to previous period information
  • Complex calculations regarding exempt employees
  • Full customizability regarding pay rates calculations

Paycheck Manager acts as a free payroll software for the first three months of its trial period. It is a platform that specializes in payroll tax calculations and preparing templates for the printing of paychecks and pay stubs. It is designed especially for small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees). Full Review

7. eSmart Paycheck

eSmart Paycheck is probably the best free desktop payroll software during the first three months of its trial period. The payroll calculator itself is completely free and comes with built-in tax tables for both federal and state tax requirements. This makes it a handy end-to-end tool. Full Review

  • Built-in tax tables for both federal and state requirements
  • Three months of free trial
  • Time tracking tools

eSmart Paycheck is probably the best free desktop payroll software during the first three months of its trial period. The payroll calculator itself is completely free and comes with built-in tax tables for both federal and state tax requirements. This makes it a handy end-to-end tool. Full Review

8. Wave

A platform like Wave is a cost-effective method of managing your employees if you’re running a small team. Its Wave Payroll feature is cheap payroll software with a free trial version. The initial fee and the payment-per-employee system make it incredibly effective for small teams. As far as the features go, the platform has virtually everything you need. Full Review

  • Self-service portal
  • W-2/1099 preparation
  • Benefits management and leave tracking

A platform like Wave is a cost-effective method of managing your employees if you’re running a small team. Its Wave Payroll feature is cheap payroll software with a free trial version. The initial fee and the payment-per-employee system make it incredibly effective for small teams. As far as the features go, the platform has virtually everything you need. Full Review

Best Free Payroll Software for 2021

We’ve made a selection of the industry’s best free solutions for managing payroll. We tested them thoroughly. Each has different features, meaning that you can use them for different purposes:

  • Payroll4Free.com: The free version is an excellent choice for small businesses and startups that need a secure and reliable product payroll solution.
  • HR.my: A great option for companies that want one comprehensive platform with payroll and HR services.
  • TimeTrex: The software generates various US and international tax forms and reports. If you don’t want to bother yourself with tax compliance, TimeTrex is the best option.
  • ExcelPayroll: Excel-based software is the most logical solution for those who already use Excel, though the software’s functions are quite limited.
  • Rise Lite: This payroll software is the best for enterprises with fewer than 20 employees since this plan is free of charge.
  • Paycheck Manager: This platform is the simplest option for those who see paycheck and pay stub printing as a top priority.
  • eSmart Paycheck: A perfect transition for those already using the eSmart Tax platform. Tax tables for both state and federal make things a lot easier.
  • Wave: Wave platform is ideal for small teams, but it provides enterprises with great scalability options. It comes with a 30-day trial, which can help potential users make a decision.

 

Detailed Reviews

Payroll4Free.com
Payroll4Free.com

BEST FOR

overall services

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  • Number of employees with free version: 25
  • Payment methods: paper paychecks, direct deposit
  • Tax compliance: 1099 and W-2
  • Platform compatibility: Windows

Payroll4Free.com has been in operation since 2012. The Ohio-based company started by offering free payroll services only to local clients, but it quickly gained popularity across the US. The company is recognized by the Better Business Bureau, which has awarded it an A+ rating.

Thanks to its numerous free features, the software is the first choice for thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

Developed to provide a simple, functional solution for HR workers, this payroll software has a clear and easily navigable interface. Calculating payments for hourly workers is a breeze – you just load the data from your time-clock program and you’re all set.

Payroll4Free.com is available only for PCs and laptops that run Windows. If you want to run this free payroll program on a Mac or Linux system, you must install Windows on it – or check out some of the other offerings on our list.

Payroll Management

Payroll4Free.com offers free payroll processing services for 25 or fewer employees. The software’s features and performance are certainly adequate to meet the needs of larger companies, but Payroll4Free.com is resolute in its commitment to serving smaller firms.

Payroll4Free.com lets you pay employees with direct deposit or paper checks. There is no charge for either service. If you wish, you can transfer payroll in a lump sum to Payroll4Free.com’s bank, and the company will make direct deposits to your staff. That will cost you $15 per month. But if you make the deposits from your own bank, there’s no charge. And of course, you can use the Payroll4Free.com paycheck creator for free to print checks.

Tax Calculation Features

Payroll4Free.com is one of the rare no-cost software solutions that provides full tax calculation services. The software covers salaried, hourly, full-time, and part-time, and 1099 workers.

The software provides both 1099 and W-2 forms. It automatically calculates taxes and payments to federal, state, and local tax agencies. Of course, it tracks sick days and overtime too. For $15 a month, Payroll4Free.com will even take care of filing all the taxes for you.

Additional Services

Payroll4Free.com lets all staff members access their payroll information through an employee portal. This free payroll system shows details about each payment period, employees’ personal details, accumulated vacation days, and other information. Employees can print pay slips if they wish.

Payroll4Free integrates smoothly with numerous accounting, timekeeping, and scheduling apps, including QuickBooks.

Security and Customer Support

If you use Payroll4Free.com software, you can rest assured that you’ll get secure service. The company stores your data on the Amazon Cloud, and it uses 2,048-bit encryption to protect your files from shady Internet users.

Verdict

Overall, Payroll4Free.com is the best payroll software for a small business with free features. It’s a great choice for small companies with no plans to expand beyond 25 employees.

Pros Cons
Free employee portal Available only for Windows
Amazon Cloud storage Limited integration options
Paycheck creator High fees for bank returns
HR.my
HR.my

BEST FOR

companies with non-US workers

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  • Number of employees with free version: unlimited
  • Payment methods: paper paychecks, direct deposits, cash
  • Tax compliance: None
  • Platform compatibility: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux

HR.my was launched in 2009. As its name implies, the payroll app includes numerous human resources capabilities.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

HR.my doesn’t have a free payroll app that you download. Instead, it’s implemented SaaS-style: You access it online from your web browser. The service seems to process payroll effectively, but it is slow. We weren’t crazy about the website, which seems disorganized and difficult to navigate. One reason for that may be the multitude of functions this free software performs.

The website is available in multiple languages, which is handy if your staff includes workers for whom English is a second language.

Payroll Management

One of the best things about this software is that it allows you to use its payroll processing tools no matter how many workers you have. The free payroll software is like online support workers who are available 24/7 to answer queries and give employees information.

HR.my handles salaries, scheduling, and more for all types of employees – remote workers, full-time employees, part-timers, and freelancers. You can pay employees via bank transfer, checks, or cash.
The software also allows you to set a separate payment schedule for each worker, including monthly, semi-monthly, weekly, and bi-weekly.

Tax Calculation Features

HR.my doesn’t calculate taxes. Employers who handle payroll with free software are accustomed to doing part of the job manually, but handling tax compliance is an important part of the job, and we are disappointed that all the tax data and calculations must be handled manually.

HR.my’s sister site, Payroll.my, is working on that feature, but only for clients in Malaysia, where the company is based.

Additional Services

In addition to the free online payroll functions it performs, HR.my is equipped with useful human resources features. For example, you can assign employees different roles within the HR department to organize data access and workflow.

You can also use the software to track employees’ working time on a daily level. The software tracks attendance, overtime, undertime, vacations, unpaid leave, and sick leave.

This multifunctional platform allows employees to see their pay stubs and track payments. Since this is also an electronic leave-management platform, employees can use it to send online requests for vacation and sick days.

Security and Customer Support

When you choose online payroll services that are free, you should check to ensure that they provide secure services. HR.my uses the SSL/TLS protocol to encrypt communications. The site protects your information from third parties and prevents unauthorized access to your files. All data files are backed up on a daily basis.

Verdict

Although HR.my has some excellent HR features, its lack of tax-compliance functions can’t be ignored. If you’re content to perform those calculations yourself, then this free small business payroll product could be a good choice.

Pros Cons
HR features and tools Doesn’t offer tax compliance
Daily off-site backups Unattractive interface
Automated generation of pay stubs Doesn’t have customer support
TimeTrex
TimeTrex

BEST FOR

all businesses of all sizes

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  • Number of employees with free version: Unlimited
  • Payment methods: paper paychecks, direct deposits, cash
  • Tax compliance: W-2, W-3, 940, 941, 1099, CA & international tax forms
  • Platform compatibility: Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, Android

TimeTrex is an open-source program that combines employee scheduling, time tracking, and payroll processing services. This is a powerful workforce management tool that has already helped numerous companies in over 30 countries to organize their employee schedules and payroll process.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

TimeTrex is a payroll software that is free to download on the following OS: Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Mac. Mobile apps for Android and iOS are also available. You can store data and software conventionally on your own PC, or you can opt for a cloud-hosted alternative.

The software’s dashboard displays all features transparently. On the top of the screen is a menu bar that lists different software functions. You’ll find payroll and time-management features under the Admin option.

Payroll Management

One of the reasons this online payroll software is so beneficial is that it makes it fast and easy to calculate payroll. The employee scheduling module and time-tracking tools are already integrated with payroll software.

If you decide to run a small business with the payroll software free version, you’ll always get accurate information about when and how long each of your employees worked. With this information, calculating payroll is a breeze.

Unlike similar online payroll services, TimeTrex provides a multitude of payment options. You can pay your workers in cash, or you can use direct deposit to their bank accounts. There is also the option to use paper checks. You can even pay your employees with PayPal if you like.

Tax Calculation Features

TimeTrex offers various tax forms and government reports, including W-2s, 1099s, W3s, 940s, and 941s. You’ll even find international tax forms, an invaluable feature if you employ staff members in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

The free online payroll calculator is available through the website. The easy-to-use calculator automatically calculates taxes, including state-specific requirements. However, TimeTrex does not provide a tax-filing service.

Additional Services

The TimeTrex payroll module works fine as a standalone program, but it’s even better when integrated with other software – including commercial payroll systems. If you already rely on QuickBooks, ADP, Paychek, or another payroll software for small business, you can easily integrate it with TimeTrex. You don’t need to do anything – the software performs the integration automatically.

In addition to time tracking and scheduling tools, there are also HR management features. You can easily track your employees’ work performance, organize and update their skills and education, and access updated information on personal details.

Security and Customer Support

Anyone who uses payroll online for free wants to be sure that their company’s information is protected from malicious code, cybercriminals, and third-party apps. TimeTrex uses the latest security features so you can rest assured that you’ll get the best protection for your files.

Customer support can be hard to reach. There’s a live chat icon on the company’s website, but during our testing we never received a response. We used the site’s ticketing system instead. It worked fine.

Verdict

TimeTrex is free paycheck software that integrates with numerous other apps to make payroll processing much easier and faster. All features are entirely free. The best part is that you can add as many employees as you want without additional costs.

Pros Cons
Unlimited number of employees No tax filing services
1099, W-2, W-3, 940, and 941 forms Hard to reach customer support
Integration with other payroll systems Mobile app for Android has hiccups
ExcelPayroll.org
ExcelPayroll.org

BEST FOR

spreadsheet wizards

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  • Number of employees with free version: Unlimited
  • Payment methods: paper paychecks, direct deposits, cash
  • Tax compliance: manual
  • Platform compatibility: Windows, macOS, iOS

ExcelPayroll is one of the best payroll software solutions that you can use for free. The software is widely used among many business owners and entrepreneurs who already use other Excel-based apps. ExcelPayroll’s features make it the best free payroll software for self-employed individuals.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

ExcelPayroll has an intuitive and easily navigable interface, so even if you’re new to the HR department, you’re going to learn how to manage payroll quickly. If you already have Excel, you don’t need to install anything on your computer. Excel Payroll is practically the same as an Excel spreadsheet – with additional features for calculating and managing payrolls.

If you’re new to the world of Excel apps, setup can be tricky. Luckily, you’ll find a detailed, easy-to-follow setup guide on the ExcelPayroll website.

Payroll Management

If you decide to use free payroll software in Excel, you must prepare to do a few things manually. First, you need to enter personal details about each employee in the free payroll template. Then you need to provide tax information manually, as well as information about sick leave, vacations, and overtime work. After you type data on your employees and their earnings, the software will calculate the rest.

ExcelPayroll can perform payroll calculations for up to 50 workers. If you have more employees, you should use some other product from our list.

Tax Calculation Features

ExcelPayroll is a great free online paycheck calculator, but it doesn’t provide tax forms and other reports. You need to handle all tax deductions and employee benefits manually.

Additional Services

Like similar products, ExcelPayroll allows you to print checks anytime you want. But unlike other software solutions, with ExcelPayroll, you must define the pay period before you start printing. Since there is no defined payroll period, you can enter any date as a payroll date on the check.

Security and Customer Support

ExcelPayroll support is available only via email, meaning that you must sometimes wait a while to get help. However, the software comes with a guide that explains its functions in detail, so once you are up and running, you are unlikely to need much additional help.

This salary payroll software is free to download from the official site, so you don’t need to be stressed about the security.

Verdict

ExcelPayroll is a genuinely useful but limited tool for calculating and managing payrolls. If you already use Excel for your business, you probably won’t have a problem with learning how to use this software. However, beginners might find it tricky.

Pros Cons
All features are free No tax features
Clean and intuitive interface Complicated to set up and use
Secure and reliable provider Customer support is available only via email
Rise Lite
Rise Lite

BEST FOR

Canada-based businesses

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  • Number of employees with free version: Less than 20
  • Payment methods: Direct deposit
  • Tax compliance: CRA compliant
  • Platform compatibility: Web browser-based

Rise is a Canadian company, and it’s primarily oriented towards Canadian enterprises. For businesses with less than 20 employees, its payroll software is completely free. Thanks to its extensive list of features, Rise Lite can minimize necessary manual data entry. Automation of T4 slips and ROE forms is a significant quality of life improvement for those looking for a reliable employee payroll software.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

Rise Lite’s has some ease-of-use issues that may present a problem to some users. Namely, the interface is a bit outdated as it hasn’t been improved in several years. Also, there the platform is a bit counterintuitive and takes some time to get used to. As far as compatibility goes, Rise Lite is accessible via a web browser.

Payroll Management

Manual input for this simple payroll software is quite user-friendly. It requires basic employee data and, from that point on, it’s fairly efficient when it comes to ROE. The payroll management is mostly automated and the platform also excels at time and attendance management. Other than this, it runs an elaborate employee database, which can help with the optimization of various payroll processes in the future.

Tax Calculation Features

Calculations provided by Rise Lite can save quite a bit of time. This is especially helpful for off-cycle payments and bonuses. Deductions, commissions, and payroll discrepancies are handled more efficiently this way, and the same goes for canceling pay runs. It is the best free payroll software for those who want to avoid complex tax calculations at every turn.

Additional Services

Rise Lite is limited to mainly payroll management. The paid version offers expense management services and grievance management, which further helps small businesses optimize the use of their resources. Other than this, it helps with recruitment management, as well as the integration of HR and payroll.

Security and Customer Support

In terms of security, the platform uses a secured and verified connection while remitting payroll information to the CRA. This way, both the entrepreneur and the employee are safe. Customer support is one of Rise Lite’s winning features. The chat box is always available and the team is usually quick to respond. However, this might take a bit longer during rush hours.

Verdict

While this free online payroll system may seem a bit tricky and counterintuitive, it’s definitely worth the effort. For small Canada-based businesses, this platform provides an end-to-end employee and payroll management experience.

Pros Cons
Quick ROE Slow system during rush hours
Amazing customer support Visually outdated interface
Exports input to Excel sheet Not that intuitive to use

 

Paycheck Manager
Paycheck Manager

BEST FOR

complex pay rates calculations

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  • Number of employees with free version: Unlimited (During free trial)
  • Payment methods: paper paychecks, direct deposits
  • Tax compliance: 941, 940, W2
  • Platform compatibility: Windows

Paycheck Manager is a tool that is completely free for the first three months. From that point on, it has a subscription-based fee, based on the plan that the user opts for.Two available plans are Basic Service and Managed Service. The first one is more frugal and provides the user with a DIY payroll option (starting at $5/month), while the latter offers fully managed payroll (for $12/month + setup fee). Generally speaking, during its trial period it might just be one of the best pieces of free software for payroll accounting and invoicing available.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

When choosing payroll systems for small businesses, one of the greatest priorities is the ease of use. Here, Paycheck Manager is head and shoulders above its competition. Managers can not only perform all their calculations and payments here, but also download and print paycheck templates. The simplicity of the software is one of its strongest traits.

Payroll Management

This payroll management software is highly flexible. It has different features for hourly, monthly, and annual pay rates. It also works great with bonuses and earning items. Because it’s safe payroll software that handles scenarios of exempt employee’s paycheck calculations (like with public employees), it can even be used by some governmental or non-profit organizations.

Tax Calculation Features

The main reason for the level of popularity that this tool enjoys is the fact that it provides a free payroll tax calculator tool. The platform itself supports many tax formats and helps calculate payroll returns, as well as payroll tax deposits. When preparing 941, 940, and W2 returns, there’s really no simpler tool to handle the equation. While it has a number of advanced features, the tool itself would be best described as basic payroll software.

Additional Services

The three months-long trial period gives the user a chance to truly see what the platform has in the offer. This way, the user can use payroll software prior to actually committing to it financially. The basic service offers unlimited payroll runs, check printing services, as well as deduction items. It starts at $5/month and grows with the number of employees. When it comes to managed services, the cost is $12/month plus the $2 per employee and a $10 setup fee. This plan offers every feature of a basic service, and it also files all the federal and state forms for you. Since a managed services plan also covers IRS payments and e-payment of state taxes, this might just make it into one of the best payroll app options available.

Security and Customer Support

As far as security goes, the platform does all it can in order to provide its customers with a satisfactory level of personal information protection. Customer support is responsive and available during business hours. Customer support can be reached on both a website and via social media, which further facilitates the process.

Verdict

While its paid features disqualify it from being called the best free payroll software for small business, Paycheck Manager is fairly inexpensive. It also has a decent array of options and an extensive trial period. All of this makes it ideal for different entrepreneurial scenarios. More importantly, it has a great potential for scalability, even though it excels in providing services to small enterprises.

Pros Cons
3-months trial period Can be expensive for larger enterprises
Two versatile plans to choose from Lack of transparency regarding some information
Printing payroll slips and paycheck No mobile app
eSmart Paycheck
eSmart Paycheck

BEST FOR

enterprises with few employees

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  • Number of employees with free version: Unlimited (During three months of free trial)
  • Payment methods: Cash
  • Tax compliance: Tax tables for both state and federal (both US and Canada)
  • Platform compatibility: Windows, browser-based

The platform offers a completely free paycheck calculator that’s great for business with few employees. This free online payroll services tool processes manually entered data and outputs a pay stub that can be downloaded in pdf format. The downside of this feature is that it doesn’t really save the paycheck amount, which is why it is ideal for entrepreneurs who work with few employees. This way they can keep track of paychecks, even without an additional tool to help them out.

Ease of Use and Platform Compatibility

The platform is simple to use and, for the users of eSmart Tax, already comes with a plethora of familiar features. The interface is fairly intuitive, which is perfect for first-time users who just want simple payroll software.

Payroll Management

As far as the payroll management goes, this might be where eSmart Paycheck lags behind a bit. The platform doesn’t offer free payroll management, only calculation. However, the management software is quite robust and offers a variety of features like automated deduction, tax, and bonus calculations.

Tax Calculation Features

When it comes to taxes, eSmart Paycheck is compliant with both US and Canadian tax codes. It offers a free tool that can calculate users’ taxes as a part of paycheck calculation. Users who want a greater scope of features, like the ability to save information and print forms, can turn to eSmart’s inexpensive payroll software. This version is free for the first three months; after that, the user is charged depending on the number of employees and extra services they want to make use of.

Additional Services

The platform does offer some additional services in terms of check printing, tax forms, e-filing, and payroll tax reports. However, none of these add-ons are included in the standard package. This means that the software might charge you additionally for this, which offsets the idea of eSmart Paycheck as a free online payroll tool.

Security and Customer Support

As a part of a larger eSmart Tax platform, the payroll tool enjoys a completely secure HTTPS encryption. Another massive boon here is the fact that users of eSmart Tax also get their tax returns stored for five years. There are good reasons to use eSmart tax and, from this point, a lot of reasons to transition into using eSmart Paycheck, as well.

Verdict

The platform is ideal for startups with only a couple of employees. The biggest downside of this platform is a lack of clear information online, as well as its absence on the majority of sites providing reviews on payroll software for small business.

Pros Cons
Three months of free trial period No direct deposit (cash only)
US and Canadian tax forms It doesn’t save paycheck amounts
Built-in time tracking It no longer has a free forever plan

Why do you need free payroll software?

At the end of each month, every business owner faces the stress of payday.

Traditionally, payday means lots of extra hours calculating taxes, deductions, benefits, and wages. Although the free software products we’ve reviewed here are not as robust as their paid alternatives, they can help you make this process easier. For example, the best software free solutions come with state-specific tax tables and forms so you can calculate tax withholding easily. That is a huge time-saver. What’s more, you will avoid tax errors. Those can be serious – and costly.

In addition to a free payroll tax calculator, there are lots of other services that can help you organize your payday workflow better. Some software solutions integrate time-tracking and scheduling tools. This speeds up the payroll process because you have all the information in one place, automatically updated.

More and more packages allow employees appropriate access to HR data. This eases communication, improves employee satisfaction, and automates the process of tracking and requesting leave or sick days. Employees like knowing they can get free payroll stubs any time they want.

Methodology for Selecting
the Best Free Payroll Software Programs for Small Business

If you’ve decided to use free payroll software, you probably already know that these programs come with some limitations. For example, most support a limited number of employees. Some companies charge a fee for filing taxes and other essential functions.

Even with limitations like these, free software is still a good choice, especially if you are running a small business. This software reduces the time you would otherwise spend on administrative tasks and while supporting a transparent payroll process. To find providers that serve small business as effectively as possible, we created a unique set of evaluation criteria:

Payment Methods

The main reason people use free payroll software for a small business is to make payments to employees. Various options are available, including cash payments, checks, direct deposits, payroll cards, and even PayPal.

If you are running a startup with two or three employees, you might prefer to pay them in cash. Direct deposit lets you send employees their checks via wire transfer. That’s the most common payment method these days. If you’re old-fashioned, you may prefer to issue paper paychecks. The best software supports the options you need today and the ones you are likely to need a year or two from now.

Tax Liabilities and State-Specific Deductions

When you choose free online payroll software, make sure that it comes with tax-compliance features. It means that software can help you calculate state, federal, and local tax withholding amounts as well as benefits deductions like garnishments, sick leave, vacations, health benefits, life insurance, and so on. This is crucial, because if you make any mistake, you may well be liable for penalties.

Tax-compliance features are the exception in the free software world, not the rule. Some of the market’s best products don’t offer this service at all, meaning that you’ll need to calculate taxes and other payroll adjustments manually. Other programs are loaded with various tax forms, which simplifies the entire calculation process. If you use payroll programs free of charge, you’re responsible for performing these calculations, filing payroll taxes, and paying benefits providers whether the software performs these functions or not. Some providers offer these services for a small fee. We think it’s usually worth it.

Another thing you should have in mind is the type of tax form you need. Most businesses use a combination of 1099s and W-2s. If you run a business with employees, you need W-2s. This is a document that an employer must send to the IRS at the end of the year. It shows the employee’s income and tax withholdings. The 1099s are for independent contractors. In addition to these two forms, there are lots of other tax forms that you’re responsible for as an employer.

Ease of Use and Software Compatibility

If you decide to use free payroll check printing software, make sure that it’s simple to use. Calculating taxes and handling a payroll every month is stressful enough, which is why you should look for software that is not too complicated. Our observation is that appealing interfaces are rare in the free software world. User interface design is treated like a luxury that’s limited to the paid-software world. It’s hard to complain. Some free software is open-sourced, after all, so the code is designed, written, and maintained entirely by volunteers.

Be sure to double-check platform support. Most free payroll software runs on Windows, but support for macOS, Linux, and mobile operating systems is limited.

Customer Support

Payroll software providers try to create platforms that make the entire payroll process faster and easier. However, even if you are experienced in using free online payroll services, you’ll probably need help from time to time. That’s why we consider responsive customer support an essential feature when evaluating payroll software.

Since these products are free, many of them don’t have customer service departments behind them. They tend to have websites that are loaded with user guides and extensive FAQs where you can find out how to use the software and what to do when something goes wrong. Only a few providers have customer agents available via email or chat. They usually don’t respond quickly, so you may need to wait a couple of hours to get your answer.

Security

Given the sensitivity of payroll information, it is fair to ask: Is there any free payroll software that is completely safe? The question is not easy to answer. Most providers guarantee that they use security measures to protect your transactions and your files from third-party apps, ransomware attacks, and malware. That’s a reasonable level of protection. But completely safe? That’s not a guarantee you can get from any software – free or paid – running on a computer that’s connected to the internet.

FAQ

How can I do payroll myself for free?

It looks complicated at first, but you can process payroll with free software easily and quickly. In most cases, installing the software is a breeze. Then you can rely on user guides and YouTube videos to show you how to use the software.

Which is the best free payroll software?

The best software depends on your needs. Payroll software solutions usually come with limited functions and features, so you should prepare for making some trade-offs. For example, some products don’t offer tax services at all, but they manage an unlimited number of employees and provide a superb worker dashboard. Others handle tax compliance but are limited to a couple dozen employees. Which is better? Only you can say.

What is the best free payroll software for small business?

There are lots of great free software solutions, and choosing the best one for your business is no simple matter. That’s why we created the evaluation methodology, which lists the essential criteria that must be considered. You will naturally and appropriately assign more weight to some of those criteria than others. You may have special requirements that aren’t on our list. Armed with a checklist of needed and desired features, you can make an informed decision about each potential solution.

Is Payroll4Free.com really free?

Yes, Payroll4Free.com is free payroll software that you can use to handle payroll and calculate taxes.