Companies increasingly rely on software to process employee payrolls instead of doing it by hand. Not only does payroll software automate and speed up the whole process of paying workers, but it also streamlines these tasks, especially if you have a large number of employees living across several states.
However, each payroll program comes with its own limitations. Payroll software can be aimed at businesses that have either full-time employees or independent contractors. Some software even calculates tax deductions. In order to help you navigate this niche and choose the best payroll software for your business, we’ve compiled a list of the top nine free payroll software options.
We looked at several metrics when assessing these programs, as you’ll see in our methodology subsection below. These reviews focus exclusively on completely free software; we decided not to include providers that only offer free trials for a limited amount of time. Still, being free, the payroll apps we’ve reviewed do have some limitations. Check out our free payroll software reviews below.
Payroll4Free is a fantastic payroll software for smaller businesses and startups. It offers a completely free and comprehensive payroll service for businesses that have fewer than 25 employees. If you go over that number, the service will cost you $35 for each payroll run. Taxes are calculated for free, but the service to actually pay them carries an additional cost. For businesses that have fewer than 25 employees and are happy to pay their own taxes, Payroll4Free is a great all-in-one free payroll check printing software with payroll processing and tax calculation included. For larger companies, there are better options out there. Read Review
- ⦿Available in all 50 states
- ⦿Tax calculations included
- ⦿Multiple payment options available
HR.my is an app best suited to companies that work with freelancers and independent contractors from countries around the world. Besides payroll processing, HR.my offers leave and attendance management, as well as intercompany communication channels. Unlike Payroll4Free, it places no limits on employee numbers, nor does it set any geographical boundaries. Unfortunately, this means that, like many other options for free payroll software online, it doesn’t offer US-specific tax tables, so you’ll have to input tax variables, bank accounts, and earnings manually. On the plus side, HR.my supports paying employees via cash, direct deposits, or checks. Read Review
- ⦿No limits on employee numbers
- ⦿Can be used globally
- ⦿Additional communication channels
ExcelPayroll is a fantastic tool for people who like calculating payroll in Microsoft Excel. It’s essentially an Excel spreadsheet with added payroll processing features. If you’re looking for payroll software for your small business that’s free and easy to use, Excel Payroll may be just the ticket. Just bear in mind that free calculations only apply if you have up to 50 employees. The software can also print employee checks and create tax compliance reports, but you’ll need to add federal tax information by yourself. Excel Payroll is a simple and effective solution, but one limited in scope and not very user-friendly for people unfamiliar with Microsoft Excel. Read Review
- ⦿Great for Excel users
- ⦿Free up to 50 workers
- ⦿Straightforward interface
RiseLite is a completely free online payroll software, but only if your business is based in Canada and has 20 employees or fewer. Besides providing a payroll calculator, this software has built-in tax calculations calibrated to comply with Canadian laws. It also provides reminders for due payments, allows you to calculate bonuses and deductions, and gives you the option of canceling payments. RiseLite is a fantastic payroll tool but remember: Your business has to be based in Canada, and if it ever expands beyond the employee limit, you’ll have to switch to a paid plan. Read Review
- ⦿Perfect for Canada-based businesses
- ⦿Built-in tax calculator
- ⦿Payment reminders
If you’re looking for both accounting software and free payroll check writing software in one place, Wave might just be the ticket. This company provides free accounting and payroll processing services for independent contractors (1099s), with optional full-time employee payroll processing for a fee of $20, plus $4 per employee. Wave integrates with a huge number of other business apps and allows you to create standard tax and payroll reports. You can even take advantage of its US tax filing services in certain states. Wave is hard to beat as an all-in-one free payroll and accounting software. Just remember that with full-time employees, you’ll need to switch to a paid package or use some other software. Read Review
- ⦿Perfect for independent contractors
- ⦿Business app integrations
- ⦿Tax-filing service
TimeTrex is a community-run, open-source payroll and time-tracking tool. In addition to payroll calculation services, the free version of the software provides attendance tracking, records how many hours employees work, and allows you to create work schedules. With payroll, free software is often limited, and here the missing features are compliance services and customer support. You’ll have to handle tax calculation by yourself, but payroll deductions will be calculated for you automatically during payroll processing. Volunteers run TimeTrex, so it doesn’t have a dedicated support team, and you’ll have to rely on the community forums for troubleshooting. Read Review
- ⦿Every feature is completely free
- ⦿Ability to create work schedules
- ⦿Payroll deductions are calculated for you
Paycheck Manager offers payroll calculations for free, but not much more than that. It’s ideal if you need payroll software for free to perform simple payroll calculations for a small number of employees. The free package gives you access to a payroll calculator, but you’ll need to manually input employee data and choose the appropriate state and tax year. Paycheck Manager also comes with federal tax compliance, but you’ll need to add local taxes yourself and factor in local labor laws. The option to create reports is offered as a premium feature. Read Review
- ⦿Good for small companies
- ⦿Very simple features
- ⦿Flexible pay rates
ESmart Paycheck is similar to Paycheck Manager in that its payroll check software has a free package that only gives access to a payroll calculator. This calculator is compliant with US federal tax laws but requires you to factor in unemployment rates, local tax, and labor laws yourself. ESmart Paycheck only offers two payment options: cash or check, with no scope for direct deposits. As with Paycheck Manager, the free package doesn’t allow you to create any reports, and you have to fill out tax information yourself. Consider it an alternative to Paycheck Manager and a practical but basic tool for handling payroll. Read Review
- ⦿Free payroll calculation
- ⦿Completely secure
- ⦿Several payment options
Do You Need Payroll Software?
Before you start seriously considering which payroll software to go for, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Do I even need payroll software?” This, of course, depends on the size of your workforce and the needs of your business.
If you have a smaller workforce and you only require simple payroll calculations, you could probably stick to processing your payroll manually. Still, we always recommend using payroll software, as it can only make things easier. Furthermore, when you can get payroll software for free, there’s no harm in at least trying it out.
So, how can payroll software help you and your business? First of all, it improves your efficiency by greatly streamlining, automating, and speeding up the whole payroll process. You don’t have to manually calculate things like hours worked for each employee, bonuses, and away days. Every minute you save on tasks such as these is a minute you can reallocate to other important duties in your company.
Secondly, this software reduces the risk of error. Some payroll software also performs tax calculations, such as tax deductions, sick leave, or overtime. Another very important advantage of payroll software is data protection. Employee payroll data is very sensitive, so it’s crucial that it’s secure and protected from intrusion. Having all payroll data gathered in one place also helps you keep track of everything more easily.
As you can see, there are many advantages to using this kind of software. Now it’s time to read our reviews of small business payroll software that’s free and find the right one for your business.
When making this list, we chose only those options that are truly free. A lot of providers offer month-long free trials, but we’ve omitted free-trial payroll software from this particular list, as we wanted to focus on payroll software that you can use for free indefinitely.
Of course, the providers behind the software also need to earn money. They do so in several ways. The first and least restrictive way is through in-software ads. While this doesn’t affect your business in any way, the ads can become irritating.
The second way in which these providers earn revenue is by placing limitations on their free software packages. This is most commonly done by limiting the number of employees for which the software will process payrolls free of charge. For each employee over the limit, you have to pay a fee or switch to a paid package.
Another limitation of free payroll processing software is the range of services they offer. Some providers only offer payroll calculations for free. In these cases, they charge for other services, such as tax deductions.
In each of our reviews, we describe the exact pricing plan for each piece of payroll software. Assessing the needs and size of your business is crucial when looking at pricing or choosing which software to go for. If, for example, you have a smaller number of employees, you need not worry about employee caps when choosing your free payroll app. However, if you need to take care of taxes and follow state-specific laws, you can expect to pay extra for those services or to choose software that might limit you in some other areas instead.
While your instinct might be to go for the free or cheapest option, we strongly suggest you take other metrics into account. Continue reading to see which other important factors we look at in our reviews.
There are several ways you can pay your workers. It’s possible that each free web-based payroll software only supports one or two of these payment methods, which are: payroll checks, cash, direct deposits, and payroll cards.
Payroll checks are the simplest, as they don’t require employees to have bank accounts. However, checks can be misplaced or lost.
Paying your employees in cash is another straightforward option. However, it’s harder to keep track of cash payments, you have to be extra careful with keeping records, and it might cause tax problems.
Direct deposit, where you deposit money straight to your employees’ bank accounts, is the most common way of processing payments.
Finally, payroll cards are a newer payment method; they allow you to deposit wages directly to a worker’s prepaid card.
While writing our reviews of the best free payroll software, we looked at which payment methods are supported by the reviewed payroll software. This should be a make-or-break factor for you when choosing payroll software. Unless you’re planning on changing the way you pay your employees (which might not be such a bad idea if you’re relying on cash payments), you should choose software that supports your current method of paying wages. By reading our reviews, you can decide which free payroll software for small businesses will best suit your needs.
Employee payroll and bank account information is extremely sensitive data, and you’re obliged to keep it safe. Therefore, one of the metrics we looked at when writing these reviews was how secure each program’s online systems and databases are. Things to watch out for when checking out payroll software security are the levels of encryption the program uses and where it stores its data. Of course, you should also ensure security is tight on your end by restricting access to payroll information only to trusted people who actually work in that field. If you plan on using online and/or cloud free payroll processing software, make sure security is a high priority.
The importance of tax compliance when running a business cannot be stressed enough. Making sure all tax deductions and state-specific requirements, such as overtime and sick days, are properly calculated, recorded, and paid for is not only important, but mandatory. There are important differences in the tax compliance services each of the payroll software options offer.
Some software does not offer any tax services at all, meaning you have to calculate it all on your own or by paying for another service. Even the best payroll software available for free might only perform tax calculations for you but won’t actually create statements or pay taxes for you. Among those programs that do offer tax services, some might only provide tax forms for either full-time employees or independent contractors. You should keep an eye out for this specifically, as these two employer-employee relations require different tax forms: 1099s and W-2s.
1099s and W-2s are tax forms that represent two types of workers. Independent contractors get 1099 forms, while employees get W-2s. In most cases, payroll taxes are automatically deducted from employee paychecks. Contractors, on the other hand, are usually responsible for calculating their own taxes and submitting them to the government.
When reading our reviews of the best payroll services you can use for free, make sure you check out the tax-compliance segment. This information will help you choose a program that offers the right tax service for your business. At the very least, it’ll let you know if the software you’ve chosen doesn’t offer tax services.
Accessibility and Ease of Use
Accessibility and ease of use might not seem like crucial metrics, especially compared to cost or tax compliance. In a sense, this is true. However, that doesn’t mean usability isn’t important. A streamlined, user-friendly, and intuitive UI can positively affect efficiency, while overcomplicated and convoluted interfaces can take up a lot of your time.
Since all the small business payroll programs we’ve reviewed are free, you shouldn’t expect their interfaces to be very slick or advanced. Of course, this experience may differ from software to software, but in general, you can expect bare-bones layouts and plenty of ads. That said, most of the selected software on our list is not hard to master. Besides the UI and the software itself, we looked into software integration possibilities and whether you can use each program to create tax and payroll reports.
The 8 Best Free Payroll Software Programs
- Paycheck Manager
- eSmart Paycheck
Payroll Software for Small Business Reviews
- ⦿ Manage worker's time off
- ⦿ Unlimited customer support
- ⦿ Tax-compliance functions integrated
The first program on our list is Payroll4Free. This free payroll printing software offers payroll services for companies with 25 employees or fewer. Payroll4Free is meant for US-based businesses and is available in all 50 states. So, what does Payroll4Free offer?
With the free package, you receive payroll processing for 25 employees or fewer. If you have more than 25 workers, the cost is $35 per payroll run. The price scales as your number of employees grows and as you add more services.
The free package comes with state-specific tax-compliance functions integrated. However, filing taxes will require switching to a paid package. After you input employee attendance, deductions, and earnings, the software will automatically calculate the amount of tax you need to withhold. These features make Payroll4Free one of the best payroll services on the market.
Besides payroll and taxes, Payroll4Free allows you to manage employees’ time off or find worker compensation policies at no extra charge. As for payment methods, Payroll4Free supports cash, direct deposits, and checks. Bank deposits, however, go into the business owner’s accounts - you’ll have to pay $12.50 per month to deposit them straight into employees’ accounts. Employees themselves gain access to a portal where they can view and print their pay stubs and W-2s.
Payroll4Free supports itself with advertising embedded in the interface. As such, it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing option. On the plus side, Payroll4Free offers unlimited customer support via phone or email.
Payroll4Free certainly has one of the best offers among payroll check writing software free providers. It offers all the basics of payroll processing, tax compliance, and more. The only downside is the 25-employee limit. In case you have more than 25 employees and don’t want to go for a paid Payroll4Free option, check out the other software on our list.
- ⦿ Mobile app included
- ⦿ SSL protection
- ⦿ Several payment methods
HR.my is crowdfunded free HR payroll software best-suited for companies that have an international, freelancer, or independent contractor workforce. As the name suggests, besides payroll processing, HR.my also offers human resources services.
HR.my puts no limits on how many employees it will process payroll for. There are also no limits on in terms of location; you can process payroll for employees wherever they might be located.
Payroll processing is a breeze with HR.my. However, it does lack some important features. For example, although this payroll time-tracking software is free and allows processing for workers anywhere, it doesn’t offer any US-specific tax-compliance features. You’ll have to input that data manually, just as you will with bank and earnings information. You should also input any state-specific laws for US workers.
On the plus side, HR.my offers free HR services, allowing you to track overtime, attendance, sick leave, and days away from work, as well as providing communication channels for employees. It also gives employees access to their pay stubs. Payments can be set up to run on a semi-monthly, monthly, fortnightly, or weekly basis. This is a rare program that combines HR and payroll software for free.
HR.my supports all basic payment methods: cash, direct deposits, and checks. It also lets you share documents within the company, allowing you to import files like expense reports or timesheets. Online connections in HR.my are protected by the SSL protocol, ensuring the safety of transmitted information. There is, sadly, no customer support option; this crowdfunded software only comes with a help page on the website.
If you’re running a company with an international freelance workforce, HR.my is a great free downloadable payroll software. It can be accessed from anywhere in the world and comes with some neat HR features. However, if your team consists of US-based full-time workers, you should probably go with another option.
- ⦿ Completely Excel-based
- ⦿ Customer support available through email
- ⦿ Easy to use
Excel Payroll is a simple but still very useful option. This payroll-processing software is suited for businesses that calculate their payroll in Excel or are already very familiar with the software.
Excel Payroll basically provides an upgraded Excel spreadsheet in which the required payroll calculations are made. This 100% free software for payroll processing comes with generous employee number limits, but its features are fairly basic. It can calculate earnings, deductions, worker compensation reports, vacation accruals, and overtime.
ExcelPayroll should be used to perform payroll processing for up to 50 employees - if you have more, you should switch to more robust software. You will need to enter state and federal tax information manually, as well as overtime and vacation accruals. Excel Payroll allows you to print checks and generate reports on tax compliance.
This is on-site, as opposed to cloud software, so internet security is not a concern. However, the Excel Payroll website isn’t secured, so downloading the software is subject to standard internet risks.
Excel Payroll is free and simple payroll software ideal for companies with up to 50 workers. If you are already using Excel or are proficient in it, then you won’t have much trouble mastering this software. However, if you’re not too familiar with the program, need more robust payroll options (especially concerning taxes), or have a large number of employees, this might not be the best choice for you.
- ⦿ Mobile app included
- ⦿ You can set up custom payment cycles
- ⦿ Good for small companies
RiseLite is a free payroll solution meant only for Canadian-based businesses. Its only other limit is on the number of employees: 20 or fewer. RiseLite is currently the only free payroll option for Canadian businesses.
This free payroll processing software is cloud-based, allowing you to access it from anywhere. Besides basic payroll processing, it comes with tax compliance for Canadian law and automates tax forms. You can set up payment cycles however you wish, allowing you to run payroll whenever you need, cancel pay runs, or give bonuses without making tax calculations. You can also create formulas for commissions, deductions, and bonuses.
The software comes with built-in reminders so you never miss scheduled payments and enables you to create personalized reports so you can stay on top of all your payroll information. You’re unlikely to have any major issues while using this robust piece of free software for payroll processing, but if you do, you can always reach RiseLite’s customer support staff via email, chat, or phone.
All in all, RiseLite provides comprehensive payroll processing options free of charge. There are only two drawbacks: It’s only for Canadian businesses and only offers free processing for up to 20 employees.
- ⦿ Mobile app included
- ⦿ SSL encryption
- ⦿ Tax filing allowed for certain states
Just like HR.my combines HR and payroll services, Wave offers accounting and payroll software for free in one package. However, this free package limits you to processing payroll only for independent workers.
The accounting segment is primarily meant for tracking payments to independent workers using the 1099 form. If you want to opt in for credit card processing, payroll, and bank payments, the monthly fee is $20, plus $4 for each employee.
Processing 1099 payrolls using Wave is a cakewalk - you just punch in your employee and banking information. After that, it only takes a single push of a button to process the payment, and you can easily stop payments whenever you wish. Besides offering standard payment methods - cash, direct deposit, and checks - Wave also allows for payment via PayPal.
You can also use this free payroll software for 1099 tax fillings, but only in the following states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. As for labor laws, overtime, and other state-specific regulations, you’ll have to sort through them manually.
All communication between your company, Wave, and the banks is protected by 256-bit SSL encryption. Furthermore, the connection between Wave and financial institutions is view-only, meaning no one can access your finances.
Wave is best for companies that hire only independent workers. If you have full-time workers or workers in states not covered by this software, you should consider another option.
- ⦿ Automatic payroll deductions
- ⦿ Time-tracking features
- ⦿ Mobile app included
TimeTrex offers open-source payroll time clock software free of charge, created and updated by a community of volunteers from across the world.
With the TimeTrex free community version you receive only the payroll calculation option. TimeTrex doesn’t offer tax filing, nor does it factor in local labor laws and other regulations that may apply on the state level. However, after you add all the information, payroll deductions are automatically calculated.
Time-tracking features are integrated with payroll calculation. You can track when and how much every employee has worked during the pay cycle. You can also create weekly shift/assignment schedules. If you’ve previously used other payroll software or plan to use other programs in the future, TimeTrex can integrate seamlessly. For these reasons, TimeTrex is a great free payroll app.
As TimeTrex is a community-made program, you won’t get any dedicated customer support; instead, you’ll have to rely on community forums for help. You can upgrade to a paid package that provides you with features like a mobile app, recruitment, and expense-tracking, for a starting monthly price of $30.
As is always the case when dealing with cloud-based services, security should be a top priority. TimeTex addresses this with end-to-end data encryption, high-security data centers, and built-in data backup and recovery.
If you’re looking for payroll management system free software and you need time-tracking features as well, TimeTrex is definitely one of the best choices for you. What this payroll processing software lacks in tax filing services and dedicated support it makes up for in security and time-tracking.
- ⦿ Mobile app included
- ⦿ Unlimited payroll calculations
- ⦿ Free calculator included
For small businesses that need to perform payroll calculations for a small number of employees or one-time calculations, Paycheck Manager is a great free employee payroll software choice.
Paycheck Manager offers free and unlimited payroll calculations. Unfortunately, though, it can only perform one-time payroll calculations, making running payroll calculations regularly or for a large number of employees a very time-consuming process.
You’ll find the payroll processing function on the “Free Calculator” page on Paycheck Manager’s website. Input employee information, choose a year and state for tax purposes, and Payroll Manager will process payroll information for you. Earnings and deductions are easy to add, too. But, you can only perform individual payroll processing for one employee at a time. Unless you switch to a paid plan, the payroll information you add isn’t saved, and you’ll have to reenter it each time.
As is the case with most payroll software freeware, federal and tax compliance is calculated for you, but you’ll have to factor in labor laws and unemployment insurance yourself. Switching to a paid account will allow you to both save payroll information and generate payroll forms.
The paid account will cost you $5 per employee per month if you’re filing your own taxes. If you want Paycheck Manager to file taxes for you, the price increases to $12 per month plus $2 employee and a $10 first-time setup fee. The paid version also allows you to create various reports, which are not available in the free one. If you, by any chance, run into any trouble using this free online payroll software, you can reach the support team by phone, email, and fax.
For companies that need to perform payroll processing for only a few workers or for one-time payments, Paycheck Manager is a great free option. But in case you need to run regular payrolls for more than a few workers, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
- ⦿ Simple payroll calculations
- ⦿ Intuitive user interface
- ⦿ Free trial for the paid version of the software
The last free online payroll system we’re reviewing is eSmart Paycheck. This desktop payroll software for small business is quite similar to Paycheck Manager. ESmart Paycheck allows you to run free payroll calculations and has built-in US tax compliance, but anything over that will require you to switch to the paid package.
Payroll calculations in eSmart Paycheck are performed the usual way: You punch in employee data and earnings, then choose the tax year and state. After that, it only takes one click to perform the calculation. This software is tax-compliant in the US, but you’ll have to add local labor laws and unemployment taxes yourself.
As with Paycheck Manager, the downside of this free payroll online service is that you have to reenter all the information every time you process the payroll, as the program doesn’t save this data. You can avoid this by switching to the paid package, which costs around $10 per employee per year, with slight variations based on the number of employees.
For filing tax documents, the price ranges from $2 to $25 yearly. The paid package also has a free three-month trial period, so you can see whether switching to the paid option is beneficial for you. This low-cost payroll software allows you to pay employees using cash and checks (for which you’ll need a printer and check stock). There’s no direct deposit option, even with a paid account, which is a major downside. You can contact customer support via email, phone, fax, or mail.
ESmart Paycheck is very similar to Paycheck Manager in terms of functionality. If you require occasional payroll processing for a small number of employees, then look no further. In case, however, you require more advanced free payroll programs for small business or you have a larger workforce, you should check out Payroll4Free or HR.my.
When choosing the best free payroll software for your business, you should keep an eye out for several things. Ask yourself these questions: How many employees do you have, are they independent contractors or employees, and are your workers US-based or not? If you only need to perform payroll calculations from time to time and for independent contractors, you should choose Wave, Paycheck Manager, or eSmart Paycheck. On the other hand, if you need regular payroll calculations for US-based workers, you should go for one of the US-tax-compliant options on our list, like Payroll4Free, HR.my, or Excel Payroll.
Yes, all of the software we’ve reviewed here is free. However, these programs usually have some limits or lack some advanced features. They might have ads that pop up in the software, limit the number of employees you can do payroll for, or only allow you to perform calculations one at a time.
All the software on our list is free, but the software that offers the most without paying is probably Payroll4Free.
Deciding which software is best for you comes down to the specific needs of your business. Many payroll programs for small business are free, so you’ll have plenty of choices. Check out our methodology and reviews to get a better sense of what to look out for when choosing the appropriate software.
Although we’ve reviewed only completely free software here, the prices for paid packages usually depend on the number of employees and whether you need tax filing services. The average cost is around $10 per employee per month, plus tax-filing fees.
Yes, but manual calculations, especially for a larger workforce, would take an absurd amount of time. It’s much better to use some of the free payroll software from our list, as it’ll cost you nothing and save you a lot of time.
By using any of the reviewed programs from our list, all of which come with free payroll calculations (although some are only for independent contractors). Enter the data, then let the software perform calculations and allow you to print out checks.