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10 Best Free Payroll Software for Tight Budgets in 2022

Best Free Payroll Software Shortlist

Here’s my shortlist of the best free payroll software that I’ll cover in this article:

  1. Zoho Payroll

    Free payroll software for small teams with up to 10 employees

  2. TimeTrex

    Payroll and workforce management solution for North American organizations

  3. CheckMark Payroll

    Best payroll solution for managing unlimited databases and companies

  4. Patriot

    Simplified payroll software with a three step payroll process

  5. HR.my

    Free payroll and HR solution for businesses of all sizes

  6. ExcelPayroll

    Free spreadsheet-based payroll software for businesses with up to 50 employees

  7. Ceridian Powerpay

    Mobile-friendly payroll solution for Canadian businesses

  8. Payroll4free.com

    Free payroll processing service for small businesses of up to 25 members

  9. Sage Payroll

    Online payroll solution with time-tracking and leave management tools

  10. SurePayroll

    Cloud-based payroll software with time-saving payroll automations

Payroll can be a challenge for business owners, especially when they’re just starting out. Free payroll software helps you focus on growing your business without worrying about paying your employees on time, keeping track of employee hours, and filing your tax forms. 

Read my review to learn more about the best free payroll software available on the market today. My review includes a short description and a snapshot of each tool that made the list, plus some pros and cons. I've also included a comparison chart to help you determine the best solution for your business at a glance.

Selection Criteria

Wondering what I look for when selecting the best free payroll software for this list? Here’s a summary of my selection criteria: 

  1. User Interface (UI): I chose free payroll providers that offer intuitive interfaces so you can find all the right functions with ease. 
  2. Usability: Running payroll doesn’t have to be complicated. I selected tools that offer thorough training materials so you can learn how to make the most out of them after a short onboarding period. 
  3. Integrations: I picked payroll solutions that integrate with other popular tools for startups, such as accounting software or HR solutions. 
  4. Valuable Features: I selected solutions that offer a variety of payroll features and don’t limit your ability to pay employees, despite being free. 

Free Payroll Software: Key Features

  1. Payroll management: As a small business owner, you should be able to manage, schedule, and run payroll without wasting time.
  2. Direct deposit: The payroll software should allow you to make direct deposit payments so you won’t have to bother with paper checks.
  3. Automation: The tool should offer some automation features, allowing you to automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks. Key automations include calculating your payroll taxes or other employee entitlements.
  4. Self-service employee portal: Your employees should be able to check their timesheets, vacation time, and pay slips whenever they want.

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Overviews of the 10 Best Free Payroll Software

Here’s a brief description of each free payroll software that showcases each system’s best use case and their noteworthy features. I've also included screenshots to give you a snapshot of their user interface too.

1

Zoho Payroll

Free payroll software for small teams with up to 10 employees

Zoho Payroll is a payroll solution that helps small businesses with payroll processing and employee onboarding. The tool offers a self-service portal where employees can check their payslips and documents. 

Zoho Payroll automatically calculates earnings, deductions, taxes, and allowances. The software allows you to create recurring payroll routines and to complete one-time payments in any pay period. The software’s termination payroll helps you manage the employee’s notice pay and other exit requirements. 

Zoho Payroll integrates with other Zoho tools, and with other solutions through a REST API. 

Zoho Payroll offers a free-forever version with limited functionalities for up to 10 employees. For larger teams, the software costs from $19/month plus $3/employee/month.

Free-forever version with limited functionalities for up to 10 employees

From $19/month plus $3/employee/month

Pros

  • Easy to make salary adjustments
  • Detailed employee database
  • Manages multiple payroll organizations

Cons

  • You cannot edit a single employee in a payroll that has run, so you have to reverse it entirely and run it again
  • Notes cannot exceed 200 characters, which can make it difficult to keep accurate records over time
  • Not currently available in all U.S. states
2

TimeTrex

Payroll and workforce management solution for North American organizations

TimeTrex is a workforce management and payroll solution that helps you with federal, state, and local tax calculations in Canada and the US. The software integrates attendance tracking and payroll, and allows you to pay your team via direct deposit or checks. 

With TimeTrex, you can automate your time and attendance policies with custom rules regarding overtime, premiums, and multiple pay rates. The software helps your team members allocate their working hours to four levels of cost centers, so you can create different structures for people who work in the office or in the field, and so on. 

TimeTrex integrates with several apps, including ADP, Ceridian, Sage, Paychex and QuickBooks. 

TimeTrex is free for 30 days. The software offers custom pricing after this period. 


30-day free trial

Pricing upon request

Pros

  • Versatile self-service portal
  • Good automation features
  • Simple time and attendance tracking

Cons

  • Mobile app looks outdated
  • Platform can lag at times
  • Navigation could be improved
3

CheckMark Payroll

Best payroll solution for managing unlimited databases and companies

CheckMark Payroll is a payroll solution that allows small business owners to pay their employees via direct deposit or checks. The software’s check printing feature allows you to create branded checks for your business. 

CheckMark Payroll allows you to create unlimited databases and companies, which can be helpful for small business owners managing multiple locations or accountants. The software is easy to set up and use, and offers all the instructions you need to set up your first payroll. 

CheckMark Payroll integrates with multiple apps, including E-Syst, PROFITSystems, SilentPartner, TimeWolf, and Virtual TimeClock. 

CheckMark Payroll is free for 60 days. The software charges a one-time fee starting from $509.  

60-day free trial

One-time fee of $509

Pros

  • Little to no learning curve
  • Simple interface
  • Supports an unlimited number of employees

Cons

  • Limited report customization options
  • App can sometimes glitch on Macs
  • Making changes on checks can be difficult
4

Patriot

Simplified payroll software with a three step payroll process

Patriot is an online payroll and accounting solution that helps small businesses send payments, create custom reports, track time and attendance, and calculate their federal, state, and local taxes. The solution has a clean interface and is easy to use, allowing you to set up and run payroll without difficulty. 

Patriot helps you calculate year-to-date totals and create tax liability reports with automation. The software helps you prepare your tax filings and its mobile-friendly design makes it easy to manage and run payroll on any device. 

Patriot integrates with several tools, including GoCo, Plaid, QuickBooks Time, and TSheets. 

Patriot is free for 30 days. Paid plans start at $17/month plus $4 per employee or contractor. 

30-day free trial

From $17 per month + $4 per employee

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Multiple locations and pay frequencies
  • Unlimited payroll runs

Cons

  • Instructions could be better
  • Automated transfers that take place on weekends or national holidays cost extra
  • Tax handling costs extra
5

HR.my

Free payroll and HR solution for businesses of all sizes

HR.my is an online HR management and payroll system that offers a variety of helpful features. The software is completely free and easy to navigate. It allows you to track employee attendance, handle PTO, manage expense claims, and run payroll. 

HR.my’s time-tracking features allow you to check your staff’s activity via geolocation and selfies, so the software is a good fit for organizations with field-based workers. The tool’s payroll feature supports multiple pay schedules and allows you to set custom reminders to complete various payroll tasks. 

HR.my doesn’t offer native integrations. However, you can import and export your data in .csv file formats at any time. 

HR.my is free for an unlimited number of employees.

Free to use

Free to use

Pros

  • Mobile app
  • Good time and attendance tracking
  • Supports an unlimited number of employees

Cons

  • No live support
  • No tax filing services
  • In-app adds
6

ExcelPayroll

Free spreadsheet-based payroll software for businesses with up to 50 employees

ExcelPayroll is a spreadsheet-based payroll solution that transforms your Microsoft Excel into a payroll service. The software is free to download and use, and it’s compatible with Windows and Mac devices, making it ideal for organizations that already use MS Excel in their day-to-day work. It's a good choice for small teams with no more than 50 employees.

ExcelPayroll allows you to prepare and print a variety of tax forms, including W3, 940, and DE9 The tool also helps you manage expense forms such as vacation accruals and deductions, keep track of employee hours, and calculate workers’ compensation. 

ExcelPayroll doesn’t offer native integrations. However, the software works on Microsoft Excel, so you can import and export data with ease. 

ExcelPayroll is free to use.

Free to use

Free to use

Pros

  • Can print tax forms and computer checks
  • Great for people familiar with MS Excel
  • Free for up to 50 employees

Cons

  • No phone or live chat customer support
  • No employee portal
  • Runs on MS Excel so you’ll need a license for that
7

Ceridian Powerpay

Mobile-friendly payroll solution for Canadian businesses

Ceridian Powerpay is a human resources and payroll solution designed to help Canadian businesses of all sizes manage and pay their employees. The software allows business owners to stay on top of what’s happening in their organization with automated processes and notifications. 

Ceridian Powerpay has a mobile-friendly design, allowing you to set up payroll and pay your team members and external collaborators on the go. The tool helps you manage all the paperwork required to stay compliant with CRA and Revenu Québec requirements. 

Ceridian Powerpay integrates with Ceridian Dayforce, CIBC SmartBanking and QuickBooks Online.  

Ceridian Powerpay is free for 60 days. The software costs from $39/month plus $6/employee/month.  

60-day free trial

From $39/month plus $6/employee/month

Pros

  • Self-service mobile app
  • Good report customization options
  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface

Cons

  • Onboarding could be better
  • Few native integrations
  • For Canadian businesses only
8

Payroll4free.com

Free payroll processing service for small businesses of up to 25 members

Payroll4free.com is a payroll processing software that allows you to pay employees and contractors. The software has a clean interface that’s easy to navigate, so you should be able to explore and use its features with ease. 

Payroll4free.com allows you to run basic payroll and offers a self-service portal your team can use to check their pay stubs and year-end tax forms like W-2s. 

Payroll4free.com integrates with QuickBooks Payroll. It can also import and export data from time-tracking and other accounting solutions.  

Payroll4free.com is completely free for up to 25 employees. If your team is larger than 25, the software charges a small monthly fee based on the number of employees. The software can also file and pay taxes on your behalf for a monthly fee of $15.  

Free for up to 25 employees

Pricing upon request for teams with 25+ employees

Pros

  • Free telephone and email support
  • Direct deposit or check payments
  • Completely free for up to 25 employees

Cons

  • Tax filing costs extra
  • Few automation possibilities
  • No mobile app
9

Sage Payroll

Online payroll solution with time-tracking and leave management tools

Sage Payroll is a full service online payroll solution that helps small businesses sync their accounting and payroll data into a central location. The software includes some HR functionalities, such as time tracking and leave management, allowing you to organize a small team without additional management tools. 

With Sage Payroll, you can pay your employees via direct deposit, e-payment solutions, or cheques. The software’s dashboard allows you to access historical pay runs and set notifications for ongoing payroll tasks. Employees can use the self-service portal to access their payslips and documentation. 

Sage Payroll integrates with all the other Sage solutions, including Sage Accounting, Sage HR, and Sage Intacct.  

Sage Payroll is free for 30 days. The software costs from $10/month plus $3/employee/month. 

30-day free trial

From $10/month plus $3/employee/month

Pros

  • Multi-level access permissions
  • Multiple reports to choose from
  • Detailed employee records

Cons

  • Employee portal can be improved
  • Some users find the UI confusing
  • No mobile app
10

SurePayroll

Cloud-based payroll software with time-saving payroll automations

SurePayroll is a cloud-based payroll service dedicated to helping small businesses thrive. The software enables you to set up payroll without difficulty and run it automatically on certain dates.

SurePayroll helps you pay your team on time via direct deposit. The solution’s dashboard allows you to access status reports and previous payrolls, and track employee benefits from a central location. The tool comes with a dedicated mobile app that enables you to run payroll from anywhere, and gives your team access to their payslips. 

SurePayroll integrates with multiple solutions, including QuickBooks Online, Timesheets, WebHR, and Xero. 

SurePayroll is free for up to 60 days. The software offers custom pricing upon demand after this period. 

60-day free trial

Pricing upon request

Pros

  • Good integration options
  • Great customer support
  • Dedicated mobile app

Cons

  • Self-service may lag at times
  • Onboarding could be better
  • Managing W-2s and 1099s costs extra

The 10 Best Free Payroll Software Comparison Chart

Here’s a comparison chart that summarizes basic details about each of my free payroll software selections. You can view the terms of their free versions plus additional pricing details side-by-side to help you find the best software that works for your budget.

Tool Free Option Price
1
Zoho Payroll

Free payroll software for small teams with up to 10 employees

Free-forever version with limited functionalities for up to 10 employees

From $19/month plus $3/employee/month Visit Website
2
TimeTrex

Payroll and workforce management solution for North American organizations

30-day free trial

Pricing upon request Visit Website
3
CheckMark Payroll

Best payroll solution for managing unlimited databases and companies

60-day free trial

One-time fee of $509 Visit Website
4
Patriot

Simplified payroll software with a three step payroll process

30-day free trial

From $17 per month + $4 per employee Visit Website
5
HR.my

Free payroll and HR solution for businesses of all sizes

Free to use

Free to use Visit Website
6
ExcelPayroll

Free spreadsheet-based payroll software for businesses with up to 50 employees

Free to use

Free to use Visit Website
7
Ceridian Powerpay

Mobile-friendly payroll solution for Canadian businesses

60-day free trial

From $39/month plus $6/employee/month Visit Website
8
Payroll4free.com

Free payroll processing service for small businesses of up to 25 members

Free for up to 25 employees

Pricing upon request for teams with 25+ employees Visit Website
9
Sage Payroll

Online payroll solution with time-tracking and leave management tools

30-day free trial

From $10/month plus $3/employee/month Visit Website
10
SurePayroll

Cloud-based payroll software with time-saving payroll automations

60-day free trial

Pricing upon request Visit Website

Other Options

Here are some other affordable payroll software options that are also worth considering:

  1. Paycor

    Online payroll service provider with multiple payroll options

  2. OnPay

    Full-service payroll software that tracks your spending using custom reports

What are the main features to consider when evaluating free payroll software?

As you can see in my review, not all payroll software is created equal. If you want to find the perfect payroll tool for your company’s needs, you should first consider what’s important to your organization’s activity. Read our article on 8 Key Payroll Software Features to learn more about the importance of different features.

Other Resources

Using a payroll solution is important because it enables you to pay your employees on time, which helps keep them motivated. As John Boitnott, Inc. journalist, said:

"Money isn't the only thing that motivates someone to perform well at their job, but it certainly factors in heavily."

You can find out more about payroll software in our article Payroll Software—What It Is And 10 Key Benefits. We also have a resource on How To Manage Payroll For Small Business that’s perfect for new companies and startups. 

If you want to receive expert advice on how to run a successful organization directly in your inbox, subscribe to the People Managing People newsletter

By Kim Behnke

Kim Behnke is an HR Tool Expert & Writer for People Managing People. She draws on her 9 years of human resources experience and her keen eye for systematic processes to support her analyses of the top HR tools on the market. She is passionate about maximizing efficiencies and streamlining workflows to ensure internal systems run smoothly. Kim's HR experience includes recruitment, onboarding, performance management, training and development, policy development and enforcement, and HR analytics. She also has degrees in psychology, writing, publishing, and technical communication. When away from her desk, she can usually be found outside tending to her ever-expanding garden.

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