The 6 Best Free Payroll Software for Small Businesses in 2021

The 6 Best Free Payroll Software for Small Businesses in 2021

We looked examined each provider’s capabilities, such as time-tracking integration, employee pay alternatives, and access to year-end tax forms, to find the best free payroll solutions for small businesses. We also looked at customer service, online security, and accounting linkages for each brand.

We just double-checked the information on this page to make sure none of our providers had recently changed. None of them have, and we are confident in our suggestions.

To better serve our readers, we updated this website with more information about which organizations might benefit from free payroll software, as well as more direct comparisons across suppliers.

Payroll4Free is our #1 free software suggestion because it is one of the most feature-rich free payroll applications for small enterprises.

If you don’t mind using open-source software, TimeTrex Community Edition has nearly as many capabilities as Payroll4Free and has excellent time-tracking functionality. is an excellent choice for multinational enterprises because of its free payroll software and availability in 65+ languages.

ExcelPayroll integrates effortlessly with your existing payroll software if you already use Microsoft Office Suite. Finally, if all you need is a calculator that can print paychecks, try eSmart Paycheck, which is designed for firms with fewer than ten employees. Continue reading to learn more about the finest free payroll software for small business owners this year.

How can I do payroll without software?

You can utilize a payroll template using spreadsheet software if you have ten or less employees. The most common options are Excel and Google Sheets, while only Google Sheets is actually free—Excel has a monthly fee. (Most of our suggested payroll templates can also be used to create free pay stubs.)

Use one of our payroll calculators to be sure you’re withholding the correct amount of payroll taxes.

Best free small business payroll software

  • Payroll4Free: Best overall
  • TimeTrex: Best time tracking
  • Best for international businesses
  • eSmart Paycheck: Best payroll calculator
  • ExcelPayroll: Best for Excel users
  • Paycheck Manager: Honorable mention

Compare the best free payroll software features

Payroll providerNumber of payeesPre-filled year-end tax formsDirect depositLearn more
Payroll4FreeUp to 25YesYesSee Plans
TimeTrexUnlimitedYesYesSee Plans
HR.myUnlimitedNoNoSee Plans
eSmart PaycheckUnlimitedNoNoSee Plans
ExcelPayrollUnlimitedNoNoSee Plans
Paycheck ManagerUnlimitedNoNoSee Plans

Is free payroll software right for your business?

Payroll is complicated, and the more employees you have, the more complicated it becomes. Payroll errors can have significant financial ramifications for both your employees and your company, especially if the IRS is involved.

That’s why, like most of our top free payroll options, we only recommend free payroll software to companies with fewer than ten employees. (Payroll4Free is the sole exception, as it covers payroll for up to 25 employees and has nearly as many features as other paid self-service payroll services.)

If you use free payroll software, make sure to keep accurate financial records (which you can accomplish using free accounting software) and double- and triple-check your paycheck and tax calculations.

Most payroll software companies provide free trials, so you may try it out and cancel if it doesn’t match your needs. ADP, for example, offers a three-month free trial, whereas SurePayroll offers a two-month free trial and Gusto offers a one-month free trial.

Best overall: Payroll4Free

How it’s free: In-software ads, paid plan options

  • Check Employee self-service portal and payslip access
  • Check Pre-filled end-of-year tax forms
  • Check Direct deposit and paycheck printing
  • Check PTO and vacation time tracking

Payroll4Free is the best option if you want free payroll software that does almost everything paid software offers. Its features, to be honest, compete with those of other paid self-service payroll plans:

  • Paycheck calculations
  • 1099 contract and W-2 employee payments
  • Direct deposit and paper check options
  • Federal, state, and local payroll tax calculations
  • Pre-filled tax form access
  • Reports on taxes, benefits, payroll statistics, and more
  • Employee self-service portal
  • Paid time off, vacation, and sick time accruals
  • Accounting software integration, including QuickBooks

The reporting and paid time off (PTO) monitoring capabilities of Payroll4Free are particularly outstanding. (Many paying carriers exclude certain items from their most basic plans).

Payroll4Free calculates payroll tax deductions and autofills tax forms, however it does not submit your taxes for you. The actual filing must be done, however the form filling is by far the most time-consuming component of the procedure.

Payroll4Free provides all of these capabilities for free by running advertisements, which may be irritating while using the software but should not affect your payroll process in any way.

A few paid services are also available at a cheaper cost than typical payroll software. Payroll4Free’s automatic payroll tax filing, for example, starts at $12.50 per month.

Best time tracking: TimeTrex

  • How it’s free: Open-source software
  •  Employee self-service portal and payslip access
  •  Pre-filled end-of-year tax forms
  •  Direct deposit and paycheck printing
  •  PTO and vacation time tracking

TimeTrex Community Edition is maintained by developers from 50 countries who contribute their time and expertise. You can use these payroll features for free because they work for free:

  • Paycheck calculations, including taxes, wage garnishments, and other deductions
  • Direct deposit and paper checks
  • Easy-to-generate tax forms, including forms W-2, W-3, 940, 941, and 1099
  • Employee access to electronic pay stubs
  • Integration with other payroll software, including QuickBooks, Paychex, ADP, and SurePayroll

TimeTrex provides time-tracking software that is also free in the Community Edition. Employees, on the other hand, can only clock in online and cannot utilize the mobile app that comes with TimeTrex’s subscription plans.

Nonetheless, the time and attendance monitoring integrates seamlessly with your payroll software, making payroll calculation a simple.

Best for international businesses:

  • How it’s free: Crowdfunding, in-app ads
  • Employee self-service portal and payslip access
  • Paycheck printing (no direct deposit)
  • PTO and vacation time tracking
  • No pre-filled end-of-year tax forms

Unlike the bulk of free and paid payroll software,’s payroll software is available in 65 languages. Its payroll processing features are comparable to those of TimeTrex and Payroll4Free:

  • PTO management
  • Attendance management and time clock integration
  • Automatically generated payslips
  • Multiple pay schedules, including weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, and monthly
  • Leave approval
  • Unlimited users, including employees and managers
  • Unlimited employee web accounts for pay stub access and PTO requests
  • Mobile payroll app (Android and iOS) for employers and employees is headquartered in Malaysia, which may provide a difficulty for consumers in the United States who require customer care during normal business hours.

Furthermore,’s website is the most basic we’ve seen. It has a lot of features and a helpful user guide for getting started, but we’re a little concerned about the absence of product information.

Best calculator-only: eSmart Paycheck

  • How it’s free: Paid payroll plan options
  •  Payslip printing (no employee self-service access)
  •  Paycheck printing (no direct deposit)
  •  No pre-filled end-of-year tax forms
  •  No PTO or vacation time tracking

eSmart Paycheck isn’t a full-featured online payroll solution. eSmart Paycheck, on the other hand, allows you to determine your employees’ net salary, as well as the amount of payroll taxes to withhold.

After you compute your employees’ net compensation, it also prints payroll checks and generates pay stubs for free. Its state-specific tools assist you in determining the correct amount to withhold for your state. In addition, eSmart Paychecks’ paid plans feature eFile tax choices if you need assistance filing taxes after you’ve calculated them.

Keep in mind that eSmart Paycheck does not store your payroll data or assist you in tracking your payroll taxes from year to year. As a result, it’s excellent for small-business owners who wish to create free pay stubs online and print real payroll checks rapidly.

Best for Office 360 users: ExcelPayroll

  • How it’s free: Integrates with paid Excel software
  •  Payslip printing (no employee self-service access)
  •  Paycheck printing (no direct deposit)
  •  Pre-filled end-of-year tax forms
  •  Limited PTO or vacation time tracking

ExcelPayroll is a free third-party payroll software and pay stub generator that works with Microsoft Excel. ExcelPayroll allows you to do the following operations in Excel in addition to calculating paycheck amounts and payroll tax withholdings:

  • Printing pre-filled tax forms, including W-2s
  • Printing checks
  • Generating workers compensation reports
  • Generating bookkeeping journal entries

Despite the fact that ExcelPayroll is free, Excel is not. Instead of desktop software, Microsoft Office Suite is now mostly a cloud-based service, and the cheapest edition of Office 365 for companies costs $12.50 per month with an annual commitment.

Honorable mention: Paycheck Manager

  •  How it’s free: Paid options
  •  Payslip printing (no employee self-service access)
  •  Paycheck printing (no direct deposit)
  •  No pre-filled end-of-year tax forms
  •  No PTO or vacation time tracking

If you merely need to calculate payroll, there’s another simple, streamlined way. Paycheck Manager’s free calculator, like eSmart Paycheck’s, allows you to compute an employee’s net compensation, then print paychecks and make pay stubs.

If the Paycheck Manager calculator appears to be too complicated, you can make basic tax estimations with its simple calculator. Want to store the results of your payroll calculator, get payroll reports, and print pay stubs? After a three-month free trial, Paycheck Manager’s subscription plan costs $5 per month.

Paycheck Manager, unlike eSmart Paycheck, does not include a separate calculator for each state. Otherwise, they’re nearly identical—neither is a complete payroll administration system, but if you only require a basic payroll module, either calculator should suffice.

Michael Will

At Michael Will works as a writer and editor. He has 5 years of expertise in the business world, with an emphasis on small enterprises and startups. Digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy are just a few of the areas he's addressed. He's also written about artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain, among other new technologies and their intersections with business.

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