No longer does running payroll require you to print out and maintain mountains of paperwork. Today’s online payroll systems help small business make the process completely paperless.
Rather than having to print out payroll reports, pay employees with paper checks, and record time and attendance via a paper time sheet, online payroll programs let you handle all of these tasks electronically.
“Paperless payroll is a term that describes how an entire payroll can be processed without generating any paper,” Eric Wade, a paperless payroll expert for payroll system provider Paychex, told Business News Daily.
While having all of these tasks completed online might make some small business owners nervous, there are a variety of benefits to running a paperless payroll. Most notably, it is an extremely green practice, Wade said.
“Switching to paperless payroll is environmentally friendly, requiring less paper and printing resources,” he said.
The benefits, however, are far from limited to environmental advantages. There are also tremendous cost savings. Wade said research from the Electronics Payments Association and the American Payroll Association (APA) found that businesses save between $2.87 and $3.15 per pay run by paying employees electronically, such as via direct deposit, instead of via paper check. Businesses save another $1.20 by providing pay stubs online, the research found.
“In addition, the APA indicates that if a check is lost and needs to be replaced, there can be an additional cost savings of $8 to $10 per replacement check,” Wade said.
Paperless payroll systems also help ensure small business owners are paying and filing their taxes on time, said Tomer London, co-founder and chief product officer for the payroll system provider Gusto. Paperless payroll programs file all local, state and federal taxes automatically, so business owners no longer have to remember to send in forms or make payments, London said.
“Running payroll manually is a time-consuming, complicated and error-prone process,” London said. “As a result, one-third of small business owners get fined every year for filing or paying their payroll taxes incorrectly.”
Wade pointed to several other benefits of paperless payroll:
- It saves time – Employers save the time they would have spent preparing checks, delivering checks to employees, resolving lost and undelivered checks, fixing check-cashing problems, and dealing with fraud issues. Businesses also save the time they would have spent answering employee questions that the employees could resolve by viewing their information online.
- Reliability – Employers are able to pay employees on time regardless of holidays or unexpected events, such as bad weather or natural disasters. Employees know they will be paid on time and will not need to come into work to pick up their checks or wait for their checks to be delivered.
- Accessibility – Employers have convenient access to their payroll data online or via a mobile device. Employees also have convenient access to their payroll data, which often includes personal information, direct-deposit information, paystubs and W-2s.
Looking for an online payroll service? Here’s everything you need to know about what an online payroll service is, what it offers and how to choose one. If you already know what you’re looking for, visit our best picks page to see which ones we recommend, as well as a complete list of others that might work for you.
- Online payroll services operate in the cloud and allow businesses to manage and run payroll from anywhere.
- They can be used to pay full-time and part-time employees, as well as contract and freelance workers.
- Online payroll typically includes a variety of services:
- Payroll processing: Online payroll services automatically calculate how much employees should be paid each pay period. The systems take into account shift differentials, overtime, holiday pay and taxes, as well as Social Security and benefit deductions. They then make payments to employees by direct deposit or check.
- File and pay payroll taxes: These services can withhold employee taxes, file quarterly payroll tax reports and pay tax withholdings to the proper state and federal agencies. In addition, they issue employee W-2 and 1099 forms at the end of the year.
- New hire reporting: Many services report new hires to the government on your behalf.
- Integration: Online payroll services can integrate with a variety of payroll-related programs businesses are already using, such as accounting software, time and attendance systems and human resources software.
- Paid-time-off management: Many of these services manage paid time off by keeping track of how many vacation and sick hours employees have earned and how much they’ve used.
- Employee self-service: Typically, employees are provided access to the system in order to view pay stubs, PTO balances and year-end tax forms.
- Mobile access: Many systems offer mobile apps or mobile-friendly websites that let businesses manage and run payroll from smartphones or tablets.
- Payroll reports: Most systems offer detailed wage and labor reports that provide a deeper look at how a business operates.
Pros and cons: The biggest benefit of online payroll services is that all of the work — payroll calculations, payroll tax payments, year-end tax forms, etc. — is completed for you. Payroll can typically be run in just several minutes. This saves you a ton of time and effort. One downside is that using an online payroll service is more expensive than handling payroll on your own. Another potential negative is that you are entrusting the payroll provider you choose to get everything right. If the provider makes a mistake, you may face a rash of angry employees or a fine from the government. Also, if you are in an area with spotty internet service, an online payroll provider will likely not be a fit for you.
After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend SurePayroll as the best online payroll service for paying household employees. We chose SurePayroll from a pool of payroll services for household employers, as well as general payroll providers that offer household employer services. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of online payroll services on our best picks page here.
SurePayroll offers services for all types of household employees, allows unlimited payroll run and provides full tax services. It’s our best pick for a variety of reasons. One is cost. SurePayroll charges a flat monthly fee of $39.99 for up to two household employees. Here’s a detailed breakdown of why we picked it as our winner.
Services and Features
SurePayroll provides everything a household employer needs from a payroll service. The company handles all of the payroll and payroll tax responsibilities.
What makes SurePayroll so appealing is that its services can be used for all household employees, including nannies, elder care givers, home care providers, private nurses, drivers, yard workers and cooks. Some of the other providers we examined had services only for nannies.
With SurePayroll, you can run payroll as often as you want each month and pay household employees with a written check or by direct deposit. Not all of the services we analyzed offered direct deposit for household workers.
The service also handles all payroll tax obligations. This includes calculating and deducting Social Security, Medicare and federal and state unemployment taxes, along with filling out and filing federal, state and local tax forms. In addition, it makes all tax payments for you. The service guarantees that your taxes will be filed and paid correctly and on time. Should an error be made, SurePayroll pays any of the fines or interest fees you incur. Not all of the services we investigated offered this type of guarantee.
SurePayroll also files a quarterly 1040-ES on your behalf, and provides you with a signature-ready Schedule H (Form 1040) that attaches to your annual 1040 filing. These services are all completed automatically, without any extra input from you.
After much research and analysis of employee background check services, we recommend BackgroundReport.com as the best online DIY background check website. We chose BackgroundReport.com from a pool of the dozens of background check services we considered. To read our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of background-check services, visit our best picks roundup page here. If you’re still trying to get an understanding of what kind of background check service you need, check out our guide on how to choose a background check service. Why BackgroundReport.com? BackgroundReport.com is an affordable, do-it-yourself online service that provides instant results and complies with federal background check laws. FCRA Compliant What makes BackgroundReport.com such an attractive option is that, since it complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), it is one of the few online background check websites that legally allows you to conduct pre-employment job screening. The key differentiator between the websites that don’t follow the FCRA laws and BackgroundReport.com is that this service actively involves the job candidate during the screening process. Each time you use this service to run a background check, the job candidate is notified by email that it’s being conducted and is given a copy of the report to review when the check is finished.
After much research and analysis of employee background check services, we recommend GoodHire as the best background check service for very small businesses. We chose GoodHire from a pool of the dozens of background check services we considered. To read our full methodology and for a more comprehensive list of background check services, visit our best picks roundup page here. If you’re still trying to get an understanding of what kind of background check service you need, check out our guide on how to choose a background check service.
GoodHire offers three levels of background checks that can be purchased on an individual basis. It has an easy-to-use online portal and provides outstanding customer service.
Services and Cost
Out of all of the background check services we examined, GoodHire had some of the most affordable prices for the services provided. The company offers three different background check plans, as well as add-on services that can be tacked on to each package.
What makes GoodHire so appealing to very small businesses is that background checks can be ordered one at a time and there is no minimum amount that must be purchased. Here is a breakdown of the company’s plans:
- Cost: $29.99 per report:
- Includes: A social security number trace and address locator for that social security number, a national criminal database search and a sex-offender list check.
- Cost: $54.99 per report
- Includes: A social security number trace and address locator for that social security number, a national criminal database search, a sex-offender list check, a domestic terrorist watchlist check and a seven-year county criminal court check for up to three counties. (County court searches are conducted in person.)
- Cost: $79.99 per report
- Includes: A social security number trace and address locator for that social security number, a national criminal database search, a sex-offender list check, a domestic terrorist watchlist check, a seven-year county criminal court check for up to three counties, and employee and education verifications. (County court searches are conducted in person.)
- Motor vehicle records check: $14.99 each
- Drug screening: $59.99 to $74.99 each. Test for the use of amphetamines, phencyclidine, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone, methaqualone and propoxyphene.
- Employment credit reports: $14.99 each. GoodHire representatives call the employers listed on a resume to verify employment dates, the position candidates held and their salaries.
- Education verification: $14.99 each. This validates school attendance, major and degrees received.
- Professional license verification: $14.99 each. Verifies an applicant’s professional license and whether the license is in good standing.
- Global terrorist watchlist check: $14.99 each. This is an expanded most-wanted search to international criminal and terrorist databases.
When searching for the best recruiting software, we looked for solutions that are affordable and easy to use, and that come with key features like the ability to post job ads, accept applications, manage candidates and stay on top of the hiring process. We also looked for software that is customizable to fit a small business’s unique needs. We also considered niche software, such as that designed for executive recruitment, tech jobs, and other specialized positions and fields.
Best Recruiting Software for Small Business: Workable
Workable is an easy-to-use recruiting software that we think offers the best value for small businesses. While competing products limit features in order to offer lower prices, Workable comes with all the features you need and instead charges you based on the number of users, not how many features you access. It also helps you stay on top of the entire hiring process, from posting job ads to accepting applications, managing interviews, on-boarding and everything in between.
FileFinder Anywhere is a different kind of recruiting software. Instead of posting job ads everywhere and waiting for applications from all types of candidates to come pouring in, FileFinder lets you find and reach out to highly targeted executives who you already know are qualified for the position. It lets you search the Web, social media, company profiles and other sources of public information to create a database of candidates who fit your requirements, all without leaving the software. It is available as locally installed desktop software, a mobile app, Web-based software and an Outlook Web App.
We recommend Insperity as the best PEO for small businesses. We chose Insperity from dozens of professional employer organizations (PEO). To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of PEOs on our best picks page.
Insperity combines a comprehensive suite of PEO services with top-notch, hands-on customer service and an easy-to-use online employee portal. Here is a breakdown of why it’s our best pick.
Few PEO providers offer the wide range of services that Insperity does. It features nearly every human resource service a small business would want from a PEO.
We recommend Oasis Outsourcing as the best PEO for very small businesses. We chose Oasis from dozens of professional employer organizations (PEOs). To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of PEOs on our best picks page.
Why Oasis Outsourcing?
Oasis Outsourcing has no minimum employee requirements, offers an extensive selection of PEO services and provides hands-on customer support that very small businesses will appreciate. Here is a breakdown of why it’s our best pick.
Oasis Outsourcing offers a complete collection of PEO services that allow very small businesses the opportunity to provide employees with the same benefits and services larger organizations offer.
What makes Oasis particularly attractive to very small businesses is that it doesn’t have a minimum employee requirement. Some of the other PEO providers we considered only offer services to businesses with a minimum of five to 10 employees.
One of the reasons VoIP systems have become so popular with small businesses is that they provide access to features and tools — like auto attendants, music on hold and voicemail to email — that previously only larger companies were using.Voice over Internet Protocol systems are the most popular alternative to landline services. Instead of using traditional copper wiring like a landline system does, VoIP systems tap into your internet connection to make and receive calls.
A virtual phone service is another type of business phone system that many small businesses are now using. This system essentially works as an extensive call-forwarding service. All calls to a main business line are forwarded to employees on their mobile or home phone lines.
Virtual systems, which offer many of the same upgraded features and tools that VoIP system provide, are a nice alternative for businesses with a large remote workforce.
- Time and attendance systems allow employees to clock in and out electronically via time clocks, internet-connected computers, mobile devices and telephones.
- That data is then instantly transferred into software that can be seamlessly imported into your payroll solution.
- These systems do much more, though, than just track when employees come and go. They also:
- Monitor mobile employees via geolocation and geofencing.
- Give real-time data on who is working, who is not, who showed up late and who is nearing overtime.
- Manage paid time off.
- Create employee schedules.
- Provide managers and business owners with detailed labor data.
- Time and attendance systems feature a self-service function that allows employees to handle many time-tracking tasks on their own, including reviewing the hours they’ve worked, their current and future schedules and paid-time-off details.
- Time and attendance systems are offered as a cloud-based or an on-premises solution.
- With on-premises systems, you pay all of your costs up front. You can expect to pay several thousand dollars for the software, licenses for each employee and installation. There aren’t any monthly fees for the service after that. However, there typically is no ongoing support or software updates included in your one-time costs.
- Cloud-based services have recurring monthly costs. Most services charge a per-user fee that can range anywhere from $1 to $10 per employee, per month. Some services also assess a base monthly charge or a minimum monthly charge. In addition, some providers also charge a one-time setup and implementation fee. Unlike on-premises systems, however, all software upgrades and support are included in your monthly expenses.
Pros and cons: The biggest benefit of these digital systems is that they eliminate the need for manual timecards. All of the time is collected electronically, with the calculations done for you. This cuts down on the chances of errors being made. Another positive is that these systems manage all your time needs — employee attendance, paid time off and scheduling — in one program. The biggest drawback to time-tracking systems is that they are more expensive than the old manual method where employees wrote down their hours each day or punched in and out using a paper timecard. Another potential downside is that they often force employers to curb the perception that asking their employees to track their time is some form of micromanagement.
What the experts say: “The goal of an automated time and attendance system is to provide a way to track an employees’ time,” said Warren Steinberg, a techno functional HCM consultant for Executive Alliance. “This can be as basic as tracking working hours or as complex as tracking vacation, leave of absence, holiday and sick time. The most common time systems have an interface that allows employees to clock in and out, either via a kiosk, a laptop, a time clock, or even a mobile app. All of the time is tracked in the system and then is reported to a payroll system.”
After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend stratustime as the best time and attendance system for small businesses. To understand how we selected our best picks, view our methodology and a comprehensive list of time and attendance systems on our best picks page.
stratustime combines a wide range of time-tracking options and features with an easy-to-use interface and excellent customer support.
stratustime has a base cost of $4 per employee. There is also an installation and implementation charge based on the number of employees you have.
stratustime from nettime solutions has all of the features and tools businesses of any size would want in a time and attendance system. It tracks all of a business’s time needs, including when employees come and go, when they take breaks, how long they work on certain projects, and how much paid time off (PTO) they’ve accrued.
Employees have five different ways to clock in and out, as well as manage their time:
- Traditional time clocks: The stratustime time clocks are cloud-based and can collect information via fingerprints, magnetic stripes, bar codes, proximity badges and touch screens. The time clocks automatically and instantly transfer the time employees punch in and out into the software. This gives managers instant visibility into when their employees are arriving and leaving work each day.
- Mobile-friendly website: The mobile website lets remote workers manage their time via any iOS, Android or BlackBerry smartphone or tablet. Employees can use the site to clock in and out, transfer where their time is being allocated, approve their time cards, and request time off. Managers can use the mobile website to approve time off and review time sheets. The mobile-friendly site uses geofencing to define the locations where employees can punch in and out. It uses geolocation technology to monitor where employees are starting and ending their shifts.
- Telephones: The IVR feature allows employees to call in from any phone to clock in and out, transfer their hours, submit time sheets, and check PTO balances. With this option, employers have the ability to restrict access to the system based on phone numbers.
- Web kiosk: The stratustime web kiosk can be used in place of, or in addition to, a traditional time clock. The kiosk can be set up on any computer or tablet and be placed in areas of high employee traffic. With this setup, workers can quickly clock in and out. No extra hardware, software or employee training are required.
- Computers: The final way for employees to manage their time is from any computer connected to the internet. Employees can log in to the online portal from their desks to manage all of their time and attendance needs.
After conducting extensive research and analysis, we recommend TimeClock Plus as the best time and attendance system for larger employers. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of time and attendance systems on our best picks page.
Why TimeClock Plus?
TimeClock Plus is available in multiple service plans as a cloud-based or on-premise solution. It includes a multitude of features and works with a variety of time clocks.
TimeClock Plus OnDemand, the cloud-based option, costs between $1 and $3 per employee, per month, while the on-premise solution is a one-time cost of at least several thousand dollars.
Multiple Hosting and Service Plan Options
What makes TimeClock Plus so appealing is the variety it provides in terms of how the system is run and its levels of service.
It’s available as a cloud-based solution, or as an on-premise system that is installed and housed within your business. This was one of the few time and attendance systems we found that offered both options.
Both versions operate in exactly the same way and include all of the same features. The biggest difference, besides the price structure, is that the cloud-based solution requires no installation or maintenance. Additionally, all upgrades and support are included in your monthly fee.
With the on-premise version, you are responsible for fixing any problems that may arise. In addition, you have to handle the installation and don’t have access to any upgrades.
TimeClock Plus also gives businesses several service plans to choose from: express, standard and professional. Each plan differs by cost and the number of features and tools it includes.