2024's Best Free Payroll Software & Trials for Startups & Small Teams

The big payroll providers are often overkill for small teams. Use these fully free payroll software instead. (Unbiased review in 2024)
Wendy Ng
Wendy Ng
Content and Operations Strategy Manager, FlexOS
4+ experience with Employee Experience background in Human Resources industry, Wendy is dedicating to share invaluable strategies, empowering managers to boost team productivity and engagement.
March 4, 2024
min read
Featured in this article


Best for: Running payroll with automated tax filing for less than 10 people in the U.S.


Best for payroll management with feature-rich HR functions.
eSmart Paycheck (Free Trial)

eSmart Paycheck (Free Trial)

Best for DIY and/or free reliable payroll calculator (Low-Cost and 3-Month Free Trial).
QuickBooks Payroll (Free Trial)

QuickBooks Payroll (Free Trial)

Best for businesses already using QuickBooks who want to limit duplicate data and time (Free Trial).
Patriot Software (Free Trial)

Patriot Software (Free Trial)

Best for small U.S.-based businesses seeking simplicity, reliability, and excellent customer support.
OnPay Payroll (Free Trial)

OnPay Payroll (Free Trial)

Best for small businesses in the U.S. that want a modern platform without the complexity or cost.

Let's face it: running payroll may not be the favorite part of your job, especially if you’re wearing many hats in a small company or team. As an HR lead at a startup, I know this pain all too well.

But, it’s not like you can skip doing it - properly paying your people on time is how you reward them for their contributions (not to mention, a legal must.)

The good news is that there are easy, affordable, and even free payroll software solutions to simplify this task for you so you can focus on growing your business.

Free payroll software automates the number-crunching work and properly handles payroll taxes and compliance. That way, you save precious time and money.

In this list, I'll introduce the best free payroll platforms designed for busy leaders and lean teams. Whether you're just starting or want stress-free payroll management, these no-cost options have got you covered!

But, please note that your completely free payroll options are limited to DIY, potentially using eSmart Paycheck’s payroll calculator, using Payroll4Free (up to 10 employees), or trying HR.my. 

Running payroll services takes time and effort, so providers can’t avoid charging.

Besides these free options, you can get free trials for providers like QuickBooks, Patriot, and OnPay, which, once the fees kick in, are still more affordable than full-fledged HRIS software with payroll. 

If you’re running a global organization with remote work policies, you’ll find your option for free payroll software to be even more limited, as these free options target the U.S. only. If you find a great option (even locally), contact us so we can update the list.

That said, let’s dive in.

Best Free Payroll Software in 2024



Best for: Running payroll with automated tax filing for less than 10 people in the U.S.

Free Payroll Software - Payroll4Free

Payroll4Free is a free small business payroll software for teams of 10 or fewer. 

It integrates essential features like time and absence tracking, direct deposit, and paper check options. It also boasts security measures, including SSL encryption and Amazon’s cloud services. 

Payroll4Free additionally provides tax calculation support, although tax filing services have a fee. (They have to get you somehow!)

Why I picked Payroll4Free

Unlike many competitors offering free services with significant limitations, Payroll4Free delivers robust features without charging fees for basic payroll processing capabilities.  

Including direct deposit, tax calculations, and an employee portal to access their pay information online from any device for no extra charge sets it apart from others that may charge for these essential services. 

The software enables you to import working hours from a time clock file, export payroll data, and carry out paperwork-heavy tasks such as making 1099 contractor payments and handling 401(k) deductions and contributions. 

This makes your payroll process more convenient, whether your team members are full-time or project-based.

A potential downside of Payroll 4 Free is that it charges $10 per payroll run for more than 10 people. This might come as a surprise for users who were expecting a completely free service.

Payroll4Free's Key Features

  • Multiple Payment Methods: Offers direct deposit, paper check options, or both.
  • Employee Access: Includes an employee portal for personal data access and management.
  • Tax Support: Calculates federal, state, and local taxes for free. If you need someone to file all the payroll taxes for you, Payroll4Free also provides an add-on paid Payroll Tax Service at a competitive rate. 
  • Data Management: Facilitates importing/exporting payroll data for seamless integration with accounting software like QuickBooks.

Payroll4Free's Pros and Cons


  • Offers completely free payroll solutions for teams of up to 10 people 
  • Follows security compliance standards to ensure data protection.
  • Integrates with accounting software like QuickBooks for streamlined operations.
  • Provides email and US-based phone support. 


  • It can only service the 50 United States now, so it doesn’t work for global businesses.
  • Limited to Windows, if you’re on a Mac or other operating system, it won’t work unless you run a virtual machine.
  • The interface includes ads (this is how they give their products for free), which might be intrusive.
  • The setup process is pretty lengthy compared to other solutions.
  • I noticed that the UX design looks outdated, and some users share the same opinion. Many say that the program is slow at times. (Then again, it’s free!)


Best for payroll management with feature-rich HR functions.

Free Payroll Software - HR.my

HR.my is a powerful human resource management software with several free services.

Its primary offerings include unlimited payroll processing, attendance tracking, paid time off management, overtime and undertime tracking, and expense account management.

The interface of HR.my's payroll application is very simple, with some handy options for quick entries and Excel file uploading. Even non-tech HRs and managers can understand and do the job easily. 

What makes HR.my stand out is its unique funding model, relying on crowdfunding and in-platform ads, allowing it to offer its services without subscription fees. 

This model ensures that as new features are developed, they become available to all users at no additional cost. 

HR.my has one admin role, unlimited data storage, and 100MB file storage by default—no cap on employee records, transactions, or time-tracking data. 

If you ever need more HR admins or increase your file storage for document sharing and attachments, you can buy the team a coffee to add those capabilities.

The software also supports multiple languages and offers a robust mobile app, enhancing its accessibility and user experience.

Why I picked HR.my

Unlike many payroll software for small businesses that offer a basic free tier with limited functionality, requiring payment for additional features, HR.my stands out by providing a comprehensive set of features entirely for free. 

This includes capabilities often gated behind premium plans in other software, such as expense claim management, automatic payslip generation, and extensive time and attendance tracking.

Its community-driven development model ensures that it continues to evolve based on user feedback, making it a dynamic and responsive tool for managing HR tasks.

However, it lacks features in paid competitors, like e-filing for state or federal taxes, custom US-based labor law compliance, and dedicated customer support services.

HR.my’s Key Features

  • Comprehensive Payroll and HR Management: Unlimited employee management, payroll processing, time tracking, and PTO management.
  • Global Accessibility: Supports 67 languages and provides a feature-rich mobile app for iOS and Android.
  • Customizable Workflows: Allows custom approval workflows for claims, leave requests, and more.
  • Employee Self-Service Portal: Employees can access payslips, submit expense claims, and manage time-off requests.
  • Document and Form Sharing: Facilitates sharing important business documents and forms within the organization.

HR.my’s Pros and Cons


  • Completely free to use with unlimited employees and payroll runs.
  • Strong attendance-tracking features and geolocation-enabled time-tracking.
  • Customizable workflows and role-based access controls.
  • Support multiple pay schedules.
  • Provide helpful user guides to help you navigate through all functions.


  • No built-in tax support or labor law compliance features.
  • Limited customer support options, with reliance on a public forum for issue resolution.
  • No options for employee pay via the platform itself.

eSmart Paycheck (Free Trial)

eSmart Paycheck (Free Trial)

Best for DIY and/or free reliable payroll calculator (Low-Cost and 3-Month Free Trial).

Free Payroll Software - Esmart Paycheck

eSmart Paycheck is another attractive payroll for small business solutions due to its blend of free and affordable paid services. 

eSmart Paycheck, backed by C&S Technologies, Inc., has carved out a niche by offering a free online payroll calculator and competitively priced payroll services since 2015. 

The software helps simplify payroll processing with tools for calculating taxes, printing paychecks, managing payroll, and handling various deductions. 

Its official information highlights a commitment to providing essential payroll functionalities at a fraction of the cost of traditional HRIS software providers like ADP, Paychex, and Gusto.

Why I picked eSmart

ESmart Paycheck positions itself as a cost-effective solution with a strong emphasis on simplicity and ease of use. 

While it lacks some of the more advanced features and direct deposit options or related HR management, its affordability and straightforward pricing structure make it an attractive option for small businesses. 

Notably, eSmart Paycheck offers a unique free 3-month trial period and a free version focused on payroll calculations, setting it apart from others that might not provide such extensive free services.

eSmart Paycheck’s Key Features

  • Payroll Calculations: Accurate computation of federal and state taxes and other deductions.
  • Check Printing: Ability to print paychecks directly from the platform.
  • Tax Deposit and e-Filling: Additional services for e-filing to the IRS and SSA, along with state tax deposits and form printing, are available at extra costs. These services streamline compliance, ensuring taxes are correctly calculated and filed.
  • User-Friendly Interface: Designed for ease of use, allowing for quick setup and payroll processing.

eSmart Paycheck’s Pros and Cons


  • Free payroll calculator for basic payroll computations and paycheck printing.
  • Affordable annual plans with flexibility in services, allowing you to choose and pay for only the features you need.
  • The first three months are free for new users so that you can test the service to see if it meets your needs and requirements.
  • Simple to set up and use.
  • Support for multiple earning types.


  • The free calculator does not save data, requiring re-entry for each use, which might be cumbersome for regular payroll processing.
  • Lack of direct deposit in the free version.
  • Limited customer support.
  • Compared with paid payroll solutions, eSmart Paycheck’s functionalities may be too basic for businesses with more complex payroll needs.
  • The software hasn’t had any new updates in recent years.

eSmart Paycheck Pricing

eSmart Paycheck's pricing is transparent and competitive, starting with a free three-month trial for new accounts. 

Subsequent annual fees are based on employee count, ranging from $75 for up to five employees to $450 for up to 40 employees. It's not free, but still miles cheaper than spending tens of dollars per employee per month on paid payroll platforms like Gusto. 

Additional charges apply for tax deposits and e-filing services, making it a cost-effective option for many small businesses.

QuickBooks Payroll (Free Trial)

QuickBooks Payroll (Free Trial)

Best for businesses already using QuickBooks who want to limit duplicate data and time (Free Trial).

Free Payroll Software - Quickbooks Payroll

Already using QuickBooks? Then QuickBooks Payroll, also developed by Intuit, may be a good option, as it integrates with QuickBooks’ accounting software.

QuickBooks Payroll offers the most basic payroll features, including time tracking, calculation, deductions, tax filing and support, and employee management. 

QB Payroll has a fairly user-friendly interface and mobile apps for iOS and Android devices means you can manage payroll on the go.

Why I picked QuickBooks

The key differentiator for QuickBooks Payroll is its integration with the QuickBooks Online accounting software. 

This means you get a unified financial and payroll management solution, streamlining payroll processes and automatically updating general ledger and expense accounts whenever payroll is processed. 

It is likely why over 1.4 million businesses use QuickBooks Payroll, making it the number one payroll software in the U.S. 

Compared to competitors like Gusto and ADP, QuickBooks Payroll provides a more integrated solution for businesses already within the QuickBooks ecosystem. 

However, it's worth noting that while the platform excels in integration and ease of use, it may offer fewer HR and payroll processing capabilities than some standalone solutions, particularly for businesses not already using QuickBooks Online.

Additionally, while there is a 30-day free trial, this is not a fully free service. You’d have to weigh the costs against the benefits of running payroll directly from QuickBooks.

QuickBooks Payroll’s Key Features

  • Payroll Processing: Unlimited payroll runs, including auto payroll with next-day direct deposit across all 50 states.
  • Time Tracking and Management: With the QuickBooks Time mobile app, available in Premium and Elite subscriptions, you can track time, manage schedules, and process payroll on the go.
  • Tax Support and Compliance: Automated tax calculations, 1099 E-File, and payments, including a tax accuracy guarantee with penalty protection for Elite plan users.
  • HR and Employee Management: Employee self-help portal, employee onboarding, PTO management, and access to HR support and advice for Premium and Elite subscribers.
  • Benefits Administration: Helps you manage health insurance, 401(k) retirement plans, workers’ comp administration, and other employee benefits. 

QuickBooks Payroll’s Pros and Cons


  • Interface: Intuitive and user-friendly interface, simplifying payroll processing and employee management.  
  • QuickBooks Integration: Effective integration with QuickBooks Online for streamlined financial management.
  • Time Reporting: Comprehensive time tracking and payroll reporting capabilities.
  • 5-Minute Payroll: Average QuickBooks Payroll customers run payroll in just five minutes.


  • Pricing: Higher than some competitors, particularly for small businesses or those not requiring deep integration with QuickBooks Online.
  • Limited Features: Limited HR features and integrations with third-party HR software.
  • Issues: Some reports of software glitching, limitations in local tax support, and long resolution times for significant issues on the platform.
  • Support: HR administrators using QuickBooks say that once you run into challenges, there is very limited support from the Intuit team.

QuickBooks Pricing

QuickBooks Payroll offers three pricing tiers, with the cost depending on the level of features and support required. 

While specific pricing can vary, the platform generally starts at a base monthly fee of $75 with additional per-employee costs of $6, including the QuickBooks “Simple Start” basic accounting software (usually priced at $18.)

Notably, higher-tier plans such as Premium and Elite offer enhanced features like same-day direct deposit, expert review, and HR advisor access, but at a higher cost.

Patriot Software (Free Trial)

Patriot Software (Free Trial)

Best for small U.S.-based businesses seeking simplicity, reliability, and excellent customer support.

Free Payroll Software - Patriot Software

With Patriot Software, it’s always the 4th of July when running Payroll!

Jokes aside, Patriot offers a solid payroll solution for small businesses that stands out for its simplicity, effectiveness, and affordability. 

You can choose from basic or full-service payroll options. The basic services are priced competitively at $4 per employee, while the full-service payroll option means you’ll no longer have to worry about filing and depositing taxes with guaranteed accuracy. 

Patriot Software integrates seamlessly with both its own accounting software and with QuickBooks, and offers add-ons for time attendance and HR management.

Why I picked Patriot Software

Compared to competitors like Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll, Patriot Software offers affordability without sacrificing essential features. 

It offers a free initial setup and U.S.-based customer support, available twelve hours a day on weekdays. 

Its pricing structure is competitive, especially for the full-service tax filing option, which is less expensive than QuickBooks Payroll and more full-fledged HRIS Software providers like Gusto. 

Putting Patriot against the fully free options may seem unfair. Still, it’s good to remember that things like unlimited payroll runs, a feature that can enhance employee satisfaction by allowing for more frequent paydays, an employee portal (meaning less hassle answering questions and manually sending pay stubs), and contractor support go a long way. 

Patriot Software’s Key Features

  • Payroll Processing: Unlimited payroll runs with options for two-day direct deposit or check printing.
  • Tax Filing and Compliance: Automatic tax calculations with full-service payroll handling all tax filings and deposits on a local, state, and federal level.
  • Employee Self-Service Portal: Employees can access pay stubs, tax forms, and personal payroll information, meaning fewer questions to answer for you.
  • Integration Capabilities: Seamlessly integrates with Patriot's accounting software and QuickBooks.
  • Add-On Services: Time and attendance tracking and a basic HR tool (which manages employee data in place of more detailed HRIS Software) can be added to the payroll package. 
  • Customizable Reports: Standard reporting is included. However, you can opt for the full-service plan if you want more detailed insights.

Patriot Software’s Pros and Cons


  • Interface: I’d call it basic, but in a good way. Administrators often praise Patriot for its ease of use and intuitive interface, making payroll processing straightforward for non-accountants.
  • Flexible Payroll: Flexible payroll options include paying contractors, handling multiple pay schedules, and on-the-fly changes.
  • Support: Getting 12 hours per day of phone support is exceptional customer service in 2024. People I’ve spoken to who have used their support noted the helpfulness and availability of the support team.
  • Price: While not free, Patriot offers competitive pricing, providing good value for small businesses.


  • Lacking features: Patriot packs limited advanced HR features and customization options in reports compared to most paid HRIS Software competitors.
  • Fees: To keep the base fee low, Patriot charges a lot of additional fees for certain services, such as tax filing in multiple states, which could add up for businesses operating across state lines.
  • Basic Add-on: The HR add-on is considered basic, lacking features like performance management and employee surveying, which might not meet your needs if you want an all-in-one HR solution.
  • US-Only: If the name didn’t already give it away, don’t expect to pay your employees or contractors outside the US with Patriot.

Patriot Pricing

Patriot Software offers a straightforward pricing model with two main plans: Basic and Full Service. 

The Basic plan is $17/month plus $4 per employee, focusing on payroll processing and integration capabilities. 

The Full Service plan, at $37/month plus $4 per employee, includes automated tax filing and payments. 

As I mentioned, you can add modules for time and attendance and HR tools are available starting at $6/month plus $2 per employee.

While not free, these charges are seriously competitive with more full-fledged payroll processors.

And with a 30-day free trial, you can see for yourself whether it’s worth the cost.

OnPay Payroll (Free Trial)

OnPay Payroll (Free Trial)

Best for small businesses in the U.S. that want a modern platform without the complexity or cost.

Free Payroll Software - Onpay Payroll

OnPay comes up a lot when discussing affordable payroll solutions. 

Users say the company, which was founded in 2015, offers an easy-to-use platform with a responsible and friendly support team at a price that’s similar to Gusto. 

It’s specifically designed to meet your needs as a small to medium-sized business, by integrating payroll processing with HR management and benefits administration, but without getting overly complex (like some HRIS Software tends to be.)

Why I picked OnPay Payroll

What I like about OnPay is that it’s built on decades of experience in payroll and HR services, yet feels modern and friendly to use. This includes the platforms and the people supporting you.

At the core of OnPay's service offering is its streamlined payroll processing capability, which supports unlimited monthly pay runs, direct deposit, automated tax filings, and the preparation of W-2s and 1099s. 

Unlike some platforms that may charge extra for additional features or support, OnPay includes these services in its base fee, offering a straightforward solution without hidden costs​​.

OnPay's integration capabilities also stand out, particularly its compatibility with leading accounting software like QuickBooks and Xero. 

This flexibility extends to time-tracking software, allowing you to maintain accuracy in payroll processing while eliminating manual data entry​​.

OnPay Payroll’s Key Features

  • Unlimited Monthly Pay Runs: OnPay lets you process payroll as often as needed without incurring additional costs. (Free and other ‘affordable’ payroll solutions may charge you for this.)
  • Direct Deposit and Tax Filings: The platform automates the distribution of salaries and filing of necessary tax documents, including W-2s and 1099s​​.
  • Accounting Software Integration: OnPay integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, and other leading accounting and time-tracking platforms, minimizing manual data entry and ensuring accuracy​​.
  • Comprehensive HR Tools: Includes a suite of HR functionalities such as employee self-service portals, customizable onboarding processes, PTO tracking, and compliance management, all within the regular service package​​.
  • Transparent Pricing Model: OnPay's services are available for $40 per month plus $6 per employee, covering all its payroll and HR functionalities without hidden fees or additional charges for standard services​​.
  • Responsive Customer Support: OnPay provides a knowledgeable support team, which many users say is very helpful.

OnPay’s Pros and Cons


  • Ease of Transition: OnPay simplifies the switch for new users with free setup and data migration services, which is a relief for businesses moving from another provider​​.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: The all-in-one pricing strategy ensures businesses have access to essential payroll and HR services without worrying about escalating costs due to hidden fees​​.
  • User-Friendly Interface: The platform is designed to be intuitive, making payroll tasks manageable for those without specialized knowledge​​.
  • Customer Support: OnPay is recognized for its responsive and knowledgeable support team, ready to assist with any queries​​.


  • Not Supportive of Complex Payrolls: Businesses with unique or highly specialized payroll requirements may need to verify if OnPay's standard functionalities meet their needs.
  • SME’s Only: OnPay's primary focus on small to medium-sized businesses means that larger organizations might require a more scalable solution.

OnPay Payroll Pricing

OnPay truly excels in its pricing, which is very straightforward and does not focus on nickel-and-diming you every chance it gets.

Its product costs $40 per month plus $6 per employee, but unlike some platforms that may charge extra for additional features or support, OnPay includes these services in its base fee, offering a straightforward solution without hidden costs​​.

As one reviewer shared: “Gusto and OnPay are about the same price, but OnPay gives you access to HR-related things, and it’s included in the price, versus Gusto which I believe you have to bump up a level and pay more.”

And, as the title of this review suggests, OnPay offers a free 30-day trial to kick the tires and make sure you like it before you buy.

The Bottom Line: Free Payroll Software

Running payroll and compliantly filing taxes, alongside administering benefits is one of the core needs every organization has.

It’s how you ensure your people – the heart of your company – are compensated fairly and on time.

Choosing a payroll provider, therefore, is an important matter. You don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t provide you with any support when you run into an issue right when you run payroll. (And no shock to any of us; most companies run their payroll around the same time, creating peaks in customer service demand.)

You definitely don’t want to get fined because of your payroll provider's negligence in paying or filing taxes correctly. 

So, make sure you test the various options, even if you go for a free provider, and keep in mind that the ultimate responsibility of timely and compliant payments (and employee’s complaints if that doesn’t happen) will always lie with you. 

Do you really want free payroll?

This may sound like an odd question in the context of this article, but given the context above, it’s an important one. 

Of course, everything is better when free, but keep in mind that running payroll and filing taxes is a legal task, and not doing it compliantly can cost you a lot more in the long run.

Additionally, the time you’d invest in running your payroll should also be accounted for. As one reviewer remarked on Reddit:

“As someone who has done payroll myself for 1-5 employees, I would suggest that the cost of gusto is worth it, even for just one employee, because it takes all of the headaches away from not only the calculations and tracking but all of the required compliance reporting. $50 a month. It’s worth it, and it will save time.”

That said, if you’re looking to do payroll for free, at least in the US, it's possible. Give Payroll4Free or HR.my a try, and let us know if it worked out! 

You can also choose to run your own payroll with a simple spreadsheet and a payroll calculator. Just make sure you file taxes compliantly! 

Great Value Payroll Services 

If the free payroll services above don’t work out, take a look at Gusto and similar HRIS Software

Especially Gusto is frequently mentioned on small business forums as providing very good services and great customer support, all at an affordable price. (We don’t get paid to say this!)

Another payroll provider worth looking into is TimeTrex Payroll, a provider coming from the time and attendance side of things, with two decades of experience. While reviews of Timetrex online are limited, those who work with them usually seem positive.

Finally, Square may be the best option if you only have contractors. Square Payroll doesn’t charge any monthly fee, with each contractor costing $6/month.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is free payroll software? Who should use free payroll software?

Free payroll software helps small teams and startups automate payroll processes, including calculations, taxes, and compliance, without cost.

Examples include Payroll4Free (for teams of up to 10 employees), HR.my, and eSmart Paycheck's free trial.

Small business leaders, startup teams, and HR managers looking for cost-effective solutions to manage payroll for teams, ideally under 10 employees, could benefit from these solutions.

2. Are there completely free payroll services? What are the limitations of using free payroll software?

Completely free options are limited. Services like Payroll4Free and HR.my offer free services, but additional features or larger teams may incur costs.

Platforms like QuickBooks, Patriot, and OnPay offer affordable plans with more comprehensive features than free versions.

Limitations of free payroll software can include caps on employee numbers, limited features compared to paid versions, and restrictions on global payroll capabilities.

3. Can free payroll software handle tax filings?

Some, like Payroll4Free, offer calculation support but may charge for actual tax filing services. Others, like HR.my, may not include tax filing features.

4. Is free payroll software available for global teams?

Most free payroll software targets U.S. businesses. Global organizations might find these options more limited.

5. How do I choose the right free payroll software? What should I watch out for when using free payroll software?

Consider your team size, payroll complexity, and need for additional features like tax filing or HR management. Test a few options to find the best fit.

Be aware of limitations, and potential fees for extra services, and ensure the software meets your tax filing and compliance needs!