Best Free Payroll Software for Small Businesses - 2023

The best free payroll software, along with key features, benefits, recommendations, and many more.

Huda Idris
Technical writer, B2B software advisor, and marketing strategist

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The Best Free Payroll Software for Small Businesses

Hand picked by our HR Technology experts after product testing, user research, and much debate - enjoy!

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eSmart Paycheck provides a web-based payroll calculator that anyone can use completely for free, without needing to create an account.
If you’re a fan of Excel spreadsheets, you should check out ExcelPayroll. It runs on top of the Microsoft-native solution, allowing businesses to process payroll at no additional cost.
Not only does Payroll4Free does it do exactly what it says (i.e. allowing businesses to make payroll for free), but it is also quite easy to use and packs a lot of features for a free platform.
In addition to free payroll, Timetrex features a time and attendance tracking tool. Tracked employee hours are automatically linked with payroll, eliminating admins’ need to make manual payroll calculations or import data from 3rd party sources.
Aside from being a user-friendly, multilingual platform, does not have any limitation on the number of employees you pay through it, which is a rare offering for a free platform.
Paycheck Manager provides a free-of-charge payroll tax calculator that anyone can use without having to create account.

Introduction to Free Payroll Software for Small Businesses

If you’re visiting this page, you are likely a startup or small business owner that can’t afford to spend money on the market’s most popular payroll vendors - all of which require recurring payments. The good news is, there are several free payroll software solutions that you can use without breaking the bank. 

Some of those products offer a free tier to complement their paid subscriptions, while others are completely free of charge. They can calculate payroll for your hourly and salaried employees, handle tax calculations and other deductions, as well as print checks and pay stubs. Depending on where you live, a few of those products even offer tax filing and direct deposit services.

Read this guide to learn what those free payroll solutions products are, along with their features, benefits, pricing insights, international alternatives, and more to make an informed decision.

Our criteria: How we chose the best vendors

We take research seriously. To make sure we’re offering our readers the very best solutions in a given software category, we are methodical, rigorous, and expansive in our research. We consult with HR professionals, vendors, and industry experts. We cut through the noise to bring you a carefully curated list of vendors, along with other essential information, to help you find the right software platform for your business. 

Here’s how we chose who makes the cut: 

Product: We believe in gaining a comprehensive understanding of a product before we recommend it, so we start by getting to know the software. Whenever possible, we meet with a senior executive (CEO or Head of Product) for a demo and Q&A. We also test the product ourselves to make sure it has a solid UI, intuitive workflows, and the features to make it a best-in-class offering. 

User feedback: We go straight to the source and compile feedback on user experience. Real-world input supports our commitment to diligence in our software evaluation methods and the products we recommend. Keeping up with the everyday experience of HR pros also puts new vendors on our radar, and it keeps us close to our community so we can better connect the right products to the right people.

Financial metrics: We are certified finance nerds, so we use all the data we can get our hands on to make selections for our guides. We comb through data for concrete statistics like retention rates, growth, profitability, and scalability. We evaluate the bottom line of each product because we know making a software purchase can put your reputation on the line. 

Best for a use case: Software is never a one-size-fits-all product. Sometimes the best solution is free or cheap. Other times it’s the one that is best for global companies or the one that’s sized right for early-stage startups. Keeping this in mind, we include solutions across the spectrum so our readers can find the best fit for their unique needs.

Here's more detail if you want to read more about how we research vendors. Our dedicated staff writers rely on hard data, impartial experts, and user feedback to ensure our reviews are helpful, truthful, and hopefully a pleasure to read!

We track thousands of HR Tech solutions. Here are the best free payroll platforms as of 2023.

Review: is a free payroll platform that’s available to users in an impressive 65 languages in addition to English. Not only does it allow users to process payroll, but the platform also features tools for time and attendance tracking, claims tracking, team collaboration, knowledge management, and more. Employees can access the platform too to submit claims and leave notices.


Pricing: is completely free, forever. This is possible through its user community that crowd-funds it.

Best For:

Small businesses that require multi-language support from their payroll platform.



If you’re looking for a free workforce management solution, TimeTrex’s open-source Community edition is worth checking out. The Community edition packs several features at no charge, including payroll processing, HR management, employee scheduling, time and attendance tracking, as well as leave management.





TimeTrex’s Community edition is free of charge, supported by a network of volunteers from over 50 countries. TimeTrex also has 3 paid plans (i.e. Professional, Corporate, and Enterprise) that offer more features including job costing, GEO fencing, document management, invoicing, expense tracking, and applicant tracking. Contact TimeTrex’s sales team for more information on their paid offerings.

Best For:

Small businesses that want a free integrated payroll and time-tracking solution.

eSmart Paycheck


Owned by C&S Technologies, the same company that runs Paycheck Manager, eSmart Paycheck is an affordable small business payroll software. Though this is a paid product, they do offer a 3 month free trial of their offerings. Not only that, but eSmart Paycheck’s payroll calculator is a free service available for anyone to use without needing to create an account. This calculator lets you input the pay period, hours or salary, note dependents and withholdings such as 401(k)s and other deductions, and calculate the taxes and paychecks. When that’s done, you can proceed by printing pay stubs or paychecks.

eSmart Paycheck


C&S Technologies, Inc. (dba eSmartPaycheck) has been an IRS-authorized payroll e-file service provider since 2000.

eSmart Paycheck


The pricing of eSmart Paycheck’s payroll tasks depends on the number of employees you have:

  • 1-5 employees: $50 annually
  • 6-10 employees: $100 annually
  • 11-15 employees: $150 annually
  • 16-20 employees: $200 annually
  • 21-30 employees: $250 annually
  • 31-40 employees: $300 annually

eSmart Paycheck also offers add-on services, including:

  • Deposit federal taxes automatically: $25 annually
  • Deposit state taxes (where applicable): $25 annually
  • Print or e-file state forms (where applicable): $15 annually
  • e-File of W-2 to states (if required): $20 + $2 per employee
  • Print and mail W-2s (including envelope & stamp): $2 a form

Note: eSmart Paycheck’s paid features can be tried for free for up to 3 calendar months. As previously mentioned, their payroll calculator is free of charge.

Best For:

Small businesses looking for an affordable payroll solution with a free paycheck calculator.



Payroll4Free provides a full range of online payroll services to small businesses with 25 employees or less at, you guessed it, no cost at all. For a free platform, it packs an impressive range of features including payroll processing, direct deposits or paper checks, tax calculations and forms, vacation tracking, 3rd party integrations, reporting, and more.



Payroll4Free launched in 2012.



All of Payroll4Free’s basic features and services are available to use for free (as long as you are paying 25 individuals or less). Payroll4Free also offers two paid services that are completely optional:

  • Payroll4Free can deposit and file all of your payroll taxes on your behalf for $15 per month. 
  • For another $15 per month, Payroll4Free can also let you use their bank (instead of your own bank) to transfer direct deposit funds to your employees.

Best For:

Small companies (with 25 employees or less) looking for a free payroll processing solution with tax calculation functionality and services.



You’ve probably used spreadsheet-based payroll templates before to manage and keep track of your employee payroll. If you’ve ever wished your spreadsheet acted more like payroll software, you’ll definitely appreciate ExcelPayroll. This tool runs on Microsoft Excel and allows you to do all sorts of tasks, including printing tax forms and checks, viewing workers’ compensation reports, and recording both tax and non-tax deductions.





ExcelPayroll is free to use; it doesn’t have any monthly or per-user fee. However, it does exclusively run on Microsoft Excel, which is a paid product.

Best For:

Small businesses (between 1-5 active employees) that have access to Microsoft Excel and want a payroll solution that behaves with a spreadsheet format.

Paycheck Manager


Owned by C&S Technologies, the same company that runs eSmart Paycheck, Paycheck Manager is an affordable complete small business payroll software. Though this is a paid product, they do offer a whopping 3 month free trial of their offerings. Not only that, but Paycheck Manager’s paycheck calculator is a free service available for anyone, and no account is required for use. Users input their business payroll information, including salary information, state, pay cycle (weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, etc), marital status, allowances, and deductions. Then, they are provided with a detailed analysis that gives estimated payroll taxes and net income.

Paycheck Manager


  • Paycheck Manager has been in business for over 20 years.
  • With Paycheck Manager, paychecks can be prepared and printed in 10 minutes or less.

Paycheck Manager


  • Free: Paycheck tax calculation and printing (unlimited use)
  • Basic service: This plan packs all the features needed for a business to run payroll and handle payroll taxes on their own. The pricing of this plan starts at $5 a month - no setup fee required. 
  • Managed service: With this plan, Paycheck Manager’s team runs your payroll and manages your payroll taxes. This plan has a base price of $12 per month, plus $2 per employee per month, plus a $10 setup fee.

Note: Both of Paycheck Manager’s paid plans can be trailed for free for up to 3 calendar months.

Best For:

Small businesses looking for an affordable payroll solution

Benefits of a Free Payroll Software

Using payroll software enables businesses to:

  • Save time: The manual management of payroll is a huge administrative burden on small companies, not to mention all the mistakes and errors that are inevitable with manual labor. Payroll software automatically calculates and processes your recurring employee payments with little to no errors, allowing business owners to ditch administrative work and focus on bottom-line enhancing strategies. 
  • ‍Save money: Using a software solution to administer your payroll is significantly cheaper than hiring in-house finance personnel to assume that responsibility or engaging a financial services provider that charges hourly or a fixed sum as a monthly retainer.
  • Guarantee tax compliance: According to the IRS, 40% of small and medium businesses are fined each year for late or incorrect filings and payments. Payroll software ensures you’re handling your federal, state, and local taxes correctly and in a timely manner, effectively reducing your risk of compliance-related penalties.

Pro Tips on Best Free Payroll Software for Small Businesses

Pitfalls of a Free Payroll Software

The main pitfall to free payroll software is that they often are very limited in terms of features. Many of them also limit the number of employees you can pay through them.

Another pitfall of free software products is that they may be temporary, meaning you only get to use them for free for a limited period, and then you have to pay. Free software products can also be temporary in the sense that they aren’t robust and scalable enough to accommodate your company as it grows, which means you’ll need to switch to another provider later on.

One more thing to consider here is this: just because a software product is free, it doesn’t mean it isn’t costing you money. For example, because free products often come with limited automation features and 3rd party integrations, this means your team will do a lot more manual work than they would with a robust, full-featured solution. This waste of your team’s time translates directly into wasting money.

Even with a limited tech budget, sometimes it is better to invest in a paid payroll solution. The key is to identify the features you really need and only spend on those features. This way, you get what you need faster and more efficiently, without spending money unnecessarily.

Free Payroll Software: International Alternatives

If you're a small business outside of the US, there are quite a few good payroll tools that you can use for free, depending on where you live. These include: 

  • RiseLite: A free payroll software for Canadian small businesses with 20 employees or less.
  • PaymentEvolution: Trusted by thousands of Canadian businesses, PaymentEvolution is an affordable payroll software that also offers a free plan.
  • Kredily: A free-forever India-based attendance, payroll & HR solution.
  • HivePayroll: An India-based payroll software that promises 10x faster payroll processing and can be used for free for up to 3 months.
  • Microkeeper: An Australian payroll, time & attendance, and roster system that offers a free plan.
  • LinesPay: A Bangladesh-based HR and payroll management system that offers a free trial.
  • IceHrm: A Germany-based free online HR Software with leave management, recruitment, and basic payroll features.
  • Employment Hero: An Australian all-in-one HR, payroll, and employee benefits platform. Employment Hero also works in Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, and the UK.
  • Baraza HCM: A Kenya-based free HR and payroll system.

Features of a Free Payroll Software

There are many payroll solutions on the market, each with different offerings and price points. Be that as it may, the following are some of the most basic features you can expect from most payroll software solutions available today. 

  • Calculating salaries: The core purpose of payroll software is to simplify your company’s payroll process. Based on your pay cycle, time and attendance data, garnishments, taxes, and other deductions, payroll software quickly calculates your employee salaries. For your first use, you have to input this data manually, then the payroll software takes over and automatically calculates your employee salaries when each consecutive pay cycle is due.
  • Payslips generation: It takes a considerable amount of time to manually prepare and then individually email payslips to hundreds of employees. Payroll software automatically creates payslips and emails them to the appropriate employees with barely any effort on your part. 
  • Payroll reports generation: Payroll software automatically generates detailed payroll reports that include salaries paid, allowances given, leave summaries, and so on, allowing your company's management to always be up to date on those figures.
  • Records’ maintenance: Payroll software can effectively function as your company’s employee directory; it hosts and allows you to access all sorts of employee-related information such as their start date, designation, current salaries, contact details, and more.

In addition to the features listed above, some free payroll solutions may also pack features for time and attendance tracking, leave management, workers’ compensation reporting, employee self-service, and new hire onboarding. Some free payroll solutions can also integrate with biometric systems that store employee clock-in and clock-out times.

Questions to Ask During Your Free Payroll Software Demos

When buying payroll software (or any solution for that matter), we always recommend that you schedule demos with different vendors to make sure their solution is compatible with the needs of your business, before making any final decision. To help you in this process, we’ve put together the following list of questions that you can ask during your demos: 

  • Do you offer a full-service payroll solution or just a software tool for customers to run payroll on their own?
  • How are payroll taxes handled? How are tax forms generated?
  • How are tax filings handled? Is there an extra charge for this?
  • How will direct deposit work with our employee bank accounts?
  • Do you handle payroll in my state (within the U.S.)?
  • Do you handle international payroll? (If you operate internationally.)
  • Are you GDPR compliant?
  • Are you ACA compliant? What about HIPAA and ERISA?
  • Do you offer an employee self-service portal? If yes, can you walk me through what employees see in their accounts?
  • What processes can I automate through your software?
  • How easy is it to implement your solution, and would I be able to do it myself?
  • What are your Customer Support SLAs?
  • Do you have a knowledge base with articles and guides for self-service?
  • What business solutions does your software integrate with?
  • What metrics have you used to prove the effectiveness of your solution, and where can I see these in my analytics dashboard?
  • How much does the software cost for my team size?
  • How will our pricing change as we scale?

Implementing Free Payroll Software

All of the payroll solutions we’ve listed in this guide are fairly easy to implement. You can directly create an account or download an installer from each of the listed vendor’s websites.

Most of the vendors we’ve listed also provide step-by-step video tutorials and help docs that assist customers in getting up and running quickly. For further help, you can reach out to your chosen vendor’s support team. 

In terms of deployment, most payroll solutions are cloud-based, delivered through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) infrastructure. Getting started with a cloud-based solution is very quick as they all allow you to create an account and start configuring your instance and uploading data right away. 

On the other hand, some payroll solutions are self-hosted (on-premise). Self-hosted solutions generally take longer to set up, and depending on your chosen vendor, you may need to consult them regarding their solutions’ compatibility with your current hardware and installation process or better yet, have them do the installation for you.

Payroll Software FAQ

What is payroll software?

Payroll software is a solution designed to manage, automate, and track recurring payments of a company’s employees. It may also provide features for benefits administration, tax filing and more. 

Who needs payroll software?

All businesses, regardless of size and industry, can benefit from payroll software to streamline how they pay employees and ensure they are handling taxes and other deductions in an IRS-compliant manner.

How are payroll software solutions deployed?

The majority of payroll management solutions are cloud-based, delivered through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) infrastructure. This means you’ll be able to easily access them through most web browsers, either on your desktop or mobile device.

On the other hand, some payroll solutions are self-hosted (on-premise). Self-hosted solutions generally take longer to set up, and depending on your chosen vendor, you may need to consult them regarding their solutions’ compatibility with your current hardware and installation process or better yet, have them do the installation for you.

Can I do payroll without software?

Yes, you can process payroll without the assistance of software. However, manually processing and keeping track of recurring employee payments is quite time-consuming; wasting hours that you could otherwise be spending on bottom-line enhancing strategies and tasks. As such, using a software product to automate your payroll is a worthwhile investment. 

Final Thoughts

All businesses, regardless of size and industry, can benefit from payroll software to streamline how they pay employees and ensure they are handling taxes and other deductions in a compliant manner. That said, not every payroll software on the market is compatible with the needs and budget of your business. The good news is, we’ve put in the time and effort to research those software solutions so you don’t have to, and our final advice is this: 

If you’re a small business, the free payroll software we’ve listed in this guide would make a good, cost-efficient addition to your tech stack for now. As your business grows, however, you should definitely consider investing in a best-in-class payroll software (for as little as $14 per employee per month) as they bring more automations and are built to handle complex needs.

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