Best Free Payroll Software for 2020 - Detailed Comparisons

Compare free offers from top payroll software makers including Gusto,, Zenefits, Fingercheck, and many more. See top features and reviews.

Updated on July 16th, 2020

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Best Overall


5.0 out of 5 overall

  • Easy tracking for PPP loans.
  • Unlimted payrolls.
  • Automatic tax filing.
Most Features


4.5 out of 5 overall

  • PTO tracking.
  • Year-round record keeping.
  • Compliance management.
Best Free Offer

4.5 out of 5 overall

  • Free for up to 25 employees.
  • Covers basic features.


Updated 18th of December 2019

We did a review of pricing and free offer info for all the brands we reviewed, and added additional information about and Zenefits.

Updated 22nd of January 2020

Reviewed all free offers and updated information for IRIS payroll.

Updated 16th of July 2020

We reviewed and updated our information about free payroll offers.

Free payroll software helps small businesses automate the time-consuming process of paying employees without having to cut into their budget. It's also a way to systemize the payroll process, making errors less common.

Why We Chose Gusto, Zenefits, and

Gusto offers a wide range of features, is commendably user-friendly, and gives top-rated customer support.

Gusto offers many advanced features such as net-to-gross calculation, expense integration, or payroll reminders. Some of the more interesting features we came across include the automatic adjustment of wages according to the FSLA Tip Credit minimum wage requirement, the provision of a report with the details needed for FICA Tip Credit claims, and the capability to handle R&D tax credit claims.

If you need even more features, Zenefits was another great overall choice, with excellent customer reviews, and offers the most features of any software we reviewed.

If you've got a team of less than 25, and expense is your main concern, you might want to look at It doesn't have the range of features Gusto and Zenefits have, but it's totally free for up to 25 employees.

Be sure to check out our full list of payroll software for more companies you should consider, and read our guide on how to choose the best payroll software for your business. If Excel is all you need for payroll, check out our guide to Excel payroll forumlas.

Things to Consider When Evaluating Free Payroll Software:

  1. Most free offers are either for a limited time, or for a limited number of employees.
  2. Most offers include essential features like automated taxes, automated payroll, and leave tracking, but only a few offer advanced features like FICA tip credit, digital signatures, and lifetime accounts.
  3. Factor in time spent as a cost. If one software service if less expensive, but is missing a feature that would save you hours on payroll each month, it may actually cost you more in the long run.

Best Free Payroll Software:





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30-Day Trial

Offers advanced features, great customer service, and a reasonable price after the trial.

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14-Day Demo

Most feature-packed of payroll options we reviewed. Also, gets great customer reviews.

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Free for up to 25 employees.

Great for small businesses that need to save money, but missing advanced features.

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30-day trial.

Includes most essential and many advanced features for a good price.

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Free for up to 20 employees.

Lacks many features, but may be good for small companies looking to save money.

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QuickBooks Payroll

30-day trial.

Excellent feature options, integrates with other Quickbooks tools.

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Missing many features, but totally free.

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Payroll by Wave

30-day trial.

Solid features offering, and low price after trial.

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PayDirt Payroll

Free for 1 year.

Long trial, and reasonable lifetime license, but missing many features.

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30-day trial.

A little cheaper than Gusto, but doesn't quite have the depth of features.

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60-day trial.

Missing a lot of key features, but reasonably priced.

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First two months free with purchase of Xero accounting software.

Decent features coverage, may be a good choice if you already use their accounting software.

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30-day trial.

Great pricing, just missing a few advanced features.

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Patriot Software

30-day trial.

Very affordable after trial, missing many advanced features.

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30-day trial.

No post-trial pricing info, lacks many features.

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7-day trial.

Offers solid features, but free trial is quite short.

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AccountEdge Pro

30-day trial.

Lacks many features, but pricing is affordable.

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Simple X Payroll

30-day trial.

Missing many features.

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30-day trial.

Low on features, but low priced too. Geared toward the Australian market.

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Free up to 10 employees.

Affordable, but features are geared toward the UK market.

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15-day trial.

Reasonable price, missing advanced features but covers essentials.

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PayWindow Payroll

30-day trial.

Lacks features and integrations, but very low priced.

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30-day trial.

Inexpensive, but missing many features and some concerning customer reviews.

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60-day free trial.

Decent features for the price.

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30-day trial.

Very affordable, offers essentials.

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PenSoft Payroll Solutions

30-day trial.

Inexpensive, but missing many features.

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60-day trial.

Pricing is not public. Decent features offering, but lacks integrations.

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Free trial offered.

Low number of features are not made up for by a price that rivals better picks.

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Free offers reviewed and updated as of July 16, 2020.

Pros and Cons:


  • Inexpensive way to take care of payroll.
  • Makes payroll faster and more accurate.
  • Most automatically handle payroll taxes too.


  • Software is only truly free for small companies.
  • You'll need to pay for the most advanced features.


Is there any free payroll software? offers totally free online payroll software, but only if you've got 25 or fewer employees. For 20 or less employees, Rise is free.

Should I consider a paid payroll software solution?

Paid platforms start between $25 and $40 dollars per month. The time that you or your in human resources department save will most likely cover the cost of the service.

Is there a cheap payroll software that works well?

Some of the most highly rated payroll software, such as Gusto or Zenefits cost less than $50.00 per month. When you consider the value of the time you would have spent doing payroll, it's well worth it.

What is the cheapest payroll software for small business?

If you've got less than 25 employees, it's Beyond that, there are plenty of inexpensive payroll options, but part of what saves you money is the time the software saves you. Take the free trial most companies offer and factor in the time saved as part of your consideration.

How can anyone offer payroll software for free?

Most of the companies we found offer free trials of their software. One offered it for free up to 25 employees, so they're likely hoping that by using their payroll for small business free of charge in the beginning, your company will grow, and you'll be able to pay as you grow.

Is there payroll software for 1099 employees?

Yes, Gusto,, Xero, Zenefits, QuickBooks Payroll, and Patriot Software all offer payroll software that works for 1099 employees.

Do payroll programs typically offer free trials?

Most payroll software we looked at offer free trials. The typical small business payroll software free trial lasts 30 days.

Where can I find a free payroll software download?

We were unable to find any free payroll software online that was available to download. If you want to use payroll programs free, you'll have to use a cloud-based one.

Are there any free online payroll services?

No, payroll services typically include someone who actually runs payroll for you. It's one thing to find a payroll app free, another to find someone to do the day-to-day word without charging.

Is there any payroll check software that is totally free?

Yes, offers check printing as part of its free package. The software is totally free for up to 25 employees.