How to Conduct a Payroll Software Comparison

Payroll Management

Whether you’re switching payroll providers, or you’re choosing a payroll provider for the very first time, you’re probably wondering where to start. As any Google search will confirm, there are a lot of options out there and a lot of information to digest. The best way to get through all the stats, reviews, and product descriptions? A thorough payroll software comparison.

A payroll software comparison is the easiest way to see how each provider stacks up against each other when it comes to your “must-haves” and your “nice to haves.” Every business has its own unique payroll needs and doing a bit of homework upfront will ensure you find a payroll software that fits just right.

To help you find the best payroll option for your business, we’ll cover everything you need to know to narrow down your list of options and conduct your own payroll software comparison. 

Need more information? Check Out: “Setting Up Payroll: The Ultimate Guide”

The Basics

In order to conduct a payroll software comparison, you’ll have to create a list of software providers you’re interested in. When choosing these providers, you’ll want to make sure they cover some basic payroll functions.

At the very least, a payroll software should make the process of running payroll faster and easier. This means that your new software should automate as many payroll calculations as possible to save you precious time on manual calculations and data entry. In other words, your payroll software should be doing the heavy lifting and the numbers it generates should always be accurate.

Beyond doing the math for you, a payroll software should also keep you compliant. When it comes to payroll, compliance simply means following all the payroll rules and regulations set out by the government and regulatory agencies. Payroll software providers should be up to date on the latest rules and regulations, so that you don’t have to keep track of changing legislation.  

Compliance also means making sure that you’re paying the correct payroll taxes. Many payroll providers will take care of this for you by forwarding your required payroll taxes to the authorities on your behalf.

Key Considerations

After making sure that the payroll software you’re considering has the basics covered, it’s time to conduct a payroll software comparison. This is a necessary step because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to small business payroll. A payroll software comparison will help you zone in on the features that matter most to you and find the best solution for your specific business needs.

When comparing different payroll software options, you’ll want to keep the following questions and considerations in mind:

1. Type of Software

  • Are you looking for desktop software that will be tied to a single computer or a cloud-based system that can be run remotely? 

Whether you choose a cloud-based solution or not often comes down to your work schedule and location. If you’re constantly on the go, you’ll want a software that gives you the flexibility to run payroll from anywhere.

2. Ease of Use

  • Is the software appropriate for payroll newbies or is it tailored to veteran users?

If you’re new to running payroll, you’ll need a system that’s simple and intuitive enough for beginners to navigate on their own. Conversely, if you’re well versed in the use of payroll software, you might want a more robust platform that can be customized to your specifications.

3. Specific Service Requirements (Beyond the Basics)

  • Do you need WCB/WSIB, off-cycle payroll, contractor payments, wage garnishment, HR management, etc.?

Every business is unique and you will need to think about what must-have functions you require beyond basic payroll. In some cases, you might want to think about payroll-adjacent services such as HR and time-tracking.

4. Remittances

  • Does the software simply calculate the payroll taxes for you or does it file and remit those taxes on your behalf?

Some payroll software merely calculates your payroll taxes, leaving you to take care of the remittances yourself. If you don’t want to be personally responsible for filing your remittances, you’ll want to look for a provider that automatically remits payroll taxes to the proper authorities. If the provider does automatically remit payroll taxes, make sure to ask if there is an additional charge for this service.

5. Cost

  • Will you pay a certain fee each time payroll is run or does the monthly cost include unlimited pay runs? Are there hidden fees for customer support or other features?

Every provider has their own pricing model, so it’s important to understand what you’re paying for. You should not only think about how much payroll will cost you on a monthly basis, but also how much you’ll be paying for one-time charges such as setup.

6. The Provider's Typical Customer

  • Does the provider service small businesses or enterprise clients? Is the software built for a specific industry?

Believe it or not, many payroll providers have a niche customer, such as restaurants, healthcare, or small businesses. You’ll want to make sure that you’re choosing a provider that understands your needs and is built to service clients just like you.

7. Payroll Frequency

  • Does the platform support weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly pay periods?

Make sure that the software you choose can accommodate how often you want to pay your employees. You should also inquire as to whether a change in payroll frequency will affect the cost of using the software.

8. Integrations

  • Does the payroll software integrate with other accounting apps, such as QuickBooks or Xero? What about other apps, such as time-tracking programs or payment services?

If you want to be able to transmit data from other apps directly into your payroll software, you’ll want to make sure that a provider supports that integration.

9. Customer Support

  • What is the availability of the support team? How can you reach the support team?

Payroll is a very time-sensitive task and you’ll want to be able to get ahold of support as soon as a problem occurs. This means thinking about a company’s support hours and whether those hours work for your time zone. It’s also important to ask about the cost of support as some providers charge for customer service.

10. Software Security

  • How does the provider protect your employee’s information? Do they encrypt their data? What about PIPEDA compliance?

No matter what line of business you’re in, keeping your data safe and secure should be a major concern. Ask about where your information is stored and what measures are in place to keep your data secure.

The above is designed to help you get a better idea of what to look for and what to ask when choosing a new payroll provider. However, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Every business is unique and you may have specific needs that go beyond this list. Similarly, if you’re an accountant or bookkeeper running payroll for your clients, you may need to think about your clients and their specific payroll requirements.

No matter what your specific payroll requirements may be, this process should help you find a payroll provider that fits.

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