GUIDE 2024

What are Payroll Services?

Payroll services encompass an array of administrative tasks essential to managing employee compensation in a company. In its most basic form, payroll involves the calculation of each employee’s pay (considering hours worked, overtime, bonuses, and deductions), issuing paychecks, and keeping accurate records. 

However, the intricacies of modern payroll administration extend beyond this, including tax withholding and remittance to relevant authorities, ensuring compliance with labor laws, and managing employee benefits.

Organizations can either manage payroll in-house, using manual systems or software, or outsource it to specialized payroll service providers. 

Payroll services providers help businesses streamline these processes, saving them valuable time and reducing the potential for errors. This latter approach has gained popularity due to its scalability, efficiency, and ability to stay updated with ever-changing tax laws and regulations.

By employing payroll services, businesses gain the ability to focus more on their core functions, confident in the knowledge that their payroll obligations are being handled professionally. 

For small and medium businesses without a dedicated HR department, payroll services provide an invaluable tool in navigating the complexities of payroll management.

How Payroll Services Work

Payroll services operate by streamlining and automating the various tasks involved in paying employees, thereby significantly reducing the complexity and time consumption associated with payroll processing. Here is a brief overview of how they work:


  • Employee Information: To kick start the process, businesses need to provide the payroll service with information about their employees. This includes their wages or salaries, the number of hours they work, their tax information, and any deductions or benefits they receive. Many payroll services offer online portals where businesses can enter and update this information.


  • Payroll Schedule: Businesses also need to establish a payroll schedule, determining how often employees will be paid. Common payroll schedules include weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly.


  • Calculations and Deductions: Once the payroll service has the necessary information, it calculates how much each employee should be paid in each pay period. This involves determining gross pay based on salary or hours worked, subtracting any deductions (like taxes and retirement contributions), and adding any extra compensation like overtime or bonuses. Payroll services also calculate and withhold the necessary payroll taxes.


  • Payment Disbursement: After the calculations, the payroll service disburses payments to employees. This is often done through direct deposit, but other methods like paper checks or pay cards can also be used.


  • Tax Filings: Beyond the paychecks themselves, payroll services also handle tax-related tasks. They file the required payroll tax reports, pay the withheld taxes to the appropriate government agencies, and prepare and distribute year-end tax forms like W-2s and 1099s to employees.


  • Record Keeping: Payroll services maintain accurate records of all transactions and filings. This includes detailed reports on wages paid, taxes withheld, tax filings, and any other related transactions. These records are essential for audits and for strategic business planning.


  • Employee Access: Many payroll services also provide online portals or mobile apps where employees can view their pay stubs, tax forms, and benefits information. Some even allow employees to make changes to their personal information or benefits elections, further reducing the administrative burden on the business.


  • Updates and Compliance: Lastly, payroll services continuously update their systems to stay in line with changes in tax laws and labor regulations. This ensures that businesses always remain compliant, avoiding penalties and ensuring their employees are paid correctly and on time.


Payroll Processing: The Backbone of Payroll Services

Payroll processing is the backbone that ensures employees receive their accurate compensation on time, every time. Below, we delve into the different stages involved in payroll processing and why they are so integral to a successful payroll service.


  1. Collecting Employee Information: The first step of payroll processing involves gathering employee information, such as work hours, wages or salaries, and any additional compensation like overtime or bonuses. This information forms the basis for calculating how much each employee is due to be paid during each pay period.


  1. Calculating Gross Pay: Using the collected data, the payroll service calculates the gross pay for each employee. For salaried employees, this is usually a fixed amount, while for hourly employees, the gross pay is calculated by multiplying the number of hours worked by their hourly wage. Any additional compensation like overtime, bonuses, or commissions is added to this figure to determine the gross pay.


  1. Deducting Taxes and Other Withholdings: The next step is to calculate and deduct the required amount for federal, state, and local income taxes, Social Security and Medicare contributions, and any other mandatory or voluntary deductions such as retirement plan contributions or health insurance premiums. This step requires a thorough understanding of the current tax laws and regulations to ensure compliance and accuracy.


  1. Calculating Net Pay: After all deductions have been subtracted from the gross pay, what remains is the net pay, which is the actual amount the employee receives in their paycheck.


  1. Payroll Distribution: The payroll service then distributes the pay to employees, usually through direct deposit into their bank accounts, though other methods like paper checks or pay cards can also be used. The payroll service also provides each employee with a pay stub detailing their gross pay, deductions, and net pay for that pay period.


  1. Record Keeping and Reporting: In addition to processing payroll, payroll services also maintain detailed records of all transactions, deductions, and tax payments. They also prepare the necessary reports and tax filings, ensuring businesses meet all their compliance obligations.


  1. Employee Access: Many payroll services offer employee portals or apps where employees can access their pay stubs, tax forms, and other payroll information. This helps improve transparency and allows employees to manage their own information and benefits.

In-House Payroll Management vs Payroll Outsourcing

Each approach has its advantages and drawbacks, which may make one more suitable than the other depending on the specific circumstances of the business. Here is a comparative analysis:

In-House Payroll Management



  1. Control: Handling payroll in-house gives businesses complete control over their payroll process. This allows for immediate adjustments and provides a thorough understanding of the ins and outs of the payroll.


  1. Cost: For very small businesses with few employees, in-house payroll management might be the more cost-effective choice, given the potentially lower immediate costs compared to outsourced services.




  1. Time-Consuming: Managing payroll in-house can be quite time-consuming, especially as the business grows. Time spent on payroll is time taken away from core business activities.


  1. Risk of Errors: Without specific expertise in payroll processing and tax laws, there’s a greater risk of errors which can lead to penalties and dissatisfaction among employees.


  1. Compliance: Keeping up with changes in labor laws, tax regulations, and compliance requirements can be challenging and requires a commitment of time and resources.


Payroll Outsourcing



  1. Expertise: Payroll service providers are experts in payroll processing and tax laws, ensuring accuracy and compliance.


  1. Time-Saving: Outsourcing payroll frees up time that businesses can use to focus on growth and core business functions.


  1. Scalability: Payroll services can easily scale with the business as it grows, accommodating new hires, changes in compensation structures, and different types of employee benefits.




  1. Cost: While prices vary, outsourcing payroll can be more expensive than managing it in-house, especially for smaller businesses.


  1. Less Immediate Control: Outsourcing payroll means handing over a degree of control to a third party. Businesses may need to work around the service provider’s schedule, and immediate changes might be less feasible.


The choice between in-house payroll management and outsourcing ultimately depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the business, the complexity of the payroll, and the resources available for payroll management. It’s a decision that should be made with careful consideration of all these factors.

Benefits of Payroll Services

Payroll services offer numerous benefits to businesses of all sizes, ranging from saving time to ensuring compliance with tax regulations. Here are ten significant advantages of employing a payroll service:


  1. Time Savings: One of the most considerable benefits of using payroll services is the time it saves. These services handle all aspects of payroll, from calculation and distribution to tax withholdings and filing, freeing up valuable time for businesses to focus on their core operations.


  1. Accuracy and Compliance: Payroll services have expertise in tax laws and labor regulations, ensuring accurate calculations and withholdings. They stay up-to-date with changes in regulations, reducing the risk of errors and non-compliance penalties.


  1. Enhanced Security: Payroll services use secure platforms to protect sensitive data from threats like data breaches or fraud. They also employ measures such as data encryption and two-factor authentication to ensure the highest level of security.


  1. Employee Self-Service: Many payroll services offer self-service portals where employees can access their pay stubs, tax forms, and benefits information. This not only improves transparency but also reduces administrative tasks for the business.


  1. Scalability: Payroll services can easily scale with the business, accommodating more employees, different types of compensation, and additional services like benefits administration. This makes them a flexible solution that can adapt to the business’s growth and changing needs.


  1. Cost-Effective: Although there’s a cost associated with payroll services, the time savings, improved accuracy, reduced risk of penalties, and additional features they provide can often make them a cost-effective solution, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.


  1. Simplified Reporting and Record Keeping: Payroll services provide detailed reports on payroll expenses, taxes, and more, helping businesses make informed decisions. They also maintain accurate records, which are crucial for audits and year-end reporting.


  1. Integration Capabilities: Payroll services often integrate with other business software, such as HR systems, accounting software, or time tracking tools. This smooth data flow improves overall business processes and eliminates the need for manual data entry.


  1. Expert Support: Payroll services provide expert support to handle any queries or issues that may arise. This can be invaluable in navigating complex situations or understanding specific aspects of payroll processing and taxation.


  1. Peace of Mind: Lastly, payroll services provide peace of mind. Knowing that experts are managing payroll accurately, securely, and in compliance with all regulations, allows business owners to focus on running and growing their businesses without worrying about payroll.


Top 8 Payroll Service Providers

Depending on the needs of your organization, it may be important to explore various payroll service providers before settling. To help you out, we have listed 8 types of payroll service providers. 

1. Bambee

Bambee ranks at the top of the list for its unique approach to payroll services. It not only handles payroll processing and tax compliance but also offers robust human resource management. This includes setting company policies, onboarding, training, and termination. With its all-rounded services, Bambee acts as a virtual HR department, making it an ideal choice for small businesses in need of comprehensive HR and payroll solutions.

2. OnPay Payroll Software

OnPay Payroll Software is a cloud-based platform that provides flexible and scalable payroll solutions. Known for its simplicity and user-friendly interface, OnPay includes services like automated payroll tax filing and payment, benefits management, and HR tools. This comprehensive service makes payroll processing a breeze for businesses of all sizes.

3. ADP Payroll

ADP is a long-standing player in the payroll services industry, offering a variety of solutions tailored to businesses of different sizes. It provides services ranging from payroll processing and tax compliance to benefits management and HR solutions. ADP’s powerful software, combined with their excellent customer service, ensures businesses can manage payroll smoothly and efficiently.

4. Paychex Payroll

Paychex is another established name in the payroll services field. With options for both online and in-person support, Paychex offers a range of services, including payroll processing, tax services, HR support, and benefits administration. Its versatility makes it a reliable option for businesses across various industries.

5. Gusto Payroll Software

Gusto offers a user-friendly platform for small to midsize businesses, providing payroll processing, tax filing, HR tools, and benefits management. Gusto stands out for its extensive integration options with other business software and its flexible plans that can be tailored to suit a company’s specific needs.

6. Paycor

Paycor specializes in providing solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. Its platform offers payroll services, tax compliance, time and attendance systems, benefits administration, and HR solutions. Paycor’s customer-centric approach and intuitive platform make it a favored choice for businesses looking for streamlined payroll solutions.

7. Intuit QuickBooks Payroll

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll, a product of the makers of the popular QuickBooks accounting software, is a comprehensive solution for payroll and tax services. Its integration with QuickBooks makes it a preferred option for businesses already using the accounting software. QuickBooks Payroll provides features such as automated tax calculations, payroll automation, and direct deposit, simplifying payroll management.

8. Deluxe

Deluxe provides a wide array of business services, including payroll processing and HR services. Known for its high-quality customer service and accuracy, Deluxe ensures businesses can handle their payroll responsibilities effectively. The company’s suite of services includes tax filing and compliance, direct deposit, and comprehensive payroll reporting.

Why Do Businesses Use Payroll Services?

In today’s business environment, efficiency, accuracy, and compliance are paramount, and this is where payroll services come into play. By employing payroll services, businesses can streamline their payroll processes, saving time and resources that can be dedicated to core business functions.

Payroll services also ensure businesses remain compliant with ever-changing tax laws and regulations, thereby avoiding costly penalties. Moreover, outsourcing payroll allows for better scalability. As a company grows, payroll becomes more complex, requiring more resources and expertise. Payroll services allow businesses to scale without having to worry about the intricacies of payroll management.

How To Choose The Best Payroll Service

Here are eight crucial factors to consider when choosing a payroll service for your business:


  1. Your Business’s Needs: First and foremost, identify what your business needs from a payroll service. Do you need a comprehensive service that handles everything from processing payroll to filing taxes, or are you looking for a more basic service to complement in-house payroll functions? Are there specific features you require, like contractor payments, direct deposit, or employee self-service portals?


  1. Cost: Payroll services come at varying price points. Consider your budget and the value you’re getting for the price. Be aware of what’s included in the service fee and any additional charges that might apply for add-ons or extra features.


  1. Ease of Use: The payroll service should be user-friendly, with an intuitive interface and a straightforward setup process. The easier it is to navigate the platform and process payroll, the more time and resources you can save.


  1. Compliance and Accuracy: Ensure the payroll service is committed to accuracy and compliance. It should automatically calculate and withhold the correct tax amounts, comply with labor laws, and stay updated on any changes to regulations.


  1. Integration: If you’re using other software for HR, time tracking, or accounting, a payroll service that integrates seamlessly with these systems can simplify data flow and make your processes more efficient.


  1. Scalability: Your payroll service should be able to grow with your business. As your business expands, you’ll need a service that can handle more employees, perhaps across different states or even countries. Check if the service can accommodate such growth.


  1. Customer Support: Good customer support is essential. Issues with payroll can be stressful and need to be resolved quickly. Ensure the payroll service offers responsive and helpful customer support, available through the channels (phone, email, live chat) you prefer.


  1. Security: Payroll data is sensitive, so the payroll service should employ robust security measures to protect your business’s and employees’ information. Look for features like data encryption, two-factor authentication, and regular security audits.

The Role of Technology in Modern Payroll Services

As businesses enter the digital age, the role of technology in payroll services has become increasingly prominent. From automation and cloud-based systems to mobile access and advanced reporting, technology has revolutionized how payroll is processed, managed, and accessed. Here’s a look at how technology plays a pivotal role in modern payroll services.


  1. Automation: One of the most significant contributions of technology to payroll services is automation. Repetitive tasks such as data entry, payroll calculations, tax withholdings, and pay distribution can now be automated, reducing human errors and improving efficiency.


  1. Cloud-Based Systems: With cloud technology, payroll data is no longer stored on physical servers but instead hosted on the cloud. This not only improves data security but also allows for real-time updates and access from anywhere, which is particularly useful for remote or distributed teams.


  1. Employee Self-Service Portals: Technology has facilitated the development of employee self-service portals. These platforms allow employees to view their pay stubs, tax forms, and benefits information online, and in some cases, update their personal information or make benefits elections. This significantly reduces administrative workload and improves employee satisfaction.


  1. Integration: Modern payroll services often integrate seamlessly with other business software like human resources management systems (HRMS), time and attendance tracking systems, and accounting software. This allows for smooth data flow and improved overall business processes.


  1. Advanced Reporting: Technology enables advanced reporting and analytics capabilities. Businesses can generate detailed payroll reports, gain insights into payroll expenses, and make data-driven decisions. Some payroll services even offer predictive analytics features.


  1. Regulatory Updates: Keeping up with changing labor laws, tax regulations, and compliance requirements is a complex task. Thankfully, modern payroll services can automatically update their systems in response to these changes, ensuring businesses stay compliant without the need to constantly monitor for updates.


  1. Mobile Access: Many payroll services now offer mobile apps, allowing employees and managers to access payroll information on the go. This can range from viewing pay stubs for employees to approving time cards for managers, providing unprecedented convenience and flexibility.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about payroll services 

How does payroll software benefit small business owners? 

Payroll software offers many benefits to small business owners. It simplifies the process to process payroll, ensuring accuracy and compliance with tax laws. Additionally, most software offers features like direct deposit and unlimited payroll runs, further streamlining the payroll process.

What should I look for in online payroll services? 

When choosing online payroll services, look for features that suit your specific needs. This may include options for unlimited payroll runs, employee benefits administration, contractor payments, and direct deposit. Also, consider the service’s usability, customer support, and integration with other systems you use.

What are the advantages of using payroll providers over handling payroll in-house? 

Payroll providers offer a comprehensive payroll solution, taking care of all aspects of payroll, from processing and tax filing to benefits administration. They also ensure compliance with tax laws, which can be complex and time-consuming to handle on your own. Payroll providers also bring expertise and technology that may not be available in-house, improving the efficiency and accuracy of your payroll process.

How does payroll software handle employee benefits administration? 

Most payroll software provides features for employee benefits administration. This includes managing different types of benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. Some also offer portals where employees can view and manage their benefits, improving transparency and satisfaction.

What makes the best payroll software for small businesses? 

The best payroll software for small businesses offers features tailored to their needs. This may include unlimited payroll runs, direct deposit, contractor payments, and employee benefits administration. It should also be user-friendly, affordable, and offer good customer support.

Do payroll services offer direct deposit? 

Yes, most payroll services offer direct deposit, a feature that automatically deposits employees’ pay into their bank accounts. This feature improves efficiency and convenience for both the business and the employees.