January 5, 2017

How much does payroll cost?

How much does payroll cost?

During initial conversations with prospective clients this question comes up more often than not: "So, how much does payroll cost?"

Many payroll bureaus do not have a straight answer, but it should be very easy to answer unless there is something your rep is hiding.

And let's not forget that payroll is an essential element to your business, even if it's a back-office function. 

It's how you pay your employees--your biggest assets. 

However, sometimes processing the payroll can feel like setting sail into uncharted, and rocky, territory.

Payroll is one of those things that sparks a lot of questions, and, unless you are an expert, sometimes finding the right answers can be frustrating.  

 It's easy to get caught up in the world of form 941, worker's comp, and pay periods. 

While these functions are important, you may be overlooking an even more important question.

Are you overpaying for payroll?

At first, it might not seem like you have much of choice. You need a user-friendly system that gets the job done fast.

You also need a service provided by a reputable company. "That already narrows down my options significantly," you're saying. 

Well, not exactly.

It might seem strange to think of your payroll system as a service you can shop around for, but the truth is you can. And there are plenty of options that range in price, quality, and size. 

But deciding between these options can be difficult without understanding one thing: cost

"So how much does payroll cost?" You're wondering.  

I'm glad you asked. You can use the following guideline as a reference sheet to finding a better, cheaper option. 

Basic payroll vs. full service payroll

The first factor that comes into play when assessing the cost of payroll is choosing between two types: basic and full service. 

In the simplest terms, basic payroll is essentially software. You pay for this software and then use it to process payroll.

The thing about this software is, however, that YOU  do most of the work. You do all the filing, you set up direct deposit, and you have to figure out taxes. 

Unless you're a payroll pro, that's a lot of extra work. 

Basic also allows you to create and print checks. And if you're really lucky you much just have access to support. 

In contrast, full service gives you more options. It includes tax filing, W-2 filing, checks or direct deposit, and tax liability payments. 

Great systems also provide you with an employer/employee portal, where employees can access their payments and info.

From these portals you can also manage worker's comp, paid time off, attendance, and benefits.

And the best part? You don't have to worry about any of it!

The cost of your payroll system

Trying to figuring out how much does payroll cost? There are a range of variables to keep in mind. 

Here's a brief break down:

Basic Payroll

Full Service 

  • Per check cost: $1.50-$6.00
  • Large bureaus base fee: $150 
  • Price per W-2 at large firm: $6 
  • Smaller payroll firm base charge: $50
  • Price per W-2: $3
  • Per check cost: $0.80-$2.00
  • Per run Fee: $40 and up. Depends on frequency
  • Direct deposit and Tax Filing: $4-9 
  • Add ons: Fees for adding or dropping employees.
  • Processor wages: IF you pay an employee to process the payroll this is also added to the cost. 
  • Price of paper and Ink for checks

The nice thing about about full service payroll is that your dollar goes farther, especially if you select a smaller payroll firm. 

What's more, with full service you don't have to worry about creating checks. Firms will either send them to you electronically or deliver them. 

You also don't have to worry about setting up direct deposit, and all the necessary tax forms all filed for you. 

Most services will also provide you free any-time support.

However, if you're skeptical that ANY payroll bureau would have your back, you're probably right. Not all payroll firms have the same priorities. 

Large payroll bureaus vs. small payroll firms

While full service can be the better option if you're not an expert in payroll, you can still end up over spending even with a full service plan.

How? By selecting a big payroll business as your provider. 

I know, I know. But before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain. 

Big payroll firms depend on their well-known brand of payroll to pull you in. 

They might even initially offer you an incredible deal. 

Then, months into your service, they hike up their rates. If you're a business owner with ten employees, you can suddenly find yourself paying over $2,000 for payroll. 

Additionally, while you might have access to over the phone support, you'll have to remain on hold until a representative is available to speak to you. 

And then, when you finally get a hold of a representative, their service is impersonal at best. 

With bigger firms you usual end up paying more for the same exact service that a small payroll company can provide (if not better). 

Smaller bureaus provide easy access to a live person at almost any time and also supply customized payroll features. This allows you to have payroll that is tailored to your specific business, something bigger companies can't provide. 

However, the best thing about smaller payroll firms is that they're far less expensive than the payroll giants.

Not only do these bureaus give you free features like employee benefits, worker's comp, and HR managment (things you would have to pay for with bigger firms), but also they tend to be on the cheaper end of the spectrum. 

The fact that you won't have to worry about a shocking price increases is like icing on the cake. 

Why AccuPay?

 Now that you know how much does payroll cost, you can begin shopping around for a better deal.

Don't be afraid to hold out for a fairly priced option. However, one caveat to keep in mind is that you also want a reputable and dependable company. 

If you're looking for an affordable and quality option to get your payroll done (and get it done right), that's where AccuPay can step in. 

AccuPay is a small payroll bureau designed for small businesses. 

The fact of the matter is, it doesn't make sense to pay $6 per employee on top of extra charges, and with AccuPay you never will.

So how much would processing payroll with AccuPay cost? AccuPay is fairly priced, and we intend to keep it that way.

With our service you'll pay a small base depending on your frequency plus $1.75 per employee. Year end W-2s cost a base of $50 plus $2.00s per form--far less than what big firms will charge. 

What is included in this? Read more on the pricing page.

 And you're not compromising anything. You get integrated HR, access to additional management services, an employee self-service portal, and much more. 

If you're looking for great one-on-one customer service, reliability, and an excellent payroll system, you can't go wrong with AccuPay. 


When it comes down to it, you shouldn't have to overpay for payroll. 

Nor should you feel stuck paying for a big name company's payroll just because there are no other options. 

There are plenty. Understanding how much does payroll cost can help you select the right one. Don't settle for less than a great payroll company with a good rate. 

No matter the payroll system you end up chasing, get a contract that says that any price increases will be agree upon by both parties.

Or, at the very least, the contract should give a provision that the company will give you notice of a price increase 60 days before its effective date, giving you time to get out if need be. 

You always have room to negotiate the terms that work best for you. 

So don't tolerate price creeps! Go out there and find an affordable payroll system that works for you. 

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Felix Mwania

I live in the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. I am a technology enthusiast but my passion is helping small businesses succeed, including mine.

When I am not working, you will find me goofing with my wife and kids. When not with family and/or friends, you will find me doing some home improvement projects.

Felix Mwania


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