We’re on a mission to help small businesses find the right tools to manage their operations. We’ve covered the key options for accounting software, and today we’re diving into our next series focusing on payroll software solutions. 

We’re starting with one of the most popular payroll solution options for modern businesses: Gusto.

What is Gusto?

Gusto is a full-service payroll software solution that allows you to manage (and even automate) all the parts of your payroll service, including payroll tax management and employee forms. Gusto offers three main tiers of service, a litany of integrations, and plenty of premium add-on options to customize your payroll and HR experience. 

Gusto plans and pricing

Plan Price Features
Core $39/month + $6/employee Full-service payroll, two-day direct deposit, onboarding
Complete $39/month + $12/employee Next-day direct deposit, time-off requesting, employee directory, project tracking
Concierge $149/month + $12/employee Expanded HR support and dedicated support team
Contractor-only $6/month/contractor Pay contractors, 1099 forms, tax filing

Gusto’s month-to-month capabilities and simulation allow you to test drive what you need and scale up or down according to your headcount or tax needs.

Gusto pros & cons

Pros Cons
  • Easy to use
  • Cloud-based
  • Fast payroll processing
  • Strong portfolio of HR tools
  • Full demo simulation on website
  • No contract required
  • More expensive than other payroll options
  • Low customer service ratings
  • Limited mobile app

Gusto is incredibly easy to use and boasts a wide range of integrations that will make your life easier as a small business owner. You’re able to automate running payroll and HR processes which is sure to save you time. Employers who have a diverse range of employees (meaning hourly, full time, contract, etc) especially like the ability to run unlimited payroll for all types of employees. There is a solid offering of customer support, including chat and HR tools in their resource center (from the Core package up to the Concierge plan).

Drawbacks include low customer service ratings and BBB rankings, a slightly higher price tag than more affordable payroll service providers, and the lack of mobile applications.

Gusto features

Payroll processing

For each employee, you’ll enter the necessary information for payroll processing: pay rate, hours, deductions, etc. Each payroll period you can set automated payroll for those with unchanging data (salaried employees), or quickly input the hours worked by hourly employees, commissions, and bonuses, and process payroll in minutes. 

There is no limit on payroll processing, which makes Gusto a compelling choice for employers who need to pay salaried, hourly, and freelance contractors on different cadences. 

Payroll payments

Gusto allows you to pay your employees in a variety of ways: direct deposit, prepaid debit cards, and traditional printed checks. Direct deposit will allow the money to be placed directly into the account chosen by the employee. Prepaid debit cards are automatically loaded with the funds, and are an excellent option for employees without bank accounts. Printing checks is more labor-intensive, and requires special paper, but is still used by some businesses. Employees can access their paystubs through the Gusto portal anytime. 

Payroll taxes

Payroll taxes are a significant undertaking, especially for a small business owner without an accounting background. Gusto makes it easy by managing all of the necessary payroll taxes for your business. Gusto payroll software calculates payroll taxes, fills out all of your tax forms, and can even file them automatically with your required local, state, and federal tax agencies. Plus, Gusto will send you notifications about tax deadlines.

Year-end tax forms

Employers are legally required to provide employment tax forms at the end of each calendar year to prepare for tax filing. Gusto software will automatically generate W-2 and 1099 tax forms, and will send digital copies to each employee or contractor. 

Employee classifications 

Another great selling point for Gusto payroll is that you don’t pay more for specific types of employees, no matter your combination of full time, part time, freelance, and any other 1099 contract employees. 

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Gusto software provides support for your employee’s PTO in each service plan. The lowest levels of Gusto plans allow you to create PTO policies and then track the time used. Concierge and Complete plans have better PTO functionality, allowing employees to request time off and receive approvals from managers within Gusto. 

New hires

Hiring new employees requires onboarding, new tax forms, and state paperwork. Gusto can manage the new hire process and file required paperwork on your behalf. 

Integrations

Gusto integrates with a large number of software tools to make it easier to run your small business. Accounting, time-tracking, expense management, point-of-sale (POS), tax preparation programs, hiring, banks, and even HR. 

Some of Gusto’s most popular integrations include:

HR

If you’re a small business trying to keep your costs down and optimize your headcount to more customer-facing roles, you may want to use Gusto software for the Human Resources components. The HR support provided by Gusto payroll can allow you to keep your HR department small (or nonexistent), especially if you opt for the Concierge service plan. 

HR services included in the Gusto suite of features are: 

  • Offer letters
  • Employee handbooks
  • Job description templates
  • Document signature
  • Employee directories
  • Organization charts
  • Employee surveys with analysis
  • Dedicated HR professional support
  • Harassment trainings
  • Compliance assistance and updates

The exact range of human resources features will depend on which service plan you choose, as well as any additional premium features you add-on to your service plan, which we’ll talk about next.

Gusto products & plans

Core

The Core service plan includes all the basic payroll features you’ll need as a small business owner. Starting at $39/month plus $6/employee, you’ll have functionality for: 

  • Full-service payroll in all U.S. states
  • Two-day direct deposit
  • Self-service employee portal
  • Worker’s compensation administrations
  • Health insurance administration
  • Paid time off (PTO) policies
  • Employee onboarding
  • Integrations for accounting, time-tracking
  • Automated payroll 
  • Document management (tax forms, etc.)

This is the most common plan and where the large majority of Gusto users begin their journey. You can scale up or down as is needed by your growing business. 

Complete

The Complete service plans includes all the components of the Core plan for an additional $6/employee, with some key additions:

  • Next-day deposit
  • PTO requests
  • Permissions within Gusto
  • Employee directory
  • Employee survey functionality
  • Time tracking
  • Project tracking
  • New hire costing

The Complete service plan is usually adopted by Core plan users who need the time and project tracking functionality, or who need expanded staff support through surveys and directories. 

Concierge

For larger or more complex businesses, the heftier Concierge plan is a great choice. Starting at $149/month and $12/employee, you get everything from Core & Complete, plus: 

  • A dedicated HR professional & support team
  • HR resource center to create
    • Employee handbooks
    • Job descriptions
    • HR trainings

The Concierge option is great for growing businesses that need significant HR support but still haven’t built out their own in-house HR department. 

Contractor-only

If you employ contractors, you can use Gusto’s contractor-specific service to pay your employees without an expensive base. At $6/employee/month, you can pay contractors as often as you need, and manage 1099 forms and tax filings within a self-serve portal. 

Add-on services

Gusto can be customized to meet the needs of your small business with a significant range of payroll add-ons. Add-on services and features include: 

  • Health benefits: Pay premiums with no additional fees
  • Retirement: $39/month + $8/participant
  • Worker’s compensation: Pay premiums with no additional fees
  • College savings: $6/month/employee ($18 monthly minimum)
  • Health Savings Account (HSA): $2.50/month/employee
  • Flexible Spending Account (FSA): $4/month/employee ($20 minimum)
  • Commuter benefits: $4/month/employee ($20 minimum)

Tax-advantaged accounts require a $200 annual service charge, which will cover HSA, FSA, and commuter benefits.

Common Gusto FAQs

How does Gusto payroll work?

Gusto payroll software can automate most of the process once you input the details of employee type (hourly, salaried, etc.), pay rate, withholdings, and direct deposit information. Each week you simply input the hours and click “run payroll.” 

How long does it take to get paid by Gusto?

On the Core plan, direct deposit will take two days. For Complete and Concierge, you’ll get next-day direct deposit. 

How much is payroll with Gusto?

The Core plan starts at $39/month + $6/employee. 

Is Gusto payroll safe?

Yes, Gusto is cloud-based and uses encryption and extensive testing to keep the platform (and your finances) secure. 

Is Gusto better than ADP?

Gusto is preferred to ADP for many businesses due to the ease of use and lack of additional fees—ADP issues a range of additional fees and charges for each payroll run. Gusto is rated higher than ADP, and you can see a comprehensive comparison of features here.

The verdict

When it’s time to choose a payroll software provider, you’ll have a variety of options meeting a diverse range of needs. Gusto is a popular choice for payroll and HR support—and with good reason. Gusto is easy to use, offers clear pricing, and allows for customization of features to meet the unique needs of your workforce. If your small business is looking to save time on payroll and get some support for in-house HR, Gusto is an excellent choice.

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