QuickBooks Payroll vs. Square Payroll (2023): Which is better?

Square Payroll and QuickBooks Payroll are two cloud-based, online payroll services that target small and midsize business owners. They both have remarkably user-friendly interfaces, integrate with accounting software tool QuickBooks Online and help businesses in every state find employee benefits.

However, QuickBooks Payroll (a.k.a. QuickBooks Online Payroll) works better than Square for midsize businesses that want comprehensive payroll reports and fast QuickBooks Online integration. Its higher-tier plans have slightly more HR features than Square (though neither provider goes heavy on human resource tools).

Meanwhile, Square Payroll is better for small businesses that want to save money on payroll, especially businesses that mostly employ contractors: Unlike QuickBooks Payroll, Square Payroll doesn’t have extra fees for direct deposit or workers’ compensation administration. Square also waives its monthly base fees for businesses that pay only contractors, which makes it one of the cheapest payroll solutions for freelance employers.

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QuickBooks Payroll vs. Square Payroll: Comparison table

Square Payroll and QuickBooks Payroll share the same basic payroll features, including full-service payroll with automatic tax remittance and built-in benefits administration. Both providers can also help you find employee benefits through SimplyInsured in 48 states and workers’ compensation insurance through NEXT (formerly AP Intego).

QuickBooks Payroll
Square Payroll
Starting base price
Starting per-payee fee
W-2 and 1099 form filing
Time-tracking integration
QuickBooks Time
Square Shifts
Primary accounting integration
QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Online, Xero
Auto payroll feature
Mobile payroll app for employers
Workers’ compensation administration
Yes (with two plans only)
Free multi-state tax filing
Learn more

Data accurate and up to date as of 6/26/2023.

QuickBooks Payroll vs. Square Payroll: Pricing

QuickBooks Online Payroll pricing

QuickBooks logo
Image: QuickBooks

Starting price: $45 per month + $5 per employee per month

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll is a cloud-based payroll processing service from Intuit, one of the top financial software services in the U.S. and across the globe.

QuickBooks Payroll has three payroll plans. While all three plans share the same full-service payroll features, they come with different levels of customer support and integrations:

  • QuickBooks Payroll Core starts at $45 per month plus $5 per employee per month.
  • QuickBooks Payroll Premium starts at $75 per month plus $8 per employee per month.
  • QuickBooks Payroll Elite costs $125 per month plus $10 per employee per month.

QuickBooks Online Payroll also charges some additional fees:

  • Multi-state payroll tax filing costs $12 per state per month for the Core and Premium plans.
  • Workers’ compensation administration costs an extra $5 per month for the Core plan only.
  • Integrating your employee benefits and workers’ compensation insurance with your payroll plan costs an additional unspecified monthly fee.
  • Direct deposit for contractors costs an additional fee of $5 per month.

If you’re new to QuickBooks Online Payroll, you can choose to get 50% off your payroll plan’s base price for your first three months of service, or you can sign up for a 30-day free trial. Note that the free trial requires you to enter your credit card to sign up, and once the trial expires, you’ll be charged the monthly fee automatically unless you cancel in advance.

Square Payroll pricing

Square logo
Image: Square Payroll

Starting price (contractor plan): $0 per month + $6 per contractor per month

Square Payroll is an online payroll service that belongs to the Square suite of products, which also includes Square Point of Sale, the Cash App and Square Teams. Square Payroll starts at $6 per person paid per month, which makes it one of the most affordable payroll options for small-business owners who only pay contractors.

Square Payroll has two plans, both with the same full-service payroll features:

  • Square’s contractor payroll plan costs $6 per contractor paid.
  • Square’s employee and contractor payroll plan costs $35 plus $6 per contractor paid.

While Square Payroll doesn’t advertise a free trial, it doesn’t cost anything to set up an account or enter your employees’ pay information. You won’t be charged until you run payroll for the first time.

QuickBooks Online Payroll vs. Square Payroll: Average monthly costs

Even though Square Payroll’s starting monthly price is $5 cheaper than QuickBooks Payroll’s, its higher per-payee price means QuickBooks Payroll costs less per month for employers with 11 or more workers.

Note that the cost comparison table below doesn’t account for QuickBooks Online Payroll’s free trial or 50% off discount, nor does it consider any of QuickBooks’ extra fees (including those for direct deposit and benefits administration).

1 payee 5 payees 10 payees 25 payees 50 payees
QuickBooks Payroll Core $50/mo. $70/mo. $95/mo. $170/mo. $295/mo.
Square Payroll Employees & Contractors $41/mo. $65/mo. $95/mo. $185/mo. $335/mo.
Square Payroll Contractors $6/mo. $30/mo. $60/mo. $150/mo. $300/mo.

Data accurate and up to date as of 6/26/2023.

QuickBooks Payroll vs. Square Payroll: Feature comparison

Full-service payroll and payroll tax administration

Winner: Square Payroll

If processing payroll as quickly and painlessly as possible is your goal, you can’t go wrong with either QuickBooks Online Payroll or Square Payroll. Both payroll companies calculate paychecks, deduct payroll taxes and other withholding amounts, remit taxes to the IRS and pay your employees through direct deposit.

In contrast to top payroll brands like Paychex Flex, both QuickBooks Payroll and Square Payroll include end-of-year 1099 tax form preparation and filing at no additional cost. (QuickBooks charges a typical industry-standard fee if you want the company to print and mail Form 1099 on your behalf, but contractors can access the form online at no cost.)

However, Square has a slight edge over QuickBooks in terms of extra fees and flexibility.

For instance, Square Payroll includes multi-state payroll free with both plans while QuickBooks Payroll charges a monthly fee of $12 per additional state. QuickBooks charges an extra monthly fee for business owners to pay contractors through direct deposit. (Employee direct deposit is included free.)

At the same time, it’s worth noting that Square Payroll cannot pay local taxes — it offers only state and federal tax filing. QuickBooks Payroll includes local tax filing with its two higher-tier plans, but the feature isn’t offered with QuickBooks Payroll Core.

Employee benefits administration

Winner: Tie

Both QuickBooks Online Payroll and Square Payroll offer optional health insurance benefits through SimplyInsured. Additionally, both payroll providers let you integrate health benefits with payroll, which means the software makes automatic insurance premium deductions from employee paychecks (though QuickBooks Payroll charges an extra fee for integration).

SimplyInsured is available in every state except Hawaii, Vermont and Washington, D.C. If you have employees in those states and would prefer to find health insurance through your payroll provider, OnPay, ADP and Paychex offer benefits in all 50 states.

Time-tracking tools

Winner: Square Payroll

While Intuit’s accounting software program, QuickBooks Online, integrates with more than 700 third-party apps (including payroll programs like ADP), Intuit QuickBooks Payroll integrates with relatively few products besides QuickBooks Time and QuickBooks Online.

Worse, QuickBooks Payroll Core doesn’t include free QuickBooks Time access or integration. QuickBooks Core users with hourly employees will have to purchase a separate QuickBooks Time subscription, find a third-party workaround to integrate both services or enter employees’ hours by hand.

With Square, on the other hand, payroll software users get free access to Square’s time-tracking software, Square Shifts. You can choose to upgrade to Square Shifts Plus for more labor management features, but the free version of Square Shifts that’s available to payroll users includes shift scheduling, direct tip tracking, time cards, overtime and break tracking and more.


Winner: QuickBooks Payroll

Square Payroll excels at simplicity. What you see with each plan is exactly what you get, which makes Square ideal for first-time employers, employers with one or two workers and business owners who pay employees from their mobile phones.

But if you want multiple plan options, QuickBooks Online Payroll is the clear choice over Square. While it doesn’t have a cheap contractors-only option, QuickBooks Payroll’s three plans ensure employers can access more customer support and payroll features as their teams grow without having to switch payroll providers.

Direct deposit

Winner: QuickBooks Payroll

Even though QuickBooks Payroll charges extra for contractor direct deposit, its next-day (for Payroll Core) and same-day (for Payroll Premium and Elite) direct deposit feature handily beats out Square Payroll’s standard four-day direct deposit.

However, Square Payroll has an on-demand pay option for employees in the form of the Cash App, meaning employees can secure direct access to their funds on their own schedules. QuickBooks Payroll supports direct deposit and paper check payment options, but it lacks an on-demand payment tool.

QuickBooks Payroll pros and cons

QuickBooks Payroll pros

  • Seamless integration with QuickBooks Online.
  • Below-average per-payee price lowers costs.
  • Built-in time tracking (not available with cheapest plan).
  • Some HR features with higher-tier plans, including HR support center access.
  • Next-day or same-day direct deposit, depending on plan.

QuickBooks Payroll cons

  • No free workers’ compensation administration with cheapest plan.
  • Additional fees for benefits administration and direct deposit.
  • Less fully featured than most competitors, notably Gusto.
  • Limited human resource tools.

Square Payroll pros and cons

Square Payroll pros

  • Simple syncing with Square Point of Sale, Square’s Cash App and Square Shifts.
  • Below-average base price for employee payroll plan.
  • No base price for contractor payroll plan.
  • Optional healthcare benefits and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Excellent apps for on-the-go payroll processing.

Square Payroll cons

  • Single-plan payroll software may be too simplistic for some businesses.
  • Limited reports, especially compared to QuickBooks Payroll and Paychex Flex.
  • Three accounting integrations only (QuickBooks Online, Zoho Books and Xero).
  • No hiring tools.

Our methodology

To compare Square Payroll and QuickBooks Payroll, we set up free accounts with both payroll providers so we could test their software for ourselves. We also reviewed each payroll company’s websites, including any available white papers, demos and product specs. We also considered reviews from users on third-party sites like Google Play, the App Store, the BBB and Consumer Affairs.

To generate our star ratings for each brand, we assessed how well each brand stacked up according to the following payroll criteria:

  • Pricing and plan data.
  • Core payroll features.
  • Ease of use.
  • Customer service.

We also took our expert’s experience with the software and professional opinion under consideration. Learn more about how we calculate our star ratings, including how we weighted each subcategory to calculate scores with our internal algorithm.

Should your business use QuickBooks Payroll or Square Payroll?

Both QuickBooks Payroll and Square Payroll are among the best payroll processing systems for small, midsize and some large businesses. The right one for you depends largely on your payroll needs and budget.

If you work mainly with independent contractors, already use Square Point of Sale or need payroll essentials only, Square Payroll could be a good fit for you. It bundles all the essential payroll features with basic benefits administration at a comparatively affordable price.

If your organization works with both contractors and W-2 employees, has complex payroll and accounting needs, or already uses QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Payroll is a solid — if pricier — payroll option than Square.

Didn’t find your ideal payroll software match with either QuickBooks Payroll or Square Payroll? Consider the following alternatives:

  • Papaya Global for international payroll.
  • Gusto for all-in-one payroll and basic HR software.
  • ADP for comprehensive workforce management.

We review these three brands and more in our Best Payroll Software piece.


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This post originally appeared on TechToday.