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INTUIT QuickBooks vs GUSTO Payroll: Which Is Better for Small Businesses?

Comparing Intuit QuickBooks and Gusto payroll software:

Payroll and accounting are crucial aspects of running a small business. Choosing the right software can save you time and headaches when it comes to paying employees, filing taxes, and keeping your books in order. Two popular options for small business owners are Intuit QuickBooks and Gusto payroll. But which one is better suited for your company? Here’s an in-depth comparison of Intuit QuickBooks vs Gusto payroll.

Overview of Intuit QuickBooks

Intuit QuickBooks is the leading accounting software for small businesses. It lets you track income and expenses, create invoices, manage vendor payments, generate financial statements, and perform many other accounting tasks.

QuickBooks also offers a full-featured payroll module. With it, you can run payroll, calculate taxes, generate forms like W-2s and 1099s, make direct deposits, and fulfill other payroll needs. Key features include:

– Easy payroll setup: QuickBooks walks you through setting up payroll step-by-step. You can import employee info from Excel, QuickBooks contacts, or other accounting systems.

– Payroll tax calculations: QuickBooks payroll handles all federal and state income tax withholdings for you. It stays up-to-date on the latest tax rates and deduction amounts.

– Direct deposit: Employees can get their pay deposited directly into their bank accounts. QuickBooks supports splitting payments across multiple accounts.

– Payroll forms: At year end, QuickBooks can generate and e-file all necessary payroll forms like W-2s, 940s, 941s, and 1099s.

– Time tracking: Employees can use QuickBooks Time Tracker app to record hours worked. Hours integrate seamlessly into payroll.

– Same-day direct deposit: If you need to pay someone ASAP, you can utilize QuickBooks Same-Day Direct Deposit (for a fee).

– Contractor payments: QuickBooks lets you generate and print 1099-MISC forms for independent contractors.

– Payroll reports: Review over 25 built-in payroll reports on wages, taxes, deductions, and more.

Overview of Gusto Payroll

Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll) is an online payroll and benefits platform designed for small businesses. It aims to make payroll, taxes, and benefits easy and stress-free. Here are some of Gusto’s key features:

– Easy setup: You can get started in minutes with Gusto. All you need is basic company and employee info. Gusto guides you through each step.

– Payroll processing: Gusto automatically calculates paycheck amounts, federal/state/local tax withholdings, deductions, and direct deposits.

– Cloud-based: Being cloud-based, Gusto lets you access payroll info anywhere, anytime. There’s nothing to install.

– Contractor payments: Gusto enables you to pay contractors and generate 1099 forms.

– Benefits administration: Gusto works with top insurance carriers to provide health insurance, workers comp, 401(k) plans, and other benefits.

– Time tracking: Employees can track hours worked using Gusto’s web-based time clock or mobile app. Hours sync to payroll.

– Payroll taxes: Gusto files and pays your local/state/federal payroll taxes, so you don’t have to worry about it.

– Payroll reports: ReviewGranular reports provide insights into payroll costs, taxes, deductions, hours worked, and more.

HR support: Gusto has a team of certified HR pros available to assist with compliance, hiring, onboarding, terminations, and more.

Now that we’ve looked at a quick overview of Intuit QuickBooks and Gusto, let’s dive into a detailed comparison across some key factors.

Pricing and Plans

Both Intuit QuickBooks and Gusto offer multiple pricing tiers for small business payroll services. Here’s an overview:

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll Pricing

– Basic Payroll: $45/month base + $4/employee/month
– Enhanced Payroll: $75/month base + $8/employee/month
– Premium Payroll: $125/month base + $10/employee/month

Gusto Payroll Pricing

– Core: $39/month base + $6/person/month
– Complete: $39/month base + $12/person/month
– Concierge: $149/month base + $12/person/month

The base fee covers access to the platform and features. The per-employee fee covers payroll processing for each person.

Both offer discounts if you pay annually rather than monthly. Gusto charges slightly less per person overall, but QuickBooks has more tiers to fit different budgets and needs. For very small teams, Gusto may cost less. With larger payrolls, QuickBooks Premium works out more affordable.

Ease of Use

QuickBooks and Gusto both aim to provide an easy, user-friendly payroll experience. Here’s how they compare when it comes to ease-of-use:


The QuickBooks payroll setup wizard makes it simple to get started. It guides you through each step of setting up tax profiles, employee payroll info, pay schedules, benefits and deductions. Ongoing payroll tasks are menu-driven, with clear labels and instructions. The UI is clean and uncluttered. It may take some learning to get familiar with where everything is located, but the process is straightforward.


Like QuickBooks, Gusto has an intuitive  step-by-step payroll setup process. The dashboard organizes all your payroll tasks in a simple, clean interface. Key info is displayed upfront while in-depth reporting remains just a click away. The visual style focuses on simplicity. For most tasks, Gusto payroll software is extremely easy to use even for total beginners.

For the most part, QuickBooks and Gusto are very comparable when it comes to usability. They both cater well to users without an accounting background. Gusto has a slight edge when it comes to simplicity and user experience polish. But QuickBooks gives you more control and customization options for handling nuanced payroll needs.

Payroll Features and Functionality

Let’s look at some of the key features of QuickBooks vs Gusto when it comes to managing payroll:

Payroll Processing

– QuickBooks automatically calculates payroll including wages, deductions, withholdings, direct deposits and net pay. You can initiate payroll with a couple clicks.

– Gusto also automates payroll calculations. You just enter hours worked and it handles everything else. Very simple and fast.

Tax Filing

– QuickBooks Payroll files and deposits payroll taxes on your behalf, including 940s, 941s, state taxes and new hire paperwork.

– Gusto completely automates payroll tax payments and filings at federal, state and local levels. Super handy.

Time Tracking

– QuickBooks Time Tracker app connects to its payroll system. Employees can track hours, overtime, and breaks.

– Gusto also offers excellent time tracking via web, mobile app, or integration with 3rd-party time clocks.

Direct Deposit

– QuickBooks supports direct deposit splits into multiple bank accounts. You can also offer same-day direct deposit.

– Gusto also lets you split direct deposits across accounts. Employees can set it up themselves via self service.

Payroll Reports

– QuickBooks offers over 25 built-in payroll reports on salaries, taxes, deductions, hours and more.

– Gusto provides a comprehensive payroll analysis dashboard plus dozens of reports you can customize.

Expenses & Reimbursements

– QuickBooks lets you enter employee expenses. It supports both credit card and cash reimbursements.

– Gusto also does expenses and reimbursements. Employees can submit cash outlays which sync automatically.

Employee Self Service

– QuickBooks offers a web portal for employees to view pay info, change deductions, sign up for direct deposit, etc.

– Gusto also provides extensive employee self service capabilities to update info, elect benefits, view pay stubs, and more.

Mobile Apps

– QuickBooks Payroll mobile app lets you view paystubs, make final payroll approval, etc.

– Gusto also has great mobile apps for managers and employees. Access payroll info and make approvals on-the-go.

Contractor Payments

– QuickBooks enables easy 1099 payments to contractors and automated 1099-MISC filing.

– Gusto also supports 1099 contractors. It deducts taxes where required and handles 1099-MISC filings.

Accounting Integration

– Since QuickBooks Payroll is built by Intuit, it integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks desktop and online accounting.

– Gusto focuses solely on payroll, so it lacks the deep accounting integration that QB offers. But you can sync Gusto data to QuickBooks.

International Employees

– QuickBooks Online Payroll supports paying employees in over 100 countries. Good for companies with international team members.

– Gusto only handles payroll for the U.S. right now. No support for employees based in other countries.

For core payroll functionality, QuickBooks and Gusto are pretty evenly matched. QuickBooks offers a bit more depth and customization for complex use cases. Gusto excels at making payroll dead simple for smaller companies.

Benefits Administration

Aside from payroll, both platforms offer additional features for managing employee benefits:

Benefits with QuickBooks

– QuickBooks partners with benefits providers to offer health insurance, dental, vision, 401(k) plans, HSAs, and more.

– It provides quoting and enrollment support. Once benefits plans are set up, QuickBooks can handle deductions and payments.

– However, it doesn’t provide deep HR-level benefits admin and compliance capabilities.

Benefits with Gusto

– Gusto fully integrates payroll with benefits,HR and compliance. This is a major advantage over QuickBooks.

– It offers exceptional support for choosing and administering health insurance, workers comp, retirement plans, HSAs, FSAs, commuter benefits and more.

– Deductions and payments for elected benefits are handled automatically via payroll integration.

– You get access to Gusto’s team of HR experts for compliance questions.

Clearly, Gusto excels when it comes to an all-in-one payroll and benefits administration platform. QuickBooks enables basic benefits deductions but lacks Gusto’s deep expertise and integration here.

Support and Training

Let’s explore the customer support and learning resources offered by each platform:

QuickBooks Support 

– Get 24/7 phone and chat support from Intuit’s large support team.

– Access extensive FAQ articles and community forums monitored by Intuit employees.

– QuickBooks payroll packages include set-up assistance from Intuit payroll experts.

– QuickBooks University provides free training webinars and certification programs.

Gusto Support

– Gusto offers 24/7 live chat plus email ticketing for support.

– Browse the Gusto payroll knowledge base with articles, tips and guides.

– Gusto provides one-on-one setup help and free personalized onboarding.

– Paid additional services include monthly consultation with a payroll specialist.

Both platforms provide solid customer support via multiple channels like phone, chat, email, and ticketing. Gusto offers more personalized hand-holding during onboarding and setup. But QuickBooks gives you access to a very wide range of training resources and a large peer community.

Pros and Cons

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the main advantages and disadvantages of using Intuit QuickBooks vs Gusto for small business payroll:



– Deep integration with QuickBooks Accounting
– Familiar Intuit brand and interface
– More features and customization options
– Range of price tiers to fit different needs

Potential Cons

– Can be more complex for payroll beginners
– Weaker benefits administration functionality
– Must purchase payroll separately from QuickBooks accounting



– Super simple intuitive interface
– Fully integrated payroll, benefits and HR
– Excellent support and onboarding assistance
– Very competitive pricing

Potential Cons

– Only supports U.S. payroll (no international)
– Less robust reporting than QuickBooks payroll
– Limited accounting integration compared to QuickBooks ecosystem

Which Is Better for Your Small Business?

For many small business owners, choosing between QuickBooks vs Gusto payroll will come down to a few key factors:

If your top priority is:

– Simplicity and ease-of-use → Gusto

– Deep integration with QuickBooks accounting → QuickBooks

– Full-service payroll and benefits → Gusto

– Customization and complex payroll needs → QuickBooks

– Supporting international employees → QuickBooks

– Affordable price for a very small team → Gusto

Of course, your specific needs may vary. Consider which features are must-haves for your company to decide if QuickBooks or Gusto is a better fit. Many businesses also get the best of both worlds by using Gusto for integrated payroll and benefits plus QuickBooks for broader accounting needs.

Intuit QuickBooks Payroll and Gusto offer excellent solutions for modern small business payroll and people management. Assess your priorities, implementation preferences, and budget to pick the platform that’s right for your unique needs. With either of these industry-leading tools, you can feel confident you’ll have an exceptional payroll experience.

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