ZenPayroll Lives Up To Their Name

by Ryan Guina

At the end of last year, I was contacted by my state tax office. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like receiving letters from any tax office, unless it has to do with a refund! Unfortunately, this letter wasn’t about a refund. It seems the state wanted to be paid more frequently.

For the last few years, I had been running quarterly payroll. This is a common way for small businesses and sole proprietors to pay themselves. It takes less book keeping and generally costs less money than running monthly payroll. For some reason, my state decided they wanted me to start paying myself (read: them) monthly.

ZenPayroll LogoThat presented a problem for me, as it would increase my payroll expenses. I had been using PayChex since I started paying myself a salary several years ago. I didn’t have any problems using PayChex. But after contacting them about moving to monthly payroll, I realized my payroll expenses would increase fairly substantially. So I did what most entrepreneurs would do – I looked for alternatives. I found several nice options, but decided to go with ZenPayroll. 3 months in, I’m very pleased with the move. Not only do I save a lot of money (more than 50% per year), but the process is even easier than it was with PayChex (which was already easy).

What they offer: 

ZenPayroll offers most features required to track your payroll, including profiles for salaried employees, hourly workers and contractors, vacation time & sick days, tracking pre-tax payments and deductions (401k and other retirement contributions, HSA accounts, health insurance, etc.), reimbursements, and more.

They aren’t a full-service benefits company, however. They can track and process payments for your retirement plans and health insurance (as far as payroll and taxes go), but they don’t actually offer those services in-house like some of the larger companies that specialize in payroll and benefits. Check out their FAQ section for more info on what they do and don’t offer.

Set up Process:

Don’t let the “15 minute” setup claim fool you. It will take you longer than 15 minutes to set up your payroll, even if you are experienced and have all your documentation in front of you. The process should take about 30 minutes to set up a profile for the first person, depending on how well-versed you are with payroll forms, whether you have all your information handy, etc. It takes a little less time to set up additional employees, and there is a cool feature which allows individuals to set up their own profile (important for security, since you can set up direct deposit through ZenPayroll, which is how I set up my payroll). They allow each user to have their own profile within the company profile, so each user has access to his or her records, can change direct deposit information, etc. They also offer bank-level security, so your data is secure and encrypted. Need more security? They offer two-level authentication so no one can get in if your password is compromised.

Everything is Automated

Once you get your system set up, you receive an email right before your payroll is due. Simply log in, verify everything is correct, click a button or two or three, and payroll is done. It’s that easy. From there, ZenPayroll deducts the payroll funds from your checking or savings account, direct deposits the payroll into your employee’s bank account, and sends the taxes to the appropriate places (state, federal, unemployment, and anything else you have designated). The first quarter just ended and ZenPayroll automatically filed the 941 forms with the IRS, and the Unemployment Insurance forms with my state. They do this each quarter, and kick out the W-2s at the end of the year. W-2s are included in the pricing, which is something many other payroll providers charge extra for.

Running Your Payroll

Running payroll is as simple as it gets. I receive an email once a month reminding me that payroll needs to be run. I log in to my ZenPayroll account, click the “Run Payroll” button, and verify nothing has changed. Click the verify button, and it’s done. Then I download the pay stubs. The entire process takes 3-5 minutes. And again, all the ancillary paperwork and taxes are taken care of for me.

Pricing – Transparent & Easy to Understand

The pricing is what intrigued me the most, as it was less expensive than almost any other payroll provider I could find, and less than half the price of many payroll providers. There pricing is very basic, as you can see:

ZenPayroll Pricing

ZenPayroll’s pricing structure is easy to use and understand.

This is a simple and easy to use pricing structure, and one that appeal to many small businesses. To put this in perspective, I was paying $130 every quarter with PayChex, which comes out to $520 per year. But I also had to pay a quarterly charge of $10 to have my payroll stubs mailed to me, and an annual $90 fee for my W-2 forms to be mailed to me. I spent around $640 last year on my payroll (and my payroll expenses were set to increase this year with the transition from quarterly to monthly!). My business has two employees, so my payroll comes out to $33 per month for 12 months, or $396, a savings of $244 over what I paid last year (and even more than it would have been, since I had to move to a monthly payroll, which costs more than quarterly payroll).

*The savings was actually even greater, because ZenPayroll is offering 2 months free at the time of this writing, saving me over $300 compared to what I spent last year.

Downsides to ZenPayroll

ZenPayroll is still in the startup phase. I was a little hesitant to go with a startup at first, primarily because you never know how long startups will be around. But I saw that ZenPayroll had recently received a large round of funding, and I also realized this space is ripe for disruption. There are a few major players that charge a lot of money for basic payroll services. This is fine for large corporations that need a service that will run payroll and package it with 401k plans, health insurance, HR services, and other benefits management.

But there are many small businesses like mine that don’t need those added services. Why pay for all the overhead when I only need to run payroll for myself and my wife? I think there is a large enough market to support them as they continue to grow.

So how is this a downside? Well, ZenPayroll isn’t everywhere yet. They currently only offer services in 29 states (with more on the way). They started with the big ones: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and Washington, etc., and will be adding others as they go (the goal is to have most of the US by the end of 2014, so check back if your state isn’t covered yet). This seems smart to me. Start with the states with the largest populations of small businesses, systematize it, and branch out from there.

They also aren’t a full-service HR benefits provider like some of the other payroll providers. This is a benefit for me, because I can receive excellent payroll service without having to worry about paying additional overhead for services I don’t need and won’t use. But this could be a different story for other small businesses.

Are they a good fit for you?

That depends on the size of your business, what services you need, how much you are currently paying, and whether they are currently available in your state. For me, it was a great move. I get to save a few hundred dollars on payroll each year, and the process is simple, and worry-free. I’m happy with the move.

If you have a small business, I encourage you to check out some alternatives to your current payroll provider. You may be able to save a lot of money in the long run!

Published or updated November 21, 2014.
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