Intuit has a justly deserved reputation for knowing how to deliver online business services with excellent interfaces and solid sets of features. Its online payroll service is a capable and reliable solution, as you’d expect. What you might not expect is that, although Intuit Enhanced Payroll is a perfectly good service, it trails Editors’ Choice Gusto in both simplicity and design, as well in one crucial area: payroll taxes. It doesn’t pay them
Pricing and Plans
Intuit offers three versions of its online application. At the Basic level ($25 per month plus $2 per employee per month), you can pay W-2 and 1099 workers via check or direct deposit. The site calculates payroll taxes, but you have to get the forms and file them yourself. We reviewed the Enhanced version ($39 per month, plus $2 per employee per month), which includes completed tax forms and W-2s that you can e-file. If you want your payroll taxes filed for you, you have to go with Full Service ($99 per month, plus $2 per employee). Intuit Online Payroll—like the competition here—can be used as a standalone application or integrated with Quickbooks and QuickBooks Online. That’s useful, but competitors offer more integrations.
A thorough wizard walks you through the entire setup process. It’s one of the best among competitors we’ve reviewed, though it doesn’t offer the live setup help that many competitors do. As you enter information about each employee, you’re also defining things like pay schedule, pay types (there’s a generous assortment of choices), and deductions (both employee and company contributions). As you build a profile for each employee, a sample paycheck with projected amounts
Next, you answer a series of questions about your payroll tax obligations (deposit schedule, EIN, tax form). Based on your answers, the site enters the federal and state tax rates and asks for your identification numbers. If you’ve been using another method to pay employees, you’ll need to enter historical information for them, which is an especially onerous job. Intuit lets you proceed even if you’re missing some information, which is unusual. Competitors like Square Payroll don’t let you move on until you complete each step. Intuit does, however, remind you of what needs to be done later on your to-do list.
Intuit has always done wizards well, and its payroll service is no exception. Setup is straightforward and simple, and complex issues are supported by hyperlinks and buttons that take you to explanatory content or open help windows. Overall, Intuit’s setup procedures are capable and thorough, as they have been for several years. In fact, the service hasn’t changed much at all in the years since it won an Editors’ Choice in 2012. The problem is that sites like OnPay and Patriot Software have come a long way in that same period, and newcomers like Gusto are now a few steps steps ahead.
An Aging Interface
One of the clearest examples of Intuit’s lack of updates is its design. Although it’s undergone some cosmetic changes since I last reviewed it in late 2015, Intuit Enhanced Payroll now looks like it’s a design step behind Gusto in particular. There are multiple ways to do the same thing, and lots of lists of old-school underlined hyperlinks, which make parts of the user interface look crowded and dates. Other pages do look more newer, but that just makes for a user interface that looks and feels inconsistent.
The site is divided into several logical task groupings, accessible by clicking on tabs. The first of these,
Other navigation tabs include Payday, Taxes & Forms, and Employees. Some of these pages have small sub-tabs at the top that duplicate the sections headings already on the page, which seems unnecessary—sloppy even. That said, the site’s standard navigation tools—links, drop-down lists, blank fields that require data entry, and the occasional button—work fine. Intuit Enhanced
At this point, you have provided enough information to run a payroll, but you may still have some incomplete tasks. You can return to the setup pages that you already completed—and more—by clicking the Setup tab at the top of the screen. You click on the Electronic Services tab, then Add/Edit Electronic Services to follow the wizard through the steps required for e-filing, such as supplying bank account information, your principal officer’s name, and your EIN.
The process itself is quite simple, and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. First, you have to select what type of pay run you’re initiating: Regular Checks, Bonus Checks, Commission Checks, or Fringe Adjustment. All the employees that you’ve created records for should be listed, and the Pay Period and Pay Date should be correct.
If you’re doing a regular run, you enter the hours worked according to type (regular, overtime, or vacation, for example). Click the Check Details button to preview the run and make any necessary changes. If everything looks good, you click Create to open the Create Paychecks screen, then Go to Approve. The Approve Paychecks page only displays Hours, Total Pay, Net Pay, and Total Taxes for each employee, but if you click on the View/Edit link, you can see everything broken out like it would be on a paystub. All the competition we’ve reviewed offers the latter type of view.
Competitors do a better job of highlighting exactly what’s coming out of your bank account, however, and for what purpose. Intuit Online Payroll just displays a box with an arrow pointing at the Net Pay total, along with a warning to make sure you have enough in your bank account to pay the checks and direct deposits (it’s only necessary to connect a company bank account if you’re going to do direct deposit, since Intuit Enhanced Payroll doesn’t submit payroll taxes), OnPay, for example, displays amounts for taxes, paychecks, and a total, along with the dates the money will be taken out.
You can click the approve button here to authorize the paychecks, but you’ll have to go back to the beginning and repeat the process if you want to create a different kind of check, for bonuses or commissions, for example. Gusto and SurePayroll let you do these extra runs at the same time as the main payroll.
Some of Intuit Enhanced Payroll’s competitors, like OnPay, function more like payroll services than do-it-yourself applications. You have to supply them with the number of hours worked, and so on, but they take over the payment of your payroll taxes and submission of forms, so you never have to worry about missing a deadline. You just have to make sure that you have enough money in your account to cover both the pay and taxes.
Intuit Enhanced Payroll isn’t there yet. Intuit does offer a
Payroll tax information is centralized under the Taxes & Forms tab. Here you can authorize payments and file forms, view your Tax Liability Report and tax payments you’ve made, and you can also enter your prior tax history if you’re switching from another method of paying your staff. Intuit Enhanced Payroll provides all of the tools you need to pay taxes, as well as supporting documentation and forms, but it’s an extra task that isn’t necessary if you use a competing site.
Reports, Remote Access
Intuit Enhanced Payroll does two things well that Intuit generally excels at: reports and mobile apps. It offers more reports than Gusto—on par with Sage Payroll Essentials Plus—and the iPhone version is great, letting you work with employees, taxes, forms, and historical data. You can also do a pay run right from your device. Gusto and Patriot Software, for example, do not offer separate apps. Rather, they use responsive design to develop the site, so you can see it on any browser on any device.
A Slightly Faded Star
Intuit Enhanced Payroll came to the party late and shone brightly for a time, but it hasn’t kept up with its competitors. It’s still a very good service—it’s comprehensive and thorough and offers good tools and a good collection of reports. The lack of substantial updates in the past two years hurts its score, however; no one wants to get stuck using a service that doesn’t get any love from its maker, and changing service is a nontrivial task. Its most glaring deficit is its handling of taxes. Everyone else reviewed here pays them automatically; Intuit does not, except at its