Paychex, a leader in the human resources services segment for 46 years, offers an entry-level payroll and benefits administration package that may be slightly more expensive than other options, but is well worth the price. With a single login, Flex users can have recruiting and applicant tracking, onboarding, benefits administration, time and attendance, payroll, retirement benefits, and more at their fingertips, all key components of a complete HR solution. But multi-tiered plans mean that if payroll is the only service the customer needs, that's an option as well.

When you're running a business, payroll is a critical function. There's nothing guaranteed to upset employees more than late paychecks, while mistakes in withholding could lead to trouble with the IRS. Consequently, you can't afford glitches and support functions are a vital concern. While most providers have good support features with live telephone service Monday through Friday, as well as live chat and email assistance, Paychex goes above and beyond. The company offers live phone support 24/7 so you're never left out in the cold. Moreover, at the beginning of the relationship, Paychex assigns each client an implementation specialist to guide them through the set-up process. Once installation is complete, they assign a payroll specialist who will serve as the primary point of contact.

This level of personal support may be especially helpful in 2018 with new tax laws going into effect. In 2018, the IRS released new withholding guidance for employers that matches new rules around deductions and taxes. This corresponds with changes to tax laws passed by Congress at the end of 2017. Most of your employees will see a difference in their taxes and deductions when analyzing their paychecks in 2018. In fact, the IRS released guidance at the beginning of the year to help employers with withholding for their employees' paychecks. With an increase in the standard deduction, shifts in tax rates and the elimination of some exemptions, employers will need to update their payroll software in order to get employee withholding right. Software such as Paychex, with their 24/7 phone support and implementation specialist, can make the shift to these new tax guidelines easier for small business owners. It can also help the business owner; if your taxes are more complex than your employees' due to itemized deductions or other scenarios then you may find yourself in need of software and support such as that offered by Paychex. Paychex also has a tax reform resource center with specific information on the changes taking effect in 2018.

Flex follows the same process as most payroll services in running payroll. They send advance notice of the due date, either through the dashboard or by email, then the user completes a grid with fields for each employee's hours worked, vacation or sick days taken, and any bonuses due. While all processors offer check or direct deposit options, Paychex can put some or all of a worker's pay on a prepaid Mastercard. Moreover, Flex offers more opportunities for customization, allowing users to define as many custom fields as desired.

As an added bonus, Flex gives you the option to run specific reports after each payroll run, so you can monitor total payouts in specific categories. The system also submits federal, state and local taxes automatically after the user has defined the schedule. Additionally, employees can view their pay stubs, check vacation days remaining, or request time off from either their desktop computers or a mobile app for iOS or Android. What's more, the system has an attractive and inviting user interface that's easy to navigate.

For clients interested in benefits administration, Flex offers basic health plan creation and management for medical, dental and vision, plus flexible spending accounts (FSAs). The system also handles long- and short-term disability. Finally, the company offers a group health insurance service, Paychex Insurance Agency, to help clients get the best group rates from insurance carriers.

Overall, Paychex Flex is one of the strongest, if not THE strongest, name in online payroll services. Flex is a highly robust and scalable solution with extensive functionality, and well worth the slightly higher price of $60 per processing run.

This article was updated March 5, 2018.

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