Gusto Payroll Review

by | Apr 17, 2021

Starting (and growing) a small business involves keeping lots of balls in the air at once. When you begin hiring employees, you must ensure that they get paid correctly (and on time). 

Depending on your business, you may offer benefits and/or have human resources tasks that also need attention.

Because you can’t be an expert in everything, it makes sense to hire a payroll processing provider to handle these functions. Moreover, if there is a company that can integrate other business programs on a budget, that is even better.

Over the past few years, Gusto has become well known as a competitive payroll services company. This cloud-based services provider has positioned itself to serve small businesses of all types. 

Let’s take a closer look at Gusto and you can decide if it is the right fit for your payroll needs.

Gusto Company Overview  

Gusto is relatively new to the payroll services industry. Stanford University graduate Joshua Reeves founded the company as ZenPayroll in 2012. 

To date, Gusto contained over 100,000 businesses in its customer base. The company processes billions of dollars of payroll every year. Gusto also handles employee benefits administration for businesses of all sizes.

Service Tiers  

Gusto offers four service tiers to accommodate differently structured companies’ needs. From startups to large corporations, there’s likely a payroll services plan that fits.

1.  Contractor   

Recently, Gusto established its Contractor Tier geared to businesses that hire 1099 contractors. Very small companies that haven’t yet hired employees may also find the Contractor Tier useful. This offering’s cost is $0 per month plus $6 monthly for each user.

  • No restrictions on number of payments
  • Form 1099 generation and filing
  • Self-service capabilities

2. Core   

Gusto’s Core Tier may appeal to single-office businesses with relatively simple payroll and human resources needs.  The Core Tier may also work for an “S” corporation with 100 or fewer employees. This tier has a $39 per month base price plus $6 monthly for each user.

  • New hire onboarding
  • Payroll administration (for W2 and 1099 workers)
  • Tax filing and remittance
  • Health insurance administration
  • Worker’s compensation insurance administration

3. Complete   

Companies that are expanding and hiring more employees may opt for Gusto’s Complete Tier. Businesses that want to increase their benefit offerings may also choose this service category. 

The Complete Tier includes all Core Tier offerings plus several new ones. Each company pays a $39 per month base price plus $12 monthly for each user. 

  • Customizable new hire onboarding tools
  • Holiday pay and time off requests
  • Employee directory creation
  • Customizable administrative permissions
  • Calendar syncing functions

4. Concierge   

Businesses with multi-state operations, or those with good-sized remote teams, may appreciate the comprehensive Concierge Tier. Companies with compliance issues may also select this option. 

This tier includes everything in the Complete Tier plus several additional services. Each business pays a $149 per month base price plus $12 monthly for each user.

  • Unlimited HR professional consultations  
  • HR templates and guides
  • Compliance assistance
  • Training on harassment prevention
  • Dedicated client support

Customized Plans  

Gusto invites its clients to add insurance and other benefits to any plan. Examples include additional savings and/or retirement programs that larger companies frequently offer. When smaller businesses can affordably provide these same perks, they’ll become more desirable employers.

Product Offerings  

Gusto administers standard benefits such as medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance. Gusto also offers traditional retirement plan choices. 

Additionally, this innovative payroll services company provides options for commuter benefits, fitness services and charity matching.

Payroll Processing Services   

Gathering accurate payroll information can be a time-consuming effort, and ongoing interruptions introduce the possibility of errors. 

Fortunately, Gusto has greatly simplified the process, which requires little more than an initial round of data entry.

Preparing a payroll run requires a few clicks to sync employees’ hours and review the results. Finally, we’ll submit the run for processing.

Hiring and Onboarding Services   

Several time-saving tools smoothly integrate each new employee into the company. These useful services can also be used to onboard remote workers.

Employee Health Insurance  

Offering health insurance can help to attract qualified applicants in a competitive hiring environment. However, health insurance coverage can be expensive and time consuming to maintain.

Gusto’s insurance brokers provide access to literally thousands of potential plans. As employers, our expenses are limited to the premiums, as there are no administrative fees.

However, Gusto’s brokers only cover about half of the United States. Gusto is undergoing efforts to make coverage available in additional states. Gusto’s Frequently Asked Questions Page lists states in which health coverage is currently available.

Employee Financial Benefits  

Offering employee financial benefits can help to attract new hires and retain current employees. And, it can bring a sense of security to an often-chaotic financial landscape.

401k Plans  

Employers who want to offer an employee retirement plan may appreciate Guideline’s 401k investment vehicle. Employees can have plan contributions taken out of their taxable income via payroll deductions. There is a plan setup cost of $500, and it requires a $40 monthly minimum. Each participant makes an $8 monthly contribution to the plan.

Flexible Spending Accounts  

At any time, employees may be faced with unplanned expenses such as high medical bills. Like a savings account, Gusto’s flexible spending account can provide a financial cushion. Flexible spending account funds are deducted from pre-tax income, enabling employees to save money on taxes.

529 College Savings Plan  

A 529 college savings plan is a desirable benefit, as it helps employees to save for their children’s college expenses. Gusto partners with Gradvisor for this plan, and automatic payroll deductions ensure that the plan is funded. To enroll, there’s an $18 monthly minimum along with a $6 monthly fee for each plan participant.

Worker’s Compensation Insurance  

Worker’s compensation insurance represents an extra expense. However, it does protect the company if there’s an on-the-job accident.

For small businesses on a budget, Gusto offers several worker’s compensation insurance plans. AP Intego administers the plans in sync with the company’s payroll cycle. The pay-as-you-go structure means we’ll pay only the premiums, as there are no extra fees.

Online Business Tools  

Gusto offers other incentives to join such as comparison tools, tax calculator and more. Here’s a little more in depth.

Payroll Tax Calculator  

This convenient tool accurately calculates employees’ payroll taxes. The software also determines the correct Social Security and Medicare contributions.

California Payroll Tax Calculator 

This calculator is geared to businesses with California-based employees. The software will help to determine salaried and hourly employees’ correct take-home pay.

Wage Comparison Tool  

This software displays an occupation’s prevailing pay rate within each state and for the entire country. Businesses can use the data to determine how their employees’ wages compare to these figures.

Employee Onboarding Checklist  

This useful tool outlines the necessary preparation for adding a new employee to the company. Gusto’s well-coordinated guide details the information needed from the worker. 

The guide also addresses required employer functions such as reference and background checks along with EEOC (Equal Employee Opportunity Commission) compliance. 

Cash Burn Rate Calculator  

Because many small businesses operate on super-lean budgets, it’s useful to know the speed at which the money is going out the door. 

Gusto offers a convenient Microsoft Excel template that determines how fast a business is depleting its financial resources.

Business Software Integrations  

Running any type of business will be easier if all the operating programs are compatible. Fortunately, Gusto’s software meshes well with commonly used accounting, banking and expense management packages. 

The Gusto program also works well with certain point-of-sale, practice management and time tracking software.

Accounting Software  

  • Aplos  
  • Freshbooks  
  • Quickbooks and Quickbooks Online  
  • Xero  

Banking Software  

  • CapitalOne Spark Business  

Expense Management Software  

  • Expensify  
  • Receipt Bank  

Point of Sale (POS) Software  

  • Clover  

Practice Management Software  

  • Kinderlime  
  • Trainual  
  • Veryfi  

Time Tracking Software  

  • Boomer  
  • Deputy  
  • eBillity Time Tracker  
  • Homebase  
  • TSheets  
  • When I Work  
  • Ximbr  

Small Business Resources  

Coordinating payroll for different types of workers can be a challenge. And, as a business owner,  you may sometimes be reluctant to pay yourself, and may not be clear on how to do that. 

Gusto addresses all of these issues, along with payroll regulations for 10 states, in its easy-to-use Small Business Guides.

Payroll “How to” Guides  

  • Pay Yourself  
  • Manage 1099 Contractors  
  • Pay Remote Workers  

Guide to State Payroll Regulations  

  • California  
  • Florida  
  • Illinois  
  • Michigan  
  • New York  
  • North Carolina  
  • Ohio  
  • Pennsylvania  
  • Texas  
  • Washington  

Opening a Gusto Account  

When setting up the company’s payroll, total accuracy is important, as incorrect data will produce the wrong results. 

The good news is that Gusto can steer you through the process, providing helpful prompts along with demos and useful help files. And, phone, email and chat support are readily available.

Opening a New Business Account   

Gusto makes it easy to set up a brand-new business account. First, Gusto asks a few basic questions that will help to determine a startup business’ needs. Then, Gusto walks the new business owner through the account set-up process.

Switching from Another Provider   

Changing payroll services providers isn’t difficult. After opening a Gusto account, they will help you complete company and employee information (including payroll history). 

Transferring benefits administration management is also straightforward. 

Gusto experts can assist you in choosing a new benefits plan as well as other set up needs.

Competing Companies  

There are many payroll companies to choose from. Some are better than others. Ultimately, you have to find the right choice for your business.


This payroll services provider leads among market share, yet offers well-rounded payroll packages to companies with fewer than 50 employees. 

Four service tiers carry different features and pricing, but all plans offer ADP’s basic payroll processing functions. Payroll runs can be performed via phone, Internet or the ADP mobile app.


Freshbooks serves small businesses with unique features. Top-notch employee interfaces and excellent user experiences make this payroll service an attractive option. This company has become well known and respected in the payroll industry.

Paychex Payroll  

This major cloud-based platform offers an affordable service tier for businesses with less than 50 employees. Each business owner also receives a personal account set-up consultation. However, companies must contact a sales associate for pricing.

QuickBooks Payroll  

This four-tier, cloud-based application streamlines the entire payroll process. It also integrates well with existing QuickBooks software, making it easy to manage all financial aspects of the business.

Square Payroll  

This powerful software program easily processes payments for salaried and hourly employees along with contractors. Square Payroll also handles one-time payments, multiple pay rates and overtime rates. The program also offers free tax filing within the app’s core service tier.


This affordable payroll services option focuses on getting workers paid, and doesn’t include add-ons or human resources functions. Pricing is considerably lower than most of its competitors, making it attractive to budget-conscious businesses.


This large benefits administration provider caters to small- and medium-sized businesses. Numerous human resources functions, a payroll add-on and a good user experience make this service worth consideration.

Is Gusto the Right Choice?  

Evaluating a vendor’s pros and cons provides an objective picture of what a specific company has to offer. By comparing these variables against our business priorities, it’s easier to see what’s right for your company’s growth.


  • Four Service Tiers  
  • Comprehensive Benefits  
  • 401k and 529 College Savings Plans  
  • Free Tools and Resources  


  • Health Insurance Limited to 24 States  
  • No 401k or 529 Provider Choices  
  • Many “Essential” Services are Add-Ons  
  • HR Pro Service Only on Highest-Priced Tier  


Gusto provides a great online payroll, benefits and human resources services to small businesses in all industries. 

Four service tiers are available, and customized plans can help you get what your business needs. 

Gusto is often compatible with other small business software platforms, taking the burden off using too many business tools.

Making the right choice for a business payroll platform is not easy. Hopefully our review has provided a better insight to see if Gusto is the right choice for your business.