By Stephanie Elsen
I work for a company that has been developing, distributing and supporting payroll software since 1979. As part of my job, I monitor the terms people use to search the internet for payroll programs and services. At the time of writing this, around 3,600 people per month* search for the term “free payroll software”. I find it simply amazing that businesses try to find a free tool for such an important function. The stakes are high! Getting employees paid` and tax payments done correctly (and on time) are important to employees and the government. The penalty for filing taxes late or incorrectly can be severe. Paying employees late or incorrectly, well you know that’s just not good. If you got a vehicle for free and didn’t want to pay any money to keep it up, fill it with gas, get the oil changed and maintenance done regularly, how long do you think it would last? Well, in fact without putting gas in the car, it would probably quit running by the end of the week. What would happen to a payroll program, if somebody created a payroll program, put it out there for FREE, for people to download, and didn’t support the program after the sale was made?
Computer operating systems would still change.
Microsoft® is always working on and improving their operating systems, and as time goes on, the older operating systems become obsolete (and un-supported) and the newer operating systems take their place. Software needs to keep up with the changes and upgrades to operating systems, or it will not continue to operate properly.
Tax requirements and tax tables would change.
More and more states are requiring business to file taxes electronically. When government entities make requirements like this, payroll processing systems must adapt, or their software won’t meet the needs of its users and will become obsolete. Similarly, payroll tax rates change by state, and those rates need to be used correctly by employers. How will you process payroll if the tax rate changes haven’t been updated?
Technology would advance.
W-2s used to be filled in with a typewriter and pay used to be limited to printed checks. Now W-2s can be done on your printer, and checks can be deposited directly into bank accounts. Technology is always changing. If your payroll system doesn’t remain current, you will not be able to take advantage of things that can help your processes and make employees happy.
You would need help.
There are many things to think about when it comes to payroll, and payroll processing. Some programs are easier to use than others, but as your business grows and adapt, you will have questions along the way. It is crucial to have a support team available to help you with questions on setting things up in the system so they work correctly, help troubleshooting a problem, or just help with using the system.
Updating, maintaining and supporting a payroll program takes time and resources. Those things cost money. So the next time you see the term ‘FREE payroll software’, it’s a good idea to ask the vendor how they keep the program up to date and how they support the software users, without charging them any money.
*Data comes from Google AdWords Keyword tool. Global monthly searches with exact match keyword.