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Set up payroll without a subscription

Learn how to set up payroll in QuickBooks Desktop even without a subscription.

You can set up payroll in QuickBooks Desktop even if you choose not to subscribe to any Intuit Payroll service. Setting up QuickBooks payroll without a subscription (manual payroll) can easily be done within the program.

We show you how.

Note: If you already have an active payroll subscription, setting up manual payroll will not cancel it. You need to  contact us to cancel your payroll service.

Set up manual (without subscription) payroll in QuickBooks Desktop

For QuickBooks Desktop 2018 R8 and later: Make sure your computer is not connected to the internet or is offline before proceeding with the following steps.

  1. Make sure that your preferences are set up for payroll.
    1. From the Edit menu, select Preferences.
    2. On the left pane, choose Payroll & Employees, then go to the Company Preferences tab.
    3. In the QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Features section, select the Full Payroll radio button.
    4. Select Ok.
  2. From the Help menu, choose QuickBooks Help (or press F1 on your keyboard).
  3. In the Help Search field, type manual payroll, then press Enter.
  4. Select the topic Calculate payroll manually (without a subscription to QuickBooks Payroll).
  5. Under the Set your company file to use the manual payroll calculations setting, select the manual payroll calculations link.
  6. Select the Set my company file to use manual calculations link. (Note: When your company file is set up for a manual payroll computation, QuickBooks inserts a zero amount for each payroll item associated with a tax.)
  7. Close and reopen QuickBooks Desktop.

Things to know

  • If you select the Set my company file to use manual calculations link accidentally and want to reinstate payroll tax calculations in your company file, you must sign up for QuickBooks Desktop Payroll.
  • If your file is hosted by an Intuit-authorized hosting company, you need to contact your hosting provider to help you turn on manual payroll. Your file may need to be copied locally to your computer before manual payroll can then be turned on using the steps above. Afterwards, the file will be sent back to your hosting provider.