Learn how to activate QuickBooks Desktop Payroll when purchased online or by phone.

Did you purchase QuickBooks Desktop Payroll online or by phone? If so you must activate the service in QuickBooks Desktop by entering the service key.

If you bought the Payroll service from a retail store, you must activate your payroll license online to get the service key. See Activating a payroll service purchased from a retail store.

Note Your Payroll service is a subscription that renews automatically, and your credit card or bank account is automatically debited at the start of each subscription term. You can cancel your payroll subscription any time using our Online Cancelation Tool.

Get your service key

After you purchase your Payroll service, we'll email your service key to you. You must enter the service key in QuickBooks Desktop to activate the service.

If you don't have your service key, use our Automated Service Key/Disk Delivery Key Tool. You must sign in using your Intuit Account login.

The automated tool may not work if:

  • Your company has multiple payroll orders in our system
  • You purchased your payroll product from a retail store
  • The business phone number you provided did not match our records

Enter the service key in QuickBooks Desktop

To enter the service key in QuickBooks Desktop:

  1. From the Employees menu, select Payroll, and select Enter Service Key.
  2. If you have an existing payroll subscription, you are prompted to specify if you want to add this file to your payroll subscription.
    Select Skip to go to the Service Key window, or Add File to add this file to an existing Payroll subscription.
  3. Select Add.
  4. Enter the service key, and select Next.
    A confirmation message appears.
  5. Select Finish.

QuickBooks Desktop downloads the latest tax table and verifies your payroll subscription.

If you are unable to activate Payroll, you can contact us for support.

The Payroll Center

Once you enter your service key in QuickBooks Desktop, you can see the Payroll Center on the Employees menu.

Use the Payroll Center as your home base for paying employees, paying payroll taxes and payroll liabilities, and preparing your payroll tax forms.

To  open the Payroll Center, select the Employees menu, and select Payroll Center.

You can also select the Employee Center, and select the Payroll tab.

The Payroll Center is only available to customers subscribed to QuickBooks Desktop Payroll (Basic, Standard, Enhanced, or Assisted).

Note Intuit no longer accepts new subscriptions for Standard Payroll but continues to support existing users of this service plan.

You can access different features and functions from the Payroll Center's tabs.

Pay Employees tab

From the Pay Employees tab, you can:

Pay Liabilities tab

From the Pay Liabilities tab, you can:

File Forms tab

From the File Forms tab, you can prepare and file payroll tax returns.

For more information, see Prepare payroll tax forms

Manage your payroll subscription

To find more information about your managing your Payroll subscription and keeping your information up to date, see the following articles:

More information about QuickBooks Desktop Payroll

For more information about QuickBooks Desktop Payroll, see the following articles: