Bank Error In My Favour?
October 20, 2011 3:03 PM   Subscribe

My first paycheque from a new employer seems just a little bit high. How can I ask payroll to verify my annual salary without seeming like a total bumpkin?

I just started working at a new employer at the beginning of the month. My paycheque deposited directly into my bank account over the weekend while I was out of town, and when I got my pay stub on Wednesday and looked over it, it seemed, um, a little high. Not very much, but over the year it would amount to several thousand dollars more the salary I agreed to. I haven't worked a salaried postion ever, it's been a while since I've even had a job that wasn't under the table.

I did work three weeks before getting this cheque, but it says "80 hours" on the top of it so they didn't tack that extra week on to it. (In that case, it would have been even higher). For anyone who wonders how I missed it -- the amount I recieved should be my total cheque amount -- I assumed no taxes had been taken off. Only when I saw the pay stub did I realize that my gross pay was a couple hundred dollars higher than it should have been.

This is a payroll error, right? As much as I'd like that higher salary, I don't need convincing to report this, as I know it will catch up with me eventually. But what is the best way to ask my new boss (who I never see) if he could get payroll to verify that the cheque was for the correct amount without seeming like a yokel? "This cheque seemed a little large" just seems to imply that I'm worth a bit less.

FWIW, I'm in Ontario, Canada.
posted by custard heart to Work & Money (22 answers total)
Best answer: Identify the name of an individual in payroll and send them this email:

Dear Mr. Payroll,

I joined the company on $date, have worked for three weeks, and have just received my first cheque. I notice that it says "80 hours" on the top of it but the gross amount is $N.NN. I would just like to check that that amount is accurate and consistent with my annual salary.

Many thanks in advance,

custard heart

You have a factual question, there is no earthly reason why asking it should make you seem like a "yokel".
posted by tel3path at 3:10 PM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm in the U.S., so the specifics of this may not apply here, but what I would do is come up with a reason to ask the payroll person about your paycheck without explicitly saying, "I think you're paying me too much."

In the U.S., you can specify your payroll deductions so that the Government will take more, or less, money out of your paycheck every pay period. At the end of the year, you either owe money, or they have deducted too much and owe you.

If it were me, I'd start the conversation by asking how many deductions were applied, and mention that I was alerted to this because the take-home pay amount seemed high to me. That way, I'm not starting a conversation about whether they are over-paying me, I'm having a conversation about protecting myself from an unexpected tax liability, but I can draw the person's attention to the amount I'm being paid anyway.

Does that help?
posted by gauche at 3:13 PM on October 20, 2011

Best answer: Or take a tax perspective. Say you want to verify your tax withholdings are appropriate. Ask to talk to some one in payroll. Tell them to start with your gross salary and work backwards and explain it to you in excruciating detail (this will be sensible, not silly, as tax stuff IS complicated).
posted by zia at 3:13 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you being paid bi-monthly instead of every two weeks? Maybe you'll get fewer pay cheques this year than you expect?

As for how to talk to payroll about it, you could call and ask someone to go over the pay stub with you. Just say you'd like some explanation of how the deductions work and then mention that your math had let you to think your gross pay would be lower.

On preview, oh, well, sure if you want to be all simple and straightforward about it, you can send that straight-shooting email, too.
posted by looli at 3:14 PM on October 20, 2011

Seconding checking withholdings. My first paycheck at my otherwise great company didn't include fed taxes being withheld....
posted by cschneid at 3:14 PM on October 20, 2011

Thirding check they are holding the right tax, etc. You don't want a nasty surprise in April.
posted by carter at 3:25 PM on October 20, 2011

What ever the reason get it taken care of. I had a friend astounded at the pay he was taking in. It was an error, and suddenly he owed the company 1000s of dollars he'd already spent.
posted by Max Power at 3:29 PM on October 20, 2011

Response by poster: Clarifying deductions! Brilliant. I looked over the taxes and it's all right. The problem is that the NET pay listed was too high. They were giving me, before deductions, just too much money. Yes, I'm being paid bi-monthly, but that shouldn't matter.

Problem averted though -- while I'm usually the only one in the office this time of night, the office is weirdly teeming with people. I ran into the CEO who gave me HR's email. I'll just go to them directly. the fact that I'd have to go through my boss was rather the crux of my question, but I'll just go through HR.

if I am in fact being overpaid, then I'll just have to figure out a way to let my boss know how awesome and ethical I am for reporting it. ;-)

and Max Power? oh, yeah. I have absolutely no illusion that I will be able to keep the extra money.
posted by custard heart at 3:33 PM on October 20, 2011

Response by poster: Ok, what I'm going to do is wait til the next cheque (Since I started at a weird time in the pay period) and then if it's the same, I'll alert them immediately. And, of course, just bank the extra for the time being and expect it to be taken back at some point. Thanks everybody!
posted by custard heart at 3:52 PM on October 20, 2011

I think the bi-monthly angle was to wonder whether you knew that or not. If you thought it was a two week check, but it was really a bi-monthly check, the math could work out.
posted by gjc at 4:05 PM on October 20, 2011

Bi-monthly presumably wouldn't be for 80 hours though.
posted by rube goldberg at 4:14 PM on October 20, 2011

Response by poster: Erm... I'm supposed to be getting paid bi-monthly, not every two weeks. I did factor that in my math. So if I got a cheque for this amount every two weeks, I'm going to be way overpaid. I didn't clue into the 80 hour thing... but if this cheque is just for 80 hours then I'm being even more overpaid.

Since I started at a weird time in the pay period (at least from where I'm sitting), I think I'm going to wait for the next cheque on the 31st and see what happens? I'll just bank what I think is extra, then ask next month and return any extra if there is any. Is this a good idea?

It's really confusing, so the scenario I'm trying to avoid is actually having been paid the correct amount but being too much of a yokel to realize that.
posted by custard heart at 4:25 PM on October 20, 2011

Just remind yourself how thankful HR will be that you caught their error before it turned into a huge problem for them!
posted by freshwater at 4:31 PM on October 20, 2011

You are way, way over thinking this. Just ask if the check is right. If they are overpaying you they will figure it out eventually, and then they'll want it back. That will be a much more uncomfortable conversation. I speak from experience on this issue.
posted by COD at 4:48 PM on October 20, 2011

Are you getting an extra 4% vacation pay in lieu of a paid vacation? This is certainly not uncommon.
posted by matlock expressway at 7:39 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just ask HR - that's what they're there for. If there has been a mistake, they'll thank you for dealing with it promptly and politely.
posted by dg at 8:12 PM on October 20, 2011

Nothing yokelish about it at all. The yokel is the guy who doesn't look at his pay stub ever.
posted by mendel at 9:00 PM on October 20, 2011

I've had higher-than-expected paychecks a few times because of quirks in timing and taxes and benefits. Every place I've worked, I found that the easiest way to get a clear answer is to go straight to payroll with questions like this.

Your supervisor has no idea what your deductions should be, and really, HR probably doesn't either.
posted by desuetude at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2011

I would ask them now, rather than waiting for the next paycheck. What if they discover the problem in the meantime? If there was an error, you want to be querying them about it, not the reverse.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 6:30 AM on October 21, 2011

Best answer: as a payroll person, i can agree part of my job is answering questions like this. the deduction approach is a good one if your organization is more formal than mine. The question i would get would be "hey, this doesn't look right" and it wouldn't faze me a bit as far as what i thought of the employee. in fact in your case you would get bonus points for reporting quickly and more bonus points for honesty since the error actually benefits you. Your boss won't know how to answer your question and if payroll needs to double check your salary, let them approach him.
posted by domino at 6:38 AM on October 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I asked someone here who was able to provide me with payroll's email directly. Will be asking them once I get my next cheque in a week.
posted by custard heart at 5:28 PM on October 21, 2011

Response by poster: (waiting for the next cheque since this one was irregular, whereas the next one will be normal)
posted by custard heart at 5:29 PM on October 21, 2011

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