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Friday, December 19, 2014

How to check your pay stub to make sure you're getting paid correctly

By Andrew Fujii

Pay Stub
Double check paystub math to ensure correct withholding and payment
One of the most important things to do every pay period, is to check the paystub you are given. Often times, employees happily accept their check and cash it without a second thought. Unfortunately this means that you are naively putting all of your faith into your employer. While a good majority of employers are trustworthy and have the right processes in place to prevent payroll errors, there can still be discrepancies as to what you should be making.

Looking at a pay stub can be a little confusing. There are numbers everywhere and abbreviations for a lot of other things. Let’s start from the top of the check and work our way down so that there is a clear understanding of what you can expect to see on your check.

The Header

The header of your pay stub is pretty straightforward. Generally this will show your place of employment including its address. If the address differs from the address you work at, this is probably the corporate location where human resources manages the payroll.

The header should also include the company that processes your pay employer’s payroll. Take note of this in case you ever witness an error on your pay stub. The payroll processing company is one of the main sources of errors. However, you should always get in touch with your employer’s human resources department prior to reaching out to the payroll company.

The header will also include the check number. This is typically listed fairly prominently and should be kept for your records. Finally, the header also includes the pay period, listing the period start and end date, as well as the pay date.

Earning Section

Moving down your pay stub, we come to the earnings section. This is of utmost importance to you as it tells you your earnings for the pay period. One of the first numbers usually listed is the gross pay. This is the overall amount you earned from your employer prior to deductions being taken out.

If you are an hourly employee, it will also have the hours/units you’ve worked at a regular pay and if applicable, any overtime or holiday pay. As an hourly worker this is where you want to check how much you earned. It is vital to keep track of the hours you work within the pay period so that you can match it up to the hours worked during the period. The gross pay should equal your rate multiplied by the hours you worked within the period.

If you have worked overtime, this figure will also be listed along with the hours of overtime you accumulated. If your overtime wages don’t seem correct, you should get in touch with your manager or human resource department. If they refuse to assist you with remedying the situation, you should get in touch with an attorney that specializes in overtime wages such as Vethan Law Firm in Texas.


In the same area as your gross pay, will be an itemized list of all of your withholdings. This is the portion of your check that is taken out for taxes and other government withholdings.

The first itemized deduction should be from the federal government, sometimes abbreviated as “Fed Tax”, “FT”, or “FWT”. There are usually two columns after the itemized list that specify if “this period” and “year to date”. The first column, “this period” shows how much federal tax was withheld within this pay stubs particular pay period. The “year to date” column shows an accumulation of the federal taxes withheld over the course of the financial year.

State and local income taxes will also be incorporated into this itemized list. Again, this is often abbreviated as “St Tax”, “ST”, or “SWT”. The taxes are based on where you live.

Once you’ve examined past the standard government deductions, you may also see an area for voluntary deductions. These available provided that your company offers voluntary deductions. For example, if your employer offers you health or life insurance, it will be deducted here. Additionally, if your company offers a retirement plan such as a 401K, the deduction you specified will be listed here.

In short, keep track of your hours worked, compare that to your paystub, verify your deductions, and keep the pay stub for your records. Doing say will help to ensure that you are getting paid correctly.

About the author: Andrew Fujii is a marketing professional with expertise in digital/web and content marketing. He is also a copywriter for multiple agencies producing copy for blogs, articles, websites, product packaging, mobile apps, and more.

 License: Bugshideout, US-PD