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Ask HN: How do you pay your remote team?
71 points by soorajchandran on April 15, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments
What tools/services do you use your remote team? What does the process look like? Do the employees invoice you first and you make the payment?

Employees don't invoice you, you pay them a salary. Contractors invoice you. If your team is contractors (or you're paying them as contractors for tax/liability/whatever reason), they invoice you and, if you're in the US, you should also ask for a tax form (usually a W8 or W9) based on where their tax residency is.

There's many apps/services to handle your payroll out there. Gusto comes to mind but I've never used it so I don't know what they're like. Some accountants / CFO firms also may handle payroll for you for a fee.

But really, I don't know your situation so ask that question to an accountant. There may be critical details you're not immediately aware of; your accountant will be.

Thanks! How do most companies hire? Employees or contractors? As far as I researched - most companies hire from outside the US as contractors. And they file invoices, and you pay the amount for it. Do you know of companies that hire people from outside the US as employees and keep them on the same payroll?

Hiring non U.S.employees on your U.S. payroll is a bad idea. The employee will have a dual tax nightmare having to reconcile the tax and social security against their home country regime.

I use Gusto for employees and contractors, USA only. Works very well, reasonable fees. It's worth a look.

> Gusto comes to mind but I've never used it so I don't know what they're like.

I can't comment on what they are like from the administrative side, but from an employee perspective, I loved Gusto.

Please don't send checks.. I can't think of a more annoying way to get paid! Regardless of the accounting particulars which have been discussed here, there's bound to be a much better way of actually paying folks.

This seems like a silly thing to be annoyed about. Checks don’t have fees like most other types of electronic payment, and money is money. Why would you be OK with giving up a certain percentage of your hard-earned money just because you have to go through the “hassle” of dealing with a piece of paper? Many banks even accept the check deposit via app now - you don’t even need to go to the ATM.

Edit: I’m talking about paying/being paid as a contractor/vendor, not as an employee.

Checks are a holdover from the 1800s. They don't have a place in modern banking.

If the US were willing to put tighter rules around bank transfer fees, it would be possible to create a European style system where bank to bank transfers are free, regardless of which bank you're with.

> Why would you be OK with giving up a certain percentage of your hard-earned money

The direct deposit fee is, at most, a couple of dollars per paycheck, and the employer should be paying that.

It's 2019. Paying employees by printed check is as silly as sending day-to-day inter-office communications by fax.

>This seems like a silly thing to be annoyed about. Checks don’t have fees like most other types of electronic payment, and money is money.

It's not silly, it's a waste of my time - and I value my time, that's why I bill for it in the first place. If I have the choice between a Faster Payment scheme transaction which transfers money generally instantly and always within two hours, and a cheque I have to post/bring to a branch and then wait _days_ for it to clear - I'm going to pick the Faster Payments route.

> Many banks even accept the check deposit via app now

Still a waste of time. Need to wait to receive the cheque. Need to take a photo of it. Need to wait for funds to clear. It's just dumb in 2019, we can do so much better.

>Why would you be OK with giving up a certain percentage of your hard-earned money just because you have to go through the “hassle” of dealing with a piece of paper?

Why on earth do you pay for bank transfers in the US? My bank does not charge for personal transfers. My business account doesn't charge for transfers either. It's such a basic service which costs pence per transaction (easily made up by interest and interchange income).. how could you ever justify charging for it?

In any case, surely it's such an insignificant sum it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things? The client is paying an invoice presumably a few orders of magnitude larger.

As a person not residing in the US, PLEASE don't send me a check, ever! I'd have to pay my bank to deal with the check, as well as sending it, via certified mail, to the bank's headquarters! This would end up costing me around EUR25.

ON the other hand, there are many free (or nearly free) ways to send money between accounts here in the Netherlands.

One long term client decided to switch payment to checks. I had to pick it up in the middle of the work day, during office hours. The opportunity cost was over $100. Back when I didn't have a car and had to take an Uber, this would have cost far more.

It's little effort to actually deposit it. But big companies tend to sit in tall towers in the middle of traffic jams, where parking is difficult to find.

As a contractor, I would be fine taking a pay cut of up to $100 to avoid checks.

Because some remote employees move all the time and it's annoying to arrange where to receive the check.

Is this a US only question? Are you mixing up employees/contractors with onsite local? Employees don't invoice you; contractors do.

UK employer here. For payment, I can't think of any way of paying any employees other than via direct bank transfer. I haven't used a cheque (check in the US) for years, and certainly never for paying employees in the last 20 years.

Regular international contractors are paid via Transferwise; irregular contractors are usually paid through PayPal.

I love the ease of Transferwise but I've run tests and a bank wire is cheaper (we get free wire fees with our business banking service so I'm not including what might be an extra $30 from your bank).

A friend recently needed to move EUR sitting in one of her HSBC accounts to GBP in another of her HSBC accounts. To get HSBC to do it would have taken "up to three days", and the exchange rate was abysmal. On my recommendation, she used TransferWise instead, saved almost £300 on the exchange rate and it moved within an hour. YMMV, but in UK I've literally never seen big banks be cheaper than TW.

Had a friend with a similar problem, simply moved the funds via Revolut which gives you a bank account of the local currency at either side.

this is essentially what transferwise does imho.

I had a client in the US (my company is in Thailand) whose bank charged him $30 for an ACH domestic transfer to my (Thai) banks NYC branch. An international wire transfer cost him a lot more.

I do prefer bank wire transfers, but TransferWise has worked well (to receive money) too, and the smaller businesses I deal with seem unlikely to have free international wire transfers (it’s presumably marketed at bigger businesses)

If your team consist of contractors etc... then they'll likely have their own invoice and payment process. I use Freshbooks.

One of my clients pays me via wire transfer, another does checks, and finally I have one project via moonlightwork.com (awesome service) where they actually handle payments (weekly!) which is pretty cool.

If these are actual W2 full-time employees, I would suggest something like gusto.com to give them direct deposit.

Might be a silly question. But do you leave the burden ( may be not really ) of the whole invoice management process on the contractor - how good/bad is it?

Would you compensate them either with time or money for it? I think think if you know it'll take 'employees' that are contractors a certain amount of time and expenses each month then offering something small in exchange for (covering accounting fees etc) is a great way to go about it.

What “whole process” do you mean? They’ll send you an invoice they’ve generated. If their setup is good it probably takes < 5 minutes to generate and send.

What you do with it afterwards in terms of recording expenses, organising payment etc is your responsibility.

We have just over twenty remote workers internally and we use a mix. Full disclosure we are a service provider in this space, so I am just taking about what we do internally and freely admit I am biased because of the nature of our business. 1) For short term we engage some folks as independent contractors. They sign a freelance contract, they invoice us each month for their gross earnings and we pay them via international wire transfer. Tax and social security is their responsibility under the contract. We have some contractors who have been on this arrangement more than twelve months and we will try to move them onto employee status this year because of the risk of misclassification. For many tax and labor authorities the contract doesn't matter if they view it as an employment relationship. 2) If we have our own entity incorporated in the country where the worker is (UK, Australia) they sign an employment contract and we pay them through the payroll with full tax and social security contributions & deductions. 3) Where we haven't got our own entity or don't want to run our own payroll yet (USA, Spain, etc) we use a GEO/Employer of record service. The employee signs an employment contract with the GEO, the GEO invoices us each month for salary + employer costs + their fees, we pay them and they pay the employee. If you are small or just starting, begin with the first option. It's by far the easiest to administer. Eventually as you get bigger and more stable then you will come to a point contracting alone doesn't work anymore. Then the blended approach has worked very well for us.

Gusto is great - they have handled all our payroll and contractor payments for our remote team extremely well.

As a contractor I've been paid by cheque, PayPal, and (my favorite) wire transfer. Always this was after sending them an invoice. I found PayPal to be the least friction about invoicing and reminding about due payments, though I lost between 2-3% of my invoice to fees.


I work remotely from Europe for a US company. Even though the company considers me an "employee" with all the perks (vacation, health insurance, etc.) I found that the easiest and best way is for me to form my own LLC, employ myself in it and invoice the US company for the gross amount. Mostly because of lower taxes, easier handling of our national health care and retirement fund, expensing equipment and operational costs.

Great, you’re a contractor.

The “easiest” way for you would be if the company setup a presence there and you worked for it.

And you file a LLC tax return as well, along with the associated preparation of financial statements?

We use cryptocurrencies, works super well. Typically ETH and BTC.

I've worked from home (if that qualifies as remote) and was on a salary, paid directly to my back account with health, pension benefits, etc, handled by the company. Worked as a contractor for a couple of companies and have been paid using wire transfer and PayPal. My personal preference is wire transfer as it's much easier to handle taxes and usually has the least amount of fees and better exchange rates.

Deel came out of the last YC batch. https://www.letsdeel.com/

I already came across deal - isn't this exclusively for contractors? If I want to keep a "company culture" - but the employees are hired as contractors - does this work well?

Not sure why this was downvoted. I've only used the Deel trial, but it seems like it's trying to solve exactly this problem.

I work for a remote-only company. We use payworks.ca in Canada, and I believe ADP in the USA, for direct deposits.

For the US-based folks on this thread, I think the don't-pay-me-with-checks is mostly a non-starter.

4 of the last 5 banks I dealt with now let you do mobile deposit, where you can endorse the check and deposit it into your bank account by taking pictures of the check with your smartphone.


The extent the US will go to, to avoid just moving on and adopting electronic transfers like ever other developed nation is astounding.

Used to use https://www.bitwage.com/ but fees were too high so switched to https://husky.io/

I'm confused by the question because your processes should be in place to pay your people no matter where they are.

That means you need to have registered as a foreign corporation wherever they are working, filed the W9s, W2s and 1099s so that they pay taxes correctly.

If you don't have a payroll processing company or an accountant (don't use ADP) to make sure you're perfectly covered then you should get one ASAP. There aren't too many faster ways to get shut down than to have a state or federal tax agency come hunting you down.

Then startup I worked for used Gusto and then later Sequoia One for payroll.

I'd be interested to know what the big remote companies like Elastic do.

But Gusto only works inside the US right? What if the company is located in US and contractors are outside the US?

One way it works is by contracting a company that employs your people outside.

In Mexico there are several companies that do that, beware that they usually charge a % of everything you do: Not only salaries, but refunds or any other money movement you want to make.

To pay contractors I use Square payroll. Pays out to ACH bank accounts (US only) and handles sending 1099's. $5 per contractor per month.

For full time employees look at using Gusto (https://gusto.com/r/MqwBf/?utm_source=reflink). Note: That's a promo link, we each get $100 Amazon gift card when you sign up and run a payroll.

We've been very happy with Gusto for payroll + benefits for our salaried remote team.

Outside US too?

Transferwise, just regular payments twice a month, no need for an invoice every time

If you’re sending money offshore without an invoice how exactly do you account for that?

We hire a number of folks both as traditional contractors as well as freelancers. Here's some thoughts based on my experience:

1) Are they an employee or a contractor? You mention "employees" but talk about them invoicing you. If they are requesting payment via invoice then it sounds like a contractor. It's very important that you define this relationship early on. There are different rules for both (health insurance, paid time off, taxes owed and by who) that are handled very differently. You might have seen a lot in the press about Uber / Lyft etc handling their drivers as contractors and a lot of these reasons are the reason why. So if you're deeming them as contractors (1099s) then make sure you have a contract that makes this explicit. You can find good templates from places like Upcounsel[1], but make sure you have a lawyer take a look.

2) I spoke with the founders of Deel[2] (YC W19) just last week. Their value proposition is that they'll handle the contracts, paperwork and payments (according to your payment schedule) for a small fee (I think $10/m/contractor). This seems like a very good value prop if you hire more than 1 or 2, and one I'm looking into.

3) If you have only a few contractors, then creating a standard contract and making payments to them on submission of their invoice and time sheet (if hourly) is pretty simple. I request our contractors only send invoices monthly to limit the admin for me, and then I pay them via Transferwise (they have a USD-USD beta program that I'm not sure is open to all), because it has cheaper fees than our bank.

4) Assuming you're using a fully fledged accounting/ payroll service or otherwise, then lots of these do have a contractor payment part. The payment part isn't the difficult part, the real benefit of these systems is handling the paperwork with the government for you. We use a full PEO called JustWorks[3] which is awesome - you tell them you have a contractor, you're paying them outside JustWorks and they'll handle all the year end 1099 forms etc.

5) Freelancers. We hire many freelancers to do work for us via Upwork. It's a great tool to get things done, and will do all payments/contracts/compliance for you, for cheap. The downside is the freelancer pays pretty hefty fees, which go down over time [4]. We pay $25/m for all our freelancers paid through the system (30+ freelancers), so it works really well for us.

Happy to answer any other questions you may have!

[1] https://www.upcounsel.com/free-legal-documents [2] https://www.letsdeel.com/ [3] https://justworks.com/features [4] https://www.upwork.com/i/how-it-works/freelancer/

CurrencyFair.com does USD to USD transfers and I’ve found them to be very good for the nearly ten years I’ve used them.

Check out Veem.com

What a poor choice in naming a tech company.

This looks interesting.

Check, envelope, and stamp is the simplest thing that might work.

checks don’t cross international borders cheaply. If I remember correctly from the last time I tried Barclays in the UK charged about £50 to deposit a USD check from a US bank.

£50 a month is £600/year. Rounding error on a going concern. Rounding error on a developer's rate. And worth less than the time an entrepreneur would probably spend trying to save half of it. Moving money internationally will always cost something. Exchange rates might eat more of a developer's salary.

It’s £50 a month in addition to getting ripped off on the exchange by the bank. Using a service like CurrencyFair or Transferwise would save someone thousands a year. There is also the hassle of having to physically deposit the check.

Also checks in general have gone the way of the fax here. I’ve seen only one in the last fifteen years. I would be surprised if people in their 20’s have never seen one.

Their website (much like the ones I checked here in Thailand and back home in Australia) mention up to 7 weeks clearing time.

The foreign bank generally had to do a fairly manual process to get a U.S. cheque cleared. This can take weeks. 7 weeks is a bit excessive, probably they are giving worst case scenario.

FYI while America seems obsessed with cheque’s still, the rest of the world has moved on.

I'm not obsessed with checks. Writing checks is technically simpler and has fewer dependencies and distractions. This question exemplifies the cost of other approaches: the OP is spending time researching alternatives to a simple and proven solution. For what? Mostly appearing sophisticated at the cost of increased financial attack surface, secret management, and uncertainty regarding future availability of the business handling the transactions.

Solve the problem at hand by writing a check and moving on. In a year things may or may not be different enough to warrant change.

The OP is talking about remote workers.

In my home country (Australia) foreign currency cheques apparently take up to 8 weeks to clear.

The bank my Thai business uses say it can take “up to several weeks”.

Sending a check isn’t solving anything it’s creating a fucked situation for the person you’re paying because paper cheque’s are an antiquated method of payment.

In countries outside the US domestic bank transfers are usually free or very cheap with instant - a few days clearing time (we pay about 12 baht on transfers - 38 us cents - scheduled two days ahead, or 20 baht for same day).

Even foreign wire transfers are relatively cheap - I made a $300 “donation” to an open source maintainer last month. I elected to pay the fees at both ends, it cost $36 (and that’s a fixed cost, it’s not % based) and arrived in a different country the same fucking day.

Edit: oh and despite you constantly claiming “no fees” for cheque’s, every bank I’ve checked said they charge a fee for processing a foreign cheque, and none of them specify how much. A bank fee that they won’t tell you before you’re in front of them in the branch is a fee that’s too ridiculous to publicise.

The OP did not mention foreign workers in the question. Just remote. Not trying to contradict your experience. Just clarifying the context of my answer.


Most remote workers are independent contractors, and they generally invoice you.

This is going to be really dependent on your social circle.

I work remotely and know many people who work remotely for different companies. Most of them are full-time employees.

And what tools are used to pay the invoices?

Checks or electronic equivalent.

There's a scale at which more complex tools may make sense. That scale varies with the variation in the details of a company's operation. For a few contractors the overhead of learning and integrating a tool may outweigh the actual (not perceived) benefits.

Most of the work is reviewing invoices, not writing checks.

How big of a team are you talking about? One company I was a remote contractor for had four people to pay and simply cut checks through QuickBooks after discussing with their accountant the proper tax implications.

I sent a weekly invoice through email and I received a check in the mail two to three business days after sending the email.

Bill.com seems widely used and liked by AP departments.

We use cryptocurrencies. Fast. Free. Immutable and provable.

This is 2019 guys. Get with the program.

How does your accounting work? Is your accountant also up to date with the 2019 program?

Are there any caveats to this that you didn't mention? Are they all contract 1099? What about healthcare and retirement contributions and considerations?

I never understand why people bring up accountants or taxes when talking about cryptocurrencies. Seriously, you negotiate with your employer an hourly rate, you get paid that hourly rate and is what you should report.

The way you receive your salary at the end of the day (bank transfer or crypto) is completely decoupled from this. In the same way you don't need to tell the taxman what bank did you use to receive your wage, you don't need to tell what cryptocurrency you used (if you don't convert instantly to fiat when receiving it, that will mean you will have more taxable events later, but this is another subject).

How is converting it to fiat a different subject when most people need to be paid in something that can then be used for rent/food/literally everything else?

This entire thread is insane.

The second a job tries to pay me in crypto is the second I'm looking for another job.

Depends on the amount of money involved, doesn't it? I don't care how you pay me, as long as the amounts involved make it worth my time.

It's not that much different than receiving foreign money, I get paid in dollars, but I use the local money in everyday life.

This is equivalent to saying you don't have to tell the IRS you paid someone in USD or gum.

All you’ve done is make it clear that you have never run a business.

Until one of your employees wallets gets compromised and poof no more pay check for that cycle and no FDIC insurance.

If your employees are developers, and they don't comply with basic security precautions, they are not very good developers. Either way, if they get compromised, it's not the employer's problem.

I consider myself a good developer, I couldn't tell you the first thing about keeping a crypto wallet secure.

This comment doesn't make sense.


>if they get compromised, it's not the employer's problem.

Until they can't pay rent which has been known to affect output, or they try and make it your problem (they don't even have to succeed, just trying is enough to be a hassle.)

Hm. The only area I know, that does not handle security properly is IoT, and even that is a constant target for jokes. So I am legitimately interested in knowing what is it you do, that does not involve files with restricted access?

This has worked well for me and is what converted me to being a crypto-vangelist. Anyone who's tried to pay a team in india in USD and had it often take well over a week will appreciate when you can get it done in under 45 min using crypto.

I second this. I'm a dev contractor and get paid in ether (preferred). It's instant and no bs wire fees.

Why the downvotes? Are you downvoters fiat maximalists?

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