I needed to pay one of our suppliers. That supplier happens to be living in Europe, while Hibernating Rhinos is headquartered in Israel. That means that I have to send an international money transfer to get them paid.
So far, that isn’t an issue, this is literally something that we have to do multiple times a week and have been doing for the past decade and a half. This time, however…
We run into a problem, we initiated the payment round as usual and let the suppliers know that the money was transferred. And then I forgot about it, anything from this point on is on the accounting department.
A few days later, we started getting calls, telling us that the money that we sent didn’t arrive. I called the bank and they checked, it appears that some of the transfers that we made hit an internal bank limit. Basically, there are rules in place for how much money you can send out of the country before you have to get the IRS involved. I believe that the issue is about moving money to off shore accounts in order to provide taxes on that, but that isn’t relevant for the story at hand. What is relevant here is that the bank didn’t process some of the payments in the run (those that hit the limit for the tax block). Some payment did went through, but some didn’t.
The issue with such things isn’t so much the block (I can understand why it is there, although I wish there was some earlier notice). The major issue was that we try to have a good payment schedule for our suppliers, meaning that we’ll pay most invoices within a short amount of time. When something like that happens, it means that we have to wade into the bureaucracy of the (international) tax system. That takes time, and in that time, the suppliers aren’t getting paid. Technically, we are okay, we are usually paying far ahead of the invoice due date, but I strongly dislike this.
We used a different source for the funds and paid all the suppliers immediately, then set to clear the tax hurdles involved in the usual manner in which we are paying. I also paid to expediate the transfer and they all had the money arrive faster than normal. In all, I would estimate that this meant that we had a delay of just a few days over when the money would arrive normally.
But that isn’t where the story ends. For most of the suppliers, the original transfers never happened, because of the tax issue. For two of them, however, the money was gone from our account. One of them also confirmed that they received the money, so I expected the second one to get it as well.
They didn’t. But the money was gone from our account. Talking to the bank, the money was in the bank’s account, waiting for the tax permit to go ahead with that. I asked the bank to cancel the order, then I transferred the money using the alternative way.
Except… that supplier called me, confused. The money appeared in their account twice. Checking with the bank, it was indeed gone from the original and alternative accounts. Well, that wasn’t expected. Luckily, this is a supplier that I’m doing regular business with, we decided that the simplest option is just to consider the extra payment to be credit for future charges. The supplier sent me a(n already marked as) paid invoice, and aside from shaking my head in disbelief, the issue was done.
Except.. that supplier called me, even more confused. Their bank called them, saying that the originating bank has cancelled the transfer, and they need to send the money back.
The key here was that their bank wanted them to transfer the money back to us. I had a very negative reaction to that, because this pinged all the hallmarks for a common scam: Overpayment Scam. I asked the supplier to do nothing with that, since if the bank need to transfer the money, they can do it directly.
I talked to my bank and cancelled the cancellation, so hopefully things will stabilize now. This is an ongoing event and I don’t know if we hit peak kafkianess.
As for what happens, I suspect that when I asked to cancel the original transfer, the was another logic branch that was followed. Since the money already left my account, they had to record that as a cancellation, but that apparently was sent to the destination bank, along with the money, I guess?
At this point, I don’t even wanna know.