Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > TravelBuzz
Reload this Page >

How much scrutiny do your expense reports go through?

How much scrutiny do your expense reports go through?

Old Jan 16, 18, 9:18 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 481
How much scrutiny do your expense reports go through?

Just a quick question to those business travelers out there. I've been with a few companies now and it's interesting to show the range of scrutiny I've gotten. I'm not one to abuse rules or push limits or anything like that either, and I feel amongst myself and my friends I'm probably one of the best individuals at scanning my receipts and archiving them.

My workflow is to scan each receipt immediately with Google Drive (Android feature only). That way I capture the timestamp and then dump them to a folder which I later use to submit for expense reporting. I've seen others struggle where they literally keep a full envelope of stuff to scan later.
dmo580 is offline  
Old Jan 16, 18, 11:32 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Boulder
Programs: AA Plat, CX Silver
Posts: 2,328
Very little. I once expensed a box of mini sombreros and didn't get questioned about it.

Under $20 and we don't need a receipt, plus they'll take a screenshot of the line item on your credit card statement in lieu of an original receipt for expenses up to $100.
txflyer77 is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 12:24 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: SJC/SFO
Programs: UA 1MM/*A Gold, WN A+ CP, Mar LT Tit, IHG Plat, HH Gold
Posts: 5,412
I've worked at at small companies the last several years. My experience with expense report scrutiny is all over the map.

I had one boss who scrutinized every single line item. If he thought you over-tipped on a meal or taxi fare, he'd warn you about it. "Standard tipping range is 15-17%, there's no reason to leave 25%." He never refused anything of mine on that basis, and I don't think he refused any colleagues' either (not on the basis of a tip, anyway) but still I was like, "Dude, you're the CEO. You have more valuable things to spend your time on. I can help you make a list...."

Then there was the VP I reported to for several years who literally considered it not his responsibility to read expense reports. He'd just sign them and hand them back to be delivered to Finance. He wouldn't even look at the bottom line number.

I've had wildly varying experiences with Finance/back office staff as well. I remember one trip where I had to get a hotel room at walk-up rates at midnight on a busy night in NYC. Ran almost $800 all in. I held my breath for a week after submitting that expense report worrying about it getting rejected but nobody questioned the cost.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, just last week I got a note back from my current employer's finance team about an expense report. "Restaurant charges require itemized receipts, you submitted only the credit card slip," they warned me. "Dude," I wanted to write back, "It's a $9 charge at Wendy's. What do you think I did there?"
darthbimmer is online now  
Old Jan 17, 18, 1:00 am
  #4  
2020 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Exile
Posts: 14,784
As someone who both reviews/approves expense claims for my department, as well as submits my own for higher review, I think a large proportion of friction over the claims process comes from either the submitter or the reviewer being unfamiliar or non-compliant with the stated policy.

For example, our expense policy requires that all travel be booked via our corporate travel desk, unless a specific exemption is granted. The exemption is routine provided the reason is legitimate (eg. some carriers that cannot be booked by the travel desk, hotels that require direct booking to avail of flexibility, etc..). That does not mean that the exemption should not be questioned by the approver - it should be queried and the reason explained - that is what the policy provides for.

Similarly, if the policy requires itemised billing for restaurant receipts (as well as a list of those attending in case of "entertainment" claims), it should be provided if the claim process is to run smoothly. I never reject claims for the first omission, but if someone continuously fails to submit the appropriate supporting paperwork despite being counseled, they will eventually have it kicked back. Similarly those who submit claims in the wrong currency (we require claims to be filed in USD), or use the wrong exchange rate (inverting the exchange rate is a common error), will have their reimbursement delayed.

Other purchases such as spare parts require a PO# to be linked to the claim before they will be paid out. Our purchasing team will happily generate a PO# after the fact to submit with the claim provided the purchase has been approved through the appropriate channel (in the case of my department, I can sign off on these up to a certain limit). Yet about half the claims I receive for spares or similar have nothing other than a receipt attached. It takes about 30 seconds to fill out a purchase request form, but people don't do it and then complain when I insist on receiving it before I sign off the claims.

Finally, the level of scrutiny a claim receives depends significantly on who is making it and how. Someone who meticulously catalogs their claims with supporting receipts itemised by line number will get less scrutiny than a guy who dumps a ziplock bag full of crumpled receipts on my desk. Someone with a track record of messing up their claims paperwork will be double and triple checked, while someone who invariably gets it right is more likely to get just a cursory review.
B747-437B is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 6:11 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: K+K
Programs: *G
Posts: 4,353
my boss has absolutely no time or patience to actually look at the claim besides hitting the approve button.

i, in turn, do the same for my chain of reports. nothing less interesting than looking at how much tip my team gave their restaurant servers.

the only scrutiny comes from the accounting team, which gets shifted around regularly.
and recently, we outsourced it, so for the initial period, the external firm wanted to prove how meticulous they are by sticking to the absolutely T.....

...it was a huge annoyance they've relaxed now once the friction shows up and they've warmed to our "way of working" - so to speak
deniah is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 8:13 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Ontario. Canada
Programs: Aeroplan, IHG, Enterprise, Avios, Nexus
Posts: 5,602
It varies from place to place. I am not one to expense every little thing along the way nor do I believe business travel is an opportunity to live a lifestyle several levels above what I'm used to. My receipts are itemized and submitted on time.

My approach is to match the level of the scrutiny. If they are reasonable I am too. There are financial overseers however who treat every report like an attempt to defraud them personally. Business travel can be difficult enough without having to be hassled over small amounts and if someone is being a prick about my expenses I'm happy to double down in return.

My favorite episode was when a bean counter refused to reimburse a colleague and I for safety boots we purchased during a trip to Africa when an industrial site visit was added to our itinerary after we'd departed. He refused to approve the expense because according to him we already had safety equipment. The next morning he arrived in his office to find two pairs of boots, heavily caked in red African mud, in clear plastic bags on his desk with a note saying that they'd been left outside and we couldn't be sure what might have crawled into them. After a brief flurry of pandemonium we retrieved the boots and the reimbursement cheque was cut the same day.

Last edited by Badenoch; Jan 17, 18 at 8:19 am
Badenoch is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 8:58 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Location: YYC
Programs: UA Plat, IHG Plat, AMEX Plat, Nat EE
Posts: 880
Originally Posted by darthbimmer
"Dude, you're the CEO. You have more valuable things to spend your time on. I can help you make a list...."
I LOL'd at this comment.

Two decades ago I worked for a large corp and one day at our branch office I got a call and it was the president on the line. After a quick intro he asked me out of the blue why we were buying the daily newspaper (@ .75 cents) from petty cash, and I replied it was because the branch manager instructed us to do so, in order that he could monitor the ads that were being purchased by our branch. Well, the newspapers stopped the next week.

A company with probably $100MM of gross revenue at the time, 15 branch offices........heh........spread across the entire group this amounted to roughly $3K a year.

The last place I worked where I traveled 2-4 weeks per month had one person reviewing my reports, and I was never called out on anything in 5 years, but, I am also not prone to stretching the rules either. They were truly miffed though when I refused to claim my tips for dinners or taxi's........I only ever claimed the net expense plus taxes.

Last edited by KDS777; Jan 17, 18 at 9:37 am
KDS777 is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 9:13 am
  #8  
Moderator: UK and Ireland & Europe, and Carbon Conscious Travel
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Biggleswade
Programs: SK*G, Lots of Blue Elsewhere
Posts: 13,423
I'm known for taking somewhat creative routings to reach my destination. In every case, it satisfies my need to explore, uses time well and saves the company money. And it's always approved in advance. But it always attracts attention, at least initially. It dies down eventually, they just end up going "oh, it's him again".

This includes things like third/fourth countries involved in travel to switch between modes (air/train/ferry in particular). Or having a week-long cycle hire in lieu of a bunch of taxis or train fares. Smartcard/contactless public transport fares can confuse centralised corporate expense approvals, I find, too. And it really doesn't help when ferry companies are based in a third country.

(An example, from not too long ago, was when airfares from London to Denmark were booked out due to some conference or other. I ended up getting the bus to the airport, flying to Hamburg, spending the evening in Lubeck, then taking a Finnish ferry from Travemunde to Malmo, breakfast in Malmo, then train over to Copenhagen. So for a simple trip, I had expenses in the UK (on contactless card), Germany, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. I used to occasionally do similar via Berlin (and the Czech-run sleeper train when it still ran).
B747-437B, codex57 and tentseller like this.
stut is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 10:18 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: K+K
Programs: *G
Posts: 4,353
early early early in my career, i was sent abroad to the uk for an assignment. i had grown up generally as a miser, so while "work" never explicitly instructed to me to be "penny wise", i did so often... at the expense of being "dollar foolish".

to get to the airport in heathrow, with luggage in tow, i would:
(1) get taxi to train station
(2) regional train down to london
(3) switch to metro which involved station changes. sometimes even - gasp - used the heathrow express.
(4) i think back then there was even that terminal-to-terminal train service at heathrow for the carriers i chose

and then one day my-then boss accompanied me to the airport. ordered a bmw 7 series car service from the office to the terminal. door to door.

it hadnt ever even occured to me to use a "car service" for journeys of that length. it cost, for me at that age, what seemed like $$.

but it wasnt that much more than the other trip in net. and in the end it wasnt my money. and its far less painful them storing and filing 4 or 5 different receipts for 1 trip.




....to be young and stupid again.....
deniah is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 10:35 am
  #10  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 1,808
Deep scrutiny now, thanks to the actions of a dishonest few who were abusing their cards, and the managers responsible for them who were pencil whipping the approvals without really examining them. It is much more of a pain now, but I am glad they are doing it. I mean really, it was more than just abusing it by taking the family to dinner or breaking a per diem. .it was Match.com, cruises, personal vacations, groceries, gift cards sold online for cash later... Before, we did not have to provide receipts for transactions under 75 dollars...now it's itemized receipts for ANY amount. And I am told the finance people audit 100% of the reports now.

The root cause of the abuse, other than sheer criminal intent, is entitlement. My company is global and in the Fortune 50. Everyone here thinks they are exceptional because they are here and if they are in a leadership position they get even worse. Many think of themselves as entitled to 80's style executive perks like limos at the airport, first class travel, high end car rentals, executive suites etc, despite the fact that policy clearly states otherwise. Even VP's are restricted to more modest accommodation...yet many ignore the rules anyhow.

Last edited by Proudelitist; Jan 17, 18 at 10:42 am
Proudelitist is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 10:56 am
  #11  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 1,271
Obviously, answers to this question will vary a great deal and no real common factors are likely to be found. What the topic is good for however is generating amusing stories involving expenses.

I remember a salesperson who claimed for cross country skis rental. Accounting flagged it and his line manager invited him to explain why he thought it should be accepted. Turns out, a customer who shared an interest in cross country skiing invited him to join him on the local trail. A salesman's gotta do what a salesman's gotta do he told his boss. The expense was approved.

I personally once claimed a parking ticket cost on expenses. I was invited to explain why it should be approved. Fines of any kind were never approved. I was delivering a quote of several 100K, to a government department. Eligible quotes had to be delivered by X hour of Y day. For reasons I won't go into that were not within my control, I arrived out front of the government office with 10 minutes to spare. I parked in a No Parking zone, ran in and delivered the quote. When I came out, the ticket was on the car. A salesman's gotta do what a salesman's gotta do I told my boss. The expense was approved.

But my favourite is a new hire salesperson who got his company car just before Christmas. The company had a policy of paying for all gasoline. In other words, they didn't say, we only pay for gasoline used on business travel. I have known of some companies that would pay for a fill up on a Friday but not on a Saturday or Sunday for example. Obviously, no salesman ever filled up on a Saturday or Sunday, they just filled up on Friday and Monday. Pointless rule really. So this company realizing that, just paid for all gasoline. This new hire, was quite pleased to hear of this and when he returned to work after a 2 week Christmas/New Year vacation, turned in his gasoline expense for his trip to Florida and back in the company car. Around 2000 miles! The claim was paid although he was told he better produce some sales before his next vacation.
dulciusexasperis is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 2:37 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: DAY/CMH
Programs: UA MileagePlus
Posts: 2,340
The very thorough young woman who pays my expenses scrutinizes everything. She's caught several errors I've made, in every case reimbursing more than I claimed.
ajGoes is online now  
Old Jan 17, 18, 3:28 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Stilllwater OK (SWO)
Programs: AAdvantage ExecPlat, World of Hyatt Globalist, plain "member" of Marriott, IHG, enterprise, etc.
Posts: 943
I work for a state supported university. My travel policy is such that I have to follow the strictest rules between various federal and state rules. Even if my travel funds are from private industry-sponsored grants which are limited in expend-ability to me, it is technically 'state money' and thus follows ridiculous state rules that only get more onerous and ridiculous as time goes on.

If I tip more than 15% for any thing, I pay the difference. If I stay at a "non-designated" hotel, I am only reimbursed up to government set (GSA) rates which can be ridiculously low in many places (and I am not eligible for GSA rates from hotels since I am not a federal employee). If I attend an professional event that charges a fee but includes a meal, my government determined meal reimbursement for my trip is reduced by the entire fee of the event (so, if I decide to attend an 'honors banquet' for a scientific society which includes a meal, for example, I quite literally can get reimbursed for the 'fee' only if I have my total per-diem food costs reduced by that much which completely diminishes the reimbursement to begin with). My mileage reimbursement rate is set by the state, which is cheaper than the federal rate . I only can get reimbursed for expenses within 24 hours before/after my 'meetings' (48 hours if international), though flights can be outside of that time if I prove through quotes that those 'closer-in' flights costs more than the flights I booked (hotels, outside that 24/48 hour window, are not reimbursable ever no matter what), flights must be the cheapest available within a 24 hour window before/after the event given by Concur (or I am only reimbursed up to that amount) no matter the flight scheduling, though for now, they exclude basic economy (on AA) fares. Taxi fares must be backable by taxi estimator tools online. Toll charges must have individual paper receipts (a line on a toll-tag statement doesn't count). Incidentals below 20 $ can be claimed but only by a signed affidavit which likely will get rejected for some asinine reason. I have 4 levels of approval before I get reimbursed, and usually, my reimbursement gets rejected, amended, resubmitted three times before it goes all the way through because even the tiniest infraction, usually a missing quote or paperwork supporting a charge, gets caught by some paper pusher in the bureaucracy and ends up in a rejection that must then start the approval process from the beginning. It gets really fun when I 'split' an expense. If a colleague pays for an uber and I want to pay back half the fee, the friend has to register as a vendor with the university, and provide receipts and documentation of the expense (I did this once, and I will never do it again.). I usually get final reimbursement 30-120 days after I submit my paperwork because of the various issues.

Most trips, I am personally out something around 100-300$ because I choose NOT to take the 5AM cheapest flight, or I do decide to attend 'honors banquets' and other networking events, or I don't bother to collect a toll receipt because either I can't (because the toll road is completely automated) or because it would require removing my permanent toll tag from my vehicle and waiting in cash toll lanes, or I get caught in certain situations where GSA reimbursement hotel rates are not something that can be met (not uncommon to be caught between paying $50 over the GSA rate for a hotel or being so far from the meeting venue that I would have more than $50 a day taxi/uber charges that may not be reimbursed if someone up the chain of approvals decides that the fees are not reimburseable because closer lodging should have been chosen to avoid those charges). Best part yet, under an audit of my travel, I need to prove that my mileage and hotel point accumulations from work travel are being redeemed on other 'work travel' and not for 'personal gain'.

Last edited by MarkOK; Jan 17, 18 at 3:35 pm
MarkOK is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 7:50 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Florida
Programs: Delta SkyMiles; Hilton HHonors; NEXUS; National Emerald Club Executive
Posts: 253
Originally Posted by MarkOK View Post
I work for a state supported university. My travel policy is such that I have to follow the strictest rules between various federal and state rules. Even if my travel funds are from private industry-sponsored grants which are limited in expend-ability to me, it is technically 'state money' and thus follows ridiculous state rules that only get more onerous and ridiculous as time goes on.

If I tip more than 15% for any thing, I pay the difference. If I stay at a "non-designated" hotel, I am only reimbursed up to government set (GSA) rates which can be ridiculously low in many places (and I am not eligible for GSA rates from hotels since I am not a federal employee). If I attend an professional event that charges a fee but includes a meal, my government determined meal reimbursement for my trip is reduced by the entire fee of the event (so, if I decide to attend an 'honors banquet' for a scientific society which includes a meal, for example, I quite literally can get reimbursed for the 'fee' only if I have my total per-diem food costs reduced by that much which completely diminishes the reimbursement to begin with). My mileage reimbursement rate is set by the state, which is cheaper than the federal rate . I only can get reimbursed for expenses within 24 hours before/after my 'meetings' (48 hours if international), though flights can be outside of that time if I prove through quotes that those 'closer-in' flights costs more than the flights I booked (hotels, outside that 24/48 hour window, are not reimbursable ever no matter what), flights must be the cheapest available within a 24 hour window before/after the event given by Concur (or I am only reimbursed up to that amount) no matter the flight scheduling, though for now, they exclude basic economy (on AA) fares. Taxi fares must be backable by taxi estimator tools online. Toll charges must have individual paper receipts (a line on a toll-tag statement doesn't count). Incidentals below 20 $ can be claimed but only by a signed affidavit which likely will get rejected for some asinine reason. I have 4 levels of approval before I get reimbursed, and usually, my reimbursement gets rejected, amended, resubmitted three times before it goes all the way through because even the tiniest infraction, usually a missing quote or paperwork supporting a charge, gets caught by some paper pusher in the bureaucracy and ends up in a rejection that must then start the approval process from the beginning. It gets really fun when I 'split' an expense. If a colleague pays for an uber and I want to pay back half the fee, the friend has to register as a vendor with the university, and provide receipts and documentation of the expense (I did this once, and I will never do it again.). I usually get final reimbursement 30-120 days after I submit my paperwork because of the various issues.

Most trips, I am personally out something around 100-300$ because I choose NOT to take the 5AM cheapest flight, or I do decide to attend 'honors banquets' and other networking events, or I don't bother to collect a toll receipt because either I can't (because the toll road is completely automated) or because it would require removing my permanent toll tag from my vehicle and waiting in cash toll lanes, or I get caught in certain situations where GSA reimbursement hotel rates are not something that can be met (not uncommon to be caught between paying $50 over the GSA rate for a hotel or being so far from the meeting venue that I would have more than $50 a day taxi/uber charges that may not be reimbursed if someone up the chain of approvals decides that the fees are not reimburseable because closer lodging should have been chosen to avoid those charges). Best part yet, under an audit of my travel, I need to prove that my mileage and hotel point accumulations from work travel are being redeemed on other 'work travel' and not for 'personal gain'.
Not to be one of those "entitled" people, but if work did this to me I would either refuse to travel for business or outright quit.
txviking is offline  
Old Jan 17, 18, 8:11 pm
  #15  
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: NYC
Programs: DL PM, Hilton Diamond, Starriott Platinum, Hyatt FreeBottleofWaterist
Posts: 8,200
Most of the time my employers haven't cared. Probably the more comical things happened when I worked for a Big 4 accounting firm and in general expense reports where auto-approved, paid, and then questioned later once somebody had time to review it, as long as it wasn't an absurd type of expense or amount. One time I got an email from central finance telling me that I shouldn't be expensing a coffee at Starbucks in addition to breakfast, and they called out one day in October when I had been doing this fairly regularly since April and nobody had said anything. Or one time I was told to cancel my hotel booking because I didn't book at the required hotel. This was in Chicago and we were required to stay at the Palmer House Hilton, unless our daily agreed room rate was sold out, and if it was, we could stay anywhere as long as we didn't exceed our max allowable rate. This was over the summer so the Palmer House rate would be sold out virtually every week and I liked staying at the Conrad. So I go and book my room at the Conrad via Concur for one week 3 weeks in advance (per policy), get an angry email the next day from finance saying I can't stay there and to book at the Palmer House. So I cancel my room, waited like 3 days, the Palmer House booked up and was sold out, and re-booked at the Conrad which was now in policy.

Not my expense report but one of the guys on my team at another job got some flak from our boss for one trip. We were allowed $90/day for meals and this guy spent had free breakfast at the hotel, spent like $5 on lunch, and then $85 on dinner at a steak house by himself (not even with the other people on the trip). My boss looked like he was going to lose his mind because it in his opinion violated the "spirit" of the meal allowance by being that lavish on one meal.
krazykanuck is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: