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Business Travel Expense Etiquette

When travelling for business, here’s what you need to consider to keep good business travel expense etiquette.

Paying for coffee

1. Know what you can and can’t expense

Most companies will set out their expense policy with details of what types of expenses you’re allowed to claim for including limits on hotels, daily meal allowances and anything that requires special approval. Ensure you understand what’s in the policy, or perhaps more importantly, what isn’t.

2. Submit your expenses promptly

If everyone submits expenses on a regular basis, it really helps Finance teams to manage cash flow and predicted outgoings. Ideally your company is using a digital expense management system so that employees can capture expenses in a timely manner. Some systems still work on the basis of submitting expense “reports” at the end of every month or quarter, but more modern expense tracking apps allow you to claim your expenses as soon as they are incurred, submitting item by item rather than employees saving up receipts as a bulk of claims that come together to form a report.

3. By by credit card, so you’re not immediately out of pocket

If you can pay for your employee expenses on a corporate or personal credit card, then you won’t be immediately out of pocket and could potentially receive your reimbursement before you need to pay off your credit card bill.

4. Don’t round up your expenses

It’s not good etiquette to round up your expenses to a whole number – just submit your expense amounts exactly as they are on your receipts. Adjusting the amounts constitutes fraud exposing both the employee and company. Today’s expense management systems leverage optical character recognition technology (OCR) which enables employees to take a photo or upload a receipt. Key details of the expense such as date, vendor and the exact amount are then automatically populated into the expense claim.

5. Always get receipts

On occasion receipts can go missing, but a frequent occurrence of this would likely serve to create distrust in an employee’s expense submissions. Better etiquette is to always get receipts, no matter how small the expense. And even better, if you’re using an expense management system that allows you to photograph your receipt and submit your expenses as you incur them, then you don’t even have to worry about having a wallet or purse full of paper receipts.

6. Keep copies of your receipts and other important documentation

These days you don’t need to keep paper receipts (unless your company or your tax laws indicate you should), but you should ensure you keep digital copies of your receipts in case something needs to be queried.

7. Regularly submit your mileage for car journeys

Ideally you should submit your mileage after every journey you take by car so that your finance teams aren’t surprised with a big mileage bill at the end of the month, quarter or even year. Most expense management systems require you to put in a start and finish destination, automatically calculating the mileage so you don’t have to.

8. Spend as if it were your own money

When your expenses are visible against the business purpose such as a sales opportunity or marketing campaign, you’ll want to spend money as if it were your own to avoid unnecessary expense bills eating into potential commission or pipeline targets.

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