Skip to content

Managing Expenses and Work Travel

  • by
Flying First Class

Managing expenses and workplace travel can be a complex task, especially when it comes to balancing company policies and personal preferences. It’s crucial to handle expenses responsibly and transparently to ensure you maintain a positive reputation within your organization. In this section, we’ll explore best practices for managing expenses, whether a formal policy is in place or not.

If your company has a formal expense policy, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with its guidelines and adhere to them closely. This policy likely outlines the types of expenses that are reimbursable, any daily or per-trip limits, and the documenta- tion required for reimbursement. Be sure to follow the proce- dures and processes as stipulated in the policy. If you’re uncertain about anything, seek clarification from your manager or HR department. Some companies, especially Fortune 500 companies and large consulting firms or agencies, have special negotiated rates with specific hotels and chains. This enables you to get a comfortable business-quality hotel but at a more reason- able rate.

When submitting expenses, ensure that you provide all necessary receipts, invoices, and supporting documentation. Be as accurate and detailed as possible in your expense reports, describing the nature of each expense and its relevance to your work. By being meticulous and transparent, you reduce the risk of misunderstandings or accusations of misuse.

In the absence of a formal expense policy, it’s even more important to exercise good judgment and discretion when managing expenses and workplace travel. Ask your manager what would be appropriate limits for hotels, airfare, etc. A good rule of thumb is to approach spending company money as if it were your own. Be conscious of the costs involved and always seek the most cost-effective options that still meet your business needs. It’s also a good idea to discuss any significant expenses with your manager beforehand to ensure alignment and avoid potential conflicts.

Even if your company doesn’t have a formal policy, it’s still essential to maintain proper documentation for all expenses. Keep track of your receipts and invoices, and be prepared to provide a rationale for each expense if needed. By demonstrating a proactive and organized approach to expense management, you’ll be more likely to gain your manager’s trust and avoid any negative perceptions.

When it comes to using a corporate credit card, treat it with the same level of responsibility and care you would with your personal finances. Avoid using the card for personal expenses, even if you intend to reimburse the company later, as this can create confusion and raise questions about your financial integrity .

When traveling for work, plan your trips carefully and look for opportunities to save on costs without compromising on quality or safety. For instance, consider booking flights well in advance, staying in moderately priced hotels, and using public transportation or ride-sharing services instead of renting a car. Also, be mindful of meal expenses and avoid ordering excessively expensive dishes or drinks when dining out.

Expense Account Grey Areas

Gray areas in permissible expenses and travel often arise when the guidelines are unclear, subjective, or open to interpretation. Here are some potential gray areas that you might encounter:

Business Entertainment: It can be challenging to determine what is acceptable when it comes to entertaining clients or colleagues. For example, taking a client out for a meal may be a regular part of doing business, but expenses for activities like golf outings, concert tickets, or spa treatments might be consid- ered excessive or inappropriate.

Travel Upgrades: Upgrading your flight class, hotel room, or rental car can be a point of contention. While some companies might allow for such upgrades under certain circumstances, others may view them as unnecessary luxuries. If you have achieved premium status with a hotel chain or airline, it’s accept- able to use a free upgrade. But make sure that it’s clearly docu- mented that you paid for a standard fare. If you pay out-of- pocket for an upgrade, this is your personal choice. However, if you are traveling with a number of colleagues on the same itin- erary, this is often frowned upon as being elitist. If you are trav- eling a significant distance, such as more than five hours of flight or overseas, your company likely has an allowance for a business class upgrade. This is especially important if you have a meeting right when you land and won’t have time to adapt to a time zone change.

Working Meals: Claiming a meal as a business expense when the primary purpose of the gathering was social, rather than work-related, can be a gray area. It’s essential to be honest about the nature of the meeting and avoid claiming expenses for purely social events.

Personal Expenses during Business Travel: Expenses incurred for personal activities while on a business trip, such as sightsee- ing, souvenirs, or personal grooming services, can be difficult to classify. Generally, personal expenses should not be claimed as business expenses. Still, the lines can sometimes blur if, for example, a personal activity is combined with a business-related one. If you forgot to bring personal items such as toothpaste, a shaving kit, or a device charger with you, it’s usually acceptable to expense such items. However, most business hotels also have these items available if you ask for them.

Spouse or Family Travel Expenses: In some cases, employees may want to bring their spouse or family along on a business trip. While it might be permissible for the family member to accompany the employee, it’s generally not acceptable to claim their travel or accommodation expenses as business expenses. However, if the trip is a retreat and your spouse or family are explicitly invited—then it’s acceptable to consider them another traveler on your (company-paid) itinerary.

Home Office Expenses: With more people working remotely, it can be unclear which home office expenses are reimbursable. For example, purchasing a computer or office furniture or supplies may be considered reasonable, while upgrading to a high-speed internet plan or purchasing an expensive ergonomic chair might not be. Check with your specific company policies about BYOD (bring your own devices) and which home expenses they will cover.

To navigate these gray areas, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with your company’s expense policy and seek guidance from your manager, IT, or HR department if you’re unsure about a specific expense. When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and avoid claiming expenses that could be perceived as inappropriate or excessive.

Managing expenses and workplace travel requires a careful and conscientious approach, regardless of whether a formal policy is in place. By adhering to company guidelines, maintaining thorough documentation, and treating company funds with respect, you can ensure that you build and maintain a positive reputation within your organization. By doing so, you demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to responsible expense management.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *