Please pardon our unintelligible symboling. We’ve all let the frustration of navigating the wide world of expenses get the better of us. Filing expenses has many steps, lots of rules, and a little uncertainty mixed in for good measure. Join us for a guided tour of an employee’s mind traversing through the labyrinth that is expense reporting and reimbursement.
Scene 1: Client Dinner
You reach for the check at a client dinner and immediately regret it. Questions swirl through your mind, seemingly at once:
Does my company approve entertainment expenses over $X? Do I have X dollars in my bank account? Have I been reimbursed for the last company dinner that I paid for? How long does reimbursement take again? Why didn’t I grab a petty cash prepaid card?
Then you realize that it doesn’t matter. You have to pick up this tab. The client expects it, with good reason, and the rules of business decorum clearly indicate that this is your check. A checklist pops into your head:
- Check the receipt for unapproved items (Branded Restaurant T-Shirt for your kid, the client’s 3rd margarita, etc.)
- Subtract unapproved items from the total
- Write the date and occasion on the receipt
- Write the names of participants
- Remember to record the tip amount
- Check with accounting about which department foots the bill on Monday
- Give your card to the server
- Hope for the best
- Add the receipt to your bulging wallet
- Make a mental note to go through copious receipts and make room in said wallet for next time
- Remember to forward an article to your supervisor about how paper expense reports and receipts negatively affect climate change
Scene 2: In the Office
It’s Monday. The 30th. A perfect storm. You remember that accounting needs all of your expenses for the month by EOD for you to get reimbursed by next paycheck, if at all. Last week, you booked your Monday solid with meetings until 4:30pm, not realizing that this Monday would mostly consist of swimming through spreadsheets. Weeding through the appointments, you decide to reschedule 3 meetings to make sure you get your reports in on time, make a mental note to eat lunch at your desk to save time, and send three rescheduling emails that all begin with some sort of apology or excuse for having to postpone.
Great, you’ve got time. You realize that you left your receipts at home when you organized your wallet this weekend. How many shoeboxes full of receipts you can keep in your home before it becomes a fire hazard? You add several tasks to today’s to-do list:
- Ask accounting how long I need to keep receipts
- Double check that the expenses reimbursement policy still covers 2 margaritas for the client.
- Triple check bank account
Scene 2.1: The Long Trek Home
You need to cancel your next meeting to make time to drive home and grab your receipts. Back at the office 45 minutes later, you photocopy all of your receipts and organize them by date. You fill out your many expense reports in between the essential meetings that you could not reschedule, checking them for errors or omissions, double checking that you’ve accounted for each and every receipt in your shoebox for the month, triple checking your wallet for anything that you might have missed. “Not this time, car rental receipt. You cannot escape my foolproof triple check expenses method!”
Laughing aloud at your inner dialogue with the receipt that you just personified as the sneaky villain in your story, you realize that you are not alone. Apologizing for disrupting the meeting, you explain that you remembered something funny someone said earlier. They buy it. By the time you’ve filled out, coded, and submit all of your expense reports, the clock strikes 5pm. You have done it. A perfectly executed month of expenses. Or so you think…
From here, this story could have a choose-your-own adventure feel, with many possible endings
Begin reading here for VICTORY:
The expense reports perfectly reflect your company-related spending for the month. You have defeated the receipt monster and may continue your life with no further red tape this month.
Skip to this paragraph if your expense report had a MISTAKE:
Accounting has not approved your report for one of the following reasons:
- Expenses incorrectly coded to wrong department
- Certain items do not get reimbursed according to company policy
- Your supervisor can only approve Travel and Entertainment expenses up to X dollars and needs approval from the VP of your department
- You accidentally included 2 expenses from a previous month
Resubmit your reports. Do not pass go. Do not collect dollars. This leads to an unfortunate overdraft of your account. Luckily, you set up a line of credit as overdraft protection. Unluckily, you have to wait until your next paycheck to pay it off and end up getting hit with interest and a late fee. Repeat this process until your expense reports contain no mistakes or you decide to skip it and absorb the cost to save your sanity.
Start here for the DOOMSDAY SCENARIO:
Just as you hit send, a meteor destroys your desk and you just spent your last day on earth filling out expense reports. Your tombstone reads:
HERE LIES EMPLOYEE
KILLED BY PAPERWORK
…AND ROGUE METEOR
Twist! Your company AUTOMATED EXPENSES.
Relive Client Dinner:
Take your preferred method of company-approved payment, pay for dinner, and end the dinner with a professional handshake. Return home where you sleep the restful sleep of someone WITHOUT several, paper-filled shoeboxes that could ignite at any moment. Dream of a beach vacation.
Restart Your Monday:
It’s Monday. The 30th. You wish Accounts Payable a Happy Divvy Day. Since your company automated expenses, you have a full day of doing your actual job. You make all of your meetings, and the CEO invites you to dinner where he names you employees of the month for all your hard work and dedication. Three years down the road, due to superior reporting of expenses, you have managed to save for the down-payment on a house. You live until the age of 100, happy, content, and debt-free.
Managing company expenses does not have to equate to hassle. It doesn’t need to feel painful or stressful—we’ve got the technology. By automating spend, employees can focus on what their job description says, not worrying about saving receipts and getting corresponding spreadsheets or forms filled out and submitted by a certain date. It minimizes jumping through hoops and maximizes efficiency. Don’t be a casualty of a rogue meteor.
Educating employees in advance about your company spending policies and accountability can minimize the risk of employee mistakes or fraud. When those policies are accompanied by an automated spend management system that alerts you to issues in employee spending, it can dramatically reduce the chance that your company will fall victim to fraudulent expenses reimbursement and the need for disciplinary action.