Diary of a paper-based expenses claimant

To appreciate a solution, you first have to understand the problem. And that’s why at webexpenses we like to put our team members through a rather unusual (some would say cruel) experience.

To help them understand the advantages of webexpenses, he turns the clock back and challenges them to find out for themselves exactly what it’s like to use a paper-based expenses system.

With digital expenses increasingly becoming the norm, there’s a new generation of employees who’ve never experienced the world of ‘analogue’ expenses - the crumpled receipts, spreadsheets and paperwork.

The latest team member to take the test was sales executive, Zak Dixon. He was challenged with trying to manage his claims during the recent Accountex 2016 event using only paper processes.

So that meant no access to webexpenses and no use of the smartphone app to digitise receipts or track travel - it was back to a world of paper forms and processes.

Here’s how he got on. And don’t worry, no sales team members were harmed in the making of this blog, Zak managed to escape the ordeal with only a furrowed brow.

Lost Receipts

“To be honest, it was a pretty horrible process and I ended up making a number of mistakes. Before I even filled out the spreadsheet, I lost one of my receipts - it was for my most expensive train journey for Accountex. I had also written the cost of the ticket on the spreadsheet from memory. I then checked the receipt online and I had in fact put the wrong cost down - I’d over-claimed by accident, it was only £2 over the actual cost of the ticket but still, it’s an easy mistake to make.”

Painful Paperwork

“I hadn’t even filled out the form correctly, I didn’t fully understand the instructions - I had put ticks under the relevant categories, when in fact I should’ve put the amounts in. I got into a roll for ticking the categories and I hadn’t realised I was ticking the incorrect ones for the claims - I had to then cross them out and re-tick them, it now just looks like a mess!"

VAT’s Complicated

“I’d been given a new form to complete and I believe I’ve still completed it incorrectly. I began entering the correct amounts and then I started ticking the incorrect categories again. Also, I have to work out my own VAT - I don’t have a clue what is VATable and what's not! Luckily I managed to find out, otherwise I wouldn’t have known. I know how to work out what 20% is, but for someone who may not be good with numbers, this would be a nightmare step to have to do. Using our webexpenses system, VAT is worked out for claimants."

Expenses Policy Nightmare

“I was also given a massive pack of information with the expenses policy included - I didn’t read through it, it was huge! With webexpenses, even before I claimed, I can select the relevant category and then see what my spend limit is. For this spreadsheet though, I didn’t have a clue.

"If I worked for a company that uses spreadsheets for claiming back expenses, I probably wouldn’t even check the policy - I’d just put the expenses through and hope for the best. And who really wants to carry an expenses policy around with them? Claimants aren’t going to want to do this. This whole process was a nightmare!"

Wasting Time

“By the time I had even received this sheet and completed it, my expenses from Accountex were approved online the day after I had submitted them using webexpenses.

“The first sheet probably took me about 40 minutes to complete, and that was just to write everything in. I didn’t know the VAT side and the amounts were incorrect, I completed it wrong. It was also such a pain completing this by hand, the boxes are so small and my handwriting isn’t the neatest. If I was completing this on a PC using Excel it wouldn’t have helped with filling it out correctly."

Fussy Manual Expenses Processes

“I also found out I have to number the receipts but then it doesn’t correlate to the form - there is no column with receipt number for each claim. I can’t believe an account department would go through every single receipt and check it against the claim line, it would take ages to do.

“Claimants just wants to complete their expenses as quickly as they can, we don’t have the time to spend so much of our day trying to complete paper-based or even Excel spreadsheets. This is a process that you don’t want to do, you just try and get it done so it’s out the way."

Costly Corrections

“I received the original spreadsheet to complete before the Accountex exhibition. In that time, I’ve had to complete it twice because of the mistakes I had made first time round. I think it is now correct, I still need to find out my payroll number though. I’m not 100% sure if everything I’ve claimed for is in line with the policy - I haven’t got a clue if second time round this is now right.

“I’ve honestly just put this to the side and forgotten about it, it’s been a couple of weeks since I went to the exhibition. Looking at the sheet now, I don’t even know where to put the total cost of this claim."

Digital Expenses Back-up

“I also need to get reimbursed for my other train ticket. But, luckily I took a photo of my receipt because I had to send off the original. If I didn’t have access to webexpenses then I could’ve missed out on this expense.

“I was in a rush to do my expenses, plus I didn’t want to do it this way, I can imagine other claimants feeling this way too.”

Find out how webexpenses can provide a smarter way for your organisation to manage and monitor employee expenses here.