How to make sure business travel expenses don’t ‘cost a mint’

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The recent media furore over the travelling costs of a Royal Mint executive have provided a reminder of why it really pays to have a robust expense policy in place.

It was a Freedom of Information request that provided a Sunday Times reporter with access to an exact breakdown of the yearly expenses claimed by director, Chris Howard. As a government-owned organisation tasked with looking after the nation’s coffers, the coverage took great delight in revealing all the details of his £45,000 expense bill.

The costs include more than £15,000 on overseas accommodation at luxury hotels throughout the globe, including stays in Melbourne, California, Singapore and Shanghai. There was also the £8,700 bill for entertaining business contacts and colleagues with costs including a $14 Bloody Mary at 11.30am during a Las Vegas business trip.

While there was no suggestion that any of the claims were illegitimate, the scale of the spending does help to highlight why it’s important for businesses to reinforce a structured policy that is well communicated to all employees. Allowing employees to be involved in crafting the policy increases overall engagement and makes for a more satisfied team. The value of the claim is entirely based on the occasion just as long the employee is clear and it sits within company policy.

It’s something that more UK companies are having to handle as more growing companies look to make the most of global opportunities. A Business Travel Show survey found that 40 percent of British businesses predict increased overseas spend in 2017.

Errors and Expense Fraud

Without a robust expense policy and the tools needed to effectively manage and enforce it, business travel costs can easily spiral out of control especially when an employee is in another time zone or country. It opens up organisations to the risk of errors, fraud and compliance failings.

A problem caused by the traditional way overseas expenses have been handled is the delay that occurs between costs being incurred and claims being processed. Typically, claims are submitted after a business traveller has returned from a trip.

It means costs can be weeks or even months old by the time they’re processed. Adding to the difficulty is the need to decipher paper receipts that have been scrunched and crumpled during travel.

If nasty surprises are found, exorbitant costs or suspicious looking claims, it makes it difficult for finance teams to effectively challenge the claim. They have to factor in the administrative time and resources it will take to properly check an overseas cost.

Automated Security

These are problems which are solved with digital expense set-ups. With automated processes and cloud-handling of data, it makes managing employee costs just as simple at home or abroad.

Webexpenses allows business travellers to manage all of their costs during trips via a smartphone app as well as having it flagged when a paper receipt is required in overseas territory. Paper receipts can be instantly turned into a digital form and accounts updated from wherever they are.

It removes the need for a lag between when business travel costs are incurred and claimed. The real-time nature of the systems also means that policy enforcement can be proactive.

On-screen policy reminders and notifications can be delivered to employees as they submit details. Automated checks also monitor each cost with finance teams alerted if anything breaches a preset limit.

It provides businesses with a set of tools to keep a tight control of overseas costs, creating a quick and simple way for travellers to claim legitimate expenses - and nothing more.

So while the Royal Mint continues to defend itself against accusations of excess, all organisations now have access to the digital tools required to keep a proper control of company pennies and pounds while employees are overseas.

Webexpenses provides a smarter way to manage and monitor employee expenses and business travel. Find out more here.