Home » Blog » Break free from manual expense reporting

Break free from manual expense reporting

Content from our United States office from our US office

The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from the traditional ways of doing things. We gather in parks and other public places to watch parades, fireworks displays, and concerts while enjoying barbecues, festivals, and picnics. It’s a celebration of how far we have come as a country, it’s also the right time for businesses to reflect on changing from the traditional way of doing things.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the rest of the American colonists grew tired of the financial and tax fraud perpetrated against them by the British. This date marks the separation of the colonies from Great Britain and their pledge to separate their expenses from the monarchy.

When our forefathers drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, computers didn’t exist, so they used the most advanced technology available at the time – pen and paper.

You would think that nearly 250 years later, a country founded on unfair expense management practices would have adopted better expense reporting practices. It’s 2018 now, and computers and cell phones are interconnected with advanced technology those people could only dream of.

Despite the widespread availability of business expense tracking software, many companies in America and around the globe are still using the same pen and paper used to declare our independence. Even those using business expense tracking software often choose manual processes like spreadsheets that aren’t much better.

This outdated approach needs to change, and there’s no better time to do it than the anniversary of The States’ birth.

The dark ages of accounting

Accounting is one of the oldest business practices in existence. In fact, bookkeepers kept ledgers over 4000 years ago, before currency even existed. Back then, society used the barter system, and ledgers tracked trades such as building a chair in exchange for a delivery of a dozen eggs every day for the next year.

In those days, the best app for tracking expenses and receipts was typically a pictogram or rudimentary writing providing a narrative of the trade. It wasn’t until the late 1400s that bookkeeping practices were modernized to include separate columns for debits and credits, a simplified version of double-entry bookkeeping.

Bookkeeping finally evolved into the more advanced practice of accounting when America created the railroad and modern corporation. Cost estimates, financial statements, and all the expense management practices we know today arose from this time period, and by the early 1900s, certified public accountants (CPA) were in high demand.

Despite creating modern accounting, Americans are still lagging behind in automating this important business function. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2018 Report to the Nations, over $7 billion was lost to fraud last year. And small businesses lost almost twice as much per scheme to fraud.

It occurs because 65% of businesses still use manual processes for expense reporting according to our 2018 survey on expense fraud. Not only do people purposely commit fraud, but manual processes lead to data entry errors, missed expenses, and other innocent, yet still costly, mistakes.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Technology has progressed a lot over the centuries, and especially over the past decade. Automation, artificial intelligence, optical character recognition, cloud computing, and other modern technologies resolve all of the issues of previous accounting methods.

Today’s best app for tracking expenses and receipts is as far beyond spreadsheets as computers are from the original ledgers used in the BC era. Our country invented accounting, and it’s time we embraced its latest iteration.

The new era of business expense tracking software

Technology has revolutionized every aspect of expense management, and we no longer have to deal with manual processes involving paper. It wasn’t long ago that business travelers had to hold onto receipts throughout the entirety of their trips. They then filled out manual forms to submit (with receipts) to accounting in order to get reimbursed for T&E expenses like food, lodging, and gas.

Today, we have smartphones in our hands that are capable of complex processing that was previously only imagined. Take a picture of a receipt from your phone’s built-in camera, and a smart receipts app uses advanced Automatic Character Recognition technology to scan and upload the right data into expense reporting platforms. There on, accounting can approve or deny expenses on the spot.

A modern mobile expenses app can even be pre-programmed with the business rules for which expenses are allowed. For example, if you buy gas, food, and a souvenir for your child at a truck stop, the mobile expenses app will let you choose which items to submit to the company for reimbursement. Gone are the days where a simple oversight caused an expense claim to be rejected. No longer do employees need to waste time making separate purchases to satisfy rigid corporate processes and procedures.

Business expense tracking software in the modern world is designed with 4000 years of bookkeeping best practices in mind. The best app for tracking expenses and receipts uses this combined knowledge to automate every tedious task that used to be involved in expense reporting. Gone are the days where it took weeks, even months to reconcile these expenses.

If the Internet was available in 1776, our forefathers would have live-streamed the signing of the Declaration of Independence on YouTube. It would have been announced via Twitter, and the Continental Congress would have posted selfies of them signing on Instagram and Snapchat.

That technology didn’t exist back then, but it does now. We live in the most technologically advanced society in human history. Never before have we had so much instant access to information and automated processing.

It’s time we abandoned our dependency on manual processes like pen and paper or spreadsheets. This July Fourth, celebrate your independence from manual labor by dumping your old expense reporting processes into the harbor. Reduce errors and fraud with automated business expense tracking software that our country’s founders would have wanted.