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How a business expense claim can be used to cover friend and family expenses

The problem with business expense claims

Business expenses are often seen to be exploited as a cover for an expense claim that is not staying true to its origin. Covering legitimate employee expenses can be costly enough for most businesses – let alone having to cover any other kind of additional expense claim.

Reimbursing an employee’s expense claim is typically the second largest operational cost. An effective expenses management solution should be a core practice for any business that manages expense claims.

In often cases, businesses will unknowingly find themselves reimbursing an employee expense claim – which in truth is an expense created externally through families, friends and partners.

Expense claims can be trivial. But, in some cases, the boundaries of expense claims are pushed with little chance of repercussions. For example – an extra expense claim for drinks or meals could be added to an employee’s overnight claim. On the contrary, it could also stretch to a luxury hotel stay for a friend or partner.

Friends and Family, or F&F, expense fraud is one of the commonplace forms of expense fraud. It was highlighted by a global study into workplace expense claims dishonesty. The survey was completed by more than 4,000 office workers in 2017.

The research commissioned by Webexpenses found that just under one-in-five (17%) of respondents admitted to having used business expenses to cover non-business related friends and family expense claims.

Furthermore, it was identified that these fraudulent expenses would be regularly claimed as ‘client entertainment’. As a result, they would be safely hidden amongst an employee’s legitimate overnight expense claims.

A fraudulent expense claim

Among the business expense “gifts” employees admitted to were:

  • $492 (£371) hotel stay in San Francisco for partner
  • $197 (£148) restaurant meal with family members
  • $157 (£119) tickets for a partner to attend a concert
  • $128 (£96) Chicago Cubs tickets for friends

It makes detecting expense fraud challenging for finance teams. A ‘mix and merge’ strategy is often adopted by claimants when making an expense claim.

Mixing in these kinds of additional costs with completely a legitimate expense claim makes it hard for finance professionals to try and untangle.

Whilst many of the illegitimate expense claims were sizable, another strategy identified by the research was ‘little and often’. Often a low-level expense claim is designed to remain safely under the expense management ‘radar’. The strategy would allow for a small expense claim to consistently filter through without question.

More than a third (37%) of respondents believed that if they were ‘sensible’ with a fraudulent expense claim, it was unlikely to be challenged.

Failure to manage business expense claims

The failure to properly monitor and check the legitimacy of expense claims is a consequence of the outdated systems that many businesses still use when processing expenses.

For many businesses, an expense claim has traditionally been handled manually with information having to be transferred between paper receipts, report forms and Excel spreadsheets.

Consequently, it creates a slow and inefficient process. It hampers a finance team’s ability to properly police an expense policy. Moreover, they often lack the time, resources and tools required.

It is a key driver behind the reason why more businesses are starting to use cloud-based systems. The infrastructure provided by Webexpenses allows a business to dramatically improve their ability to manage and monitor their employee’s expense claim.

A smarter way to fight expense fraud

Webexpenses uses a mobile app and OCR (optical character recognition) scanning to convert any paper receipt into a digital expense claim format.

The process is handled digitally. Manual tasks are quickly replaced by fast and efficient automated expense claim processes.

Accurate data on every aspect of expenses spending is automatically collated. It is made easily accessible via integrated expense reporting tools. Automated checks guard against expense fraud. Alerts are triggered when an expense claim breaches limits set by the finance team.

Businesses obtain the ability to identify fraudulent family and friend expense claims that are among legitimate expense claims. Suspicious expense claim trends and activities can be identified early and investigated.

As a result, there is an availability of more efficient monitoring. It makes employees reevaluate the risk/reward ratio when adding fraudulent costs to an expense claim.

Webexpenses provides a smarter and safer way to manage employee expenses. With our expense management software, you can track and manage expenses both online or through our expenses app.  Find out more about Webexpenses and the services offered by requesting a free demo.