It’s one of those acronyms that’s regularly heard whenever employee expenses are being discussed…’T&E’. You will see references to everything from T&E spend and fraud to T&E policies and providers.
It begs the question...what does it actually mean?
And the answer isn’t as straightforward as it might first seem because there’s no general consensus as to what ‘T&E’ stands for. There are two meanings - it’s either ‘travel and entertainment’ or ‘travel and expenses’.
While the acronym is in common usage, it’s rarely found in any kind of government or administrative documents and consequently, there are no sources for a clear and authoritative definition.
The closest thing we have is provided by Business Dictionary which defines travel and entertainment expenses as:
“An expense incurred by an employee while he/she is traveling for business purposes or entertaining a business client. Examples of traveling expenses include money spent on lodging, transportation, and meals.”
But T&E is generally used as a catch-all term to refer to any expense which results from an employee working away from their office. As such, it’s really just a shorter and snappier way to say ‘employee expense’ or ‘expense reimbursement’.
Global differences: US vs UK
References to ‘T&E’ are most commonly found in the US but there’s an alternative acronym that has started to gain popularity within the UK - ‘T&S’, meaning ‘travel and subsistence’. Unlike its rival, this can be found used in government documentation.
The acronym is regularly used by the UK's HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) who describe T&S as the cost of providing for employee travel, accommodation, meals and other ‘subsistence’. They define subsistence as the ‘necessary costs of travelling’, giving examples such as meals, parking charges and business phone calls.
Analysis by Google shows that T&S has become an increasingly popular search term within the UK in recent years. But whatever acronym is used and whatever meaning is given, what really matters is that your organisation has effective control over this vital area.
Why is T&E an important term for businesses to understand?
For most businesses, T&E costs represent the second largest controllable expenditure, behind employee wages. Ineffective management of expenses is the cause of significant losses through error and fraud.