The no-nonsense guide to expense management

A practical guide to managing your company's expenses

The biggest danger posed by expenses is our attitude.

It’s the way organizations allow expense reports to be something to dread and avoid. How they become the business equivalent of a dripping tap - a problem you learn to live with.

Over the past decade, the digital world has transformed the way we’re able to manage and monitor expense reports. The old processes, a breeding ground for expenses fraud, have been replaced by efficient digital systems.

The purpose of this guide is to show how your organization can fully embrace these changes by implementing an expense management solution.

Taking control of your expenses

In this white paper, we will provide an overview of the basic elements needed for effective expense management, including:

  • Knowledge - knowing how expenses work
  • Policy - putting together an expenses policy
  • Management - using the right tools for the job

Step one: Expenses knowledge

Expenses should be simple. An employee pays for a work-related item, they keep a record of the payment and then claim the amount back from their employer. The claim is checked and if approved; it’s paid and the job is done!

The first step to effective expense management is, therefore, getting a grasp of how this works. The purpose of this section is to tackle some of the most common questions and concerns.

How do I work out which employee expenses are taxed?

It’s simple - all legitimate business expenses are tax-free.

Well, okay - that’s obviously way too simple for anything involving the tax system but it’s a good place to start.

The fun and games are trying to interpret/guess what the HMRC regards as being ‘legitimate business expenses’. Here’s the exact wording they use: An employee may deduct expenses incurred wholly, exclusively, and necessarily in performing their duties.

So an expense claim for a protective overall worn only on-site would be acceptable. A claim for a business suit which is also worn outside of work, would not. It’s this basic principle that can be applied to the tax status of all employee expenses.

  • Is it required for a work purpose?
  • Are there any outside benefits?

There will always be grey areas when trying to apply this rule but, for the most part, we can use it as a general guide to deciding what is and isn’t accepted.

The most common kinds of expenses accepted by HMRC are:

  • Accommodation and subsistence
  • Business travel or fuel
  • Professional fees and subscriptions
  • Tools and specialist clothing

What information does HMRC need concerning expense payments?

At the end of each tax year, you need to supply payroll information for each employee you have paid expenses or benefits to.
If they earn more than £8,500, this will be via a P11D form and for those less, it’s a P9D.

The total amount of expenses and benefits is then recorded in the clunkily named 911D(b) form. The deadline set by HMRC to receive all of these forms is July 6th. You can, however, apply to HMRC for a Dispensation Agreement. This removes the reporting requirements for certain types of expenses. Once granted, these apply indefinitely.

What rate should a company set for mileage?

You can decide whatever rate you want but you would be advised to stick to the payment levels recommended by HMRC. By following their mileage rates, you ensure any payments remain tax-free while saving your finance team a major amount of extra hassle.

The HMRC uses the term Approved Mileage Allowance Payments (AMAPs) to describe those mileage expense payments which qualify as being tax-exempt.

The current rates they have set for AMAPs are:

Vehicle type and mileage reimbursement chart, expense management

So an employee driving his car 12,000 miles during a year for business purposes would receive 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p for the remaining 2,000.

Step two: Expenses policy

With basic knowledge about the way expenses work, you can begin applying this to the specific needs of your business. The foundation for this is a robust and effective expenses policy. This sets out the way your company handles expenses - what can be claimed, how it can be claimed, and any specific rules or compliance regulations.

An expense policy needs to be continually revised and updated to make sure it adapts to any changes, both internally and within the wider legislative world.

You can find a full Webexpenses’ guide to creating an effective expenses policy here. But here we are going to deal with the most common questions asked about planning and policy.

What form should an expense policy document take?

It doesn’t matter. It can be a paper document or on a company wiki or a doc on a shared folder or drive. Or it could be all of these things. What’s important is that it’s easily accessible. And this is not just in terms of employees being able to find it, but also in terms of the way it’s written and presented.

You want employees to be able to absorb and understand the information without requiring them to wade through pages of overly dry and officious text.

But as we will show in part three of this guide; your policy document can be integrated into your day-to-day operations using a cloud-based management system such as Webexpenses.

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