Sounds familiar? When Robert Half Management Resources recently surveyed 2,200 CFOs in the US about unusual items submitted for expense reimbursement, it received the following answers:
- New car
- Rental homes
- Flat-screen TV
- Toilet paper
- Doggie day spa
- 10-cent parking-meter charge
- Dance classes
There were even a few items that defied categorization:
- "A side of beef – somebody bought half of a cow"
- "A welder"
- "Somebody else's salary"
Impact on the business
A survey in Asia will probably unearth similar items, and will have the same implications on businesses.
“These outlandish and sometimes funny examples shed light on what can be a serious problem for businesses,” said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in the US, who was previously based in Singapore. “Inappropriate expense reports are costly – both to the company's bottom line and to the careers of the people who submit them."
Hird suggests that organizations should make the expense reporting process as simple as possible. "Ensure your policies are clearly communicated and accessible to all employees. Take a big-picture view of the program. Is it spelled out completely? Are you using the latest tools available? Removing ambiguity can help reduce the number of problematic requests."
Questions to ask
It may be useful to tell employees to ask themselves three questions before submitting an expense report:
Is this within the company policy? Before preparing an expense report, review your organization's guidelines. If you have questions, check with your manager or human resources representative. Taking a few minutes at the outset can spare the embarrassment of an inappropriate request.
Could there be any confusion? Clear any request that could be interpreted as a personal expense with your manager beforehand. If your boss doesn't know the baseball tickets you bought were to entertain a client, for example, you could unnecessarily put yourself in hot water.
Would Grandma approve? Got an item that's on the border of being inappropriate? Think about what your family might say. If you'd be embarrassed to talk to a parent or grandparent about something, don't try to expense it.