On The Job - Surviving Business Travel Expense Reports

On The Job - Surviving Business Travel Expense Reports
I worked a 9 to 5 job for twenty-five years. The one task I abhorred was reconciling expenses. Through the years I learned certain tricks to make this easier on my manager and myself. Whether you are the traveler or the one who handles the business travel expense receipts, business travel reconciliation can become a real headache. The manager’s headache starts when he or she cannot find half the expense receipts generated, or perhaps worse, has gone over the expense budget. The assistant’s headache is how to reconcile the mess so the finance department and your manager are equally satisfied.

Here are some things managers and assistants can do to make their lives less stressful:

Read your company travel policy. If you work for a large organization there is usually a travel policy set in place. Read it and make sure you both understand it before travel arrangements are made.

Make travel arrangements well in advance. If you or your boss is traveling by air, try to buy the tickets two weeks to a month in advance. You will save money on the air fare. Make prior arrangements for a rental car, or car service and get a written confirmation.

Policy compliance is everything. Complying with your company’s travel policy will make life easier for everyone. If the meal allowance is $65 per day, understand that means three meals divided into $65. You will have to make adjustments accordingly.

Know what you can call a business expense. Your meal allowance may have to be used as part of your entertainment allowance as well. If meeting for a drink, etc. understand that you may not be reimbursed.

Retain all of your receipts. Save every receipt you receive. A 6” x 9” clasp envelope works well as a receipt holder. Put your receipt in the envelope as soon as you return to your suite. Another good way to keep up with expenses is to carry a small notebook where you can log what you spend, along with the time and date of each purchase.

Understand tipping. Tips can add to expenses considerably when traveling. Be sure to keep a record of your tips because you will not receive a receipt for them. Tipping expenses can often be listed under “Other” or “Miscellaneous” expense; see your company policy.

After talking to a few administrative assistants, I found the tips below to be the normal and acceptable practice.

  • Porters at airport $1 per bag. Business travelers with carry on bags generally will not have this expense.
  • Restaurant, 15% to 20%.
  • Hotel shuttle driver, $2.
  • Limo/taxi drivers, 15%.
  • Doorman; luggage handling, hailing cab, $2, $1.
  • Parking Attendants, $1 to $2. Try not take your car in and out of lot.
  • Housekeeping. $1 to $2 per day. No more than $10.

If you are responsible for your own expense report, do it and turn it in immediately. If you are responsible for your manager’s report. After you ask, “How was the meeting, etc.” Your next question should be, “Do you have your expense envelope?”

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