Most of us have taken a business trip at least once, and many do it far more than they want. One thing all business trips have in common is travel and expense reports. But what should (and shouldn’t) we be expensing? Beverly Kays of Oversight Systems discusses some of the more creative expense attempts from last year.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Travel Association, we should see travel increase over the next few quarters in 2019. This also means there will be an increase in the number of customer dinners, car rentals, airline tickets, snacks and all the costs associated with these activities. This increase in travel expenses means that for many finance teams and corporate audit teams, their jobs will get a little bit more hectic with all those receipts submitted for reimbursement.
This also means that there will most likely be an increase in new employees that may not have taken the time to learn the company’s corporate spend policy. The good news is that we are seeing companies make a strong effort to educate new employees on and remind existing ones of what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to expensing meetings and travel.
But as is always the case, there are those who find ways to work the system and include personal items or expenses into their corporate expenses. Though we don’t feel like there is a major increase of people doing this, it is important to understand that despite the best policies and education program, some employees will violate policies, whether intentionally or not.
To help illustrate this, we put together a unique list of the most interesting business expenses that took place in 2018. This was done by analyzing trillions of transactions for corporate and federal government organizations. Below is our list of some of the most interesting expenses employees tried to get away with last year.
1. Most Unusual Client Gift Award
A sales rep expensed a sports bra from Lululemon as a “client gift.” Later, the client and the sales rep went together to a yoga class, which was also expensed to the company. When questioned, the sales rep saw no harm in the unusual purchases.
2. Most Enterprising Award
One employee expensed $99,000 worth of Lenovo computers. He may have had some computer issues, but this is excessive. Instead, he/she was using the corporate discount to buy computers at a steep discount and then sell them for a nice profit.
3. You Look Marvelous Award
One employee decided her eyelash extensions qualified as a business expense and charged the $69 purchase to her company.
4. Smoke and Mirrors Award
Smoking is expensive; the high cost of cigarettes has become so burdensome to one employee that he began regularly altering receipts submitted with his expense report and concealed the cigarettes as “fuel.”
5. Big Spender Award
An employee at a biotech company began renting a car for a week for $752, racking up $2,500 in office supplies from a CVS Pharmacy in four weeks’ time and charging $1,000 for catering a “meeting,” which all ended up being a personal expense.
6. Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em Award
One employee needed the latest smoker and purchased a $699 Traeger Grill, then expensed it to the business. At least they economized by buying the lower-priced model versus the top-of-the-line Traeger grill.
7. Fuel is Fuel Award
An employee was expensing a lot of fuel, despite not having a rental car. It turns out the employee was doctoring the receipts to hide a different kind of fuel – beer and cigarettes.
8. Where Did I Leave My Car? Award
An employee at a medical technology company had a weird pattern of out-of-pocket parking expenses. Upon further investigation, the employee had been submitting the same doctored receipt for a parking deck – get this – that no longer exists.
9. Wine is Everything Award
You probably know the term “liquid lunch.” We’ve all been there, am I right? This employee expensed a bottle of wine as a “snack.” The explanation – “I wanted to save the company money by not having wine at dinner.” The problem was that the receipts showed that she still had wine with her dinner.
10. Need to Survive Award
One employee was afraid the end of the world was coming and decided to order several doomsday prepper books. Scary titles included, “Your Home Fallout Shelter: How to Ensure Your Family’s Health and Survival in a Nuclear Incident” ($9.95), “Nuclear War Survival Skills” ($19.95) and “The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource” ($14.95).
The good news is that all of these expenses were caught because these companies were leveraging technologies that monitor every transaction in the company and called out the ones that seemed out of compliance or irregular. This will be a growth year for corporate spend on travel and expenses. Finding the right solution to deliver visibility should be top of mind for any compliance and auditing group.