By Ken Walker
Businesses that are looking to trim costs related to travel can implement itemization of expenses. Frivolous spending should not be tolerated by management. Policies that encourage doing the right thing on the road should cut costs and promote professional conduct from traveling employees.
Business Travel Expenses
Itemizing essentially involves employee listings, line-by-line, every expense incurred while traveling for business. The objective of this is to increase accountability and the effectiveness of policy initiatives.
A specific way that itemizing receipts can attempt to cut wasteful spending is in regards to meals. Many businesses have ambiguous policies that basically say while traveling, employee meal expenses should be similar to the type of meals you eat at home. This is unclear language that may result in excess spending and higher costs for the business.
The fact is that certain employees will look to take advantage of this type of policy. Some employees interpret travel expenses as a free ticket to spend. I’ve seen firsthand situations where an employer had a $50 daily food spending limit, so they ate cheaply at McDonald's and then bought souvenirs with the leftover cash. Clearly, this is wasteful spending that can be avoided if an employee requests itemized receipts.
A company that does not require employees to itemize business travel expenses will have difficulty enforcing other policies. Traveling employees have the opportunity hide almost any expenses that are not itemized. I've seen employees expense alcohol purchases to the business when customers are not being entertained. This type of wasteful spending can be avoided.
Managing Itemized Receipts
It is unrealistic to expect managers to closely scrutinize every expense report, but businesses should put policies in place that require employees to request itemized receipts for restaurants, hotels, and travel expenses to increase oversight.
Getting itemized receipts from restaurants is relatively easy, while hotels may be a little more difficult. If a traveler eats a large meal in a hotel, the hotel folio may simply show a line item that says “food service” and a totaled amount. Employees should request itemized receipts from the hotel restaurant, even if the restaurant is part of the hotel.
Of course, many employees are responsible travelers. Employees who have proven themselves to not be wasteful should be told as much by their managers. Honest, responsible employees may feel unappreciated if they feel that they are being targeted by more stringent policies.
Also, sales members that bring in a lot of business may be irritated by a manager scrutinizing small expenses. Managers must use discretion when auditing business travel expenses.
It is often the case that just a few employees make wasteful travel spending an issue in the first place. Usually, problem travelers change their behavior for the better when they realize that spending is being monitored. Requiring itemized business travel expenses can be just the oversight that is needed for these types of employees.