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What are your corporate travel expense reimbursement policies & best practices?

travel and expense policy best practices


(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

Sales organizations, those that employ many sales people supported by a minimum administrative staff have a hard time getting the sales people to submit their expense reports.

Large decentralized companies also have trouble getting their management team to consistently submit their expense reports.

The financial downside is not knowing what your true expenses and liabilities are when there is a large unknown backlog.

Some companies are afraid of instituting a strong policy for fear the sales people will revolt if they are forced to follow any policy.

Best practice:

Your policy should be specific with enforceable deadlines.

The accounting team needs to have the power to enforce the deadline and stand firm that late reports will not be reimbursed.

Institute a specific deadline, and do not waffle if you need to decline the entire expense report because it was submitted late. Allow the operations team manager the opportunity to complain up the chain to their VP that their expenses were rejected for being late. Why? Because this forces them to have to explain why they could not get around to following company policy and their VP will have to take administrative time away from their projects to deal with getting the reimbursement paid. After going through this loss of face to their VP, you can bet they will receive a reprimand and will not be late again for fear of it another request to the VP causing a bad performance review.

You will have to reimburse the late claim, but force the late people to go through the process of dealing with their superior.

Large egos do not prefer being called out for infractions of character even if they have none. If you have a large sales force of people who prefer not to get their paperwork done or follow policy, simply enforce the policy and do not waver.

This was very effective in policing a sales dude who consistently was 6 months late submitting expense reports over $30,000 quarterly, and eventually led to that person being fired for not following corporate policy.

You don't need these people on your team.

There are expense reporting systems out there such as Concur that can be operated from mobile devices to take image of receipts and do the coding right there on the spot.

If you would like a referral to the Concur sales team, let me know.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

I do not agree with inflexible policies. But I do agree with requiring a signature escalation processes, i.e. any expense reimbursement request 30 days late requires a department manager approval; any reimbursement request 60 days late requires Vice President approval...

Set a policy with all the requirements. Obtain Management Approval that this policy is the correct approach. Publish the policy.

Any deviation of policy requires ever increasing manager level approval. In this approach, Manager's that need to sign-off will become advocates for your policy. They are not going to want to constantly approve an employee's disregard of the company policies. If Accounting sets a policy, there will always be a more senior manager that will override it. Right or wrong it happens. Accounting should not be the policy "enforcers." That rarely works.

Vik Agrawal
Title: President & Co-Founder
Company: ExpensePath, Inc.
(President & Co-Founder, ExpensePath, Inc.) |

1) At a minimum, it starts with automating the process. This used to be only for large companies thru expensive and complex deployments but now there are effective and high ROI cloud solutions with low cost and setup in minutes. Automating cuts significant non-compliance and mistakes in the approval process and saves finance time by mapping data into the company GL.
2) Better policy comes from solutions that allow policy to be set for any category of expense (i.e. monthly cell phone limit or meal allowance per attendee). Even better solutions allow policy to be set for subsets of employees (for example by country or functional department). And simple reporting to be able to help set those policies.

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