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June 26, 2009

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I used to do a lot of traveling for business. My predecessor once gave me a wise piece of advice...he told me that every so often, through on a $10 (fake) taxi ride on to my expense reports for this exact reason. So often, there are small out-of-pocket expenses that I may have lost a receipt (my company mandated receipts) or that I may have forgotten to put on the expense report altogether. Some people may feel that this in dishonest, but my thought was that in the end of the year, it really was a wash.

I have a co-worker who has a bad reputation for doing the opposite of this. He is very flashy with his money but includes every little thing on his expense report.

I travel out of state for business two or three times a year. I typically only list those expenses I would not normally have incurred if I hadn't been traveling.

If it's not in my budget at home, then it goes on the expense report. For me then, this usually means cost of flight, rental car, lodging, and any meals out that I'd normally be eating in (including airport food/beverage).

I include everything. Including 50 cent tolls, coffees in the morning (even if they could have gotten free at the hotel), everything. Depending on how often you travel this adds up.

Helps that I never use cash for personal things, so its just as easy to pull out the company Amex and it all automatically reports.

I usually try to claim everything I can. I don't see any reason to not get money back that I spent. I do not need to subsidize my employer. I try to claim ALL expenses when I'm traveling as much as I can justify. I wouldn't be spending the money if it weren't for my company making me go somewhere.

But I'm not perfect as far as catching every small amount of spending. I usually don't track tips or small out of pocket expenses like a cup of coffee, so I forget about that when it comes around to doing the expense report. This is not intentional on my part and I'd have no problems with reporting every cent spent if I tracked it better.

However once in a great while I won't claim something small simply because filling out an expense report isn't worth the effort to get back a small amount of money.


Bottom line I guess is that I claim everything I can unless I'm being lazy or forgetful.

I usually miss a number of things. I think sometmes its lazy and other times its just not wanting to incur costs for the company. It's proably silly, but I really appreciate the company and don't want to "nickle and dime" them for expenses I can cover.

My most recent trip was for a training session they were wonderful to pay for. I realize that I use the information to help the company, but I felt so enriched that I really didn't want to bother with small amounts like a macdonalds meal or a starbucks coffee. I was just thankful they were willing to invest in me.

Is that silly? maybe...but that's how I feel.

I work with mentally ill patients and frequently buy them coffee or soda at the hospital cafeteria. I never try to get a reimbursement. I look at it as simply an act of kindness for someone worse off than myself. And if they didn't show up for appointments, our research projects and my job would disappear.

I also use my car once in a while. If I have to go out of town I'll fill out the form to get reimbursed. If it's a few miles in town to see a patient I don't bother. Especially these days when I'm just happy to have my job.

I drive my own car to some of our other buildings occasionally but they are all within about 4-5 miles so I don't really care.

I imagine that most employees are perfectly happy to let a few small expenses slide because they are also getting to spend (and be reimbursed) for more than they require while on those trips.

For example when I travel on business I eat very well at nice restaurants, drink each night, take cabs freely, and otherwise enjoy a lifestyle I would not choose if my employer wasn't picking up the bill. So by not bothering to tally up and request reimbursement for every valet tip and morning coffee, I can enjoy the big indulgences guilt free and delude myself into believing I'm saving the company some change like a good corporate citizen.

I include everything! a quarter at the parking meter , a first class stamp, everything. My boss laughs at me, but they are the company's expenses, not mine.

When I had a company car and had as my Territory my Home State and 1/2 of the neighboring State, as an Insurance Investigator, I took every opportunity to get ''my'' money back. Pre-Cell days and back when I had exclusive use of My Company Car for all of my needs, including vacations. And before the IRS stepped in and changed the reporting rules on cars.

I was on overnights 1-3 nights a week and worked my ass off. 50 - 60 hour weeks at a fixed Salary were not uncommon.

When traveling my company pays my travel and hotel. They give me US$35.00 a day for food. No receipts required. My last 3 day trip cost me a little over $11 having stopped at the local Safeway and picked up a roasted chicken, some dinner rolls and chips. More than enough for two nights dinner. The hotel I stayed at had a "Social Hour" that provided my adult beverages for the evenings, had a rather decent breakfast and lunch was catered at the event.
I sometimes have to park downtown and log my meter money for reimbursement. I turn it in every couple of months or so.

It's ok to list every expense you incur, although I'm sure I end up subsidizing the company somewhat when I travel. Like FMF, if it's under $100 per year it doesn't bother me much. I usually leave tips in the room of hotels I stay and never reimburse these. For me, it's my donations to the people on the road that will hopefully make my travel experience smoother...

For those who pad expenses during this time, be careful! This is one way employers can fire someone when they need to get rid of people. If you are targeted to be made redundant, someone may go through your expenses to see if they can find a technicality to get you out! An extra $50 or whatever isn't worth missing out on a severance package...

-Mike

Great article. I usually take the same approach as you, for the same exact reasons, especially the "employer is so generous" part. I have a company car, a company cell phone (both of which can be used for personal use) plus two company-supplied computers. Who am I to complain about little expenses? I am more than happy paying for them, and more.

One area I would respectfully disagree about in your article is the part about tipping a maid. I would never, ever, ever tip a lowly maid, under any circumstances. They have chosen a job cleaning my mess and that is their problem, not mine. I have no respect for people, like maids, who forgo their education and wind up doing one of the lowest, most disgusting jobs available, day after day. If anything, I will make an extra effort to make their life harder, not easier, by leaving my room extra messy and pulling down the sheets on the second bed, even if I never used it, so that they have to change it. Tip a maid? The only tip I would give them is to go back to school and get a real education, so that they can get a real, fulfilling, respectful career.

Yup - much like you I typically don't claim expenses for using my car for business trips, and I frequently forget to claim reimbursement for tips & tolls (for example).

Actually, I have no issues with keeping hyper accurate billing records for reimbursement but I feel justified by this in that I always take the cheapest (though not always easiest) flight, I have no issue with the Super 8, and as for meals for clients...I watch shows on Food Network and the Travel Channel to find local good eats that are usually amazingly good, economic and it makes it look like I am in the know by finding these great out of the way places.

I don't really think it helps a company if you don't file the receipt for the coffee at the airport but then fly business class to the Four Seasons.

I typically only record things that are over a few dollars and which I wouldn't incur otherwise.

I like my company so I don't want to be an ass. And also, my direct manager approves the expense reports, so I would feel like an idiot if he as sitting their approving every 25 cents I put in a parking meter.

Educated 2,

I hope you are being sarcastic or obnoxious for a jokes sake otherwise you come off sounding like an ass.

No need to be elitist, have you ever worked a menial job? There are many levels for jobs and all who do the work are fellow people. Without people doing the menial jobs, a good number of things would go undone. How about showing a little respect for your fellow mankind?

-Mike

100% correct Mike, Educated 2 must be an ass if he isn't joking. Respect for everyone regardless of there role in life is a rule I live by and it is something that has made me very sucessful and well liked.

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