Business expense reimbursement is one area of spend management that business owners do not always give its due. And yet, nearly every organization will have to reimburse employees for their expenses at some point.
Part of the problem is that these expenses can vary significantly, from buying office supplies to traveling or even medical costs. If your business deals with many types of expense reimbursements, you might wonder what you need to cover and how you should handle it.
If you’ve had trouble working out your organization's different business expense reimbursements, or you want to learn more about repayments, you’ve come to the right place.
Today, we’ll take a look at the different types of business expense reimbursements and even share some tips to help you streamline your expense reimbursement process.
The Definition Of Reimbursements
A business expense reimbursement is simply the act of paying back an employee for expenses incurred while performing a job for your organization.
Technically, almost any type of expense can qualify as a business expense for the purpose of reimbursement, depending on the reimbursement policies of the business. But to give you a clearer idea, here are some common examples of reimbursable expenses:
- Business travel costs
- Meals and entertainment
- Employee education or training
- Medical expenses
- Gas expenses for a company-issued or private vehicle
- Business supplies or tools
- And other miscellaneous business-related expenses
You could handle these expense reimbursements individually, meaning you review each expense separately, or you could create a policy for employee expense reimbursement.
Do I Need to Have an Expense Reimbursement Policy?
You are not required to have an expense reimbursement policy, and in some cases, reimbursing expenses is not even mandatory to begin with. Though that largely depends on the legal framework of your country.
However, since it is customary in the UAE and the MENA region to reimburse employees for expenses, then it would be wise to create guidelines and policies to help you organize and streamline that process.
Creating a policy for reimbursements helps set the right expectations for employees about what qualifies for repayment and enables you to streamline your expense reimbursement process.
With an expense reimbursement policy, your employees will know precisely what they can be reimbursed for, how to request said reimbursement, and how long it would take to receive the funds.
Types of Reimbursements
Whether you have a business reimbursement policy or not, you need to have a clear picture of which expenses your employees might incur for your business and how you would go about reimbursing them.
- Is the expense tax deductible?
- Is this a common type of business expense in your industry?
- Do you have a policy in place for this expense?
- Are there any types of emergency purchases that an employee might need to make?
Expenses that are commonly reimbursable include:
Traveling and accommodation
One of the most common types of reimbursement requests is for travel expenses. Gas has been a particular pain point for many businesses in the MENA region due to the rising costs of fuel. Other examples of travel expenses include moving to and from an airport or travel terminal, travel tickets, public and private transportation expenses, car rentals, and lodging.
Office supplies and communication
If your organization relies heavily on digital work, you might need to reimburse your employees for supplies like laptops, tablets, software purchases or subscriptions, training materials, and more.
Also, if your team needs to move around frequently and you need to maintain communication at all times, reimbursing them for their cell phone plans might be necessary. In particular, this applies to teams in sales, marketing, and business development.
Food and entertainment
Business trips typically cover employee meals as reimbursable expenses. As long as the expenses are incurred in the interest of the business, they’re reimbursable.
Medical expenses, such as health insurance, insurance premiums, and tuition, are another form of employee expense that is often reimbursed by companies. If your business deals with these types of expenses, make sure you have a clear policy for handling them.
5 Tips to Simplify your Reimbursements
Managing your business expense reimbursements can be a hassle if you don’t have a specific process in place to do so, and sometimes even if you do.
If you struggle with your expense reimbursement reports, consider following these tips:
Learn What you Need to Reimburse
Although the legalities of employee reimbursements vary from country to country, it’s traditionally customary for employers to reimburse their employees for expenses incurred on behalf of the company.
It is important to note, however, that your employees cannot claim reimbursements for every purchase made, only those that are specifically tied to your business in some form.
While the specific type of expenses you have to reimburse will vary from industry to industry, you should have a general idea of what costs an employee might have to cover out of pocket in the process of working for you.
- Do they need to travel around in their own vehicle?
- Do you need them to be communicated at all times?
- What kind of equipment do they require?
- Are there any health risks associated with their job?
These types of questions can help you figure out which expenses you will have to deal with. Clear guidelines about what is and isn’t reimbursable will help reduce instances of fraudulent reimbursement requests.
Use a Spend Management Platform
With the right expense management software, you would be able to automate and optimize end-to-end workflows throughout your process.
For instance, with a spend management platform like Pluto, employees can use a mobile app to record expenses as they incur them.
In this way, your employees no longer have to save receipts or wait before entering their expenses. Plus, Pluto can automatically assign reports to the right reviewer, making the review and approval process more efficient.
Not only that, but Pluto can also tag the receipt so the categorization of the expense is much easier and reporting is real-time.
In addition to providing digital copies of relevant documents, Pluto can notify your finance team of approvals and deadlines.
Spend management platforms enhance collaboration
Pluto’s expense management solutions come with an employee portal so that your finance team can collaborate seamlessly with your employees.
This allows you to save time when you need to discuss any irregularities with their expense reports. Additionally, your employees can use Pluto to check the status of their reimbursement requests.
The finance team can also use Pluto to manage costs more efficiently due to its analytical capabilities, real-time reporting and instantaneous spend limit settings.
Create a Thorough Expense Reimbursement Policy
When creating your reimbursement policy, you’ll want to make sure that it covers as many angles as possible.
One way to do so is to invite stakeholders from multiple different departments, such as HR, finance, legal, and procurement, to a brainstorming session, as their knowledge will make it easier to draft the policy.
Crafting your reimbursement policy
It’s also critical to consider the following when drafting your expense reimbursement policy:
- The specific type of expenses that can be reimbursed
- The process your employees need to follow to submit their expenses, including any proof and supporting documentation
- Whether any allowances will be given for expenses, and how to manage any excess
- The specific time an employee has to submit their expense report
- How the approval process will be handled
- When and how your employees are reimbursed
Promote the adoption of the policy
One way to help employees adopt the policy more quickly is by making it readily available to them. The policy should be emailed to your employees or posted on your internal networks.
Employees should be informed when they will receive their payment from the company. You should set up a transparent and clear process to communicate what can be expected in terms of expense reimbursement.
Be extra clear about deadlines and payments.
Be sure to let them know how they will receive the payment, such as via direct deposit or check, as well as how they will receive recorded confirmation of the payment made (such as a statement on their paycheque). You can complete this step easily with the help of an online payroll solution.
It is important to keep things running smoothly when it comes to paying employees. By processing reimbursements timely and reliably, you can easily prevent frustration caused by late payments.
Having your employees pay out of their own pockets and not receiving payment back sooner rather than later can cause unnecessary ill feelings toward your company. When you handle reimbursements well, it reflects back on you as a respectable and considerate employer who cares about employees.
Make sure your employees follow the deadlines you set
You need to provide employees with deadlines for submitting expense reports, such as one week before their next pay date, so they can be reimbursed and get approval for their claims.
Make sure the expense reports comply with the policy guidelines by giving yourself enough time to review them. By doing so, you can consult with the employee if there are any discrepancies, missing or incomplete documentation, or expenses that do not fall within the policy.
It’s important to submit expense reports on time since certain business expenses are tax deductible.
Optimize Your Expense Reimbursement Management Process
It’s not enough to know what your expenses are and to create a policy for their reimbursement.
You also need to make sure that your reimbursement process is organized and efficient.
Otherwise, you run the risk of creating bottlenecks if you get slammed by more requests than you can handle. You can avoid this by optimizing the process used to submit reports and their attachments, ensuring all reports are reviewed in a timely manner and processing reimbursements as quickly as possible.
Having put all of this in place, it’s now time for the audit. The importance of audits is particularly important for enterprises and mid-size firms where employees incur large expenses. Auditing your expense reports also helps you identify loopholes in your policy and reduce instances of fraudulent claims.
You can also use audits to analyze your business expenses and identify areas for reduction.
Ensure there is an organized system for expense reimbursement requests
You should ensure that the system your employees need to use to submit their expense reports is easy to use and understand.
Pluto allows the employee to submit all necessary supporting documentation, such as their receipt, the total amount of the purchase, a description of the goods or services purchased, and the date of the transaction.
What qualifies as supporting documentation?
Ticket stubs, credit card statements, receipts, invoices, and vehicle logs are acceptable records. To minimize employee time spent sending in expense reports, you should simplify, streamline, and digitize the process as much as possible. For instance, Pluto allows the employee to submit a picture of their receipt.
Use a Corporate Card or Direct Deposits to Remove the Need for Reimbursements
A corporate card is a great way to prevent employees from paying out-of-pocket for business expenses.
You can track your expenses more efficiently and effectively with corporate cards, which provide spending limits that prevent employees from abusing their privileges.
Consider issuing corporate cards only to your regular travelers, or try direct deposits if you’re concerned about the cost.
Alternatively, you can also use direct deposits of reimbursement funds to eliminate the reimbursement process.
Two benefits result from this: One great perk of following either process is that your finance teams will have better visibility into the reimbursement process, making auditing employee expenses easier.
- The best way to deal with business expense reimbursements is to have a rock-solid reimbursement policy in place. This way, you can reimburse employees for their costs on your terms.
- Another great way to manage your expenses is to make use of a corporate card to eliminate the reimbursement process altogether, though this might not be feasible for all cases.
- As in many situations, your best option will most likely come in the form of digitization. Using a spend management platform like Pluto, will not only give you much better visibility over your employee spending but also streamline the reimbursement process for you.
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