The Post Academic Road Warrior Guide: Expense Reports
The last installment of the Post Academic Business Travel Survival Guide involves what happens after you return from a business trip. Though it’s easy to get caught up in scheduling and logistics, you still need to get paid. Enter a concept that will seem bizarre to many academics: When you’re traveling for work, the boss pays for almost everything.
But there’s a catch–you have to fill out an expense report. It’s not rocket science, but you want to get these reports right so you can get your money back. These tips can keep you from getting stuck with a business-travel tab:
Read your company’s expense report policy before you go anywhere. Every company policy is different. Some companies will cover everything. Some won’t. For example, a company might say it will cover your meals but not your booze. You might even be able to rent an in-room movie, but make sure the title doesn’t wind up on your receipt lest you gross out the company accountant.
Image of an accounting office by Kenneth Allen from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
Keep itemized receipts. Create a separate manila folder or wallet, get an itemized receipt for everything, keep all the receipts in one place and keep them in chronological order as best you can. Since receipts vary in size, I recommend paper-clipping them in a manila folder or taping the small receipts to a larger 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of paper. If you stuff them in your wallet or handbag, you are more likely to lose them or mix them up with your personal receipts. As for the itemized part, your company accountant probably just wants to make sure you’re not splurging on Cristal, caviar and porn. Let me reiterate: The company accountant will be reading your receipts, so don’t buy anything that will cause you embarrassment later on. Even if you aren’t going on business trips, keeping your business receipts can come in handy at tax time, especially if you are self-employed and you’re looking for deductions.
Carry several copies of the expense report form with you. Be sure to print out your company form before you hit the road, and bring along some correction tape. Filling it out as you go can save you time, and bringing multiple copies or correction tape helps if your math is off or you fill in the wrong column. It happens.
Turn in everything as soon as possible. Most companies have a deadline for when you need to turn in your expenses. Make a note on your to-do list or calendar, and turn it in as soon as you get back so you aren’t bumping against the deadline. If you turn in your expense report late, you are just flushing your cash down the toilet.