Travel and Expense

How to Do an Expense Report: Steps and Solutions for Effective Expense Reporting

SAP Concur Team |

There's nothing like face-to-face communication, but travel can be one of the biggest costs associated with doing business. Detailed and accurate expense reports help you keep your finger on where money is going, while employees get reimbursed for expenses promptly. 

Travel-related expenses at small and medium businesses increased 178% in 2022. Everyone who travels for your business should know how to do expense reports. Employees who pay out of pocket want to have their expenses reimbursed. When tax time comes, you need to be able to accurately document legitimate business expenses. And, the business intelligence associated with travel costs means understanding your expenses better. 

Setting up a consistent system means that you’re always on top of all costs and using your travel funds effectively.  

Why a Well-Structured Expense Report Matters 

A business expense report has to be set up in a way that’s easy to understand, comprehensive, and consistent across departments and personnel. 

A good report gives the business a better idea where travel-related money is going and can help with planning. For example, you can see whether you need to budget more toward international airfare in the coming year or decide whether travel-related subscriptions are paying for themselves and being used to their fullest potential. You can also identify places where you can save money.  

Business travel expenses are typically tax-deductible. With the right expense report setup, you can document those expenses quickly and easily, saving headaches at tax time.  

A Step-by-Step Guide to Expense Reporting 

An expense report is a document that brings together all the relevant expenses from a business trip or event. This will include information like the date of a purchase, the amount spent, the expense category, and any relevant receipts. 

Start by collecting receipts during travel. Physical receipts should be either scanned or photographed so the information is available to anyone who needs it later on for documentation. 

Capture all the relevant information in the business expense template or system used. This will include: 

  • Date of the expense 
  • Vendor purchased from 
  • Expense category (common categories include meals, transportation, and lodging) 
  • any tax or VAT assessed) 
  • Any additional notes 
  • A PDF, PNG, or JPEG of the receipt of invoice  

This data is sent to the person in charge of managing expenses. Then, expenses that need to be reimbursed are tallied up and paid. When it's time to make reports for tax and other purposes, all the data is there and available in one place.  

How Templates Can Help 

If everyone's working with the same framework, expense reports get a lot easier for everyone involved. Your traveling employees have a better handle on what expenses are reimbursable. You are better able to categorize expenses, so you can see where your money is going.  

Exploring Tools for Expense Reports 

There are a few different tools you can use to do your expense reports. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks. 

At the most informal end, you can simply have traveling employees email a list of expenses and attach images of receipts. However, this can be a hard system to standardize and it creates opportunities for risk. You'll likely end up with people formatting their reports differently from one another, such as using different wording for the same expenses. It can be easy to miss legitimate expenses. Plus, parsing the list can use huge amounts of your finance team's time that could be better spent on other tasks.  

You can learn how to do an expense report in Excel, but this has limitations. Using an incorrect formula in one cell can populate an error throughout your sheet. And, the spreadsheet is what's known as a "closed" system. You can't automatically export data from it into another system.  

Specialized, purpose-built tools like the ones from SAP Concur can cut the confusion and make travel expense reporting easy and accurate. Traveling employees can start by collecting receipts in the ExpenseIt mobile app. Then they upload images to Concur Expense, which creates and categorizes expenses automatically. If you are using Concur Drive, it will seamlessly capture mileage to ensure expenses are documented accurately and fairly. 

Common Challenges in Expense Reports 

While expense reports are necessary for transparent operation of your business, they can also be challenging for both traveling employees and the people coordinating back in the office.  

Fraud is, unfortunately, a persistent risk associated with business travel. Studies show that around 5% of a typical organization's annual revenue is lost to fraud. Employees may deliberately or unintentionally request reimbursement for expenses that are not legitimate parts of business travel. A well-organized system with clear categories can help eliminate misunderstandings and ensure reimbursement requests are accurate. 

Many employees do not want to spend the time associated with paperwork after business trips. A system like SAP Concur solutions, however, captures and categorizes most expenses automatically. All the employee needs to do is review the inputs to ensure accuracy and it's good to go. 

Speed and Simplify Your Expense Report Process 

Travel expense reports provide essential insights into where your travel-related funds are being spent. They provide the business intelligence you need to keep your travel cost-effective and to get the most out of every travel dollar spent.  

Want a one-stop solution that makes everything easier? Our self-guided demo shows you how to capture expenses from any device, submit an expense report to a manager, and see how to approve reports you receive.  

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