Busiest expense day: The most wonderful time of the year?

As 2017 comes to a close, employees are packing in extra travel to finalize projects and businesses are celebrating their accomplishments. While executives focus on year-end profits and revenues, another number rises around this time of year: corporate expenses.

Based on our review of 10 countries with significant expense activity, Concur found that Dec. 19 was the busiest day for expense reporting in 2016. Our data revealed:

  • In 2016, more than 560,000 expense reports were processed in these ten countries (U.S., CA, U.K., France, Germany, Mexico, China, India, Japan and Australia) on Dec. 19 last year, which is 72% more than an average weekday. To put the volume of expenses on the busiest expense day into perspective, this equates to nearly 6.5 expense reports every second as employees make the final push to close out before the end of the year.
  • Some industries, like manufacturing and engineering, feel the rush more than others. In 2016, manufacturing and engineering submitted almost double the amount of expenses compared to an average day. Other sectors like higher education and non-profit were on the low end with only 1.5 times as many expense reports as the average day.
  • Holiday fun and year-end celebrations could be contributing to the uptick in expenses. Catering and entertainment-related expenses experienced the greatest increase on busiest expense day. On the other hand, airfare and ancillary fees and mileage experienced the smallest increase as fewer people were on the road around the holidays.

The busiest expense day is (almost) universal around the globe

Across almost every market we analyzed, the busiest day for submitting expenses in 2016 was December 19. This could be fueled by an increasingly global economy as more businesses align fiscal years with the calendar year. Japan, however, was an outlier – its busiest expense day fell on Oct. 31 in 2016.

How the U.S. stacks up

  • In the U.S., the top three busiest expense days in 2016 all landed in the final quarter of the year: Dec. 19, Oct. 31 and Nov. 28.
  • Monday was the busiest day of the week for report submissions. The top three busiest expense days in 2016? All Mondays.
  • April 6 saw the largest amount of money expensed per report. In total, employees expensed more than $86B in 2016.

Spend trends by industry

Some industries are more impacted than others on the busiest expense day. In the U.S., the industrial fields of manufacturing and engineering/construction experienced the biggest spike with nearly double the amount of expense reports expensed on a normal day (99 percent and 97 percent increases, respectively). In Canada, manufacturing jumped 120 percent, but the technology industry caused the greatest influx with nearly 2.5 times (148 percent) more than on normal days. In the U.K., the life sciences field (including pharma, biotech and medical devices) and wholesale and distribution more than doubled the amount of expense reports (approximately 110 percent each) on Dec. 19.

The holidays could be a contributing factor

In the U.S., catering (99 percent increase) and entertainment (90 percent increase) expenses increased in frequency dramatically during this time of year – likely due to year-end and holiday celebrations. Travel-related categories such as airfare and ancillary fees and mileage experienced the smallest increase among expense types at 60 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

The increase in entertainment-related expenses this time of year was consistent around the globe. However, office expenses also jumped in Germany (138 percent), while telecom expenses jumped in the U.K. (106 percent). The increase in office expenses can likely be attributed to annual planning and expenditures such as office supplies. On the other hand, increasing telecom expenses could reflect workers opting for phone and virtual meetings instead of traveling around the holidays.

How finance teams can handle it all

The busiest expense day may seem daunting, but finance and accounting teams can prepare ahead to make the final stretch before the holidays as bearable as possible. Here are some quick tips for managing the busy season:

  1. Establish a game plan. The final days of the year are few, so create an expense management strategy that includes clear milestones and deadlines for finance teams and employees to follow.
  2. Knowledge share early and often. Throughout the year, provide training sessions, resources and guides on submitting expense reports. This will ideally eliminate a flurry of last minute questions and empower employees to work independently and meet deadlines.
  3. Plan for busiest expense day 2018. Automate your processes to save time and money in the coming years.

With 2018 around the corner, now is a good time for organizations time to revisit expense reporting policies and expense management tools that will make it easier to manage finances more efficiently and effectively. For more information and resources, visit https://www.concur.com.

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