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7 tips to improve your expense reporting for better results

7 tips to improve your expense reporting for better results

The right data can help you improve your business' results and your team's performance

Barbara Martins

Processing business expenses is one of those things that we have to do, but don’t look forward to. We put it off, because we know that when we get round to it, it’s going to be a hassle.

For line managers and finance teams, approving and reporting on expenses is often no easier.

So when team members run up expenses and put in their claims, it’s easier to just approve the claims and move on to the next job.

Finance teams and line managers might routinely review receipts and individual claim forms to see that everything looks right, but as long as nothing too outrageous jumps out, and total expenses figure for is acceptable, the system rumbles on year in and year out.

So where’s the issue?

The problem is that with travel expenses alone costing UK businesses £39 billion per year, and set to rise by 3.7% per year over the next 10 years, if expense reporting can’t do the job of shining a stronger light on what’s really going on, you’ll never see the complete picture.

Efficient, comprehensive expense reporting can help you build up a detailed picture of your expenses policy, show you where you’re spending more than you planned and help to flag the all-too-common incidence of fraudulent expense claims.

Read our 7 TOP TIPS for better expense reporting to find out how a better reporting culture can help improve your expense system efficiency by putting the kind of detailed expense data you need within easy reach.  

Organise your reporting into categories

Treating expenses as “a uniform whole” can make it impossible to see which parts of your business are actually costing you the most money.

Zetadocs Expenses, for example, enables you to set specified categories of expenses such as ‘Travel’, ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Subsistence’. Via an app like Power BI, you can then analyse the expenses for each different category across departments within your business, over a certain time-frame or even those generated by an individual member of staff.

If a particular activity, such as travel, is costing the business more than it should – whether through fraudulent claims or an ill-defined travel policy – then organising your reporting into categories will make it easy to identify and action the problem. 

Create reports to a set frequency

Like any business data, expense claim data can build up incrementally until you find yourself with a vast amount of information to work through and make sense of. Attempting to define patterns in expenses which only reported and reviewed at year-end can leave you playing catch up at best, and, at worst, discovering issues which have already damaged your business.

To address this, Zetadocs Expenses can be set to produce reports on a timetable you define, and those reports can be customised to include information ranging from general trends to individual sectors.

The fact that the information in these reports is automatically presented in a graphical format makes it more easily understandable. A well-designed pie-chart displays the reality of expenses being claimed by different departments much more quickly and powerfully than a set of dry figures, and each individual aspect of a graph can be highlighted and drilled down into.     

Identify the right approvers

One of the biggest drivers of fraudulent expense claims is a lax policy on who can approve claims. After all, some fraudulent claims may require two parties – the claimant wanting to claim twice for the same meal or to ramp up their mileage, and the person who approves that claim.

It could be that the approver is a party to the fraud, or it could simply be that they aren’t being rigorous enough in checking claims before approving. No matter what the situation is, fraudulent claims become much more difficult if you set rigorous policies around who is allowed to approve claims.

A system like Zetadocs Expenses' creates an easily accessible record of who approved each claim, making it simple to double check if any expenses seem dubious.  

Use Google Maps to check mileage accuracy

Historically, one of the easiest ways to claim more for a car journey than was due was to add a few extra miles to what was really driven. Most businesses have a ‘per mile’ policy, so even a few miles added on here and there could amount to a significant amount of money over time.

The advent of GPS systems and, in particular, Google Maps, closes this loophole. Zetadocs Expenses incorporates Google Maps, allowing the actual mileage for a trip to be set in advance and any changes caused by issues such as road works to be noted in the final claim.  

Act fast after checking a final report

Moving quickly on expense claims is an advantage no matter what the situation is.

If your staff members are all making perfectly legitimate claims, you want them to be approved, incorporated into wider business reporting and reimbursed as quickly as possible. Making people wait for money that’s come out of their own pocket is going to damage staff morale and discourage them from going the extra mile (sometimes literally) in the future.

Furthermore, acting quickly on any fraudulent activity highlighted by the reports can minimise the initial cost of that activity and discourage anyone else who might be thinking of claiming more than they should.

Train your team to understand and analyse data

It would be a mistake to think that only your finance team and those in charge of approving expenses need to know how to analyse the data produced.

The better your staff understand your expenses policy, the more they can work towards complying with and streamlining systems further.

A cloud-based system such as Zetadocs Expenses is intuitive to use and features dashboards which simplify the data and make it easy to analyse broadly or on a granular level   

Control access

There are two ways in which access to expenses data needs to be controlled.

The first of these is to restrict access to sensitive financial information only to authorized members of staff who can be trusted to handle it with due care. This is what is normally understood by control of access and is relatively simple to achieve with most systems.

The second is to allow access to certain information across broader sections of the workforce.

Training your teams is much easier using a system like Zetadocs Expenses, because it allows multiple access levels to be set. In turn, this means teams accessing this data can improve their understanding of expense policy – and its operation – into the future.  

Next steps

By improving the way your business reports on employee expenses, you’ll quickly generate the detailed expense data and insights you need to make qualitative decisions which can potentially save you money and streamline your processes.

To find out how Zetadocs Expenses can improve your expense reporting, book a tailored demo now, email or call +44 (0)20 7203 4000.

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