Companies need to carefully monitor their costs, and make sure employees are reimbursed appropriately for legitimate job-related expenses. But when workers submit improper expense report requests, it’s enough to make a chief financial officer scream (or laugh out loud, and then scream).
And it’s likely a lot of CFOs are feeling the need to scream these days: New research from Robert Half Management Resources suggests that inappropriate requests for reimbursement are common.
When asked if they have seen such requests increase or decrease over the past three years, the majority of CFOs we surveyed (88 percent) said that they have seen either no change or an increase in inappropriate expense report requests.
Check out our slideshow to see 20 top unusual expense report requests from this year’s survey!
Here are just a few examples of what some employees have expected their companies to pay for:
- A new car
- Rental homes
- A flat-screen TV
No – the above is not a list of top prizes from the Showcase Showdown on “The Price Is Right.” However, the employees who submitted these outrageous requests — and those who asked for their company to reimburse them for loan payments, their monthly rent and another person’s salary (!!!) — perhaps do deserve special acknowledgment for their, shall we say, gumption?
There are also some truly oddball requests that have come across CFOs’ desks since our last survey on this topic:
- A doggie day spa (bow-wow!)
- Taxidermy services (yikes!)
- Dance classes (tango, anyone?)
- A side of beef (moo!)
- A welder (what?)
It must be said, though, that not all of the unusual things professionals want to expense are big-ticket items — or completely bizarre. One employee submitted a 10-cent parking meter charge, for example. (A legitimate request, perhaps … but really?) And another employee asked to be reimbursed for the purchase of toilet paper.
Some of the items workers asked to be paid back for are at least practical and show their heart might be in the right place, even if their head may not be:
- Child care
- Baby products
- Family lunch
- Moving expenses for a family pet
- Dental bills
To help reduce expense report mayhem, Tim Hird, executive director for Robert Half Management Resources, recommends that companies make sure that their expense reporting process is as clear as possible and communicated effectively to all employees. He says, “Take a big-picture view of the program. Is it spelled out completely? Are you using the latest tools available? Removing ambiguity can help reduce the number of problematic requests.”
Expense or not? Three questions to ask
Now, as for those professionals who are wondering whether the scuba diving lessons they took while on a business trip to Miami or the roses they bought for a loved one are legitimate expense report items, we recommend they ask themselves these three questions:
1. Is this within the company’s policies?
If you’re worried that something falls outside of what the company would typically greenlight as an expense, run it by your manager or the human resources department before submitting your request.
2. Could there be any confusion?
Clear charges with your manager that might be considered out of the norm so that your requests are not viewed as an attempt to have the business cover your personal expenses. Tickets to a sporting event you purchased to treat a client — and that your boss didn’t know about in advance — would be an example of something you should confirm is acceptable to expense before asking for reimbursement from the company.
3. Would Grandma approve?
If you paid for something that you couldn’t talk to a parent, grandparent or spouse about because you would be embarrassed, don’t try to expense it.
Your biggest ally when compiling your expense report is common sense. You’ll stay out of hot water if you ensure your requests align with company policies — and your expectations are grounded in reality.