How to simplify your company expense report process

Isabelle Comber7 minutes
Business tips
How to simplify your company expense report process
In this article

Company expense reporting is a tricky business. It can be time-consuming and frustrating. Clunky processes often lead to a delay in reimbursing employees, which can put them under financial pressure. They can also blindside managers with a deluge of claims at the end of the month, disrupting operational planning.

Expense reports don’t have to be an administrative nightmare. A well-designed, simple, fair and clear expense report process can give you and your team a huge boost; here are the essential elements. 

1. Standardise expense management templates

Whether or not you are using expense management software, it’s important to create standardised templates to make the expense reporting process more efficient. That way you can avoid missing details or duplicated entries, find the information you need quickly, and ensure you are compliant with regulations. 

There are ready-made templates you can use if you have accounting software or an expense management platform, or you can create your own. Just make sure it’s clear, consistent, easy to fill out and has space for all the information you need.

Here’s a checklist of considerations when developing a standardised template for your company’s use:

  • Include all essential fields, for example, date, amount, vendor, expense category and purpose. You will need to customise the fields for the specific needs of your organisation, and ensure that all information needed for compliance is included.

  • Design the template in a user-friendly way, with clear headings, simple language, and intuitive layouts.

  • Consider creating both categories and subcategories if needed for expense tracking and financial analysis.

  • To promote adherence to guidelines, you could integrate reminders into the template to remind users of company policies related to expense reporting.

2. Create an effective expense policy

You can have the world’s most well-organised expense reporting process in place, but if employees don’t know how to use it properly, you’re still going to run into problems. Set aside the time and resources needed to create a well-designed expense policy and train staff on any new processes that you decide to implement.

When designing an expense policy, you need to state clearly what expenses are allowable and align them with the organisation’s goals and values. Allowable expenses may include business travel, equipment and supplies, and client entertainment. Other work-related items such as business clothing and transport to the office are often not covered. It’s prudent to set spending limits for different categories of expense; and you may want to impose an overall monthly spending limit as well. Don’t forget to explain how the approval process works and the steps that must be followed to report expenses.

Training and communication are crucial

Once the policy is in place, consider strategies to ensure this information is absorbed fully, such as regular workshops, easy-to-understand guides, and accessible support for queries. Continuous communication is crucial in ensuring compliance and ease of use, and ensuring that expense reports are processed promptly and correctly. Some companies use communication tools or platforms that allow instant messaging, so that any problems can be quickly cleared up. 

You should also make it clear what will happen if employees fail to comply with expense management policy. If employees are correctly using expense management software, you can build rules into the process, which leaves less room for error or violation. If employees are submitting reports to you manually, on the other hand, take some time to think about the process for identifying and dealing with any violations of policy.’

Review and improve your process

Don’t just set your policy and then forget about it. The policy and expense reporting process may need updating as the needs of the company evolve, and in response to user feedback or analytics. To forge a culture of continuous improvement, use surveys, regular meetings or suggestion boxes to gather employee’s thoughts and suggestions. Analytics and reporting can also be assessed to evaluate the performance of your expense management system, and changes made accordingly.

3. Automate your expense reporting tools

Automation is probably the most impactful change you can make to take the sting out of company expense reporting, and it will have bigger benefits the more claims your company processes. A 2023 survey showed that just over a third of large companies were still manually reporting expenses, using spreadsheets and paper forms, but the majority had switched to automated systems. 

The writing’s on the wall when it comes to automation; it transforms the expense management process into something sophisticated and streamlined, bringing these 

1. Access real-time data about company spending

The fact that all managers can access real-time data about company spending allows them to make well-informed financial decisions rather than having to guess what’s going on until the end of the month. 

2. Increase internal compliance and trust

When it comes to compliance and regulatory standards, automation can also ensure that company expense policies are enforced consistently and in line with any relevant rules.

3. Reduce errors and save time

The accelerated time-frame of automated processing saves resources and boosts efficiency. A lack of errors can also save you from causing an administrative nightmare down the line, preventing further confusion and time loss. 

Perhaps a company with few employees who rarely travel or need to purchase items can get away with manual expense reporting. However, expense management software is a smart step for growing businesses who are determined to grow their margins and get ahead.

How can company expense reports be automated?

Cloud-based systems are king when it comes to streamlined expense management. They reduce employee workload and improve accuracy by offering:

  • Receipt tracking: Forget keeping track of paper receipts, users can simply snap a photo of receipts using a mobile app, and the system automatically extracts relevant information. 

  • Categorisation and coding: Rather than employees manually categorising data, machine learning can be used to automatically categorise expenses based on predefined rules. This speeds things up and minimises errors.

  • Approval workflows: With automated approval, managers receive instant notifications for approval requests, reducing processing times. The platform can also make it clear at a glance where a request is currently positioned in the approval workflow, so there is always transparency and clarity.

  • Reimbursement: An operational bottleneck can form when there’s one person who has to go through expense claims, manually verify all the details and activate reimbursements. An automated expense management system, on the other hand, can do all this instantly and effortlessly, without the same risk of human error.

Make expense reporting effortless with Airwallex

By automating processes, standardising templates, creating clear policies, training employees effectively and committing to improving, it’s possible to take the sting out of company expense reporting for good. The resulting system should be efficient, accurate and user-friendly.

Choosing the right expense management software can also be transformative. That’s where Airwallex can help. With an Airwallex Global Account, you can instantly issue virtual and physical Borderless Cards for employee spending. These multi-currency Visa cards allow you to set a variety of spend limits or restrict purchases to certain merchant types.

When you activate built-in expense management, you can empower employees to seamlessly submit expenses on the go. Meanwhile, you or your managers can track, review and approve all purchases from a single dashboard, in real time.

Click here to sign up.

Disclaimer: This information doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation, or needs. If you are a customer of Airwallex Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 487221) it is important for you to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for the Direct Services, which is available here.

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Isabelle Comber
Business Finance Writer

Izzy is a business finance writer for Airwallex. She specialises in thought leadership that empowers businesses to grow without boundaries.

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This information doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation, or needs. If you are a customer of Airwallex Pty Ltd (AFSL No. 487221) it is important for you to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for the Direct Services, which is available here. If you are a customer of Airwallex Capital Pty Ltd (Authorised Rep No. 001304702), it is important for you to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for Airwallex Yield, which will be made available to you at the time of onboarding. Airwallex Yield is brought to you by Airwallex Capital Pty Ltd (Authorised Rep No. 001304702). All investments carry risk. *Target returns are after fees and accurate and updated as at 24 January, 2024 (AEDT).

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