9 Issues You'll Face in Controlling Business Travel Expenses
While the pandemic did significantly reduce business travel, now that things are subsiding travel is resuming again. With that increase in travel, you'll need to look at how you'll manage those business travel expenses, and how you'll keep them down. Here are the top issues you'll face in this regard, and what you can do to mitigate them.
1. Travel Expense Fraud
You may not want to think about it, but business travel expense fraud from your employees is a possibility. That can look like fabricated receipts, duplicating expenses, or overstating the travel expenses they've incurred. Even if you fully trust all of your staff, you can still protect yourself from unneeded expenses by being prepared for them in advance.
You can use expense management software that will help you stay on top of expenses, and ensure that they're all legit. These software systems will be able to automatically detect whether the expense is genuine, and flag it if it isn't. That way, you'll be able to handle that expense right away, and determine what to do next. That should be able to help with any less-than-genuine claims.
2. Not Paying Attention to Travel Patterns
Once you start up business travel again in earnest, you'll want to be paying attention to the patterns in travel in your business. These are so important, as when you know where, when, and why your staff needs to travel, you can start making better decisions around those business travel expenses. That will include things like planning ahead for future events like conventions, and understanding how much those travel costs will be in advance.
This is related to the first point, if you know the regular patterns of your staff, you'll know when a business expense request is less than genuine. You can also start looking into ways of reducing costs, as you'll be able to plan ahead. Having that data helps you look ahead to the new financial year, and map out a rough cost breakdown of travel that will happen in your business in that year.
3. Not Being Able to Manage Business Expense Data
One of the best ways to stay on top of your small business travel expenses is to manage the data that comes from it. If you're not able to see that data, you can't see the patterns and stay on top of any costs incurred. “It's really important to have a system for tracking that data,” says Tina Garrison, a business writer at Academic Writing Service. “Typically, most businesses will use tracking software.”
With the right tracking software, you can see exactly where money is being spent, and when. That shows you the patterns as mentioned above too, so it's easy to see if anything looks out of place. Having tracking software in place will help a lot with planning too, as over time you'll get data on where you spend, how much is spent, and what you should budget for the future. It's an incredibly helpful tool, so if you're not using tracking software you'll want to get set up with it now.
4. Increased Travel Expense Processing
As business travel starts up again, it's not just the cost of handling business expenses themselves that you need to think about. As well as these, you'll need to consider the cost of processing the claims. Many businesses have found they've had to get extra staff on board to do this, which leads to extra costs. With more staff now going out and incurring these expenses, there's going to be more to handle.
Again, a good way of handling this is by using dedicated business expense tracking software. That takes a lot of the legwork out of dealing with it, making it cheaper.
5. Staff Not Sticking to Travel Expense Policies
As a business, you should have business travel expense rules in place for your staff. That will show them what they can or can't claim on their business expenses. If a staff member breaks those rules, that causes more costs and time incurred trying to put it right.
Most of the time, rule-breaking happens because the staff doesn’t understand the policy. If you make it clearer, you'll be able to keep them to a minimum. Take a look at your policy, and see if it can be simplified so everyone knows where they stand with business expenses.
6. Not Partnering with Other Businesses
If you're looking to save money on your business travel expenses list, then one key way you can do so is by partnering with other businesses. For example, by partnering with a certain hotel, car rental, and airline chains, you can manage to get deals that you wouldn't get elsewhere.
If your company isn't big enough to start setting up those partnerships, you can still ensure you're getting deals on travel. There are plenty of discounts and offers out there, and if you're using them you'll be saving a lot in reimbursement costs.
7. Only Booking at The Last Minute
This is somewhat related to the last point, as this issue is what leads to a lot of higher travel expenses. If you're only booking travel at the last minute, then you're going to be paying a lot more overall. While it's true that you can sometimes find good deals when you book last minute, the fact is you're going to have fewer options. That leads to the more expensive options having to be paid for, as that's all that's left.
Travel companies will often have cheaper rates if you book in advance, so if you're taking advantage of that then you can save a lot of money. Create a policy of booking travel for business further in advance. Typically, you should have plenty of notice for when your staff needs to travel, so it shouldn't be a problem. Sometimes you will still need to book last minute, but as you're minimizing this the costs won't be as great.
8. Delayed Reimbursement
When looking at your travel expense policy, you'll need to look at how long it takes to get your employees their reimbursements for travel. There are lots of different factors that will go into approving or denying a reimbursement. While that's being handled through, your staff can get frustrated waiting for their money. That can lead to resentment, and even staff refusing to go on business trips altogether.
To avoid this happening, take a look at the processes you use when deciding whether to approve or deny an expense claim. If you have any policies on how much can be claimed for food, travel, accommodation, and so on, that can make things easier. You can automate those processes, so any claims that fit in that policy will be approved automatically.
Also, this again is where having a good travel expense software system helps. Your staff can input their claims, and all the ones that fit the policy can be automatically approved. That should ensure that the staff gets their reimbursement sooner rather than later.
9. Not Paying Attention to Expense Patterns
Related to point 5, you may have staff that isn’t sticking to the expense policies, but you aren't actually able to see the patterns. That is a problem because if they're doing this over a long period of time, you're going to be losing out on a significant amount of money.
This can be solved with some new policies and a way of tracking expense claims. Using the right software will allow you to see what staff are claiming, and how often they do it. If you can see those patterns, then you can start to put them right. If it's a one-off extra expenditure for an emergency, that's one thing, but if it keeps happening you'll need to address it.
Having that evidence of overspending allows you to address it with that employee, and stop it before it becomes a bigger problem. You can then make changes to your policy too, so you can stop it from happening again.
These are some of the most common issues that you'll be coming across right now as a business owner, with travel expenses. If you plan ahead and have the right infrastructure in place, it will be a lot easier to spot any issues and reduce travel costs.