Paper still most used expenses medium

Paper-based expenses systems are still commonplace, according to an exclusive Reward & Benefits Today poll. The survey, carried out online last month, revealed that 45.1% of respondents said their employers still use a paper-based system to handle expense claims, compared to just 15.4% that used computer-based systems. Meanwhile 39.6% said their employers use a mixture of both.

Respondents also seem uncertain about the honesty of expenses claims. When asked “How often do think your expenses system is abused?” only 4.5% said never, while 71.9% said not often, 19.1% often, 2.2% very often and 2.2% said: “all the time”.

Thorough vetting of claims is carried out by 56.7% of respondents’ employers: almost a quarter – 23.3% – said nearly all claims are checked; 8.9% check most claims; 6.7% said about half are vetted; and 4.4% said most or all are not checked.

Of the particular types of expenses that are most open to abuse, subsistence, entertainment, taxi travel and car fuel costs were deemed, by respondents, to fit the bill. Taxi travel was nominated by 33.3% of respondents as the area of expenses that is most open to abuse.

Respondents reported employees trying to get away with some unlikely claims, for instance:

  • one submitted a claim for £350 for an upgrade to first class rail travel using a receipt dated the day before the journey – and later admitted having found it on the floor of the train

  • an employee tried to claim £500 a month to pay his mortgage

  • a PA spent £7,000 on a director’s credit card.

Air, train and bus travel were rated as the areas least open to abuse.

Asked about areas of expenses that present the greatest opportunity to cut costs, 44.9% of respondents named business entertainment, followed by 38.2% for air travel, 35.2% hotel accommodation and 31.9% working lunches.

Suggestions for cutting expense costs followed predictable lines and included setting caps on various elements of expenses, such as banning first-class travel and striking corporate deals with hotel chains.

Other suggestions included using a voucher system for eye care; insisting that colleagues over-nighting in the same location share a room; and telling employees to make sure their cars’ tyres are “fully pumped”.

One hundred and three respondents in HR and comp & bens completed the questionnaire, which was conducted online in early June.

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