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Travel Expenses: Expense Reports For Travel

Travel ExpensesDocumenting travel expenses, the bane of many employees’ existence. Whether you work in sales, marketing, or simply travel a lot for business, you probably hate tracking & filing expense reports.  They’re time-consuming and must be detailed down to the most minute of expenditures, and it can be difficult to remember which expenses you need to include in your report.

Forgetting to report your expenses can cost you money, as what isn’t reported won’t be reimbursed by your company and certainly can’t be used as a deduction on your personal tax return.  It is therefore crucial to keep detailed records of your travel expenses.

What Counts As Travel Expenses?

Travel expenses are defined by the IRS as the ordinary and necessary expenses that arise from traveling away from home for work purposes.  Simply put, travel expenses are any expenses incurred during the course of your travel for your company. Travel expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Travel by plane, bus, train, or car between your home and the destination for your work
  • Taxi fares or other similar transportation costs for transit from the airport to a hotel, from the hotel to a client, from one client to another, or from one place of business to another
  • Shipping of luggage and sample or display materials between temporary places of business
  • Use of your car while at a business destination.  You can deduct actual expenses or the standard mileage rate, whichever you prefer.  Business-related tolls or parking fees are also applicable. If you are driving a rental car, you can only deduct the business-related expense of the car.
  • Meals and lodging
  • Dry cleaning and laundry
  • Business calls made on your business trip, including communications over fax or other communication devices
  • Tips paid for any of the preceding services
  • Other simple and ordinary expenses related to travel for your business

What Is An Expense Report?

At its most basic, an expense report is a document detailing all the travel expenses for business reasons by an employee for the purpose of reimbursement from the company.  In the event that the amount of reimbursement requested exceeds the allotted amount approved for an activity or excursion, receipts are usually attached to prove expenses.

Expense reports can be complex documents requiring a lot of detailed, company-specific information, or they can be relatively simple, with fewer pieces of information necessary to complete the report.  It is important to know what information your expense reports need to include, particularly if you are keeping them for yourself and do not have upper management to lead you in the right direction.

Business expense reports are kept to ensure that the company is not reimbursing its employees too much or too little, and keeping detailed, accurate expense reports can save you a lot of headache later on down the line.  Generally companies require monthly expense reports, though some need them quarterly or semiannually. Because expense reporting is usually a monthly activity, it is beneficial to keep track of expenses as you go rather than putting off all your calculations until the end of the month.  

Tracking Your Expenses

Expense Reports & business mileage trackingWe highly recommend using an app to automate your expense reports and make keeping detailed, accurate records at your fingertips a snap.  There are a number of apps available that make requesting your monthly reports easy and convenient, and you can trust that your reports are sufficiently detailed unless you have more intricate company-specific information to include.

If you’d just rather keep records the old-fashioned way, you can do so using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.  Excel has a handy template you can use to provide detailed, complete information for all but the most specific of purposes.  

If you insist on keeping records using your own methods, it’s a good idea to know what to include in an expense report:  

  • The date on which the expense occurred (this should match the date on the corresponding receipt)
  • The nature of the expense (such as airline fees, meal costs, or parking fees)
  • The amount of the expense (which should match the amount on the corresponding receipt)
  • The account to which the expense is to be charged
  • A subtotal for each expense
  • A subtraction to account for any advance given by the employer
  • A grand total of the amount of reimbursement you are requesting

Regardless of the method you use to track your travel expenses, it is key that you keep accurate, detailed records of your expenses if you want to be reimbursed for them.  Expense reports are a tedious but necessary part of employment for many of us; automated mileage tracking and other programs can help take the guesswork out of expense reporting and help put more money back in your pockets!

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Dan Trapp is a longtime Internet marketer that works on Content @Everlance. When he's not busy tapping keys for the Everlance blog he's attempting to convert clicks into happy users.

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