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Work Travel Expenses – Helicopters or Taxis?


By Sonya Buck, Australia


We are all aware of the recent scandal surrounding the now ‘ex’ Speaker of House and her fondness for spending taxpayer’s money on over the top travel expenses.


Helicopters and chartered flights aside, if business travel expenses aren’t monitored it can have a detrimental impact on your organisation’s bottom line.


Depending on the size of your organisation, you may have a travel coordinator and this eliminates employees from having to make bookings, but there is much more to travel expenses than airline, rental car and hotel bookings.


It’s important to be clear about what is acceptable and this can be easily addressed by having a comprehensive travel expense policy.  As well having the policy, its vital employees required to travel as part of their role be familiar with the policy.


Your travel expense policy may include the following guidelines:


Employees may be required to travel economy class on airline flights.  You could include Business class if you wish or just for flights longer time in the air.


If a rental car is required, employees may be requested to rent mid-sized or compact vehicles. Employees will be reimbursed for the fuel costs associated with renting a vehicle.  You policy should include whether employees are required to take out excess reduction on car rental.


If employees book their own accommodation, they will need be reimbursed for reasonable hotel/motel costs.  You may wish to place a cap or limit on hotel or motel costs and this may differ for capital cities and rural locations.  With the ability to book last minute hotels online at very reasonable cost, your employees have the opportunity to find some bargains and stay in quality properties, as long they don’t go over the limit.


Don’t forget to cover meals and you may have a limit on these too. There will also be incidentals like taxi fares, entry to business events and other business expenses.  There will also need to be a section of your policy on reasonable expenses for entertaining business contacts.


A big question for you is the ownership of Frequent Flyer points. Will the business pool them to pay for flights for the entire company or will they stay with the employee to be used for personal travel and online Frequent Flyer shop purchases?


As well as including which expenses can be claimed, you should include which cannot.  Examples may include:


  • Hotel mini bar
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Personal reading materials
  • Toiletries, cosmetics, or grooming products
  • Expenses occurred by spouses, children, or relatives
  • In-room movies or video games
  • Sporting activities, shows, etc


Your policy should include the paper work required to claiming expenses and this can include:


  • Original receipts
  • Airline booking tax invoices
  • Credit card receipts
  • Detailed merchant receipts


It may be impractical to obtain receipts for smaller items such as a cup of coffee or bottle of water, so this should also be incorporated into your policy.


Expenses should be detailed on an expense summary template and there should be a due date such as end of month for claims to be made.


It’s important to consider that employees should be comfortable when away from home and not put intentionally in a substandard environment, but with some of the remote Australian locations this may not always be possible.


With a number of staff travelling it’s easy to rack up travel expenses, but if staff are familiar with your travel expense policy, you’ll know this should be an area which doesn’t break the bank.