When it comes to padding expense accounts, chief financial officers have seen some doozies. But a side of beef?
Yep, somebody tried to get away with that one, just like the new car, the flat-screen TV, the doggie day spa, vacations, rent, loans and even toilet paper.
All of those ended up on company expense reports, according to a survey of chief financial officers done by Robert Half Management Resources. They all presumably were denied.
“I think they’re definitely ones that CFOs thought were ridiculous in one way or another,” said Aubrey Hart, division director for Robert Half Management Resources in Pittsburgh.
Based on the survey, one employee billed a company for a welder, while another nickeled and dimed his employer by submitting for reimbursement a 10-cent parking meter charge.
The examples might produce a chuckle or some head scratching, but they also appear to be representative of a not-so-funny trend in the industry — a rise in inappropriate expense account requests.
According to the Robert Half survey of more than 2,200 chief financial officers, 23 percent reported that inappropriate requests had increased significantly or somewhat. Only 11 percent reported a drop.
“Inappropriate expense reports are costly — both to the company’s bottom line and to the careers of people who submit them,” said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.
Hart said the increase in questionable reimbursement requests may not be so much the result of trying to pull one over on the boss as the fact that there are gray areas or even changes in company policies. Employers, she said, need to make sure their policies on reimbursement are clear.
They also should make the policy easily accessible to employees.
“Oftentimes, it’s buried in a company manual,” she said.
If you’re wondering whether that glass of wine at dinner or the breakfast sandwich at the airport on your way out of town is eligible for reimbursement, a good rule of thumb is common sense, Hart said.
Or just talk to your boss. “It’s always beneficial to run it past a manager first,” she said. “Give your manager a heads-up to avoid an awkward situation or an awkward conversation.”
Hart said some definite taboos are things like parking tickets, speeding tickets and work clothing, which she pointed out typically is not eligible for expense account reimbursement.
One area that’s not so clear-cut is cell phone data plans, particularly if you use your device for business and personal purposes. Employees should try to separate business use from personal use as much as possible and seek reimbursement only for that relating to work.
Alcohol can be a gray area. “I’ve seen companies where employees are able to expense a certain amount of alcohol. I’ve seen others where alcohol has to be on a totally separate bill,” Hart said.
If all else fails, ask your grandma.
“If you’d be embarrassed to talk to a parent or grandparent about something, don’t try to expense it,” the company advised in a statement.