5 Tips to Streamline Expense Reporting

As an accountant, you know that expense report processing is vital to your clients’ business. An inefficient and overly complicated process can not only make your life a nightmare, but also cost your clients time and money. Help them avoid the hassles that come with an outdated and clunky travel and expense (T&E) policy by spending time up front creating and implementing a clear process. To help them adopt a successful policy for their small business, here are five tips:

1. Involve Employees

Have clients generate greater employee buy-in by involving those who will be responsible for the policy’s implementation. This includes staff who will be submitting and processing reports. You’ll find that employees who are affected by the policies can use their first-hand knowledge to help identify potential problems and suggest solutions.

2. Make the Process Simple

Many companies fail when creating an easy to understand travel and expense policy (T&E). The more straightforward your clients’ expense process is, the fewer mistakes they will be make in its implementation. If the process is overly complex and time consuming, there is a greater chance for error.

Ensure the approval and reimbursement process is transparent, so that your clients’ employees understand how long they can expect to wait for payment. Likewise, employees need to understand how they should book travel (through an agent, on their own, etc.), what expenses are allowed and at what rates they will be approved.

3. Automate the Process

The processing costs for companies that use an automated expense reporting system are 27 percent less than those that continue to use a paper-based system, according to a 2013 study by Runzheimer International.

You know all too well that automation streamlines the process, eliminates the hassle of lost receipts and mileage logs, and removes the risk of incomplete or inaccurate reports. Automation also helps employees submit reports quicker.

Expense management software allows managers to set policies for employees, including limits on travel rates for airlines and hotels, as well as preferred vendors. The software also can remind employees of deadlines for report submission. Further, it can speed the approval and reimbursement process by integrating with online purchasing systems, invoice management and reporting.

4. Take Advantage of SmartPhones

As your clients’ trusted advisor, clients are counting on you to make their lives simpler. That’s why you must get them to use technology to their advantage. Eliminate the time-consuming, and often frustrating, task of tracking down receipts and manually entering transaction details. Instead, have them implement a system where employees can use their smartphones to log expenses and track receipts from anywhere. For example, if clients use a Business Card from American Express OPEN, they can enroll in Connect to QuickBooks, which automatically sends your client and their employees' Business Card transactions to their QuickBooks, so expenses can be managed in one place. If your clients are also enrolled in the ReceiptMatchSM Mobile App from American Express OPEN, while on the road the receipt images uploaded to ReceiptMatch can be tagged by you or your employees with your QuickBooks categories and will be automatically sent to their QuickBooks, along with the daily transaction data, saving them business steps and time.

5. Revisit the Process and the Policy

Just like technology, expense reporting is always evolving. Meet with clients to conduct regular audits on their expense reporting process to assure it is functioning the way you intended. Auditing the process and revisiting their approval policies will only make the process run more smoothly and allow you to spot any deficiencies. Likewise, have them regularly audit their employees’ expense reports to ensure accuracy and encourage honesty in reporting.