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Throughout my work history, I've traveled extensively for nearly every job role (in the IT consulting world). I was spoiled early in my career by having access to corporate credit cards. This simplified the process of travel, as I only needed to provide explanation of charges in most cases.

I'm now in a role where I work remotely, but need to travel to a central office for one week each month. There wasn't a corporate credit card option when I started, and due to my schedule and a long travel history/traveling preferences, I choose to book my own lodging and flights.

This is a bit awkward, as I've needed to front the travel costs and hotel accommodations in a very expensive city (New York), as well as keep receipts and submit the supporting reimbursement paperwork.

I'm really bad at this... Expensive taxi receipts get lost. Many of the transactions in this particular city are cash-heavy (subway, meals, etc.). Add that my firm wasn't used to having remote employees and did not have a framework to handle this process when I started (They insisted on putting me up at a hotel an hour away from the Manhattan office during my two-week orientation for cost reasons). Instead, I found my own airbnb lodging for longer trips, and negotiate/lock corporate hotel rates for preplanned visits.

There are several other remote employees. They complain that it often takes 6 weeks to be reimbursed for their travel costs. I don't mind floating the money, but it's unreasonable to expect all employees to do so, right?

And finally, since this is New York City, I sometimes try to incorporate personal time during my visits (nice restaurants, theater, music, travel with spouse). This can complicate expenses (e.g. if alone, I may eat out of food trucks, versus a 5-star restaurant with wife). I tend to feel guilty about this, as though I don't want my company to know that I take time to enjoy the City.

  • How can I be better about this in general? Any tips for keeping track of all travel costs?
  • How do employers typically deal with missing receipts and late submissions of expense reports?
  • Does a firm owe anything to an employee who's missed an expense reimbursement cutoff or deadline?
  • Is it reasonable for an employee to request an advance or corporate credit card in these instances?
  • Are there any suggestions that I should make to the company about streamlining travel costs?
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    Purchase a smart phone and take digital copies of the receipts or purchase a mobile scanner that intergerates with software to keep track of receipts ( neat.com ). This solves your inability, unwillingness, or the pain of keeping receipts until the end of the trip. As for the other concerns most people while on travel have personal expenses its not unusual. – Ramhound Aug 20 '13 at 13:20
  • @Ramhound Digital copies/photos are commonly accepted and good enough for this purpose? – ewwhite Aug 20 '13 at 13:22
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    @ewwhite Yes, depending on company policy. See also: expensify.com. – jcmeloni Aug 20 '13 at 13:25
  • @ewwhite - I cannot answer if they will be accepted. I can tell you that a digital copy is better then nothing. Important to seperate business from personal expenses. Should be easy to determine the seperation line. – Ramhound Aug 20 '13 at 13:30
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    re: dinner with spouse and such - check if your work will switch to a per diem rather than by reciept for meals. It's less work for them and you. – Allen Gould Feb 5 '15 at 21:06
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There are a few things you can do.

Firstly if this 1 week out of 4, you should be asking your company to book, they'll get a better rate if they do this regularly and as it takes 6 weeks to get reimbursed it looks like you need 2 trips worth on the credit card to cover. If they won't take this on, you might want to find a couple of big bills (Oh No, my boiler has exploded!) at home which mean you won't be able to pony up and travel next month without them. Once they start it gets easier....

Credit card: - you can ask, but if they don't have this in place for others, they may have a lot to do to get things in place for this, but they can only say no.

Receipts: - When I travel I use an app on my phone (Google Drive in my case but there are plenty others), you can upload a doc from a photo, so get into the habit of taking a snap of a receipt as soon as you get it, often a picture is as good if you don't have the original any more (ymmv). Also there are lots of apps/websites for expenses, try one out to track.

Deadlines: - deadlines should be for getting re-paid in a current pay cycle, shouldn't be a no pay scenario. set a reminder in your calendar to make sure you do your expenses in time!

Guilt : - As long as you are keeping within policy of expenses don't sweat it, being at the top end of the policy is OK, just use you judgement to even it out (so if you go out with the spouse, do a few nights at the truck once they go home), even if it bothers you, don't claim some of the truck nights to even out the Karma (but given you're ponying up 2 trips on your plastic I wouldn't sweat it if I was in your shoes).

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How can I be better about this in general? Any tips for keeping track of all travel costs?

Use one credit card only for travel related items. Everything on the card (air, hotel, taxi, restaurant) is related to the trip. And use that card for everything you can. If the food truck accepts the card, use it. If the taxi accepts the card, use it. This minimizes the amount of cash you have to remember to keep track of.

Use your phone to make a copy of all receipts that you can't get a replacement for. The rental car and hotel can send you a copy. the restaurant will probably not be able to.

How do employers typically deal with missing receipts and late submissions of expense reports?

The IRS requires that the business be able to document expenses greater than $75. Receipts for some small items they don't have to be able to show to the IRS. Typically replacement receipts are good enough. Even the credit card billing statement.

Deadlines are to force employees to submit the paperwork. The company doesn't want to be be surprised months later by expenses they forgot about. I have worked for companies that had a deadline based on the trip, others have a deadline based on the end of the month.

Does a firm owe anything to an employee who's missed an expense reimbursement cutoff or deadline?

If you are so late that you have missed tax year or contract year deadlines, they probably will be reluctant or unable to reimburse you.

When companies I worked for provided funds in advance, they docked pay for missing receipts. If they advance you $1000 for the trip, after a few weeks they will want their funds returned or documented.

When companies I worked for gave us a corporate card, they didn't pay the bill, or provide funds to pay the bill without the documents. If we missed a deadline they didn't pay the late fees. If they were slow paying us they covered the late fees if we met the deadline for the paperwork.

Is it reasonable for an employee to request an advance or corporate credit card in these instances?

Corporate credit card are not perfect. You still need to submit paperwork to get the money. Though it doesn't feel like you are using your credit balance to fund company activities. Realize that they can see everything you charge on the card.

Are there any suggestions that I should make to the company about streamlining travel costs?

Are they following all the IRS rules for travel. It discusses deadlines, receipts, what can trigger taxes.

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