Boost Compliance with Simple Travel and Expense Policy

By The Center Team on October 10, 2023

Business leaders know that policy compliance is critical to managing costs, but many still struggle with employee adherence. Take travel, for example—expenses related to corporate travel are the second highest cost behind payroll and nearly 30%1 of spend falls outside of company policy.

Keeping policy simple is key to driving adoption. Employees are busy and focused on their work, so the easier and more straightforward your travel and expense policy is, the more likely they are to follow it. Ensuring your policy stays up to date will help control costs and build compliance with staff. In our 2023 Expense Management Trends Survey, businesses reported that the biggest hurdle faced with respect to expense policy is employees knowing that one exists and understanding it. Whether you’re creating expense policies for the first time or finding persistent compliance issues with your existing one, the steps below will keep you on track to build or refresh.

There are key policy areas that you’ll want to strategize, document, and have a solid approach to managing, and steps within each to help make your approach successful.


Building Policy Foundation

1.  Define your policy goals: Set clearly defined objectives to easily understand resource allocation and cost. Consider how you will manage your policies. A corporate card with integrated expense software may help you reach your policy goals more effectively.

2. Set expense limits: Clearly note any limits on expenses or categories and ensure these align with your organization’s financial goals. Review historical spend and start your guidelines there. ​

3. Establish approval hierarchy: Define who has the authority to approve travel requests, expense reports, and deviations from policy guidelines. This ensures accountability and helps prevent unauthorized spend. Software that customizes approval workflows can save time for approvers and ensure clarity across roles.

4. Outline reimbursement procedures: Detail the process for submitting and approving expense reimbursements. This may include documenting receipts or invoices during a submission timeline.

5. Address compliance and regulations: Highlight legal and regulatory considerations that your organization must adhere to. Address tax implications, record-keeping requirements, and any local regulations that might affect expenses, especially those related to travel.

6. Detail reporting and auditing: Establish processes for reporting expenses to ensure compliance. This is an opportunity to utilize expense management software to cut down on time spent on any unmanaged travel or employee spend.


Travel and Entertainment Policy

If your business is developing a travel policy for the first time, it’s a good idea to start driving awareness and adoption early. Keeping policy rules simple, easy to understand and follow, and ensuring your policy is visible to your organization is key.

1. Create guidelines for booking travel: How should employees book flights, hotels or transportation? Are they required to use a corporate booking tool? If not, what guidelines should they follow? Do they have corporate cards? How will these guidelines be accessed and made visible? Make sure they have resources and support (and know how to access it) while traveling.

Help employees travel smarter. Keep track of travel expenses through a connected card and expense management software.
    • Eliminate the need to save receipts
    • Enable expense submission and review on-the-go
    • Provide finance teams visibility into spend as it happens

2. Set up a travel authorization process: Detail the process employees must follow to obtain approval for business-related travel. This should outline any necessary steps, such as submitting a travel request, obtaining managerial approval, and outlining the purpose and expected outcomes of the trip. An integrated expense software and corporate travel booking tool can alleviate these manual processes.

3. Meals and entertainment: These expense types can be applicable to all employees and often include multiple people across departments or clients. Consider requiring attendees to be listed, who best to assume the expense and how you classify for tax deduction purposes.

4. Duty of care: It is your organization’s responsibility to ensure your employees are as safe as possible when traveling on business. Partner with HR and other stakeholders when creating your policy. Consider in advance where and how employees should stay at a specific location and ensure awareness of where employees are. In the event of an emergency, you need to easily be able to locate and communicate with them.

Read more about Center’s best-in-class customer rating and recent accolades for usability and user satisfaction on G2. If you’d like to find out more about how modern spend management tools can empower your team to do more, schedule a personalized demo today.

1Mastercard TCG consulting