Shining Light on Five Common Expense Report Blind Spots

By The Center Team on December 10, 2019

Expense report blind spots create hazardous conditions not only for finance, but for your management team and your company as a whole. Center can help.

If most finance teams could have a superpower, it would be visibility. Knowing what’s coming, what’s been charged, and what’s been paid sounds easy enough, but blind spots are all too common. Will the sales team come in on budget? Who’s sitting on three months of expenses? What surprises lurk in that quarterly report?

That’s a lot of unknowns hanging in the balance and potentially affecting your company’s bottom line.

Warning: Hazardous Conditions

Blind spots create hazardous conditions not only for finance, but for your management team and your company as a whole.

  • Expense reports come in too late to take action or forecast accurately
  • Missing expense details make it difficult to enforce policy
  • Bundled expenses limit the ability to tease out the cost of trips and events
  • Unexpected spend is seen only after the fact
  • Managers can’t track department budgets until after monthly close

Blind Spot #1: Unfiled Expense Reports

When employees procrastinate on filing expense reports, it’s a challenge for finance to close the books on time and produce accurate reports and forecasts. Valuable time gets diverted to filing and reversing accruals instead of analyzing and optimizing spend.

“We have some very frequent travelers that have been using their personal cards. We make a big accrual each month for non-corporate card spend that we don’t have visibility into.”  |  FP&A Manager of a 850-person healthcare tech company

Blind Spot #2: Missing Details

Expense reports, especially those submitted in a hurry, can gloss over key points, from the itemized details to attendees or business purpose. Without this critical information, it’s impossible to ensure compliance with company policy and IRS guidelines.

“It’s not sufficient to hand in a credit card slip. You can’t just put in a card slip for $1000 at a restaurant. Employees need to have a line-item receipt.”  |  CFO of a 1,000-person global testing and certification company

Blind Spot #3: Entangled Expenses

Receipts are often saved over weeks and months, and expenses bundled into a single report spanning multiple trips, conferences, and meals. It can be a challenge to tease out the total cost of single trip, let alone the combined costs for a big event attended by multiple team members.

“It’s so tough to track exactly how much is spent for events, when you consider travel from sales and execs. Events always go over budget.”  |  CFO, 800-person IT software company

Blind Spot #4: Black Hole Budgets

Department managers and company leaders rarely have access to actual spend, without asking finance to pull up that data for them. Most only see how they’ve tracked to budget after the books are closed and it’s too late to take action.

“It’s hard to be a good finance business partner when I have to go explain that because someone didn’t submit their expense reports for three months, now we’re way over budget. It’s hard to really navigate and steer the business.”  |  FP&A Manager, 850-person healthcare tech company

Blind Spot #5: Surprise Spending

Discretionary spend accounts for up to 25% of the budget for most smaller companies, yet many managers report they have “no idea” what portion of their budget is allocated towards travel, meals, entertainment, subscriptions, office supplies, and other typically employee-controlled expenses. If you don’t know what people are spending and why, how can you properly prioritize and allocate funds?

“Abuse is not what puts you over budget. It’s all the other spend that adds up.”  |  CFO of a 800-person IT software company


Center’s integrated corporate card and expense software use real-time data to empower you to shine a light on these common blind spots and help you steer full-speed ahead with increased visibility, accountability, and predictability. Learn more about how Center can help your finance team achieve more.