If you work for “the man” he’s got to provide for legitimate travel and business expense reimbursement. Even if you are an independent contractor, you might be entitled to expense reimbursement. While your firm is probably very willing to repay you, it’s up to you to make sure you get what’s coming to you. Even if you don’t care about the small amount of money, stay on top of this. It demonstrates that you are a professional. Here’s how you do so:
1. Understand The Rules
Every firm has an expense reimbursement policy – get a copy and read it. Do they pay you back for out-of-town travel? Do they pay the tab for entertaining your clients including dining and special events? What’s the policy on travel costs? Mileage? When are they reimbursed and when are you responsible for these expenses? When is the deadline to submit your requests? All this is crucial to making sure you get all the money you are owed. The last thing you want is to have negotiate at work for what is owed to you.
Along with this, know what isn’t covered too. If the company pays for meals, do they include your bar tab? Probably not. Don’t embarrass yourself by submitting a request for non-reimbursable expenses.
2. Keep Your Records
Don’t rely on your chummy friendship with Sue in the finance department. Keep studious records. The easiest way to do this is to have a special credit card that you only use for reimbursable business expenses if the company doesn’t provide its own special card. The second thing you need to do is to invest $100 in a scanner and immediately scan your receipts – before you lose them if you’re like me. Consider getting a portable scanner you can take with you when you travel. By simply taking this device with you and using it, you will make up the cost of the machine simply by getting expenses reimbursed that otherwise would be lost.
Next, understand what records you’ll need to submit. Usually, your employer will require you to submit a reimbursement form with your request and copies of your receipts. Take that form with you if you travel or are going to incur expenses. As you accumulate expenses, staple those expenses to the form to make sure you don’t lose any. Make notes on each receipt to explain what the expense was and why it was reimbursable. If you do take this form with you and you are driving, jot down your starting mileage before you set out on your trip. Also, on the back of the form, note any cash tips you leave for your food servers.
3. Submit Records in a Timely Manner
You’re going to have to submit company forms and receipts within a specified time period. If not, you’re going to get stuck with those bills. The nice thing about using a credit card that you only use for business reimbursable expenses is that the records will all be available whenever you need them. My suggestion is to submit your records as soon as possible or as frequently as allowable. Mark your day timer to make sure this gets done.
This is all simple stuff but it’s amazing how many people get lazy and then end up on the short end of the stick when it comes to these expenses. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to be on top of these things. What tips have you got to make sure we get reimbursed for business expenses?