How to Write an Expense Report

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Employees who pay for approved business expenses from their own funds can generally expect reimbursement from their employers. To facilitate such reimbursement and guarantee that the costs are accurately booked in the company's ledger, employees are expected to submit a detailed report of all such out-of-pocket expenses.

If your company provides an expense report template, access it and follow its directions.

If not, gather your receipts together, and place them in chronological order. Also list all expenses for which you don't have receipts, such as automobile mileage and incidentals like newspapers and refreshments purchased from hotel vending machines.

If you're creating your own report without a company-provided template, use a computer spreadsheet. Create a template and copy it to a new worksheet for each new report you prepare. Every sheet header should note your name, department name and code, and the period covered by the report. Below this information, your template should have at least five columns, headed Date, Payee, Purpose or Description, and Amount. Depending on your company's policy, you may need to add additional columns for such information as accounting codes, meeting attendees, and so on.

List your expenses on your sheet in date order using your receipts and list as sources. Prepare one report per period - whether weekly, bi-monthly, monthly or otherwise, usually specified in your company's policy. If you have multiple receipts for a single day, it helps to group them by type of expense, such as meal expenses and parking expenses.

If you receive a flat-rate allowance for any purpose, enter it on its own row at the bottom of the report, after the receipted expenses.

If you are reimbursed for mileage you put on your personal vehicle, you should keep an automobile log and transfer the mileage to your expense report on a daily or weekly basis, in accordance with company policy. Enter mileage on its own row as a separate expense item. Enter the words "Personal Auto Mileage" in the Payee column, the miles and per-mile rate in the Description column (i.e., "275 miles @ 58 cents/mile"), and the amount to be reimbursed in the Amount column. Note that each employer has its own mileage reimbursement rate.

When all expenses are entered, total them as the last item in the amount column. If you received a cash advance to cover expenses, subtract that amount from your total expenses. This is the amount to be reimbursed to you.

Different employers have different policies about how to submit receipts. Yours may require that you submit original receipts, or that you submit scans or photocopies. You may need to cross-reference them so it's easier for the person handling your reimbursement to match up expenses with receipt. If you're submitting a claim for mileage reimbursement, you should also submit a copy of your auto log for the period.

Submit your expense report in the form, and accompanied by receipts, in accordance with your employer's policy. Submit only the worksheet containing the current week's expenses, not the entire spreadsheet file with the blank template and many weeks of expenses.

Tips

  • Whenever possible, pay for reimbursable expenses with a credit card you use solely for such expenses. This should help you keep track of reimbursable business expenses and reconcile their payment.

    Avoid commingling business and personal expenses on the same receipt.

    Doublecheck all reports and match expense receipts against the amounts claimed on the report. Many mistakes occur when people rushing through the task transfer the wrong amount from the receipt to the expense report.

    Always check with your employer's HR, payroll, or accounting department for guidance on getting expenses reimbursed accurately and on-time.

Warnings

  • Never lie about expenses. This is stealing from the company and can result in adverse consequences such as termination or criminal prosecution.

    Check with your employer for any restrictions on what you can get reimbursed for. Not every meal may be able to be expensed, and you may not be able to expense things like alcohol, drycleaning or valet parking. Your employer should have guidelines in what is and is not reimbursable.

    Pay only for your own approved business expenses - don't pay other people's expenses unless you have authority to do so. Also avoid paying the expenses of another employee who gets expenses reimbursed.

References

About the Author

R.L. Cultrona is a San Diego native and a graduate of San Diego State University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater, television and film with a minor in communications and political science. She began writing online instructional articles in June 2009.

Photo Credits

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