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Corporate Travel Management – 3 Min Read

Simplifying travel expense tracking with audit trails

Sajit Chacko
Tripeur Travel Desk

Since corporate travel’s inception, businesses have struggled with gross inefficiencies and redundancies in the messy expense reconciliation process. With most companies commonly relying on physical receipts and manual reconciliation, corporate travel expense management remains a higher cost center to businesses than required. Even though outdated systems are prone to significant errors, fraud, and delays, companies continue to incorrectly consider their processes a gold standard for monitoring and managing travel expenses. 

As a business leader, it is crucial to ask yourself, are older systems precisely depicting your employees’ audit trails and expense reports? Unfortunately, we have found that for most businesses engaged in old-school practices, the answer is no; it does not. This article explores how companies can simplify travel expense tracking with more efficient audit trails and steer clear of the sluggish post-facto paper-based expense management and reconciliation model. With business travel projected to grow by thirty-four percent by the end of 2022, it has never been more critical for businesses to consider a rehaul of their redundant travel expense tracking systems. To do this, let’s first dive into the main challenges facing outdated travel expense tracking systems.

Challenges facing travel expense tracking

Travel expenses often include accommodations, airfare, local transportation, food, beverages, and event tickets. The finance team is responsible for tracking, managing, and reconciling these expenses and ultimately providing employees with appropriate reimbursements. Inaccurate tracking of these expenses is known to cause inflated budgets that pose a multifaceted problem to businesses that affects all stakeholders, from travelers and finance teams to CFOs. For business travel to be successful, they must be able to effectively track and manage corporate travel expenses to the extent that the trip strikes a balance between productivity and cost efficiency. Whereby failing to do so hinders both parameters. Here are some considerable challenges facing expense tracking that businesses should begin to address. 

Poor data visibility

First and foremost, CFOs need to understand that real-time expense visibility makes travel expenses manageable. When businesses cannot monitor and track employee expenses during their trips, they remain almost entirely in the dark about budget utilization across the diverse categories until trip completion. Only when the finance team collects the physical invoices and performs post facto reconciliation is when they get a vivid picture of employee expenditure. This lack of visibility in travel expenses is a significant challenge facing most businesses reliant on old-school expense tracking systems. These systems are additionally prone to human errors, receipt loss, duplicate reports, and in some instances, even employee fraud. 

On the other hand, a worthy alternative is to invest in centralized expense management software that can provide the finance department and other stakeholders with complete real-time visibility of all corporate travel expenses. Centralized expense management systems allow businesses to leverage e-receipts to generate accurate expense reports that, in turn, provide a clear audit trail. All the employee needs to do is take a picture of the expense invoice and upload it onto a handy mobile application that will be instantly visible to all relevant stakeholders. E-receipts benefit the finance department by eliminating the necessity to wait for trip completion to collect and process impractical and bulky physical receipts. These automated systems further reduce the likelihood of human error, eliminates redundant processes, and speed up the entire T&E process.

Inefficient processes

Another challenge affecting older systems is inefficient and redundant processes, where every stage of the travel process requires acquiring tedious approvals. These approvals are constantly subject to delays as they are often paper-based or requested via official email channels between the traveling employees, financial department, travel desk, managers, admins, and C-suites. Corporate travelers often perform a high volume of transactions during their respective trips. Processing this sheer volume of these transactions becomes an added complexity to finance teams forced to deal with these inadequate systems. It would be wise to immediately address these inefficiencies with digital T&E authorizations and audit trails to avoid operational and financial corporate travel bottlenecks. 

Outdated processes

It is undeniable that manual systems relying on dated practices such as physical invoices, email communications, and spreadsheets are becoming increasingly problematic, error-prone, and tougher to manage. The most common by-product of outdated processes is when unauthorized expenses are non-compliant with the company’s travel policy. We have observed that these expenses often need to be more accurately approved during manual expense reviews. Automated expense tracking and reporting is an excellent way to mitigate these problems. These systems improve the approval process by offering a more robust mobile app-based approval system that can quickly relay all projected expenses to the relevant parties for instant approvals. Furthermore, automated systems can swiftly identify and notify managers and admins when non-compliant expenditures occur, avoiding the need for post-facto scrutiny.

Late report submission

Businesses engaging in corporate travel must understand the financial repercussions of delayed expense reports. Such delays have damaging ramifications, such as late fees, that can subsequently impact employee credit scores. A major problem with relying on post facto expense management systems is the need for more real-time visibility. When the average transaction volume of trip expenses is around four hundred per employee, it becomes increasingly challenging to perform travel expense audits. This challenge arises because finance teams need to manually collect these invoices from employees and process them individually, potentially resulting in numerous discrepancies. Accounting delays stemming from manual invoice gathering and expense reporting can also make the finance department’s job of creating precise audit trails exceedingly tricky. A simple solution to mitigate this issue is to set appropriate deadlines for trip expense reconciliation to ensure that all stakeholders are encouraged to speed up the typically time-consuming process.

Inefficient receipt management

T&E mismanagement often stems from incorrect receipt handling. When you rely on hard receipts, you are more exposed to the financial and operational ramifications of mismanaged, damaged, or lost invoices. During these unfortunate instances, the employees have no choice but to reacquire duplicate receipts of the expense after the trip, which is not always an easy task, especially during international travel. When employees fail to acquire the receipts, their reimbursement request typically gets rejected, causing them to suffer financial repercussions. Businesses dependent on physical invoices are more likely to be susceptible to fraud. It also places the need for storage space while the finance team manually collects and enters the invoice details into the system before processing. These problems impact both the traveler and the financial department while hindering the overall smoothness of T&E management. A better solution is to engage in modern automated expense management solutions with accurate audit trail tracking. When the time for reconciliation arises, these automated systems have all the trip information and invoices visible and ready in an online repository.

What is an audit trail?

To understand the benefits of mitigating these challenges, one needs to understand audit trails and how they can benefit organizations. An audit trail is an accounting practice that enables businesses and their financial teams to track and record travel transactions directly to their source. It is an excellent tool that finance teams use to check and validate the legitimacy of all travel-related transactions. 

How audit trails improve travel expense tracking 

The more accurate an audit trail is, the easier it becomes for companies to plan and implement cost-effective and productive corporate travel. It also allows for smoother expense tracking, simplifying the reconciliation and reimbursement processes upon trip completion. Here are some crucial travel aspects you can achieve by employing audit trails to improve your travel expense tracking.

Real-time reporting of expenses

A crucial aspect of audit trails is that it helps businesses accurately keep tabs on where and for what purpose employees utilize the allotted T&E budget. Real-time expense reporting helps enterprises keep their admins, managers, and C-suites in the loop during all stages of the corporate travel process. An automated expense tracking software with a robust travel expense audit checklist can enable businesses to generate and share expense reports directly with relevant stakeholders via user-friendly mobile apps. These mobile apps ensure supervisors and managers can keep tabs on travel expenses at their convenience at all times. 

Easy to reconcile

Once you achieve real-time expense reporting, post-travel reconciliation for the finance team becomes relatively easy. Accurate audit trails provide the finance division with all the invoices and information they need by the end of the trip. Through the invoice repository, the e-invoices are readily available at the click of a button. They do not need to rely on employees to submit the physical invoices to begin the reconciliation. 

All expenses recorded on one platform

An excellent automated expense management solution helps deliver accurate expense reports and budget utilization information directly to the relevant company authority through a unified platform. It also gives you the ability to anticipate budget over-utilization. If an employee is overspending, managers can review the information on an app and take immediate action to ensure that travel budget adherence is back on track. Furthermore, this allows businesses to assign expenses to their appropriate cost center accurately. Doing so will enable you to devise budgets for future travels more accurately with historical travel expense data. An adept travel expense management system should be able to provide you with accurate real-time expense information along with KPI dashboards depicting travel budget utilization across all completed trips. 

Faster and less wasteful

It all comes down to saving the fundamentally essential resources of a modern-day business, its time and money. Modern expense tracking solutions help save both these resources with precise audit trails. Through this system, you rid yourself of all redundancies for quicker resolutions of travel-related issues. It also reduces the need for businesses and employees to wait months after trip completion to perform reconciliation and award the appropriate reimbursements. Faster and less wasteful systems maintain employee morale while fulfilling the business’s financial responsibilities and thus improving the overall corporate travel experience across the board.

Create travel audit trails for faster expense reconciliation with Tripeur

Our real-time expense reporting feature enables business employees to upload invoices directly onto our expense management repository when they occur. This information is then accessible to the finance team and all relevant stakeholders. Through our system, your finance department will always be kept in the loop through instantaneous expenditure alerts and reports through all stages of the travel experience. Our software can perpetually fix your expense reconciliation inefficiencies and reduces the time taken for post-trip reconciliation from months to days. 

Further, Tripeur’s expense analytics platform enables accounting and finance teams to fragment costs to make travel expenses more controllable. Our product is constantly improved through feedback from our largest unicorn customers to provide better experiences. Consider our platform a one-stop shop for corporate travel, where every tool you need for travel management is available within Tripeur’s robust platform. Our user-friendly and simplified expense management platform provides audit trails with the utmost accuracy and lowers company travel costs. Contact us at Tripeur to find out how we can help you achieve faster expense reconciliation than ever before.

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