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Travel and Expense (T&E) management refers to the processes and policies a company uses to handle the costs associated with business travel. This includes everything from booking travel arrangements to reimbursing employees for out-of-pocket expenses. 

Efficiently managing business travel expenses is crucial for a company to thrive. Fortunately, there are a number of software platforms that can help with this. These include Ramp, Zoho Expense, SAP Concur, Expensify, Emburse, TravelPerk, and Rydoo. 

‍In this article, we’ll explain what goes into travel and expense management, how to design an effective travel expense management policy, important tax considerations, and how software can streamline this often difficult process for your company.

What is travel and expense management?

Travel and expense management, also called T&E management, is the process that companies use to establish and enforce business travel policies.

This function is crucial for businesses to gain control of their travel spending, stay within company policy, and maintain financial visibility.

The travel expense management process involves setting clear guidelines and policies for employee travel and then enforcing them effectively, using tools like employee cards and expense management software.

How to design a travel and expense management policy 

There are 6 critical steps to take to design an effective travel and expense management policy

  1. Set travel booking guidelines: The first step in designing a travel and expense management policy is to identify the vendors (e.g. airlines, car rental companies, hotels) employees are expected to use when booking their travel. 
  2. Draft expense submission and reimbursement procedures: Next, you’ll need to clearly outline the expense reimbursement process you want your employees to follow. 
  3. Detail policy compliance and safety measures: The next step to designing an effective T&E policy is to detail the safety regulations and IRS adherence your employees are expected to follow when traveling in an official business capacity. 
  4. Adapt the policy for remote and hybrid work environments: An effective travel expense management policy should include policies specifically geared towards remote work, assuming this is a component of the way your company operates. 
  5. Use a travel and expense policy template: Using a travel and expense policy template can help to ensure that no parts of your policy are overlooked. 
  6. Implement and communicate your travel and expense policy: The final step is to effectively disseminate your travel and expense management policy company-wide. 

Build your own expense policy with Ramp's expense policy template

Tips for managing business travel expenses

The following are some tips to effectively managing business travel expenses within your organization. 

1. Draft a business travel policy

Creating a comprehensive business travel policy is a foundational step in managing travel expenses. This policy should clearly outline what’s considered a reimbursable expense, set daily spending limits, and specify preferred vendors for flights, accommodation, and car rentals. By following the 6 steps detailed in the previous section, you’ll be well on your way to creating an effective T&E policy for your organization. 

2. Communicate your policy widely

Once you have a travel policy, make sure your employees know about it. Share your company's travel policy with all employees, regardless of whether they’re likely to travel. Make sure the documentation is easily accessible and send out reminders before business trips to review the policy. Making your travel policy clear and thorough will help prevent confusion and miscommunications when it comes time for reimbursements.

3. Record and categorize all expenses

Establish a method for employees to track and categorize all of their travel-related expenses. This could involve using corporate cards and expense management tools that let employees upload receipts and track spending in real-time. Categorizing expenses will help your team analyze spending patterns and identify areas for cost reduction. It also streamlines the approval process and reimbursements and keeps your financial reports accurate.

TIP
What is the purpose of a travel expense report?
The purpose of a travel expense report is to document and itemize expenses incurred during business travel. It facilitates the reimbursement process and helps companies track and manage travel-related costs.

4. Calculate trip costs

After a business trip ends, calculate the total cost and costs by category. This will equip you with valuable information to help you determine the right budget for future trips to similar destinations or events, while letting you pinpoint any trips or employees who exceed the average cost. Look at spending categories like travel and fuel costs, dining, entertainment, and other travel expenses to get a sense of where your company is spending money on trips.

5. Predict future travel expenses

Having historical data from past trips will help you forecast future travel expenses. Predicting future expenses is important for budgeting and strategic planning, letting you allocate resources more efficiently. Also, understanding your company’s travel needs and spending means you can plan to negotiate corporate rates with providers like airlines, hotels, and car rental companies.

Travel and expense management tax implications

Needless to say, there are important tax considerations to keep in mind when designing your company’s travel and expense management policy. The IRS allows you to write off certain travel expenses, and you’ll want to make sure your employees know that they can only get reimbursed for these specific types of costs. Also, it’s important to keep track of your receipts for each and every one of these charges, in the event your company is audited. 

These are a few of the acceptable categories related to business travel:

  • Travel expenses: Travel expenses extend to airfare, tolls, taxes and lodging. Note that the travel destination has to be away from the area in which your company normally conducts business, and it has to be longer than one day. 
  • Business entertainment: Client meal costs are deductible up to 50%. 
  • Auto expenses: This category is most often associated with the business use of a personal vehicle.
  • Office supplies: Office supplies costs are deductible if they’re required for a business trip.
  • Education: Sending an employee on a trip to take classes or attend an accredited seminar can produce multiple deductible expenses.

TIP
What type of expense is travel?
Travel expenses are typically classified as operating expenses, which include costs incurred for transportation, lodging, meals, and other related expenses necessary for conducting business activities away from the primary place of work.

Challenges of travel and expense management

Travel and expense management is not without its fair share of challenges, and improper handling of these aspects can pose several pain points for organizations, including:

  • Complexity: From airfare and accommodation to meals and transportation, corporate travel management can be overwhelming. This complexity often leads to errors in manual data entry, which in turn results in inaccurate records and potential compliance issues.
  • Lack of visibility: Organizations often struggle to gain real-time insights into where their travel and expense budget is being allocated. This lack of spend visibility can hinder decision-making, making it challenging to identify cost-saving opportunities and optimize travel expenses effectively.
  • Enforcement: Without a strong system in place, it can be difficult to ensure that employees follow your company's expense management policies. This not only opens the door to potential compliance pitfalls but also paves the way for budget overruns and the misallocation of funds.
  • Administrative strain: Manually managing travel bookings, receipts, expense documentation, and the reimbursement process amplifies the administrative strain of T&E processes.

Travel expense management software solutions

Travel and expense management software simplifies the process of expense reporting, automates approval workflows, and organizes your financial data so it’s easy to review.

Additionally, travel and expense management systems can also offer valuable insights into your company’s spending patterns, informing you when transactions are out of policy or when spending in certain categories is higher than industry standards.

Here are some of the leading digital tools you can use to manage travel and expenses: 

Ramp

Ramp Travel is an all-in-one expense management platform with powerful automation features to streamline your travel expenses. 

Key features of Ramp: 

  • Receipt capture and tracking
  • Real-time financial insights and reporting
  • A corporate card with built-in spend controls
  • Accounting software integration (Quickbooks, Xero, Netsuite, etc.)

Zoho Expense

Zoho Expense is designed to automate the process of expense reporting, streamline approvals, and manage business expenses.

Key features of Zoho Expense: 

  • Receipt capture via Zoho Expense mobile app
  • Customizable workflows 
  • Detailed analytics and reporting
  • Support for multiple currencies and tax regulations 

SAP Concur

SAP Concur is one of the oldest—and largest—digital travel management platforms on the market, with tools to help manage spending and streamline expense tracking and approval workflows.

Key features of SAP Concur: 

  • Travel booking
  • Invoice processing
  • Compliance and policy enforcement
  • Analytics and reporting

Expensify

Expensify’s platform features a range of tools that automate and streamline the travel expense reporting process. 

Key features of Expensify: 

  • Receipt scanning
  • Expense management and reporting
  • Corporate card reconciliation
  • Multi-level approval workflows

Emburse

Emburse offers a suite of business software solutions focused on streamlining financial operations and managing spending.

Key features of Emburse:

  • Integration capabilities with various ERP and accounting systems (QuickBooks, Xero, Concur Expense)
  • Detailed analytics tools 
  • Customizable workflows

TravelPerk

TravelPerk is a comprehensive platform designed to handle various aspects of business travel. 

Key features of TravelPerk:

  • All-in-one travel booking feature
  • Travel policy integration
  • 24/7 customer support:
  • Comprehensive reporting tools

Rydoo

Rydoo is a cloud-based travel and expense management platform designed to streamline the process of corporate travel. 

Key features of Rydoo:

  • Travel booking capabilities
  • Policy compliance automation
  • Real-Time reporting and analytics
  • Corporate card reconciliation

Use Ramp for travel expense management

Ramp Travel is designed specifically for business travel management. Here are some of the ways Ramp Travel can streamline your travel expenses:

  • Automated expense tracking: Ramp automates expense tracking, logging each transaction by vendor and category whenever employees swipe their cards. We also have accounting integrations to generate financial reports.
  • Travel itineraries: Ramp automatically generates travel itineraries when employees forward their airline confirmation emails. All expense data during the trip is seamlessly linked to create a consolidated trip report, providing valuable spending insights. Set digital travel policies to catch out-of-policy travel spend before trips even start.
  • Better employee experience: Define your company travel policies and set specific rules, like maximum airline costs or dining expenses. Using Ramp cards avoids employees paying out-of-pocket and filing business travel expense claims—only allowable expenses can be charged in the first place, making for a better experience. Employees also enjoy low rates, rewards, and an intuitive booking experience.
  • Customer support: Our dedicated customer support and live training is available to help you configure your cards to your specific business needs.

‍Ramp is an expense management solution for businesses of all sizes. With our corporate card, managing employee expenses is simple and effective.

Try Ramp for free
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Finance Writer and Editor, Ramp
Ali Mercieca is a Finance Writer and Content Editor at Ramp. Prior to Ramp, she worked with Robinhood on the editorial strategy for their financial literacy articles and with Nearside, an online banking platform, overseeing their banking and finance blog. Ali holds a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from York University and can be found writing about editorial content strategy and SEO on her Substack.
Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.

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