Summer is right around the corner and for many of us that means summer business trips. I love traveling for business. It’s a great (and legal) tax deduction and it takes me all over the world.
When it comes to business travel, documentation – particularly your receipts – is extremely important. Travel is one of those areas that is heavily scrutinized during an audit. Your best defense is a good offense. In this case, that means solid documentation.
What happens to many of us when we travel is we get home and find receipts in various places over the next several days (or even weeks). There are some in our wallets, others in our computer bags, more in our coat pockets, some in our cars and with all of these, there are still probably some missing.
This is why I developed a simple system for my documentation – there’s only 2 steps to follow.
Step #1: Leverage Technology
When my airfare is booked, the airline sends me an email automatically that has all the information I need for my receipt. I forward that email to my bookkeeper immediately upon receipt. That takes care of the airfare receipt.
When I check out from my hotel, I request to have a copy of my bill emailed to me. I forward that email to my bookkeeper immediately upon receipt. That takes care of my hotel receipt.
With my airfare and hotel receipt, I have the receipts for the majority of my actual expenses. But, most of the receipts from my travel come from the other expenses, like meals, cab fare and tips, some of which are paid by cash. I tackle those with Step #2.
Step #2: Pack an Envelope
Part of my packing for a business trip includes packing an envelope in my carry-on bag. Any time I get a receipt, I write notes on it as to what it was for and then it goes in the envelope. After my trip, I give the envelope to my assistant who scans the receipts.
My assistant scans the receipts based on how I paid for the expense.
If I paid with my business credit card, my assistant scans those receipts together and emails them to my bookkeeper. My bookkeeper then has everything needed to properly account for those expenses.
If I paid with cash, my assistant scans those receipts together for me and includes them in my monthly expense reimbursement report that I submit to my company at the end of each month.
Even though it’s my own company, I still submit an expense report.
This is a really important step because when my company reimburses me, I get my cash back (tax free!) and the expenses get properly recorded in my company. In other words, it puts the proper documentation in place.
A Simple System
This is such a simple system, but it works. The key is using it consistently. Now you can enjoy those business trips without the dread of dealing with the receipts afterwards.
Thanks for the write-up Tom, much appreciated.