Incorrect travel expense report: What you should be aware of


Incorrect travel expense report: What you should be aware of

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Anyone who travels a lot for work must submit a travel expense report from time to time. This is used to get reimbursed for the costs of a business trip. You should make sure that all the information is correct, because an incorrect travel expense report can have consequences. This article explains which rules apply and what you should look out for.

What may happen if a travel expense report is incorrect‍

Expenses for business trips are usually advanced by the employees. Subsequently, the statement and all receipts are submitted to the employer in order to be reimbursed for the costs. A correct travel expense report is therefore important to ensure that all business-related travel expenses, such as travel, accommodation and entertainment costs, are reimbursed in the correct amount.However, this practice is repeatedly exploited to submit falsified invoices suggesting higher expenses or to pass on private travel costs to the company. In the long run, this is a good way to earn extra money. For companies, on the other hand, it results in high additional costs and significant damage. That is why it is important that these settlements are checked regularly - but this rarely happens. Most companies carry out random checks at most. Large companies in particular would otherwise have difficulty maintaining the time-consuming and cost-intensive control process, as most settlements are submitted in paper form.For employees, incorrect settlements can have serious consequences under labor law. On the first offense, the company may issue a warning. In the case of a repeat offense, the company may even terminate the employment relationship because the employee has betrayed its trust. There are also cases in which termination has already been pronounced after a single false expense report. This has also been recognized by the Federal Labor Court. However, the prerequisite is that the employer can prove beyond doubt that it is a case of a false statement, because the burden of proof lies with the company.

Incorrectly charged travel expenses: The most common cases

There are various details in travel expense reports that can be falsified. Employers should pay particular attention to the following points:‍‍

  • Reason for the business trip: First, a compelling reason for the business trip should be provided. This should also be signed by the executive to ensure that the trip was truly in the company's interest.
  • Kilometer allowance: When travel expenses are reimbursed by company or private car, the distance is usually calculated by kilometers. In this case, it should be checked whether the distance stated also corresponds to the actual distance.
  • Hospitality receipts: When settling business meals, it is important to note who attended the meal, the business relationship of the invited persons to the company and the reason for a business meal at the company's expense.

Statute of limitations for false travel expense reports

First, employees:inside have a three-year statute of limitations for filing travel expense reports. This is the general rule if no individual agreement has been made. In the employment contract, for example, a submission period of one year or less can also be agreed. This contractual provision then applies instead of the statutory period of three years. Anyone who submits later can then no longer claim their expenses. Only a limitation period of less than three months is invalid. Employees must therefore have at least that long to assert their claims.

The statute of limitations is regulated differently for the submission of false invoices. Since this offense can also be punished under criminal law, a limitation period of five years applies under Section 263 I of the Criminal Code. Within this period, the employer can be criminally prosecuted if the fraud is discovered.

Employers can make arrangements

Companies can take precautions against incorrect travel expense claims. In particular, the process from planning and approval of the business trip to settlement should be put to the test. For example, it should be clear when written approval of the business trip is required and how comprehensively it must be justified. The travel expense policy should be unambiguously formulated and clearly define the content and form of the settlement.

In addition, there are more and more programs that automate and facilitate travel expense management. This can save costs while ensuring a thorough review of all invoices. There are now even apps that allow employees to upload photos of receipts and complete expense reports in a snap. Using such software is especially recommended for larger companies that are faced with a flood of billings and can no longer afford to review them manually. These programs are somewhat costly, but the automatic auditing and associated avoidance of improperly reimbursed expenses can make the purchase worthwhile.

Tips for a correct expense report

Regardless of whether your company still checks expense reports manually or already uses a digital solution: Communication with employees is important. They should be made aware that false claims are not a trivial offense, but fraud, which can have consequences under labor law and even criminal law. This also applies to the offense of intentional falsification. The significance of false statements should be clearly communicated to employees. This can be done in the travel expense policy or as part of training courses on correct travel expense reporting.

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