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Melbourne Cup Day: managing SMB expenditure

Melbourne Cup Day is known as the race that stops a nation. While it’s a public holiday only in Victoria, Australians around the country take the afternoon off to socialise with friends and colleagues. They participate in office sweeps and bet directly on the race and many enjoy a long lunch. It’s such an iconic event that Channel 7 estimates 90% of Australians over 14 watch the race.[1]

This all makes Melbourne Cup Day an ideal corporate entertaining opportunity. Some organisations invite clients, partners or other stakeholders to events while others use it as a chance to treat their employees to a fun afternoon out. Either approach means most of the day’s expenses are likely to be reimbursable by the business.

It also creates the potential for overspending and for employees to claim expenses that aren’t within the corporate policy. Therefore, it’s important for businesses to set expectations around corporate expenses on Melbourne Cup Day, or they may risk things getting out of hand.

Amidst all the excitement and fun, not to mention the often free-flowing alcohol, it can be easy for people to lose track of what they’re spending. Employees may accidentally hand over the corporate credit card for personal expenses like wagering, or they may forget to close the bar tab on the company credit card at the end of the official event, leading to excess spending as they kick on with friends.

Melbourne Cup Day can be fraught with potential for financial losses, and not just as a result of bad bets. Companies must take steps to protect themselves before the big day arrives.

For example, it is crucial to create a clear internal expense policy, communicate it to all staff, and stick to it. The policy should be set in stone ideally well before the excitement of the day itself makes it difficult for people to take in new information about what they can and can’t claim as a business expense.

A good set of corporate expense rules will cut back on inappropriate expense reimbursement claims. Policies should be current, have realistic boundaries, and be clearly understood by employees. They must also be fairly implemented with the same rules applying to everyone.

It’s also important to let employees know what the procedures will be if the expense policy is violated. Consequences may range from simply repaying the out-of-policy amount to dismissal and, potentially, legal ramifications if the employee is caught deliberately defrauding the company.

For a smooth Melbourne Cup Day event, it’s worth appointing a trusted person to monitor spending on the day. If you don’t closely monitor your expenditure then there’s no way of knowing whether it has gone beyond the bounds of the event’s budget until it’s too late. This means having processes in place that can accurately compile the employees’ expense claims and immediately identify whether spending is within the bounds of company policy.

One of the best ways to keep a close eye on spending is to digitise and automate routine tasks such as receipt views. This speeds up the expense claim and reimbursement process and helps you keep on top of inappropriate spending.

If your business still does expense claims on an ad-hoc, paper-based, manual basis, you are at risk of inappropriate spending. Moving to an automated, paperless, cloud-based, mobile expense management solution can help. A good tool will even let employees use their mobile to snap photos of receipts and directly upload them into the expense management system for faster and more accurate expense claims.

About the author

Matt Goss is managing director, ANZ, at Concur. Matt Goss is a management executive with extensive experience in establishing and managing operations for cloud-based technology companies. 

[1] http://www.bandt.com.au/marketing/15-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-melbourne-cup

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