Expense Report Form
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- January 3, 2022 Updated
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Most of us have had the experience of going on a business trip, dutifully saving all of our receipts - meals, gas, dinners with clients, dry cleaning, and entertainment - for later reimbursement.
But then we get home. We dump out the pile of receipts we’ve accumulated and try to make some sort of order from the chaos. We pull out a notebook and start sorting the receipts, writing down the details that justify each expense. Through the fog of time, we try to remember the specifics of Tuesday’s dinner. “Why was that meal so expensive? Was I just super hungry or did I take out a prospective client? If it was a client, who was it? Management will want to know so Sales can follow up. Arrrgh! I should have taken better notes.”
Then, we submit our somewhat less jumbled up pile of receipts to our manager or our accounting office. We feel bad as they complain about the work we’ve added to their day, and we possibly argue about the expenses they can’t reimburse us.
And as accountants and managers, we’ve all been in the position of having piles of receipts thrown at us in the hopes that we will make enough sense of them to pay our employees their due.
If that sounds familiar, then our free Expense Report Form can help! For employees, it eases the pain of organizing travel expenses. For employers, it can double as your expense reimbursement form, or a travel expense report. When all of your employees use a standardized form, it not only makes things easier for them, but it also makes the job easier for your accounting department. Once your employees create an expense report and submit it, with verifiable receipts, you can then use the form to directly reimburse employee expenditures.
And remember - business trips can be both productive and fun! Especially for employees who don’t travel full time. They break up the daily work routine, help work feel more dynamic, and allow great opportunities for networking. Whether through interacting with peers or potential clients, business trips can remind us that there’s relevance in what we do outside the walls of our business office.
(Note: There are two spreadsheets included in this download. The “Expense Report Form” includes U.S. Dollar formatting for the financial cells. The “Expense Report Form No Currency” spreadsheet formats the financial cells as standard numbers – no currency. The two worksheets calculate the numeric totals in the same way. I refer to the “Expense Report Form” throughout this article but the instructions apply to both. See the Changing the Currency section to learn how to format the financial cells for different currency.)
This Expense Report Form can be used as a digital document on your tablet or computer, or as a printout that you can take with you like a worksheet – or both. Print out the worksheet, fill it in as the expenses happen, and then enter them into a digital version as you have time. The digital version will auto calculate the total at the bottom of the report template. Take a look at the Expense Report Form image to see the layout and the included expense categories.
There is one spreadsheet in this simple Expense Report Form (titled the same as the template). This worksheet has a column for the most common expense categories. But, before you go on your business trip, make sure to read your employer-specific expense reimbursement policy. The expenses incurred during your travel, and recorded in this business expense report, are not necessarily reimbursable. So, before spending any money, it’s important to know what your employer considers “employee expenses” and what are “business travel expenses.” Also, it’s important to keep all cash and credit card receipts. You need the receipts as proof of payment for cash purchases and, even though credit card purchases will appear on credit card statements, some employers require receipts before reimbursing credit card purchases too. It should all be spelled out in your employer’s travel policy.
How To Use the Expense Report Form
Using the Spreadsheet
Most of this spreadsheet is self-explanatory because the fields are labeled. But I’d like to cover a couple of points. First, all cells are editable as normal Excel spreadsheet cells. Click on the cell and start typing. The cells that you shouldn’t modify are the calculation cells (L21:L39, E40:L40, L42, and L44). These cells contain formulas that calculate the row and column totals. Overwriting any of these cells could create an error or an inaccurate total.
The next point is that the labels for the input fields are customizable.
Let’s take a look at the SSN (Social Security Number) field. If you are an employer, you will have your employee’s social security numbers on file and might not need to collect that information on this form. Since “identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America” (Social Security Administration, Securing Today and Tomorrow), you might decide to only collect the last four digits of the SSN, to instead use an employee identification number, or to use this field for some different employee-expense data.
Simply select the cell (J17) and type new text (for example, “Last Four Digits of SSN”). But, there’s one more change we need to make. The form fields have an “input message” assigned to them. Input messages (also known as tooltips) are messages in Excel that appear when you click on a cell. Take a look at the Input Message image – the tooltip is the yellow, highlighted square that says, “Enter Social Security Number.”
So, using the Input Message image as a guide, after we change the label for the input field (1) and then select the input field (2), the input message appears (3). Notice that the input message still refers to the full Social Security Number. We need to edit this, as well. In the toolbar, open the “Data” tab and then choose the “Data Validation” option – this will open the “Data Validation” window. In that window, open the “Input Message” tab and change the “Input Message” to “Enter the Last Four Digits of SSN” (see the Data Validation image), or whatever information you’ve decided to request in this line.
Now, when you highlight cells K17:L17, the worksheet will display the new tooltip that matches the title.
Another thing we need to point out is that the column headers are also customizable. As mentioned above, the current categories are commonly used travel expense categories, but you might have a need to create a custom header for your application. To do this, simply highlight the header and type the new title. The row and column calculations are not based on the names of these headers. For example, there is a column for “Transportation” and “Fuel” but not “Mileage.” In some cases, you might want to report on the mileage expense – how many miles you’ve traveled (usually in your personal vehicle) times a mileage reimbursement rate (pre-determined by your employer). The basic 2019 Federal mileage reimbursement rate is 58 cents per mile. This rate is the reimbursable expense that you can claim on your Federal income taxes (minus any fraction of that amount reimbursed by your employer) for business use of your personal vehicle. Some employers will reimburse that whole amount and some will only reimburse part of that amount – allowing you to claim the difference on your personal taxes. (Note: your specific tax situation might vary from the standard case and should be evaluated by your tax accountant.) Now, circling back to our example, any “mileage reimbursement expense” will have to be calculated before entering it in the spreadsheet. So, if you needed to add a mileage column you could add a header that explains that rate. See the Mileage image for an example and note that the calculation (.58 cents x 100 miles = $58.00) was done before entering it in the expense report form.
Changing the Currency
If you deal with any currency other than U.S. Dollar, use the “Expense Report Form No Currency” spreadsheet. This spreadsheet has no currency formatted by default and you can either use it as-is or format the financial cells. Let’s format them with the Euro currency. Highlight cells L21:L39, E40:L40, L42, and L44 and then select the “Home” tab in the menu toolbar. Choose the “Currency” drop-down menu and select “Euro” to match my sample (see the Currency image for the results). You can change this to any of the other currencies directly from that drop-down menu or choose the “More Accounting Formats…” for more currency options.
Sample Expense Report
Let me add some data and set up a sample expense report to help you understand this spreadsheet. Take a look at the Sample Expense Report I put together.
The sample data represents a two day, overnight trip to a technical conference, and lists the traveling expenses of the employee. Each expense is on a single line (row) and entered into the appropriate column based on the category. Note that the columns are subtotaled so you can see how much you spent within a category. If you didn’t need detailed “Descriptions” you could combine expenses on the same line. An example would be if you wanted to combine your travel expenses to the event. In a single row, you might have the “Description” as “Travel to Event” and then add mileage, meals, and miscellaneous expenses in the same row (see the Single Row Entry image). A disadvantage of this structure is that you lose descriptive details, and the ability to enter correct accounting codes. It might not work with your accounting department.
Now, whether you’re an employee or employer, you should have some ideas on how this Expense Report Form can help. As an employee, it can save you some frustration after the trip by reporting expenses – whether reimbursable or not. As an employer, adopting this reimbursement form can help you or your accounting department process travel expenses more quickly. A standardized form will help employees remember which line items are reimbursable, will make verifying their expenses faster to do, and will ease one of the more fraught interactions between employees and the company’s accountants.
Happy travels and, during your next business trip, keep this in mind, “If you think adventures are dangerous: try routine, it’s lethal.” - Paul Coelho (Make Time to See the World, #40).
(Note: This article references the features in Excel from Microsoft Office 365.)
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