6 Ways to Save on Business Travel Expenses

Whether you’re flying out to meet with a client or present at a conference, traveling for business can be as costly as it is necessary. Sure, you’ve examined past expense reports and set aside a budget–but how else can you avoid unnecessary costs? With a little forethought and these six tips, you can shave hundreds of dollars off of your next business trip.

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1. Book early–but not too early.

When searching for the best time to purchase a plane ticket, you’ll find a wide range of advice. However, a 2013 study by CheapAir analyzed over 4 million trips in the hopes of settling the debate once and for all. They found that booking “54 days in advance” will give you the lowest rate, with the next best opportunity anywhere between 29 and 104 days before your trip. However, the rate at which prices soar and decline will vary based on your destination, the number of tickets already sold, and the current/projected price of oil. International flights, for example, should be booked much earlier than 54 days.

The best strategy by far is to start taking note of ticket prices as soon as possible. If you’re still well outside the 54 day mark, keep an eye out for deals or packages in the months leading up to your trip. When in doubt, book earlier rather than later–the CheapAir study also debunks the persistent rumor that waiting until 24 hours before the flight takes off will mean big last-minute savings. In fact, the average difference between the cheapest rate and the worst was $312! If you find yourself having to fly out on short notice, know that ticket prices steadily increase over the final 14 days–if you don’t have the luxury of strategizing, just book as soon as you can.

2. Be open-minded about your travel days.

When you travel can have just as big an impact on cost as where you go and for how long. To save money, most people opt to limit the time they’re away from home. But depending on hotel and meal prices, you may find it’s actually less expensive to stay an extra night. How? Remember that hotel and airfare rates fluctuate based on season, fuel prices, and the number of guests. Weekday flights, particularly Tuesdays and Wednesdays, can be significantly cheaper than popular travel days like Saturdays and Sundays. If your schedule is flexible, look for the best combination of travel and hotel fees. This is especially true of promotional deals from booking services–don’t assume that a combined flight and hotel package for 4 nights will always cost more than separate bookings for 2-3.

That being said, don’t rely on pre-made packages without investigating all of your other options. Consider flying to alternate airports or mixing-and-matching your airlines. For example, flying United out of SFO, then taking American Airlines to OAK on your return trip might cost less than a roundtrip ticket with either.

3. Don’t pay for internet.

These days, internet access is essentially mandatory for those looking to work while traveling. But Hotel WiFi can be steep and unreliable, especially during a crowded conference. If using the internet is integral to your business trip, consider it an incentive to save even more money on cheaper lodging: a recent study shows that more “budget-friendly” hotels like Quality, Ramada, and Best Western tend to have fast, free WiFi. Meanwhile, the Hiltons and Marriotts, in addition to being more expensive, are more likely to charge for internet access.

Stuck somewhere without WiFi? Remember that most smart phones can also be used as a mobile hotspot. Just make sure your mobile plan offers enough data to perform any necessary e-mailing, document sharing, and social media while you’re away–otherwise you’ll be paying for overage fees!

4. Traveling abroad? Plan ahead to avoid roaming charges.

If your business requires you to spend a lot of time overseas, you’ll want to find a mobile plan with flexible international rates. Depending on how often you travel abroad, this could mean the ability to activate international coverage only on the months or days of your trip. Some carriers like T-Mobile even allow unlimited data and texting all over the world at no additional charge.

Using a temporary prepaid SIM card will keep costs low, but it won’t be tied to your current mobile number. However, this is only an option for unlocked GSM devices, which disqualifies a great deal of phones sold in the US. If you want to completely avoid roaming voice or data fees, take advantage of free VOIP and messaging services via WiFi. Regardless of your mobile or data plan, this is the safest method of communicating with colleagues and loved ones without unexpected charges.

5. When browsing hotels, look at more than the price of your room.

Finding the right hotel is an excellent way to save on multiple travel expenses with a single decision. Are you the kind of person who needs more than a stale muffin to get through a conference? In addition to free (or cheap) WiFi, choose a hotel with free breakfast. Not all free breakfasts are pitiful–look around until you find a full and satisfying breakfast bar. It’s a simple solution, but replacing ⅓ of each day’s meals with free food adds up fast. And don’t we all want to minimize the fast food receipts on our expense reports?

Depending on the popularity of the venue, you may also want to find lodging close enough to your destination that you won’t need a car or cab. Just make sure to weigh the cost of transportation against the increased cost of a desirable hotel.

6. Teleconference.

Don’t scoff! With soaring ticket prices, busy schedules, and the convenience of Google Hangouts, some businesses are opting out of business travel altogether. There’s no better way to cut back on travel expenses than to eliminate all unnecessary road trips and airfare. While services like Google Hangouts and Skype are great for meetings, there has also been a rise in online or virtual conferences. Worried you won’t be able to network? One of the beauties of livestreamed panels like those at Ensuring Success is the ability to freely engage with colleagues over social media. You might find you connect with peers and vendors you normally wouldn’t have encountered in person.

Be sure to sit down with your team to discuss which conferences require your physical presence, and which can be “attended” from afar. Sometimes embracing video chat even means more effective meetings with clients and coworkers alike.

No matter what your travel expenses, Tallie will save you countless hours by automating your expense reports. Try it for yourself with a 14-day free trial – no credit card, no obligation. Need a helping hand? Our experts can optimize Tallie for your accounting system with a free 1-on-1 product demo. Happy trails!

This January, Become an Expense Report Guru with FREE Tallie Training Webinars!

What’s on your list of New Year’s resolutions? Getting in shape? Treating yourself? Finally taking that trip to Greece? How about never having to stress over another expense report? Well, we’ve got some good news! While we can’t send you to Greece, we CAN make you an expense report expert. Throughout the month of January, we’re offering free weekly webinars to ensure you get the most out of our expense management software.

These webinars provide free training for users, administrators, and approvers alike. Lasting only 30 minutes, each training session is packed with information ranging from product guidance to live Q&A with Tallie Experts.

Register for a January webinar below!

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TALLIE USER TRAINING

1. Walk through the creation of a Tallie expense report.
2. Share the tips and tricks to create your expense report in a few minutes.
3. Answer any and every Tallie question you have.

Register:
Tuesday 1/6 8:30 – 9:00 am PST
Tuesday 1/13 8:30 – 9:00 am PST
Tuesday 1/20 8:30 – 9:00 am PST
Tuesday 1/27 8:30 – 9:00 am PST

APPROVER TRAINING

1. Walk through the expense report approval process within Tallie.
2. Show the expense report edit feature for specified approvers.
3. Answer any and every Tallie question you have.

Register:
Thursday 1/22 8:30 – 9:00 am PST

ACCOUNTANT TRAINING

1. Provide a tour of the Tallie Accountant Portal.
2. Walk through the client account management process within the Accountant Portal.
3. Show how Tallie streamlines your accounting workflow with 1-click multi-point export and bi-directional accounting system integration.
4. Answer any and every Tallie question you have.

Register:
Thursday 1/1 8:30 – 9:00 am PST
Thursday 1/15 8:30 – 9:00 am PST

ADMINISTRATOR TRAINING

1. Walk through how to set custom policies and approval levels within Tallie.
2. Show how Tallie streamlines your expense workflow with multi-point data export and bi-directional accounting system integration.
3. Answer any and every Tallie question you have.

Register:
Thursday 1/8 8:30 – 9:00 am PST

If you have any questions between now and your chosen training webinar, please don’t hesitate to contact our Product Expert Team directly at support@usetallie.com or 888-874-1118 Ext 2. We hope to see you there!

Tallie 10.3 Release Notes: Improved Purchases, Credit Card, and CSV Export Pages

Hot on the heels of the latest version of our Android app, we’re offering even more upgrades to our expense report software. Version 10.3 of Tallie brings you improved Purchases and Credit Card pages, increased CSV functionality and a more intuitive Export page. We pride ourselves on building software that blends seamlessly with our customers’ pre-existing workflows. These changes enhance those recently made in our 10.2 release, thus creating even more options for those looking to automate their expense management.

Purchases Page

Delete Receipt Button

You now have the power to delete a receipt image when opening the associated expense. Clicking the “Edit” icon will now reveal a trash can-shaped “Delete” button in the corner of the image.

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Credit Card Page

Check Status of Connected Cards

Upon visiting the Credit Card page, Tallie will automatically check the connection status of your cards. If you do have connected credit cards that are experiencing connectivity issues (such as an invalid password or a connection error with your bank) Tallie will display a more detailed call to action, letting you know how to resolve the issue. In the meantime, you will now be able to see and interact with your existing charges, regardless of alerts.

CSV Templates

New Standard Payroll Export Templates

Last release, we also rolled out the ability to create an additional CSV upon export. As a reminder, you can turn this on by visiting “Features” and toggling “Turn on .CSV Export Templates for custom exporting to third party systems.” Once this feature is enabled, go to “Integration & Sync,” and then click on “.CSV Templates.”

You’ll now see ADP and Paychex listed alongside our existing Bill.com and Practice Engine templates.

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Moveable CSV Export Template Fields

Want to change the placement of column data? You can now simply move them up and down rather than having to delete and re-create. This will make the process of customizing your reports much more flexible.

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Reset Button

Our last release saw expanded CSV support, as well as new custom export and templates. Now, you can click “Reset” when viewing the template itself in order to restore it to Tallie’s default CSV template.

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Export Page

Updated Export Page

You’ll notice that we’ve made a few tweaks the next time you visit the Export page. Our improved interface displays more information in a much more intuitive manner, including your set export preferences, as well as Submitted and Approved date columns on the export list.

Change Report Order on Export Page

This is a big change to the Export page, and one that we’re proud to implement. Tallie will not only show you the submitted and approved dates for each of your reports, but will also sort them by the date they were last approved by their manager.

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We look forward to hearing how these changes, coupled with those in our 10.2 release, have improved your expense report process. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to our Product Expert team at support@usetallie.com or by calling 888-874-1118 Ext 2.

Tallie Android App 3.0 Release Notes: Mileage Tracking, Quick Add Functionality, and Error/Duplicate Flagging

We’re proud to reveal the latest version of the Tallie Android app! Version 3.0 makes it easier to capture your receipts and expenses on the go. Whether it’s grabbing a dozen receipts from your photo library at once, capturing your mileage, or manually entering expenses, this release has you covered. Once you’re inside the app, it’s just one tap to access the camera and two taps to create any other expense. Talk about a snap! Read on for more details about these and other new features available to Android users.

New “Quick Add” Features

Once you’ve logged into Tallie, you can tap the green “Add” icon to launch a number of intuitive features. Simply swipe left or right to view them all. Here are your new options:

Snap

After launching “Quick Add,” tap once to snap a picture of a receipt with your camera. This will import the image and run it through our receipt processing system. We’ll discern and enter the merchant name, date, amount and expense category.

Tallie Android App

Mileage

Now it’s easy to record your mileage with your Android phone. Our app will place you near your starting position, and then track where you end up. Just tap “Stop,” once you’ve finished your trip to end the mileage tracking. Or, if you like, you can manually enter your starting point and destination in advance. Either way, once you’ve created a mileage expense, you can easily edit or delete it as needed.

Tallie Android App

After your trip has been saved, you can enter pertinent information just as you would with any other expense. Mileage tracking supports Category, Date, Reasons and Class, Billable states and Project or Department (if applicable).

Tallie Android App

Create

Now it’s simple to create an expense even if you don’t have a receipt. Just swipe over to the “Create” screen, enter your expense details, and tap again to save.

Tallie Android App

Import

Are you someone who likes to take shot after shot of your receipts? You now have the power to select 5, 10, or even 20 images at once from your photo library and import them directly into Tallie. Simply tap the pictures you want, hit “Import” and we’ll begin processing them for you.

Tallie Android App

Functionality

Once you’ve imported your expenses, it’s easy to move to them onto new reports, existing reports, or check to see if you have any duplicates before submission. But don’t worry–even if you find an error after the fact, you can still “unsubmit” and edit the report before it’s been approved (or rejected!)

Creating or Adding Expenses to a Report

To add an expense to a new or existing report, simply tap the expenses themselves. Then hit the “Move” button (highlighted by the arrow below) to send them to the expense report of your choice.

Tallie Android App

Flagged Expenses: Possible Duplicates and Out of Policy

Tallie now displays warnings for expenses which may be duplicates or are out of policy. You can tap on any of the flagged expenses to either make the necessary edits or delete them outright. However, if you would like to merge a receipt with its duplicate, you’ll need to log in to Tallie on the web.

Below you’ll see an example of some expenses flagged as out of policy, as well as some possible duplicates.

Tallie Android App

 

After tapping on the “Out of Policy” expense, you’ll be presented with an option to view the policy. Doing so will show you the actual restrictions set by the administrator, as well as any required changes.

Tallie Android App

With these new features, version 3.0 makes it easier than ever before to capture your receipts and expenses on-the-go. From the moment you complete your transaction, to when it’s time to submit your report, Tallie’s Android app makes it easier than ever to automate your expenses from anywhere. Ready to see for yourself? Download the updated app today from Google Play!

Tallie’s 10.2 Release Notes: Improved Product UI, Custom Exports & Templates, and Expanded CSV Support

We’ve just launched the latest version of our expense report automation software! Tallie 10.2 brings new custom exports and templates, expanded CSV support, as well as improved, easier-to-use UI. These changes were designed to better serve our customers who want greater speed and customizability in their accounting workflow. In particular, our new templating tool offers you much more control over data exported from your accounting system. Want to take advantage of these upgrades right away? Read on to learn how:

I. New Custom Export and Templates

Tallie has created a better method of generating custom spreadsheets upon export – not only are we now be able to support a “third” export file, it’s a much cleaner and easier experience to create new templates. In practice, users can export their reimbursables to an accounting system, and their non-reimbursables to an accounting system or custom spreadsheet. Now, with this feature enabled, users can also export unlimited numbers of spreadsheets with either reimbursables or non-reimbursables – or both.

Overview

Go to “Settings”, then click “Features” and enable “Turn on .CSV Export Templates for custom exporting to third party systems.”

Go to “Integration & Sync” and click “.CSV Templates.”

You’ll see Bill.com and Practice Engine templates built in. If you turn either of them on, next time you export – regardless of what your export settings are currently – you’ll also get a .zip containing your CSV file for download in the specified format.

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II. Improved Product UI

In this release, there a number of quick wins that improve the Tallie experience, including enhancing the functionality of the expense report area and showing greater details on expenses themselves.

Expense Report: Mass Edit and Delete

You can now edit and delete expenses directly from the report itself on the Expense Reports page without having to navigate back to the purchases page.

Deleting Expenses

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Mass Editing Expenses

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New “Possible Duplicate” Comparison View

Tallie has always offered auto-flagging of “Possible Dulicates.” Now, you can compare the line items on each expense against each other, rather than just the receipt images.

Click “Possible Duplicate” to bring up the lightbox.

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Next, click on the “Expand Image” link.

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Now you’ll see the entirety of the two expenses in question and you can compare each expense’s line items.

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As always, if you have any questions about how these changes will improve your expense report process, feel free to reach out to our support team at 1-888-874-1118 or through support@usetallie.com.

Schedule a one-on-one product demo with one of our experts to see how Tallie can save your business time and money. Prefer to work alone? You can start a 14-day free trial with no credit card and no obligation.

Let Us Entertain You: Tips for Deducting Your Business’s Meal and Entertainment Expenses

Taking a client out to dinner may be as common a business practice as buying a plane ticket, but deducting it can be a whole other story. Entertainment expenses, such as the cost of meals and shows, are subject to particular scrutiny from the IRS. The complicated, ambiguous rules surrounding these kinds of expenses can make it difficult for business owners to know which costs are deductible. We here at Tallie wanted to help cut through the ambiguity and give you a better idea of what qualifies as an entertainment expense, and how it can be successfully deducted.

Entertainment and meal expenses

First, the entertainment must be considered ordinary and necessary. While these terms may sound a little vague, in this case, “ordinary,” simply means that the form of entertainment is commonly practiced within your trade. A round of golf with a potential client? Sure. An extravagant dinner complete with a $600 bottle of wine? Probably not going to fly. And despite what it sounds like, “necessary,” does not actually mean that your company’s success hinges on your picking up the dinner tab–the IRS only requires that it be demonstrably helpful for your business.

Next, your expense must meet one of two tests in order to prove that the entertainment is “closely related” to work:

1. The “directly-related” test.

In order to pass this test, you need to be able to prove that “the main purpose of the combined business and entertainment was the active conduct of business.” (IRS Publication 463: Ch. 2) In other words, unless the festivities took place in a “clear business setting,” you must have had real reason to believe they’d lead to a specific benefit for your business, such as increased income, or a partnership with a new supplier.

A clear business setting can be a number of places, such as a designated booth at a convention, or even an office breakroom. Of course, there’s only so much entertainment to be had around a water cooler. For all other venues, not only must the “main purpose” of the expense be the active conduct of business, the location must be distraction free. It doesn’t matter how hard your team toiled away on those spreadsheets in the middle of the club last night–if you couldn’t hear each other over the music, it probably wasn’t a very productive meeting.

2. The “associated” test.

This test can be much easier to pass. According to the IRS, your entertainment expense may be considered deductible if it was “associated with the active conduct of your trade or business,” (IRS Publication 463: Ch. 2) AND if it occurred “directly before or after a substantial business discussion.”

How direct is directly? Essentially, the discussion (ie: meeting, negotiation, etc.) must take place on the same day as the entertainment. Exceptions can be made in extenuating circumstances–if your clients are coming in from out of town, for example, or if strict venue scheduling requires an event to take place the following evening. Whether these extenuating circumstances are approved, or whether the business discussion is deemed sufficiently substantial, is solely up to the IRS. You should always be prepared to explain how the discussion benefitted your business, as well as any working relationship with the client or business associate.

Generally, if your entertainment expenses meet the above requirements, they can be deducted for 50% of the total cost. That being said, there are a number of circumstances in which the 50% rule does not apply. If you provide food and entertainment for the general public on behalf of your business, this is considered as either advertising or a means of “promoting good will.” And, of course, if you went to the movies in your capacity as a professional film critic, the cost of admission would be considered a fully deductible business expense.

Which forms of entertainment are just plain not deductible? Well, you may not deduct the cost of leasing a facility designed exclusively for entertainment, such as a yacht or a hunting lodge. Nor can you deduct membership dues for any golf or country clubs. And when it comes to lavish or extravagant dinners, you may only deduct 50% of what the IRS determines to be a reasonable cost. If you spent $1,000 on a dinner that should only have cost you $100, you will probably only be able to deduct $50, as opposed to the full $500.

For more details, you can look to our previous post on what the IRS considers to be lavish and extravagant vs. ordinary and necessary expenses. This is especially important when deducting business gift and entertainment costs. As makers of expense report automation software, we understand it’s sometimes difficult to know which entertainment costs can be expensed and which don’t qualify. While it might be frustrating that the rules for what’s acceptable aren’t always cut and dry, just remember that common sense and frugality will go a long way.

Save valuable time with Tallie’s award-winning expense report automation software. See how we can improve your accounting workflow FREE for 14 days with no credit card or commitment required. Want some one-on-one help from our trained product experts? Schedule your free Tallie product demo today!

9.18 Release Notes: Enhanced Expense Report Policy Control, Custom QB Memo Fields & More

With our latest release, we’ve added a number of requested features, including additional administrative corporate card management, being able to add people en masse onto specific projects, QuickBooks’ memo field customization, enforcing policies and assigning default currencies per user! Enjoy the following updates included in the 9.18 release notes:

Assigning Corporate Credit Cards to Employees

As an administrator, you can now go to the “Credit Cards” area, connect your account and assign each of the accounts to the appropriate individuals in your organization!

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Customizing the QuickBooks Memo Field

We’ve had a number of requests to be able to customize what Tallie populates in the memo field. Now, you can! Choose between fixed and dynamic text to customize the memo field as you need. For more information, you can contact our Product Expert Team at 800-592-5144.

Mass Updating People to Projects

Now you can easily manage the projects people submit their expenses towards. Simply go to the “Projects” area, select the desired projects and click the arrow on Mass Update. You’ll be able to add the people to the projects in a snap.

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Enhanced  Policy Control

When you create expense report policies for your organization, you now ensure the requirements you’ve set (e.g. ‘All expenses over $25.00 need a receipt’, ‘All meals need to have attendees listed’) are met before the user can submit the expense.

Assigning Default Currencies per User

For your employees working out of the states, you can now set a default currency on their profile. In the “People” area, click on a user and select the “Mapping” tab. You’ll see Expense Defaults and be able to assign the user’s default currency for expenses

We hope you enjoy the updates included in Tallie’s 9.18 release. Check back next month for another round of updates!

Join Tallie today to start using these awesome new features immediately. Sign up for a personal product demo or a 14 Day Free Trial today. No credit card or commitment necessary – just sign up and start submitting your expenses today.

Top 5 Tips for IRS Record Keeping & Expense Management

Have questions about best practices relating to expense management? Tallie serves as a powerful receipt repository, so our Product Expert Team is well-versed in the do’s and don’ts of record keeping. Essential to any business, record keeping and proper documentation is critical to an optimized expense report workflow.

Fortunately, IRS regulations have evolved technologically, and electronic records can now directly replace hard copies. Gone are the days of filing cabinets stuffed with paper receipts! If an electronic system can efficiently and reliably house a complete reproduction of hard copy records, the IRS approves of businesses ditching paper copies. Here are some of the most common questions that the Tallie Product Expert Team receives regarding keeping records:

1. How long do I have to keep my records?

As a rule of thumb, CPAs tend to follow a 7-year rule (CPA.Net), although the IRS only requires that records be kept for as long as the tax return can be amended. There are regulations surrounding what changes can be made to a tax return post-deadline, including how long companies must retain records. For example, if you filed and paid your taxes on time, you have 2 years to file a claim for a refund. You would have to keep your records for that 2 years.

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2. Do you know of any instances where a receipt would not be required?

There are two examples in IRS Publication 463: If your expense, excluding lodging, is less than $75 OR if you have a “transportation expense for which a receipt is not readily available.”

3. Are there different documentation requirements for different types of expenses?

Yes. For example, for entertainment expenses a record must include the specifics (cost, date, location, description of type of entertainment) in addition to a description of the business purpose for the entertainment, the people that were in attendance, their business relationship, and whether or not your employee was present at the entertainment.

Conversely, gifts only require a record of the cost, the date it was purchased, and a description of the business gift. Here are additional details on what is required to prove specific types of expenses:

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Generally, as long as the record has the date, amount, merchant and any additional pertinent details, that should suffice (IRS table 5-1, pg 26). Most receipts have all of that information; however, Tallie transaction tiles  also have text field “Reasons” where additional information can be added. Companies that use Tallie can easily pull the address from the receipt image or look up attendee names in their CRM system.

4. Are there any types of expenses that I can combine to reduce the amount of records I have to keep?

Yes, there are a few types of expenses that can be combined. If you are traveling and take multiple taxis throughout the day, they can be combined into one taxi expense. Also, if you take a client out for drinks, even if you pay for each round separately, you can combine them into one expense.

5. Are my cancelled checks sufficient records for expenses?

No, not as the sole piece of evidence. Cancelled checks do have to be accompanied by a bill from the party the check was written to or some other form of documentation.

In the spirit of tax season, the Tallie Product Expert Team would like to know what questions you may have regarding proper record keeping and expenses best practices. Leave your questions in the comments below and we will reply immediately!