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7 Ways to Streamline Expense Reporting for Accountants

Ratnika Sharma
Posted by Ratnika Sharma on Dec 12, 2023 2:09:48 PM

It will be a while until Tesla’s Optimus can help accountants manage expense reports for their clients. It has, after all, just learned to sort and stretch! But that doesn’t mean that until then, accountants must spend hours on mundane tasks, leaving them little to no time to do the important, advisory work. 

Expense reporting can be a tedious process for both accountants and employees. However, by implementing efficient strategies and utilizing the right automation tools, accountants can streamline this workflow, saving time and resources. Here are several ways that can significantly improve the expense reporting process.

1. Go Digital

If you haven’t already, eliminating paperwork is crucial. Transitioning from paper-based expense reporting to digital solutions significantly reduces administrative burdens and enhances efficiency. Implementing cloud-based expense management software enables employees to submit expenses digitally, eliminating the need for physical receipts and paper forms.  

Moreover, digitization allows for instant accessibility and storage of expense data, reducing the risk of document loss or misplacement. It also facilitates quicker processing times, as digital records can be easily searched, sorted, and retrieved when needed. 

2. Have a Standard Expense Form

Using a standardized expense form serves as a structured template for employees to record their expenses consistently. It should include fields for necessary information such as date, purpose, amount, and category. This uniformity simplifies data collection and analysis for accountants, reducing errors and discrepancies. 

And this is where you can leverage automation. From automatic receipt scanning to populating the fields using OCR technology, advanced expense management software can help standardize the process. Additionally, it helps reduce manual data entry, which aids in faster approvals. 

3. Establish and Regularly Update a Clear Expense Policy 

An explicit expense policy is crucial for employees to understand what expenses are reimbursable and the guidelines for submission. Regularly update and communicate this policy to ensure compliance with changing regulations and company requirements. Clear guidelines prevent confusion and minimize inappropriate expense submissions. 

A smart expense management platform allows you to build your own policy engines customized to your organizational needs. This will help you detect fraud early and prevent out-of-policy spending.

4. Make It as User-Friendly as Possible

Mobile-friendly apps or platforms are intuitive and user-friendly, and allow users to capture receipts on the go and directly upload them to the expense system.  

But that was years ago. Today, a newer innovation is revolutionizing receipt collection and reconciliation: text-based receipt submission. 

Text-based receipt submission marks the next era of streamlined receipt collection and reconciliation. 

By using text-based methods, submitting expense receipts becomes incredibly convenient. Once the employees make a business credit card transaction, they’ll receive a text notification regarding the spend. They have to respond to this message by sending a picture of the receipt, and the expense software automatically matches it. 

That's all it takes. With this method, the entire process of collecting receipts and reconciling expenses can now be completed in less than two minutes! 

This also encourages your employees to submit receipts immediately. 

5. Incentivize Employees for Consistently Submitting On Time

Create incentives or recognition programs to motivate employees to consistently submit their expenses on time. Consider implementing a tiered reward system where timely submissions lead to various levels of incentives, such as gift cards, bonuses, extra days off, or even recognition in company newsletters or meetings.  

Acknowledging and publicly appreciating employees who consistently adhere to expense submission deadlines can also be impactful. Furthermore, gamifying the process by introducing friendly competitions or challenges among teams or departments can foster a culture of accountability and healthy competition, ultimately boosting compliance and reinforcing positive behavior.

6. Setup and Simplify Approval Systems

Establish clear and efficient approval hierarchies. Define roles and permissions within the expense reporting system to facilitate timely approvals. Simplify the approval process by setting up automated reminders and notifications for pending approvals. 

With an advanced expense management tool, you can set up sequential approvals, policy-driven approvals, project-led approvals, and even multi-org approvals that will further help you streamline your processes.

7. Automate Workflows

Leverage automation tools to streamline expense reporting. Implement expense management software that seamlessly integrates with your accounting systems. These tools can automate data entry, receipt capture, categorization, and approval workflows, reducing manual tasks for accountants and enhancing accuracy.  

Automation also provides real-time reporting and analytics for insights into spending patterns and expedites reimbursement processing. 

Streamlining expense reporting for accountants involves a combination of clear policies, user-friendly tools, and effective strategies. By implementing standardized forms, embracing automation, encouraging immediate submissions, and simplifying approval systems, accountants can significantly reduce the time and effort spent on managing expenses and ultimately ensure you close your books on time. 

Topics: Modern Practice, Business Technology


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