Legal

Peter Slipper furor over travel rort claims continue – here are five you should watch out for

Patrick Stafford /

The controversy over former House of Representatives speaker Peter Slipper continues with allegations of sexual harassment and travel rorts, as independent minister Rob Oakeshott weighs into the debate.

Oakeshott said he is open-minded on the issue of a no-confidence motion and said he does not want to see Slipper return as speaker until the allegations have been laid to rest.

The action in the Federal Court against Slipper accuses him of sexual harassment, and misusing Parliamentary funds for limo and cab fares.

“I would not be comfortable about him coming back until all issues of substance are resolved,” Oakeshott told the Australian Financial Review.

Oakeshott is a crucial player in Labor’s hold on government, but said yesterday he would be open to supporting a no-confidence motion against the Speaker.

More controversy has been brewing over Slipper’s alleged mishandling of Parliamentary funds, including a report from Fairfax that he spent more than $300 on limousine rides to Brisbane Airport from his Sunshine Coast home.

The allegations are a reminder to many businesses that keeping an eye on travel expenses can be worth the extra attention – especially as travel costs can be some of the easiest to blow out of budget.

Institute of Chartered Accountants general manager Yasser El-Ansary says it’s essential for businesses to crack down on travel expenses.

“Business owners need to keep electronic documents, make sure there is an alternative form of documentation, and then make sure everything is backed up.”

“The one compliance issue that businesses often struggle with is keeping complete documentation around business travel.”

Here are five areas of business travel you need to watch out for, and ensure these costs don’t blow out:

1. Cabcharge fares

Experts point out using Cabcharge fares inappropriately is one area where businesses can have a problem. It’s up to the employer to make sure there’s a clear policy in place and that all rules are adhered to.

2. Travel between home and place of business

Plenty of businesses get this wrong. Moving between a place of business and another place of business is deductible for travel purposes, but El-Ansary says if you’re just travelling between home and work, it’s a no-go – and plenty of entrepreneurs get it wrong.

“Sometimes business owners forget their obligations in this area.”

“Only your movements between business locations are deductible. It does depend on what you’re doing, but that first leg in the morning, and the last at night, aren’t necessarily deductible.”

3. Keeping a diary for a car

Whenever you’re driving for work purposes, El-Ansary says it’s easy for employers and employees to forget to use their logbooks. If you’re not careful, these can blow out – and you may find that your expenditures increase as a result if staff are not filling things out properly.

El-Ansary says it is essential detailed log books are kept for vehicles in your company.

“You do need to keep the log book for a period of 12 weeks, and it has to be average business activity. You can’t just pick something you know is going to be heavily dominated by business-related travel.”

4. Tracking your meals

Whenever staff or an employer is on a business trip, they are able to claim meals – but only if it pertains to actual business. El-Ansary says too many businesses ignore the requirement to have details on the meal, who was there – and even if business deals were discussed.

“People may go overseas for business travel, but they don’t have an awareness about keeping proper log books.”

These log books should include basic details as well, such as the date, and time, of any business meals.

5. Distinguishing between private and personal use

Many businesses know travel costs are covered when going to a business event. But you need to make sure you’re not combining your costs with personal time.

“One of the most important things here is to apportion your time in terms of private use and personal use. You need to divide how much time is private time, and how much is for business, and then reflect that in your log book,” El-Ansary says.

For instance, if you attend a conference, but then go to a resort after the conference, only the costs for attending the conference can be claimed – and too many businesses aren’t aware of the difference.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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