Finance

From family meals to personal items, here are the dodgy purchases Aussie workers are charging back to businesses

Emma Koehn /

Cashflow is notoriously tight this time of year, and Aussie SME owners are urged to ensure their expense policies are watertight, as research suggests workers are more than happy to bill their employers for personal expenses.

A review of 4,000 workers across Australia, New Zealand, North America and the United Kingdom compiled by expense management platform Webexpenses revealed one in ten workers said they exaggerated or falsified the expense claims they made to their employers.

When it came to submitting claims to be paid back, 86% of the respondents across the world were never challenged on these claims once they’d been placed in the system.

“This lack of checks highlight the hidden nature of expense fraud — the majority of falsified reports are never challenged, or even identified, by approvers,” the Webexpenses report found.

The Australian Taxation Office regularly warns workers they will use all means necessary, including data matching, in order to catch out fraudulent deductions claims. When it comes to employers, however, the numbers suggest businesses don’t cast a critical eye across what workers are claiming as work-related as often as expected.

Workers reported to Webexpenses that if they had committed expense fraud over the past year, they had done so nine times on average.

Employees were also confident they would get away with any exaggerations without being pulled up, with 53% of those surveyed agreeing it was “easy” to make up claims.

For Australian workers, close to half of those surveyed said they made up some elements of their car mileage claims, while 22% said they had paid for a meal for family or friends and then charged it back to the company.

There appears to be widespread confidence on the part of employees that they’ll never be called out for claims, but the report also suggests businesses need to dust off those company expense policies and make sure all workers know their obligations.

“Six-in-ten respondents said they hadn’t seen or read their company’s expense policy in the past 12 months,” the reports said.

What are Aussies claiming? Here are the claims workers exaggerate:

  • Car mileage: 47%
  • Food for family and partners: 22%
  • Drinks for family and partners: 22%
  • Personal items – not for work: 22%
  • Food and drinks in general: 20%

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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