By Marcus Leach

A survey of 2,130 UK adults has revealed that with the nation feeling the pinch, people see expense fiddling as a legitimate way of supplementing their salary if they believe they are underpaid.

According to the study conducted by YouGov for Concur, one in five people (18 per cent) believe it is acceptable to fiddle (exaggerate) expenses ‘when an employee works long hours but isn’t paid any overtime’.

The same percentage believe an employee is entitled to fiddle if they ‘don’t feel they are fully reimbursed’ for all the costs they have incurred on behalf of their employer.

Mileage is the biggest area of potential expense fiddling with over one in four (26 per cent) judging it acceptable to exaggerate expense claims when the ‘mileage rate paid by the employer doesn’t cover the actual car and fuel costs’.

“Although a tough economic climate - not to mention the January blues - are probably big factors, it’s still disappointing to see that attitudes towards expense fiddling remain so casual," David Vine, Senior Director at Concur commented.

"The data shows that businesses can’t afford to take their eye off the ball. Expense management solutions not only help companies avoid outright fraud, they also eliminate the grey areas that can lead to claims being exaggerated.”

Worryingly, the study also identifies the workforce of tomorrow - young people and students - as the groups most likely to condone expense fiddling. One in four (28 per cent) of those aged 18 to 24, and one in three (32 per cent) students in full time education, believe that it is acceptable to exaggerate expense claims by up to 10 per cent, and in some cases by even more. For older people this figure is much lower, at around one in six (15 per cent) of those between 45 and 54, and one in eight (12 per cent) for the over 55s.

“It’s never been more difficult for graduates to land a job out of university than it is right now. Our study shows that young people who finally land their dream job, are at risk of jeopardising it because they are unaware of the seriousness of expense fraud," Vine continued.

Significantly, and perhaps reflecting the overall increased scrutiny and belt tightening in the public sector, the report also shows that only around one in twenty (6 per cent) employees in the public sector have fiddled an expense claim in the last year compared with one in eight (13 per cent) in large (250 — 749 employees) enterprises and one in seven (13 per cent) in the voluntary sector.

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