By Claire West
One quarter of people that have ever claimed work expenses in the UK admit to exaggerating them according to a survey from employee expenses management company, GlobalExpense. In a similar survey in 2009, only 15 percent of the expense-claiming employees surveyed admitted to exaggerating their expenses.
Almost half (47 percent) of those that admit to having exaggerated expenses claims, inflate claims by up to £10 per month; 13 percent boost claims by between £11 and £20; 10 percent enlarge claims by between £21 and £50; and four percent magnify claims by between £51 and £100 per month.
Mileage claims are the most likely to be exaggerated (22 percent) by those who have ever claimed expenses, followed by meals and drinks whilst away from home for work (12 percent); taxi fares (five percent), accommodation (four percent) and entertainment claims (three percent).
“Not only is the number of people exaggerating their expenses on the increase, but the general public’s acceptance of exaggerating expenses claims is creeping back-up to pre-MPs’ expenses scandal levels, too,” says David Vine, CEO of GlobalExpense.
According to the GlobalExpense survey, nearly one quarter (22 percent) of people think it is acceptable for employees to exaggerate their work expenses when claiming them back from their employer some or all of the time. Immediately after the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009 this figure was 14 percent: a significant drop on pre-scandal figures of 30 percent in 2008 and 34 percent in 2007.
Exaggerating expenses claims by up to ten percent is considered fair by 22 percent of the general public; five percent think up to 20 percent is acceptable, and three percent tolerate the exaggeration of claims by 21 to 50 percent of value.
Circumstances in which people think it is acceptable to exaggerate claims include:
• When the mileage rate paid by the employer doesn’t cover the actual car and fuel costs¹ (34 percent);
• When an employee doesn’t feel they are fully reimbursed for all the costs they have incurred (27 percent);
• When an employee works long hours but isn’t paid any overtime (23 percent);
• When an employee is not paid a fair salary (16 percent);
• When the employee’s boss claims for luxurious expenses or expenses which aren’t work related (15 percent); and
• When an employee has not had a pay rise in line with inflation (11 percent).
“Righting perceived grievances is seen as an acceptable reason for employees to exaggerate their expenses claims,” said David Vine. “Although the UK economy is out of recession, many employees in both the public and private sector face pay freezes in 2011 and over-time bans. Many employers will be tempted to cut employee expenses budgets, limiting the amounts that can be claimed back by employees. Employers need to make sure that any changes to expenses policy are fair and that employees are properly reimbursed for any expenditure they make on the company’s behalf, or some employees may decide to reimburse themselves by manipulating the system.
“Of all the people that had ever claimed expenses in our survey, only 16 percent had had their expense claims queried by their employer for being against the company policy and only six percent had ever had an expenses claim rejected. Employers will need to sharpen up expenses claim compliance if they are to nip this renewed tolerance of expense claim abuse in the bud in 2011.”
Other findings of the survey include:
• Almost one third of bosses (30 percent) definitely or probably exaggerate their expenses according to respondents.
• Seeing reports in the newspapers about directors that exaggerate their expenses makes 14 percent of people more inclined to exaggerate their own expenses claims.
• Ten percent of people believe that an employer can afford the addition of a couple of pounds to a mileage claim and that it won’t hurt the company.
• Less than a third (29 percent) of people believe that exaggerating expenses claims should be a sackable offence.
• Young workers aged between 18 to 24 have laxest morals when it comes to exaggerating expenses claims: 33 percent say it is ever acceptable compared with 17 percent of those aged 55+.