Business Finances 101: How to Manage Your Business Travel Expenses

Traveling is a pretty common activity that is necessary for employees and business owners to grow their business or fulfill their job responsibilities. During the trip, it’s extremely important to take care of your business travel expense reporting, as in many countries these expenses are tax-deductible (which means big savings for companies). What’s more, keeping track of your business travel expenses properly helps you avoid an unwanted IRS audit notice. 

This article will give you detailed instructions on managing your business travel expenses with the Shoeboxed app. Read on to discover! 

What are business travel expenses?

Business travel expenses are costs incurred when traveling for business purposes. These expenses include, but are not limited to, the cost of necessary products or services for the trip. The following chart lists some examples:

business travel expenses list

There are also certain exceptions that your company’s expense policy won’t cover, which include: 

  • Mini-bar contents
  • Shopping
  • Parking fines
  • Personal vehicles damage 
  • Corporate card late fees
  • Theft losses

How to manage your business travel expenses

There are many ways to keep track of your business travel expenses. We’ve listed five best practices that you can use straight away.

1. Use a company credit/spending card instead of cash

Cash is easy to spend, hard to track, and it’s nearly impossible to match cash spent with receipts. On the other hand, a credit card or debit card will provide you with monthly statements, enabling you to cross-check details with your paper receipts. It’s even better to pay with a business account and credit card, so you don’t mix business expenses with your personal spending. If your company doesn’t provide you with a credit/spending card or you’re self-employed, you can still pay business travel expenses with a separate personal card.  

2. Set out a clear expense submission and reimbursement process 

Whether you prefer paper forms, spreadsheets, or expense software, having a very clear process will help you keep track of the expense reimbursements. You can create a process and inform all of your employees. This will ensure that you’ll get all the information you need in a timely manner and save people from sending follow-up emails asking about the status of claims.

Here are some process steps you can consider:

  • Pre-trip expense projection: The business traveler will complete a projection before their trip, including the estimated spendings, with the manager’s confirmation. 
  • Receipt and invoice types: The business traveler will need to provide evidence of spending in an agreed document format (e.g., PDF or physical receipts, etc.) 
  • Expense claim submission timeline: The business traveler will need to submit expense claims within (for example) five working days of the business trip finishing.
  • Expense reimbursement period: The company commits to reimburse staff within (for example) 15 to 30 days of the expense claim. During this period, the company can examine and query expenses.

If your company doesn’t use any expense management software, then be sure to have standardized expense report forms accessible to all employees.

3. Organize your receipts properly

To have a comprehensive record of all your business expenses on a regular basis, first you need to organize your receipts properly. It’s a good idea to choose email invoices/receipts instead of paper, but in case you have no choice but to receive paper receipts, store them properly before scanning them into digital data. 

Doing this every day is best, otherwise, try to do it twice a week. Everything you spend must be recorded! The more granular your records, the better. Watch out for cash payments, these can be easily forgotten and left off your record, but they’re still business travel expenses. You can also check our 8 simple practices for small businesses to organize receipts efficiently.

4. Turn your paper receipts into digital data

Using a receipt scanning app can make it easier to scan receipts, keep track of and manage your business travel expenses. A receipt scanning app not only saves you from collecting and carrying piles of paper receipts, but they also offer numerous benefits, such as data-loss reduction, security, ease of access, long-term and unlimited storage, court-recognized legal documentation, and so much more. 

Many scanning apps which are now available even allow you to create expense reports from your smartphone. Turning your paper receipts into a digital format can simplify your expense tracking, increase your efficiency and get you ready for tax season. 

Shoeboxed is a painless receipt scanning and expense management solution for small businesses who are looking for the most versatile accounting app. Shoeboxed helps users scan paper receipts into digital data and create comprehensive and audit-ready expense reports from your receipts. Our human-data verification function will double-check to ensure that your receipts are human-verified, audit-ready, and accepted by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service. 

Shoeboxed’s exceptional features also allow users to track mileage for business and store business cards, which are essential for business travelers. Check out our step-by-step guide to scan a receipt with the Shoeboxed app!

5. Categorize your spending

Most accounting software or apps come with default suggested categories so you can easily start categorizing your spending. Try to stick to these standard categories as much as possible. It’s crucial, especially when it comes to filing your taxes because you’ll be able to clearly see which areas of your expenditures are higher or lower than they need to be.

The image below shows the Shoeboxed app‘s default expense categories that you can choose from. 

The bottom line

It can seem like a daunting task to stay on top of business travel expenses and maintain consistent work performance while you’re working away from your office. But having our guides handy will help you do all this with minimal stress. That’s because clear and simple practices help save you time and hustle, boost your compliance, and allow your managers to spend less time verifying expense reports. Shoeboxed can help you with all of this! 

Sign up to Shoeboxed today to claim your limited offer

What’s in the Business Travel Backpack in 2022?

At some point in your career, you may need to travel for business purposes. Whether it’s a domestic or overseas trip, attending a conference or company meeting, you may be wondering what exactly needs to be included in your business travel backpack. In this article, we’ve listed a thorough, complete list of business travel essentials and we’ll explain why you need these items. 

Business trips often require you to bring both personal and professional items, so using a packing checklist for a business trip helps you organize and carry these items when you travel for work. Without a checklist, you’ll be more likely to forget an essential item that you’ll need for your work while away from the office. A checklist can also help you pack faster, so you can maximize your time before you leave for a business destination. 

What should be included in your business travel backpack?

We’ve broken our list down into 5 main categories: Business essentials, Documents, Accessories, Clothing, and Personal Items. Be sure to consider packing each of the items we mention below for your next business trip:

Business essentials

  • Laptop or tablet

Even if the hotel offers computer-rental services, it’s also a good idea to bring your own laptop or tablet. Think about the security of your business files, applications, and presentation software. Bringing your laptop also allows you to work efficiently while traveling anywhere, at any time, on any transportation. 

  • Cell phone and chargers

It might seem too obvious, however, you might leave your home thinking you’ve got everything you need, only to discover while you’re in the taxi that you forgot your chargers. So, remember to charge your batteries fully the night before and pack all your chargers into your business travel backpack right when you wake up. Or if you really want to be prepared, consider buying a spare charger to keep permanently in your travel bag.

  • WiFi hotspot

Carrying your own internet hub may be helpful while traveling for long hours to different places. You can then work efficiently without worrying about a weak internet connection. It’s also a great idea if you’re at the airport, hotel lobby, or convention center where large numbers of users log in at the same time, which can lead to slow connection speeds.

  • Headphones or earbuds

These sound devices help you work continuously during transit or conduct online meetings in various environments. You can also use them for entertainment during break time. 

  • Business cards

Going to business meetings or conferences is a great chance to expand your network. You can exchange business cards with other business owners or partners. It would be a pity if you forgot your business cards. If you’re concerned about the space and clutter they might take up, see our guides on five effective ways to store your business cards.

Tip: As QR codes are becoming extremely popular, you can consider including one on your business cards. By doing this, your business connections can scan this code with their device to see a professional website, social media platform, or digital portfolio of your business. 

Shoeboxed is a painless receipt tracking and expense management solution for freelancers and small business owners. If you’re a frequent business traveler, consider using Shoeboxed for better tracking expenses and reducing clutter. With the Shoeboxed app (available on iOS and Android), you can easily scan receipts, track mileage or and other business expenses, and even generate clear, well-structured expense reports from your mobile device

  • Presentation remotes

If you’re giving a presentation, bringing a remote device to move through your slides can be helpful as it allows you to interact with other professionals throughout the room. You can choose a traditional presentation remote, a laser pointer, a clicker, or present with a mobile app. 

  • Adapters

If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you may need power adapters that fit your charging cords. You can check the international standards before you travel to see whether you’ll need to purchase a device or not. 

  • Notebook and pen

Even though you can take notes with any digital note app on any device, it’s still a good idea to have pen and paper ready to take handwritten notes. By preparing these, you’ll still be able to capture information should your devices have any technical problems. . What’s more, creative thoughts that lead to big business ideas are sometimes scratched on a piece of scrap paper during a session or even over a coffee break.

Documents

Documents are the most important things you need to take while packing for business trips. Along with essentials such as your passport and other ID, don’t forget to check the local travel requirements necessary during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

  • Passport (and a valid visa)

If your business trip takes you across borders, don’t leave home without your passport. If you’re traveling abroad for business, you often need to provide border security with a guarantee of when you’ll leave the country. Without this,  some countries won’t let you in without a copy of your complete itinerary.

  • An ID card

Though you don’t necessarily need to show an ID card (such as a driver’s license or other identifying documents) together with your passport, carrying such documents can still be a good idea as they protect you from unexpected situations. 

  • Boarding pass

Your boarding pass is the second most important document after your passport. Nowadays, most boarding passes are available on your mobile, but make sure that you’ll have internet access via your phone if you plan to use one. Or you can simply take a screenshot of the boarding pass and use it offline through your photo gallery on your phone.

You can also print out the details of your transportation and accommodations for your convenience. This information can be helpful in case you need to fill in any forms or to tell your taxi driver where to drive. 

  • Vaccination certificate and negative Covid-19 test result

Some countries won’t let you in if you’re not fully vaccinated or unable to show proof of vaccination or don’t have a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test result document. Remember that the test result is only valid for 72 hours before arrival, so if your destination requires this test document, you’ll need to take the test and be able to get the result documents right before you leave on your trip. 

Important note: If you’re traveling to another country, the local government might require you to quarantine for a while, usually from three to fourteen days. So, it’s extremely important to check the current law to see if you need to do a quarantine or not so that you can adjust your luggage accordingly. 

  • Business documentation

Last but not least, make sure you have all necessary business documents on your digital devices (or print a hard copy of them). You wouldn’t want to end up forgetting your presentation slides or any important portfolio at the last minute, would you?

Accessories 

You may think it’s unnecessary to bring accessories on a business trip. Still, these items can actually help you leave a good impression on your business partner, contributing to the trip’s success. They can even protect you from unexpected situations, such as weather changes, and so on. For example, here are the most simple and subtle accessories you can consider packing: 

  • Glasses or contacts lens

These are the most important accessories if you have eyesight problems. Don’t forget to bring a case and cleaning products for your eyewear as well. 

  • Sunglasses, hat, and umbrella

Though you can always check the weather forecast before your trip, these items are extremely necessary when traveling to tropical regions. Keep your sunglasses and umbrellas ready to protect you from the intense sunlight or rain. 

  • Watch and jewelry

Simple and elegant watches and jewelry complete your business attire for both casual and formal events. However, it’s a good idea to avoid bringing expensive and highly valued items because they’re easily lost or stolen. Instead, you can pack a functional and modest watch and jewelry for business trips. 

Clothing

It’s very important to dress up properly during business meetings. Here are the main items you’ll need to have a successful business trip: 

  • Business attire

You’ll need professional clothing, which in most cases includes suits, slacks or skirts, and dress shirts. Unless you’re taking a long trip, generally, one or two complete suits with a variety of shirts will be enough. Men may need to pack some ties that are interchangeable with their shirts and suits. For ladies, adding a scarf or pin can change the look of the same outfit so you can wear it on several occasions.

  • Formal wear

If you’re attending a formal event during your trip, you’ll need to pack an appropriate suit or dress. Black tie events require the highest formal wear, while cocktail events call for less sophisticated styles. Normally, you’ll see the dress code attached to the event invitation, but if you’re unsure of how to dress, you can ask a colleague or supervisor for a suggestion.

  • Dress shoes or heels 

Packing one pair of well-fitting dress shoes or heels is probably enough for your trip. Make sure they’re cleaned and in good condition before you pack them. 

  • Jacket or sweater

Even if you’re traveling to a warm climate, the temperatures inside airports, hotels, and conference centers can get chilly, so it’s still a good idea to pack a light sweater or jacket that you can easily tuck inside your bag. 

  • Casual outfits and shoes

After work hours, you may have personal time to explore local attractions or relax. You’ll want to wear comfortable clothing in non-business time. If you plan to sightsee, you’ll also need a good pair of walking shoes. You may even want to bring a bathing suit if you have a chance to visit the hotel pool or hot tub. 

  • Workout gear

It’s important to focus on your well-being and maintain a daily workout routine, even on a business trip. Packing some workout clothes allows you to continue your exercise routine in the hotel gym. If you prefer outdoor activities, you can even go for a run close by where you are staying during your business trip.

  • Pajamas, underwear, and socks

It goes without saying that bringing your nighttime clothes and underwear helps you stay comfortable throughout the day and night. You can even bring pillow spray in case you need a familiar smell that helps you drift into sleep easier. 

Personal items

It’s easy to overlook things when you need to keep your luggage as light as possible, but leaving behind the essentials could throw off your whole trip. Bringing personal items can help keep you comfortable during the long flights and the whole trip. 

  • Water bottle

Having a full reusable, refillable water bottle in your business travel backpack helps you stay hydrated without wasting money or generating the extra trash of plastic bottles.

  • Snacks

Even if your company or hotel provides food, you never know when you may have to wait a long time between meals. Bringing healthy snacks like energy bars or granola can get you through a long day of meetings. These snacks are also easy to pack into your backpack as they don’t require special preservation conditions and are super easy to eat during a quick break. 

  • Entertainment (books or Kindle)

A good book helps you pass long hours waiting or traveling and reading books is a good chance to take a break from screen time. Otherwise, you can always carry your Kindle or any digital reading device or app on your phone to keep yourself entertained. 

  • Basic toiletries

A personal toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, and a razor are all travel essentials. Buying a travel kit can be convenient as all these necessities are included, plus they are designed to meet the airline’s liquid safety requirements. On the other hand, you can always pack your own items at home, but don’t forget to check if they’re in good condition and meet those requirements. Don’t forget to pack the necessary medications, too! 

  • Sunscreen

Using sunscreen is extremely important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen every morning and retouch it after 2-3 hours when participating in outdoor activities.

  • Face masks

Many countries require people to wear face masks in public places to protect themselves from getting Covid-19. What’s more, you can even get fined for not wearing face masks while doing community activities. That’s why it’s a good idea to always wear and keep some masks in your bag for your own good. You can choose either fabric masks or medical masks, depending on your preference. 

  • Medical gloves

Public surfaces may contain lots of bacteria. Together with face masks, medical gloves help protect yourself while traveling in public spaces. You may consider packing gloves for your business travel backpack, especially if you’re going to spend some time at the airport or train station. 

  • Hand sanitizer

Needless to say, hand sanitizers are handy as they’re small and easy to keep in your business travel backpack. Using them also means that you don’t need to re-wash your hands with water. If you’re allergic to perfumes, consider choosing hand sanitizer with a scent-free label. 

The bottom line

Packing for business trips will no longer be a struggle as long as you keep a handy checklist. You can keep the checklist as a note on your phone, laptop, or any other device so that it won’t get lost, faded, or damaged. 

We hope that this article helped you identify the most important items you’ll need in your business travel backpack so you can be well prepared for your travels.
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The Truth About Business Travel Deductions

Business travel deductions are some of the most common deductions taken by small business owners, but they’re also the most misunderstood.

Many of the expenses incurred while traveling for business count as tax write-offs, but there are two important distinctions to keep in mind:

  1. Figuring out whether you’re really traveling, at least according to the IRS.
  2. Determining which travel expenses can be written off, and how much can be written off (i.e. not every expense is 100% deductible).

Are you traveling?

You may have a heck of a commute to work every day, even traveling out of state to get to your place of business. You may also frequently travel to different job sites, or spend a few days per week at a different location.

However, none of the above necessarily means you can deduct expenses under the business travel umbrella.

The IRS is chiefly concerned with the location of your business home base. Let’s say you live in Orange County, but you work in West Hollywood. (What are you, crazy?)

With such a tough commute, you’ll probably have to stay in West Hollywood during the week, and return home to the OC on weekends. According to the IRS, neither the time spent in WeHo or the OC is time spent “traveling.” Since your tax home is in West Hollywood, the money you spend on hotel rooms and eating out is not considered a business travel deduction because you are, at least according to Uncle Sam, already “home.”

You aren’t officially traveling until you’re required to stay overnight away from your business home. The overnight stay has to be necessary, too – you can’t take a meeting an hour away from the office then decide to stay in a hotel just because you don’t feel like driving back (well, you can – you just can’t write it off.)

Basically business travel deductions can only be applied to “regular” business travel; the kind where you get on a plane (or drive really far), stay in a hotel, and engage in some sort of business activity.

Is it a write-off?

Once you’ve determined that you’re officially traveling for business, it’s time to go nuts, track every penny you spend, and write off every dime. Right?

Unfortunately, not all business travel write offs are created equal.

Here is a basic breakdown of expenses that can be written off while traveling for business, and the percentage of each item that can be deducted:

  • Hotel rooms and lodging: You can deduct up to 100% of the cost of your accommodations while traveling for business. Might as well spring for the 5-star hotel, as long as it’s within a reasonable distance of your business location.
  • Airfare and transportation: If you’re paying with points or frequent flyer miles, you cannot deduct the cost of airfare. If you’re paying out of pocket, airfare is usually 100% deductible. Rental cars, cab fare, tolls, shuttle rides, gas and/or mileage is all deductible as well – just be sure to scan your receipts using the Shoeboxed app (a free download for iOS and Android!) on your smartphone to track these easy-to-forget expenses.
  • Meals and entertainment: Your meals are usually only 50% deductible. Entertainment may be 50% deductible as well if you can prove it’s related to business. For example, if you’re at a conference in Vegas and you treat yourself to a Cirque du Soleil show, that’s probably not going to fly. If, however, you’re treating a group of investors to a Cirque du Soleil show, Uncle Sam will be more inclined to approve the deduction.
  • Tips: Be sure to keep track of every tip you give, because they’re 100% deductible while traveling for business. An easy way to do this is to edit the receipt on which you tipped within your Shoeboxed account. When you upload your receipt from the hotel, for instance, you can add a note indicating how much you tipped the bellhop, the maid, etc.
  • Dry cleaning: There’s no need to spend money on dry cleaning at home when Uncle Sam will foot the bill while you’re traveling. Feel free to have your clothes sent out and take the deduction (within reason, however – lugging your entire wardrobe to a two-day conference in Tucson might look suspicious).
  • Internet and office expenses: Any expenses incurred while using the hotel’s business center, like sending faxes, scanning, printing, or using the Internet, can all be deducted up to 100%. If you need to buy office supplies or pay to use WiFi within the conference center, those things are deductible too.

What questions do you have about business travel deductions? Let us know in the comments!