Expense Report Everything to Know for Successful Business

In this article, we will go through some basic fundamentals of expense reporting. Once you fully understand the nature of an expense report, you’ll be sure to make the most of it and improve your business’s productivity and internal control.

Being in business is all about making a profit. But that profit isn’t only about your sales numbers. How to effectively control and minimize expenses is just as important as how to boost sales to achieve the ultimate goal: generate maximum profit. 

Caught between limited financial resources and the pressure to maintain competitive pricing, small businesses these days need to stay more proactive than ever to stay on top of their expenses. One of the most commonly used practices for managing costs among small enterprises is the expense report. 

What is an expense report for businesses?

An expense report is a document filled out by an employee or a partner so they can be reimbursed for professional expenses. They are also used to track company spending.

Expense reports are generally presented as forms, whether in a paper or a digital format. The report can be prepared using accounting software or using a template in Word, Excel, PDF, and so on. 

With the advent of new technologies, several solutions now exist to automate the expense management process. The purpose of these solutions is to free time up for everyone involved in the process, streamline expense reports management, and increase profit. 

What is an expense report used for?

Making reimbursements 

A small business sometimes has their employees pay for work-related expenses out of their own pockets then later, the business owner would make reimbursement for those expenses. This process is carried out by an expense report with 3 simple steps: 

  1. The employee fills in an expense report and lists all the business-related spending such as gas for vehicles, accommodation, or meals. Receipts should be attached to the document.  
  2. The employer checks the expense report for accuracy and validity. 
  3. The requested amount is paid back to the employee.

Sometimes, the process can be reversed in which the companies make advance payment for staff. The employee still needs to submit an expense report to detail expenditures. However, there won’t be any reimbursement. Instead, the employer will just deduct the expenses from the advances and have these transactions recorded in the bookkeeping system. 

Tracking expenses

An expense report is also a great tool to help small businesses keep track of their spending periodically (on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis). By reviewing expense reports, enterprises can examine their financial health, determine if they’re spending over or under budget, then analyze the causes and come up with immediate solutions to improve expense management. 

Shoeboxed expense report

Filing tax

Regardless of what type of business you run, filing a tax return is a real headache. From ancient times to the present, businesses have always learned ways to minimize their taxable amounts.

Many business expenses are deductible that can be subtracted from a company’s income before it is subject to taxation. Expense reports are the legal documents to prove just that. Creating an expense report allows you to monitor deductible costs that may not yet be shown on your company bank account, making it a lot easier to write such expenses off at tax time.

Auditing purposes 

Expense reports are valuable evidence for both internal and external audit activities. Unnecessary and fraudulent reimbursement claims are not, unfortunately, an uncommon theme in many workplaces. These reports can help with business audits by providing visibility into what funds are coming in and out of the business. By properly processing these expense reports, owners can examine the details and audit their current businesses’ financial and managerial health. 

As we’ve just mentioned above as well, expense reports are vital for deducting tax. They can be requested for submission as supplemental documents, in addition to reporting total applicable costs on tax forms when submitting taxes with the revenue service at any time. 

What does an expense report look like?

Small businesses usually create expense reports using templates in Word, Excel, PDF, etc, or have them automatically prepared by accounting software. No matter how an expense report is made, it typically should contain these elements: 

  • Employee’s information: name, department, position, their manager, or details of who submits the expense
  • Date: when expenditure was incurred (a receipt showing the same date should be attached)
  • Vendor: where a product or service was purchased
  • Description: the nature of the expense such as taxi fee, meal, or hotel
  • Account: where the expense should be charged to 
  • Amount: the total sum of the expense (this amount should also be on the provided receipt) 
  • Subtotal: the amount for each type of expense listed 
  • Subtraction: adjustments when there are any prior advances paid to the employee
  • The grand total: the final amount of reimbursement requested
  • Note: an extra explanation for any unidentified or unclear type of expenses. 

Sometimes, an expense report may also include a brief summary of the company’s policy regarding which kind of expense is not reimbursable. It’s a good way to remind employees before they submit their expenses, saving time for employers and also raising awareness of spending policies within the enterprise. 

An expense report may look different among small companies, depending on its nature of business as well as each company’s own preference. However, it should always tell you how much the expense is and what it was used for. 

Business expense categories 

One of the most important functions of using expense reports is to help small businesses collect data and categorize business expenses, many of which can be written off in a company’s taxes. Some of the most common expense categories include utilities, travel, office supplies, and rental expenses, but there are many more that small businesses, freelancers, and sole proprietors should pay attention to. 

According to the IRS, as long as an expense is “ordinary and necessary” to running a business in your industry, it’s deductible. That’s why we suggest you should follow the categories listed in the Schedule C form  from the IRS for your expense report if you run a sole proprietorship. Developing categories that match your business and a tax return file can make the tax filing process easier, smoother, save you time, and make sure you get all the deductions that you can.  

We’ve listed below the most common 10 business tax expenses that you can deduct with brief explanations of what’s covered, what’s allowed, and what’s not.

Advertising

You can fully deduct expenses related to promoting your business, including digital and print advertising, social media advertising, website design & maintenance, and the cost of printing business cards.

Business insurance and professional service

You can deduct the cost of your business insurance on your tax return such as business liability or workers compensation. Fees paid to an attorney, designer, architect, or other professionals directly related to operating your business are also tax-deductible.

Office supplies

You can write off office supplies including stationery, office cleaning service, drinks & snacks in the break room, and work-related software. Shipping and postage charges may also be deducted. Bear in mind that you may only deduct the expenditure of materials used in the current year.

Home office expenses

Small business owners who work from home cannot miss this information! Generally, you’d need a space that is regularly and exclusively used for businesses to be qualified for deduction. You can deduct $5 for every square foot of your home office which meets all the requirements, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.

Travel expenses

The first and foremost condition to write off travel expenses is that the travel is qualified as a business trip. Here are 3 rules to help you know whether your trip is qualified or not:

  • The trip must be primarily business-related.
  • The trip must take you away from your tax home, i.e. outside the city or area where your company is located.
  • As well as being away from your tax home, it must be substantially longer than a normal day’s work and it must require you to sleep or rest on the route.

Business interest

A business interest expense is the cost of interest on business loans required to keep operations running. Your deduction is generally limited to 30% of adjusted taxable income while it was up to 50% in 2020 due to Coronavirus. However, this limitation is not applied to small businesses (with average annual gross receipts of $25 million or less over a trailing three-year period), farms, or real estate investment enterprises.

Cell phone and internet bills 

You can deduct your entire bill if you have a dedicated business cell phone or Internet connection. It’ll be a little bit more complicated if you mix business with personal usage. In this case, you will need to calculate and deduct only the percentage used for work. 

Wages and benefits

If you run a small business and hire people, you may deduct their wages, benefits, and vacation expenses. However, don’t include your own wages because they’re not allowed to be deducted by the IRS. 

Donations 

Tax-deductible donations must meet certain criteria such as the organizations you give charity to have to be qualified. Examples of qualified institutions include religious organizations, nonprofit educational agencies, museums, local volunteer groups, etc. There will be different guidelines depending on the nature of your donations such as cash, food, clothing, etc.

Depreciation

When you deduct depreciation, you’re usually writing off the cost of a tangible asset like a vehicle or machinery over the useful lifetime of that item, rather than deducting it all in one go for a single tax year. It’s best to deduct depreciation for costly long-term business investments, so you’re reimbursed for the expense over the entire lifetime of use of the item. 

Medical expenses

You can claim insurance premiums and you’re self-employed and pay for your own health insurance, you can deduct your health and dental care insurance premiums. You can also claim medical care expenses, including doctor’s fees, prescription drugs, and home care.

By designing your expense report template based on Schedule C, you’ll find it much quicker and easier when inserting data into tax forms.

So get organized and save time and money!

What is a monthly expense report? 

A monthly expense report details company outlays paid over the course of a given month. These reports are not typically used for employee reimbursement, but rather to track company or department spending, allocate expenses to specific projects or clients and compare expenses to revenue to determine a company’s overall profitability. These reports are typically organized by category, or payee, and can be tremendously helpful for companies to coordinate planning, budgeting, and resourcing requirements. In times of financial difficulty, a monthly expense report can be used to check how costs can be cut or eliminated to improve profit. 

What is considered an expense? 

Not all costs are expenses. An expense is the cost of operations that a business incurs to generate revenue. It can be salary compensations for employees, train tickets fee, or rental for the office. The summary of all expenses is shown on Income Statements (Profit or Loss Statement) as deductions from the total revenue.

While businesses can write off many kinds of expenses, they are not allowed to claim their personal, non-business expenses as business deductions. They also cannot claim bribes, lobbying costs, penalties, fines, and contributions made to political parties or candidates. 

There’s also a common mistake among businesses when they write off “capital expenditure” as an expense. Capital expenditure (CapEx) is used to acquire, upgrade, and maintain tangible assets such as property, buildings, or equipment. Businesses must capitalize those expenses or write them off slowly over time as depreciation. For example, if you acquire a new oven for your bakery business, the oven should be capitalized and recorded as your asset, instead of a business expense. Identifying the nature of an expense will help you do your taxes properly and precisely. 

Essentially, companies should have strict rules regarding what can be considered a business expense. Employees should be informed thoroughly as well before submitting expense reports for reimbursement. 

Conclusion 

Expense reporting and analysis is an indispensable element of an effective cost management process. However, many small businesses struggle with keeping track of documents and receipts manually which ends up being time-consuming and unproductive.

Clear away that pile of documents and go paperless with Shoeboxed!

Shoeboxed creates clear and comprehensive expense reports that include images of your receipts. In just a few clicks, you can export, share or print the information you need for easy tax preparation or reimbursement.

A 5-Step Guide to Manageable Tax Prep for Entrepreneurs

Not only are taxes time consuming, confusing, and a nuisance, but they can also be a drain on your wallet if you don’t prepare well. This is especially true for entrepreneurs who, aside from having to deal with the complicated tax filing process of running a business, also have to actually run the business.

If there’s one thing all entrepreneurs can agree on, it’s that they dread tax season.

In fact, a recent survey by the National Association of Small Business (NSBA) reveals that 38 percent of small businesses reported they spent more than 80 hours a year dealing with federal taxes. That’s two whole workweeks! That same survey found that almost 50% of small businesses spend $5,000 or more annually on the accounting process alone—before paying their taxes!

Not only are taxes time consuming, confusing, and a nuisance, but they can also be a drain on your wallet if you don’t prepare well. This is especially true for entrepreneurs who, aside from having to deal with the complicated tax filing process of running a business, also have to actually run the business.
Whether you choose to do taxes on your own or hire an accountant this year, here’s a quick guide on how to knock tax season out of the park:

1. Familiarize Yourself With the Lingo

One thing we shouldn’t complain to the IRS about is the amount of tax breaks they offer. Tax breaks give small business owners and freelancers a great opportunity to win back some of that money they’ve been spending on their business, and it’s a unique way to encourage entrepreneurship.

However, there is a small caveat to this: it’s hard to keep track of what’s what. There are important differences between deductibles, refundable credits, and non-refundable credits. Each can help you in distinctive ways, so it’s useful to know which expenses qualify for which tax break as you track your finances throughout the year. Investopedia and the IRS website are helpful tools that can break down tax vocabulary into simple terms.
 

Deductibles

Benefits: Lowers taxable income and total tax liability. Can help with items that represent reductions in ability to pay tax (i.e. casualty losses).
What Does That Mean: Because deductions cannot reduce taxable income below zero, their value is limited to the filer’s tax liability before applying the deduction. Value depends on the taxpayer’s marginal tax rate, which rises with income.
Examples: Health care expenses, mortgages, car loans, investment-related expenses
 

Refundable Credits

Benefits: Decreases a person’s tax liability. Same value for all taxpayers with tax liability at least equal to the credit.
What Does That Mean: Treated as payments of tax you made during the tax year. When total of credits is great than total tax owed, you get a refund for the difference. Credits are more appropriate for subsidies provided through the tax system.
Example: Earned Income Credit, Additional Child credit, Small Business Health care credit.
 

Non-Refundable Credits

Benefit: Lower tax limit as low as it can go. Represents the majority of credits.
What Does That Mean: Credit cannot be used to increase tax refund or to create a tax refund when you wouldn’t already have one. Savings cannot exceed amount of tax you owe.Example: If you only owe $200 in taxes, and the only credit you’re eligible is for $500, the $300 difference is non-refundable.
Example: Child and Dependent Care Expenses credit, Saver’s tax credit, Adoption tax credit, Foreign tax credit.
 

2. Don’t procrastinate

Unless you want to have a very stressful week, don’t wait until right before April 18 (note – usually tax day is April 15) to prep and file your taxes! Last year, the IRS reported that 28% of Americans waited until the last few weeks before tax day to file their return. Sure, you can file for an extension if you can’t make it before the IRS deadline, but there are drawbacks to this, like late fees. And, just because you file late doesn’t mean you get extra time to pay taxes if you owe the government money.

Plus, when you take your time to carefully approach a tax filing, it won’t seem as stressful or time consuming. You’re more likely to make an error or miss out on a deduction if you rush the process.
 

3. Stay organized

By far, the easiest way to minimize the hassle of tax season is by staying organized and keeping updated records of receipts, payments, and expenses. The IRS demands documented proof for claims, so having everything stored and accessible can reduce a substantial amount of time and pressure.

Organization also helps maximize deductions and reimbursements without the hassle of scrambling to find misplaced financial records. It also makes it possible to file taxes at the earliest possible time because paperwork is readily available at your fingertips.

Shoeboxed’s mission is to streamline this process so that you can focus on more important things during tax season, like running your business or taking care of your family. We process and organize your receipts so that vendor, total amount, date and payment type are extracted and available in a searchable online account—without you ever having to lift a finger. You can also tag receipts as reimbursable or deductible so when you file taxes, your documents are already catalogued appropriately.
 

4. Stay informed

There’s a lot to swallow these days when it comes to tax codes, especially since the IRS makes changes on a yearly (and sometimes, even seasonal) basis. It doesn’t hurt to take some time researching professional blogs and news sites that can keep you informed on the latest tax changes. The extra initiative will take a few hours of time on your end, yes, but not nearly as much time it would take to prep taxes with little to no knowledge on how to maximize returns. This is especially helpful for entrepreneurs who do not have their own accountant.

Without a guiding hand, it’s easy to make misinformed decisions with tricky nuances (like filing status, for example). Some helpful sites that give excellent pro advice are Don’t Mess With Taxes, TaxGirl and AICPA.
 

5. When in doubt, ask a pro 

With an endless supply of information, the Internet of things can answer any question you may have related to taxes. Sometimes though, having 10+ pages pulled up with an overwhelming amount of information can make material difficult to digest. If your questions are very intricate and situational, it may be best to approach a tax expert or CPA. Examples of these questions may include:

  • Do I have a limit for my charitable contributions?
  • Should I itemize deductions? How in-depth?
  • When should I contribute to an IRA?
  • Should I file jointly, as single, or as head of household?
  • I have all these miscellaneous business expenses and reports, but which ones should I keep for reimbursements and deductions?

Sometimes it’s easy to do a quick Google search for these common tax questions. Other times, the answer depends on your business situation, among other variables.

If you have an accountant, keep in touch with them throughout the year. There’s no reason you should wait until tax season every year to speak to them. CPA’s are experts in their field and they’re a great resource that can put you up to date with all the latest changes in tax policy. Stay organized, plan ahead, and you can get the most out of your tax season.

5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for April 15th

Make tax season less stressful by using our top 5 ways to quickly and easily prepare your small business for April 15th – tax day! – this year.

As a small business owner, chances are you’re not only juggling multiple projects at any given moment, you’re probably wearing multiple hats as well. Be honest, haven’t there been days where you’ve served as your company’s marketing director, customer service rep, accountant and PR department, all within a few hours?

Automation is the key to getting your taxes done faster and with less of a headache. Here are our top 5 ways to quickly and easily prepare your small business for tax day this year.

1. Scan your receipts

First thing’s first – you need to ditch that mound of paper clutter that’s been taking up space on your desk. If you’re already a Shoeboxed user, you’re one step ahead! If not, consider signing up for a 30-day free trial and let us take care of all those receipts for you.

Shoeboxed lets you toss all of your receipts, bank statements, and any other paperwork that needs to be scanned into one of our famous Magic Envelopes for processing. Just throw everything in the envelope, toss the envelope in the mail, and then watch as your account is magically populated with digital data– and images of your scanned receipts!

Not only are all of your receipts scanned and digitized, they’re also searchable, editable and exportable, meaning you can create one-click expense reports based on receipts in certain tax categories.

2. Revisit your write-offs

You may think you know what you can and can’t deduct, but tax laws change every year. Be sure you’re up to date by checking out the IRS website, and think outside the box.

Did you remember to include any business-related apps you purchased for your smartphone or tablet? What about health insurances premiums paid out for employees, or yourself?

By spending a few minutes brushing up on this year’s deductions, you’ll be able to reduce the amount owed to the IRS, and even end up with a refund.

3. Use accounting automation software

Even if you have an accountant or tax professional, you still need accounting software. We like GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping (formerly Outright) and QuickBooks Online because they’re super easy to use and save you tons of time doing mind-numbing calculations. Accounting software will also save you money because your accountant won’t have to spend hours calculating receipt totals.

4. Link your accounts

Once you have automation software in place, it’s a good idea to link all of your business financial accounts within the application. Accounting software technology is so advanced, it can tell which of your purchases are deductible expenses! When you purchase office supplies, for instance, the software will automatically categorize that expense in the appropriate tax category.

But it only works if you link all of your accounts, so take a few minutes to link everything from your business checking account to PayPal. This way, you’ll get a comprehensive overview of the financial health of your small business, and it’ll be much easier to generate reports come tax time.

5. Categorize your receipts

Just as accounting software categorizes each transaction, Shoeboxed categorizes your receipts. This is done automatically, but when you have a receipt that’s illegible, it’s important to log into your account and manually categorize it.

Take a few minutes per day during the months of February and March to categorize your receipts, and you’ll be good to go long before April 15 rolls around.

What are you doing to prepare for tax day?