Free expense report template: claim business expenses easily
Published on February 6, 2023
Dealing with expense reports is a frustrating yet necessary task for most employees. Most don't even know what expense reports are for, let alone what a good template should look like.
Not having access to a decent expense form can make it an even bigger nightmare — and that’s how you got here :)
Need to submit your work expenses? Download this free expense report template (or read on to learn how to improve your current system).
We’re on a mission to make your life easier, so we've put together this simple and easy expense report template. It has everything you need, and nothing you don't — all handcrafted by our expense management experts.
The template is already set up with the right fields for common expense categories like hotels, transport, and restaurants. All you need to do is fill out the description, date and price per item. Thanks to the right formulae, the total amount automatically gets updated (ok, it's just a simple sum but still...) — that means no more calculation mistakes when handing it in!
Download the expense claim form above, and feel free to adjust it to your liking by changing how it works, adding extra fields or slapping on your own company logo.
Just don't forget to add your receipts when you hand it in!
What is an expense report?
An expense report can be one of two things:
A detailed log of all the expenses a company has incurred over a month, quarter, year, or other period; or
A record of the expenses incurred by an employee on behalf of the company as part of their role.
Though different, the two serve a similar purpose: to keep a clear record of company spending.
The first case is an important part of running a company, especially come tax season. The amount of tax a business pays will usually take into account its net profits - revenue generated minus expenditure. So a company definitely needs to know how much it spends.
But it's the second scenario above that we're interested in for this article. And this is what our free template will help you produce. Here's how it works.
From time to time, an employee will need to spend their own money in the function of their job. The most common instance of this is during business travel. If the employee doesn't have easy access to a company credit card, they'll typically pay for meals and transport with their own money, and the company will reimburse them at a later date.
They save every receipt and proof of purchase, and then file an expense report (or "expense claim") once they're back in the office.
For those who travel often, this is usually a monthly chore. It's a common exercise for salespeople (especially) to spend a whole Friday afternoon filling out Excel sheets and getting their receipts in order.
Free expense report template to track business expenses
We're about to explore all the many reasons why expense reports aren't the best system. But if you're stuck with them and need a simple, ready-to-use Excel or Google Sheet template, here's the only one you need:
Why businesses really use expense reports
Very soon, expense reports will be dead for good. You may think that paper expense claims are the only way to reimburse employees. After all, it's the way most companies have done this for as long as anyone can remember.
But there are far better options available. Keep reading and we'll show you exactly how to get rid of this tedious process.
For now, companies rely on expense claims because they don't have a better option. Traveling employees (salespeople or staff attending conferences for example) naturally incur costs. These could be for food, travel, or for stationery supplies for a conference.
These are business costs, and employees clearly shouldn't have to pay for them out of their own pocket. But unless they have their own company card, they usually pay up front, then submit an expense report for reimbursement.
So expense reports give employees a way to be reimbursed for payments that should really have been made with company money in the first place.
If you're in that position today, your best weapon is a good expense report template. If you're stuck with this frustrating system, at least you'll have a reliable tool to speed up claims.
It's also valuable for finance teams. They can send the template around the company and not have to worry about staff getting confused or making basic mistakes.
How to improve the expense report process (if you're stuck with them)
As we've already stated, there are better ways to handle employee spending than expense claims. But it may not be your decision to make the change.
So if you have no choice, here are a few tips from the experts to help you get through those tedious Friday afternoons and win back your free time.
1. Use smartphones - Firm of the Future
"Eliminate the time-consuming, and often frustrating, task of tracking down receipts and manually entering transaction details. Instead, implement a system where employees can use their smartphones to log expenses and track receipts from anywhere."
If you haven't already, you need to get your company onto an expense reporting app. These completely remove the need for double handling of claims, and make it almost impossible for you to lose receipts.
Spendesk does exactly this, and there are lots of other expense management options to check out if you're interested.
2. Take simple notes as you go - TravelBank
Nobody's memory is ever quite as good as we might all hope. So whether you use an app as above or write notes on the back of receipts, it's best to assume that you'll eventually forget what each little payment was for.
"The best thing you can do to make your life easier, is to jot down a few quick but meaningful details in the description field. The details you wish you could recall when you look at your transactions a few weeks later and scratch your head asking yourself what it was for."
3. Update expense claim processes - Comindware
As with all your other processes, expense reports will need a refresh from time to time.
"Keep your expense claim systems and expense claim form updated. Don’t make any changes and forget to talk about them. Also, inform employees and make sure they understand each and every detail added to the recent documents."
It's fairly simple, but updating processes (and then informing employees) ensures that the company isn't stuck in the past.
Note: One of the nice things about using expense management software or apps is that it's someone else's job to keep them updated.
4. Automate financial reports - Quaderno
Expense reports are a drag for finance teams too. So by switching to a more automated process (usually through an expense management software), they can get rid of one of the more tedious aspects of their day jobs.
Simply by using an expense report app (as mentioned above), you can completely digitize the process and remove most of the data entry involved.
The biggest win for finance pros is "all the time you save, not hunched over your desk, rustling through receipts, and examining your expenses..."Which means more time for strategic financial tasks, and less time chasing fellow employees for their receipts.
Do we even need expense reports?
The short answer is no, we don't need them. And yet plenty of companies cling to them for one simple reason: their teams don't have a good way to pay for company expenses, and therefore rely on their own money.
Unfortunately, nobody likes this method. It's tricky for the employee, especially if they've never had to do it before. Everyone's worried about making a mistake or losing a receipt, because then their expense may not be repaid.
Side note: Payment often happens at the end of the month. So this employee may have been out of pocket for weeks. For a business expense!
After that, the finance team has to process the expense report, make sure everything looks legitimate, and arrange for payment. This is often more time-consuming and laborious than filling out the forms in the first place.
Which is why we're completely convinced that your best bet is to stop using expense reports altogether. That may sound lofty or unrealistic, but it's actually quite simple.
Why you should get rid of expense reports
Here's the thing: it's incredibly counterproductive for any company to work with Excel expense forms. Even with our expense report form, it's a hassle to manage a nearly endless stream of expense forms — both for the employees reporting them as well as the finance team having to process them.
And while many think that expense claims give finance teams more control over employee spend, that’s actually not the case.
Especially when compared to using a Spendesk card (virtual or physical), expense claims are cumbersome and painful. They add more steps to a process that could (and should) be seamless!
We analyzed Spendesk customers' expense claims (approximately 750,000 claims) throughout 2022 and here’s what we found:
After employees submitted their claims, finance teams rejected expense claims only 2.2% of the time. That means that 97.8% of expense claims were accepted.
Of the 2.2% that were rejected, about a third were rejected for process issues: most commonly, they were duplicates with other ways of submitting expense claims.
In the second third of cases, the rejection reason was an issue with the documentary evidence (card receipt instead of purchase receipt, missing VAT, etc.).
The last third was a mix of rejections and ambiguous cases that were not documented on the platform (for example, the rejection reason referred to a conversation that had taken place on Slack).
In 1.1% of cases, finance teams accepted the expense claim and then adjusted the amount downward; they adjusted it upward in 0.04% of cases. So again, these adjustments were extremely rare! In the overwhelming majority of cases, expense claims are simply accepted as is by finance teams - because the expense was justified!
One of the reasons that finance leaders prefer expense claims over cards is the feeling of control. However, our data says otherwise: expense claims are rarely adjusted or rejected, and if they are, it is usually due to communication or processing errors, rather than fraud.
Spendesk cards offer 100% visibility over spending, and you can implement safeguards and limits that strike the right balance between empowering employees and the desire of finance teams to keep spend under control.
Moving away from expense claims and instead using the Spendesk card eliminates unnecessary back-and-forth between the finance team and employees. Thanks to built-in controls and processes, finance teams won’t be giving up control of company spending.
Once again, the simplest solution is the best one: trust your employees with a Spendesk card (whether virtual or physical) and say goodbye to the painful expense claim process!
The best alternative to a free expense report template
If you're ready to fix your company's expense process for good, Spendesk is here to help. We combine automated approval workflows and spend tracking with a simple mobile app for employees on the go. It's an all-in-one spend management platform boasting powerful features that'll save you loads of time and money.
The goal is simple: to fix company spending.
Ready to save time while saving your entire company from expense report hell? Book a free demo today.