Q. I am moving from inside sales to an outside sales role. I am excited about the opportunity, and about some of the new perks of the job. I’ll be using my car, so I’ll get reimbursed for mileage, parking and tolls, and have a company credit card for expenses. I’ve seen the expense report to fill out, and that seems easy enough. So is lunch on me? It should be clear, but I am nervous I’ll mess up on the rules about using these benefits. Can you provide some guidance please?
A. Congratulations on the new role. Outsides sales can be an exciting, rewarding career opportunity for self-motivated, self-managed professionals. Your schedule can be very flexible and you’ll need to find ways to manage your time, and expenses.
Understanding the norms your company has on the use of the company credit cards and the documentation needed for reimbursement will be vital to keeping this business benefit “a non-issue.”
Before you use the card, discuss the expectations about business use. Should you be taking customers and prospects to meals? Will most meetings be held over breakfast or lunch? Will dinner meetings be held, and if so will alcohol be served? If so, what are the norms around ordering beer, wine or drinks?
What’s the typical cost of a lunch? Ask for restaurant recommendations to get a good sense of the level of place your organization wants you to use. Selecting the cheapest or most expensive places may not give the impression your organization wants.
Talk to your manager and finance person about the best way to present the information to them in the expense form. Most companies need specific information on who is at the meeting (title and company), meeting location, mileage to the meeting location from the office and the return trip, the purpose of the meeting, parking fees and tolls, and food expenses. Typically receipts are needed for all transactions, and need to be attached to the hard copy form or submitted following submitting an electronic form.
Your company will tell you the mileage reimbursement amount, and you will want to keep track of your mileage over the long term. This information can be provided to your tax preparer, and you may have tax benefits.
Make sure to stay current on submitting this expense documentation. Many companies have deadlines after which expenses are no longer reimbursable.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners