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Alan Price

Peninsula Business Services

Employment Law & HR Director

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Employee expenses: The weird, the wacky, and the wonderful

Combing through last year’s expense claims submitted by 100,000+ businesses, we’ve narrowed down the weirdest, wackiest, and most wonderful employee expenses, guaranteed to make you do a double-take.
brown cattle near tree

It’s an age-old source of tension between employer and employee: the dreaded reimbursement of business expenses. For employees it can be tricky to know exactly what they can expense. And for employers, it can be hard to be on the receiving end of a bill… 

The good news is, mostly employee expenses cover the usual suspects: travel, office supplies, mileage claim, the list goes on. But what about the expenses no one sees coming? And I really do mean, no one

Data from 100,000+ businesses exposes extraordinary expenses…

When combing through usage data on PoP, BrighHR’s expense tracking app, I was shocked, amazed and perhaps most of all, just plain confused, to discover some of the most bizarre claims submitted by users. Suggesting that some employees will try to expense just about anything!

Here are the weirdest, wackiest, and most wonderful employee expenses from last year, guaranteed to make you do a double-take…

This expense is a hoot 

A curious claim surfaced for a carrying case for an owl. Perhaps submitted by a Hogwarts professor? Or for a company mascot? No matter where the claim came from, we expect it ruffled a few feathers. It’s certainly left us with a few questions anyway. Hoo doesn’t love a mystery!

From the humble sausage roll to Weetabix

A couple of hungry employees submitted expenses for sausage rolls. This is normal enough on first glance. Especially if your employee is on a work trip and needs to grab lunch, but it is oddly specific. We also received a few expense claims for a certain breakfast item, answering the age-old question of “Have you had your Weetabix?” once and for all.  

One for the follicly challenged

There was one expense that had us absolutely wigging out. That’s right… multiple expense claims were submitted last year for wigs. A bald move if you ask us… Whether it was a disguise for an undercover project, for a company that caters exclusively to Cher impersonators, or where impromptu performances broke out in the boardroom, this one had us discom-bob-ulated. 

Keith. Just Keith…

Some expenses need no introduction, or explanation for that matter. Among the intriguing entries was an expense simply listed as “Keith”. Which leaves us to wonder, who is the elusive Keith? A consultant, a project code name, an expense for a Keith Lemon comedy gig?

Look what the cat dragged in… spoiler: it’s another expense!

In a purr-fectly unprecedented move, one feline enthusiast’s expense report included cat litter, prompting us to ponder whether office cats are a rising trend, or if one employee was just kitten around. The curious culprit behind this claim has certainly earned their stripes and a place in our wacky expenses hall of fame.

We’ve heard of going the extra mile, but this really takes the mickey! 

Hold onto your seats, because this one expense is out of this world. A mileage claim was recorded for an astonishing 132,640 miles, totalling a mind-boggling £51.12 billion! That’s roughly FIVE times around the whole planet! Perhaps this company had a sideline gig in light-year travel? 

We’re not sure if they were driving to the moon and back or taking a road trip around the galaxy, but we can say with certainty that this is the most astronomical expense claim we’ve ever seen. Perhaps needless to say, this expense was declined.

Funny expenses aside…

Who would have thought that a 132,640-mile trip could be claimed as a business expense? Or that a carrying case for an owl would be deemed essential? We certainly didn’t!

While we appreciate the ambition and creativity of PoP users, we must remind everyone that there are limits to what can be claimed as a legitimate business expense. So, let’s keep our feet firmly on the ground and our expense tracking in check.

Staying on top of employee expenses as an HR department or business owner can feel daunting—especially when there’s a sea of such mind-boggling and unfathomable expenses to navigate.

The real cost behind expenses

With one in five expense reports containing errors or missing information, business owners will no doubt be concerned as to the impact of fraudulent and incorrect expenses. And it’s little wonder why, as recent findings suggest that UK businesses are losing over £2 billion in employee expense fraud!

The average expense claim takes around 20 minutes to complete. If there are any mistakes to rectify, the time is then doubled. With employees making regular claims, and especially across a large firm, the total time lost to managing expense claims can soon mount up.

It’s cases like the above that highlight the importance of implementing robust policies that outline what is and isn’t acceptable and are circulated to all staff for their understanding. 

Author Profile Picture
Alan Price

Employment Law & HR Director

Read more from Alan Price

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