25% of employees admit to fiddling expenses

Expense-fiddling appears to be on the up within UK business - but are firms doing enough to help themselves?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 22 Oct 2012
A year ago, people were falling over themselves to proclaim their horror and disgust at the expense-fiddling antics of unscrupulous MPs. So it’s surprising that the results of a new survey suggest that some of us have similar inclinations: a report by expenses management company GlobalExpense claims that a quarter of people who claim expenses have admitted to exaggerating them. That's up by about 10% since this time last year. Although some try and excuse their behaviour by suggesting that they're only copying their (not so) esteemed leaders...

The survey found that of those who have inflated their expenses, the majority (just over half) say it’s by £10 a month, 13% say it’s between £11 and £20, 10% say it’s between £21 and £50, and 4% of dastardly employees say they exaggerate their claims by between £51 and £100 a month. It’s not all spent on duck islands and moat clearing, admittedly: a fifth say they tend to exaggerate their mileage claims, while 12% say they lie about the amount they’ve spent on meals during work trips, and 5% say they claim extra on taxi fares. No mention of second home-flipping, though.

Younger staff are the most likely to think it’s acceptable to fiddle their expenses, with 33% of 18-24-year-olds admitting to it (although they’re also more likely to earn the lowest wages – so it kind of figures), while over-55s are least likely to. This time, though, we can't blame MPs. Or even bankers. The survey found that 14% of people are more likely to fiddle their expenses if they see reports about their bosses doing the same thing in the media. And a third reckon that their bosses ‘definitely or probably’ exaggerate their own claims. If this perception exists – however accurate it may be – it clearly makes it harder to stop employees doing it too.

Now admittedly, it’s in GlobalExpense’s interests to bemoan expense-fiddling by employees – and a quarter is a relatively small proportion compared to what was going on at Westminster (or so we are led to believe). But the survey also suggested that businesses aren’t reviewing claims stringently enough: a mere 16% of workers have had their claims queried by their employer, while just 6% have had claims rejected. That's a bit surprising, given that many firms are still struggling to rebuild their finances after the recession. So the answer may be to start taking a much more critical look at your staff expense claims. Get that right, and you might not have to engage the services of a leading expenses management company. Simples

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