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Capturing Your Costs on the Road

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Like many professionals, my world of travel spans shuttle vans in Phoenix, taxi cabs in New York City, and planes at Newark Airport. Yours might include local travel in a van, truck, or other work vehicle. But we do face a similar challenge: keeping track of an array of transactions that need to be submitted to our companies or a client. Of course, these transactions are tied to an expense and generate a receipt. Capturing and submitting these costs is a dance that most of us must do.

Arriving at home or your office with a briefcase, folder, tool box, purse, backpack, or pocket full of receipts and scribbles that have to be deciphered, scanned, and submitted is not fun.

Thanks to mobile technology, we now have portable document scanners which couple to a smartphone or dedicated mobile scanner-;that can be used to capture receipts and submit them from anywhere. When combined with one of the many expensing solutions available, you can not only capture and transmit receipts, but upload them directly to your company’s accounting software as soon as the expense is incurred.

There are several benefits to automating travel expense reporting, including:

  • Faster reimbursement: Whether you choose to report each expense as it happens throughout the day or wait until the end of the day to capture it all at once, HR (or whoever you’ve submitted it to) has the information immediately. This puts you in line to be reimbursed more quickly, as well as helping your business keep up with how much you’re spending as you go.
  • Error reduction: If your expense tracking involves shoving receipts into pockets, chances are you’ve missed an expense or two along the way. By capturing your expenses as you go, you’re far less likely to miss something.
  • No need to retain receipts: In an increasingly paperless society, receipts seem an outdated concept. While few retailers are able to send paperless receipts, you’ll have the ability to capture the information and toss the paper version, which will free your pockets up for storing other things.

Choosing a solution

Your choice of solutions will probably depend on your current technology environment. Primarily, you’ll want a solution that integrates with the software you use for your business accounting. There are expense tracking apps, such as Concur and Basware, that integrate with QuickBooks, FreshBooks, Outright, and others. In addition to your software, you’ll also need a solution that can be accessed from your smartphone.

But even if you aren’t quite ready to link your expenses with your business’s accounting software, there are solutions that can capture receipt data. At the very least, you’ll be able to reduce the paperwork you’re keeping up with during your travels.

For high-quality scans, you should also consider a portable receipt scanner, (e.g., Neat Receipts, Fujitsu Scan Snap) that interacts with your mobile device’s operating system. This equipment will provide a detailed document that looks as good as, if not better than, the original.

Even without the assistance of a dedicated scanner, you can use your smartphone to capture a receipt and submit expenses, using receipt image-capture apps, from providers such as Evernote and Dropbox. Expenses are submitted quickly, making the process of budgeting and reimbursement quick and painless.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Dec 16, 2013

RAMON RAY | Columnist

Editor and technology evangelist at Smallbiztechnology.com, which covers technology trends for small business. His latest book is the Amazon.com best-seller Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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