Short practical advise for travel expenses from an accounting point of view
Based on experience it can be said that many companies in Russia do not have the level of rules and details around travel expenses which are often implemented in other countries. Control is more done by direct oversight and less by processes and rules.
Reporting and Analysis of travel expenses
Russian Travel expenses – except for gas – can be booked en block on one general account. This in general makes the analysis of cost close to impossible. To overcome this the management should clearly review how to book travel cost in the Russian accounting systems.
In order to create a way to analyze travel budgets the correct rules must be established in the accounting policy, the accounting program and also in the way they are mapped to corporate reporting. Any level of detail is possible but since detail means additional work at the accountant side without a clear instruction it is often not done.
Apart from the per diem policy, a travel policy is relevant in larger organizations to define the rules for business trips – e.g. the class of airline ticket, the hotel category, rules for rental cars etc. Many companies in Russia do not have such a policy, since in Russian Accounting legislation there is no need.
The signing and approval processes for expenses should also be agreed, as otherwise continuous detailed checking by superiors is needed, with all the issues being highly personalized processes.
And in case the travel expenses are on the high side, a travel policy can also support in tax checks. A tax inspector might decline the deductibility of high travel costs.
Prepayments and Settlements of expense reports
Employees can receive a pre-payment for the business trip from the employer before going on it. Many Russian employees request to be paid their per diems before the trip. Any level of pre-payment can be done before a trip by the employer to e.g. cover hotel costs booked personally in advance. While this is a nice Russian practice it creates additional work, from the potential application, to the entry in the accounting program to the paying of very small amounts to an bank account. And if the employee then returns with additional expenses which are to be refunded then the work is repeated.