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5 steps to digital expenses

By Deborah Saunby
26 February 2020

We bank online, we order our groceries online, we arrange our social life online. We spend more time on our phone and laptop than we do sleeping1! Surely it makes sense that our business processes should be online too?

More and more companies are going digital and we’ve found that the number of businesses automating their expenses and moving them to the cloud has increased. 42% of businesses we surveyed had made the switch.2

That still leaves a large number of businesses who still submit expenses on paper forms and store all of the paper receipts. Receipts get lost, payroll can be waiting for colleagues to submit forms (some may not be decipherable) and managers aren’t always available to approve them; the problems are endless. Manually checking all these expenses is time consuming and prone to errors. Plus storing all the receipts soon starts to build up and you’re probably missing out on VAT reclaim opportunities.

Before we progress it’s worth clearing up one question we always get asked, “Don’t HMRC require us to keep receipts for minimum of 6 years?” Alongside CIPP, we investigated and received confirmation from HMRC that UK businesses no longer need to keep the paper receipts, electronic copies are sufficient.

Making the switch

So you’ve done your research and seen how digital expenses will save you time and money but what’s next? We’ve put together 5 simple steps that will help you and your business get ready to move your expenses to the cloud.

Expenses Policy

Do you have an expenses policy already? Or is it quite old and need reviewing. Either way, this is a great time to do it. An expenses policy provides employees with a clear and concise outline of what is expected and guides them on what is, and isn’t, an acceptable expense for the company. Implementing an expenses policy can save money and improve efficiency by setting limits and reducing the number of conflicts between an employee and the company, as well as reducing the overall time spent validating expenses. Check out our white paper for more tips on how to create your expenses policy.


Before you make the switch, look closely at the services:

  • How do you access the solution? Is it via a computer or can it be accessed via mobile whilst employees are on the go?
  • Assess how you’ll capture receipts – do they need scanning or can you take a snap on your phone?
  • Does the expenses provider have a mobile app? Giving your users access to a mobile app makes it less arduous for them as they can submit expenses at their convenience.
  • Can you outsource part or all of the expenses processing to the expenses provider? – Outsourcing services can help paper-based teams overcome all of the perceived hurdles for changing to digital receipts.


Once you’ve developed your expenses policy and chosen an expenses provider you will need to provide certain information to make sure that the system is configured to your company.

The best way to do this is to set up a project team. They’ll work with the provider to understand what information you need to provide, and vice versa. This will speed up the implementation process and get you up and running quicker.

The specific information you’ll need to provide will depend on your expenses policy, but staff names and contact details, home and work address, and details of any cars used for business purposes are common. Having this information already prepared will help speed up the process of moving to cloud-based expenses.

Finally, you will need to provide typical expense items themselves.  Common expense claims would involve mileage, subsistence and parking to name a few, but again, this is dependent on what you allow your employees to claim for.

Roll Out

Once you’ve provided the information to populate the system, your expenses provider should set up the system and make sure it’s configured to you.  You may decide to use a small project group to test the system before rolling out to the entire company. This can help you solve any issues or change your expenses process

Preparing Staff

There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, but there are certain steps you can take to ensure that it is a smooth transition.

Letting your staff know ahead of time that there will be a new expenses system being implemented and explaining the benefits will go a long way to them accepting the new system. A good cloud-based expenses solution should be intuitive and easy to use, with minimal training needed for staff to use it. Having how-to guides and video tutorials on hand from your provider, as well as helpdesk support will also help the transition.

A good expenses management system will offer excellent facilities for receipt capture, but also much more.  It will collect the supporting data you need for accurate reimbursement, help you to reduce expenses costs, speed up the entire process, as well as increase VAT recovery.  The information contained within an expenses system should also be accessible for your organisation to make high level strategy decisions and savings. It’s also worth checking whether they have a dedicated mobile app, this can make it even easier for your users to submit their expenses.

You might be interested in our ‘Is it time for digital expenses?’ white paper where you’ll find more practical tips about moving your expenses to the cloud.

1Study by Ofcom 2014

2Source – Is it time for digital expenses?

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