CFOs Reveal Unusual Items on Expense Reports

January 19, 2012 ( - Chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed for the Robert Half Management Resources survey named some unusual things they've seen employees include in expense reports.

A few of the most questionable items include cosmetic surgery, lottery tickets, pet food, a trailer rental for a family reunion, $12,000 for a family trip, a speeding ticket, a teepee and a fine for crashing into a toll booth.  

Gadget, leisure and hobby expenses also made the list: 

  • A person lost his personal cell phone somewhere in the office, so he submitted the cost of a new one, 
  • Movie tickets, 
  • Hotel charge for viewing adult movies, 
  • Day at the spa, 
  • Golf trip for the employee and his three friends, and 
  • Video game console. 

Personal expenditures also were commonly cited by executives:  

  • Grocery receipts, 
  • Cigarettes, 
  • Replacement cost for a suit the employee lost on his own, 
  • Pair of socks, 
  • Toilet paper, 
  • Hot tub supplies, 
  • Golf clubs,  
  • Expensive lunch for the employee, without clients, 
  • Flowers the employee bought for his wife, 
  • Expenses for an employee’s son’s birthday party, and 
  • Wedding anniversary dinner.  

“While these examples may seem incredible and in some cases humorous, they highlight a serious matter which can negatively impact a company’s bottom line,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. “Employees who are unsure if an item can be expensed should not include it on a report and hope it gets approved. Companies can help the process by writing clear policies, making them easy to find and keeping workers informed of any changes.”   

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 1,600 U.S. and Canadian CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies with 20 or more employees.