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NYT had a piece yesterday called “Paying With Plastic to Please the Accountants” and I have to admit at first glance, the title annoyed the shit out of me. The accountants don’t care what you use when expensing your stupid airport Starbucks and car rentals, all they want is to be left alone to decode your receipts in peace. At least mine does.
But it isn’t just the accountants. Apparently your expenses are of extra importance to the IRS – though we’ll save the wild speculation that might dictate Timmy the Tax Cheat is just really hard up for some revenues (especially after that $38 billion tax break he gave Citigroup without anyone’s permission).
The I.R.S. is engaged in an initiative to audit tax returns of about 6,000 companies, partly to look at executive fringe benefits, including travel-expense procedures. This takes place as companies are already struggling to get a better handle on overall travel and entertainment management, especially as business travel picks up in a still shaky economic environment.
The article goes on to talk about extra airline fees (I won’t bitch about the $40 I just had to pay to check a suitcase on a recent Chicago trip) and makes expense reports sound like financial statements. The IRS apparently doesn’t care about receipts for charges under $75 while most companies use $25 as their receipt required limit. Is a $4 airport latté material? Maybe not. Are 25 dinners between $20 and $24? You bet your sweet little bean-counting ass.
I will go ahead and state the obvious here because sometimes I feel like you rubes need a BIG SIGN: in this economy, companies can no longer afford the jetsetting of yore, and why the hell should they? With video conferencing, email, mobile productivity and social networking helping to bring an entirely new meaning to collaboration, all of that cross country crap is no longer as critical as it once was. And so go the $4 airport lattés and bad $15 dinner tabs with it.
So remember, kids, keep your receipts, Timmy might want to run some substantive tests on your company rental cars and client dinners on the road. God forbid he not get a piece.