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Impossible W*rk Policies
Old 04-25-2013, 05:08 PM   #1
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Impossible W*rk Policies

Just attended a rollout of our latest revised Megacorp policy. An update to our already impossible Travel & Entertainment Expenditures Policy. It's over 30 pages long. In addition to rules about who can fly what fares under what circumstances it has other more arcane features.
  • Rules for laundry service frequency, amount, timing.
  • Rules for when to park at the airport and when to take a car service
  • Rules for car rental insurance - when to take and when to defer
  • Rules for frequency of movie rentals, personal calls, airport incidentals, tipping, cultural awareness activities, etc.
  • Rules for when to reimburse company if compensated for being bumped off flight
  • And a million others...........
I know these policies are necessary. And many of the provisions are required for IRS compliance, etc.

But OMG. I'm being asked to insure my department of 60 folks who travel frequently are in compliance with a policy like this. On the surface it seems impossible.

Just one more reason I can't wait until Life After FIRE.

Please feel free to vent any of your similar megacorp policy nightmares.
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Old 04-25-2013, 05:27 PM   #2
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Old 04-25-2013, 05:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MuirWannabe View Post
Just attended a rollout of our latest revised Megacorp policy. An update to our already impossible Travel & Entertainment Expenditures Policy. It's over 30 pages long. In addition to rules about who can fly what fares under what circumstances it has other more arcane features.

Please feel free to vent any of your similar megacorp policy nightmares.
Seems about normal for a Megacorp. Ours might be longer. We have > 250k + employees to keep under control.
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:00 PM   #4
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Annotated for a certain local government employer:
  • Prove why driving in a government vehicle isn't the best choice (cash cost only, no allowance for productivity)
  • No out of state travel unless somebody else is paying
  • Rules for laundry service frequency, amount, timing. Never.
  • Rules for when to park at the airport and when to take a car service. Park at a cheap remote lot and ride the shuttle bus.
  • Rules for car rental insurance - when to take and when to defer Prove there is no public transit or shuttle bus alternative.
  • Rules for frequency of movie rentals, personal calls, airport incidentals, tipping, cultural awareness activities, etc.
  • Rules for when to reimburse company if compensated for being bumped off flight With so few flights taken, why worry about this remote possibility?
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:01 PM   #5
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I say it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Advise your people of the rules and let the chips fall where they may.
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:06 PM   #6
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With the way we all know most people spend their money, how do you think they spend other people's money (company money)? That's why there are so many seemingly ridiculous rules
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:26 PM   #7
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Rules for one particular federal agency:
Quote:
Originally Posted by MuirWannabe View Post
  • Rules for laundry service frequency, amount, timing. Laundry? Are you CRAZY? No laundry service. Fit 1-2 week's clothing into your carry-on and look professional anyway if you want to advance. Good luck on that one. Don't check luggage because it might get lost or it might take a few minutes longer, and your flight is always scheduled to arrive just before your meeting so you can't wait for checked luggage.
  • Rules for when to park at the airport and when to take a car service Ask whether a cab or parking is less, even though you can figure it out yourself. You have to use the one designated as cheapest, and produce the receipt, not including tip.
  • Rules for car rental insurance - when to take and when to defer No insurance because the government supposedly insures you. You only get the cheapest compact car, and if they upgrade you for the same price you will have to jump through hoops because you are supposed to avoid the appearance of spending more than the minimum. You have to charge it to your work credit card, and if you charge it to your own card by mistake you may not be reimbursed.
  • Rules for frequency of movie rentals, personal calls, airport incidentals, tipping, cultural awareness activities, etc. Easy-peasy. None of the above are to be reimbursed, simple! And heaven help you if any end up on your hotel bill. Likewise, you cannot get room service unless it is billed separately and will not show up on your hotel bill (even if you are going to pay for it out of your own money, which you must). In fact, room service or any other extras are strongly discouraged/prohibited because they give the impression that the government might be paying for the extras.
  • Rules for when to reimburse company if compensated for being bumped off flight Since you have to fly home anyway, when you are bumped and they substitute another flight you have to make sure the price is the same (lowest govt rate), or pay the difference using your own personal money if it costs more.
  • And a million others...........
And oh, BTW, I will NEVER have to travel for work, again!
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Old 04-25-2013, 06:30 PM   #8
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Sounds pretty standard to me, but I'm a Federal manager so I'm used to huge rule books. Anyway, you shouldn't have to personally oversee each trip. With that size of department, there is usually a small admin staff with a budget and travel specialist, no? Hold them accountable for proper documentation and do a quarterly audit.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MuirWannabe View Post
Just attended a rollout of our latest revised Megacorp policy. An update to our already impossible Travel & Entertainment Expenditures Policy. It's over 30 pages long. In addition to rules about who can fly what fares under what circumstances it has other more arcane features.
  • Rules for laundry service frequency, amount, timing.
  • Rules for when to park at the airport and when to take a car service
  • Rules for car rental insurance - when to take and when to defer
  • Rules for frequency of movie rentals, personal calls, airport incidentals, tipping, cultural awareness activities, etc.
  • Rules for when to reimburse company if compensated for being bumped off flight
  • And a million others...........
I know these policies are necessary. And many of the provisions are required for IRS compliance, etc.

But OMG. I'm being asked to insure my department of 60 folks who travel frequently are in compliance with a policy like this. On the surface it seems impossible.

Just one more reason I can't wait until Life After FIRE.

Please feel free to vent any of your similar megacorp policy nightmares.
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Old 04-25-2013, 07:03 PM   #9
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A few tears ago I had to sit through a 2-hour meeting on how to differentiate between recording "work" miles travelled in the company car versus "personal" miles travelled. I promised myself at the time to make sure the answer was ALWAYS "no personal miles". (Used "personal" miles one time only. Learned my lesson).
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Old 04-25-2013, 08:03 PM   #10
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On the other hand, my Megacorp simplified the travel meal expenses process. They set a daily per diem (varies by city) that you claim. The only adjustments are based on the days you travel to or return from destination, or if you are attending a Megacorp event where some meals are provided. If you overspend the per diem too bad, if you underspend you keep the difference. Another LBYM opportunity for savings.
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:00 PM   #11
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I understand why such policies are needed. You would be surprised how many people treat company travel like it was free money. They rent nicer cars then they would if they paid, they eat more expensive dinners than if they paid and generally treat business travel as a "perk" instead of a necessary business expense that should be minimized. I tell folks to spend the money and make the travel decision as if it all comes out of their pockets. If they do that, they will apply the correct frugal mindset to business travel.
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:48 PM   #12
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Thanks for the replies. My main point was not to complain about what is reimbursed. In fact I think my megacorp is reasonable as some of your uglier examples have demonstrated. My main points are as follows:

First point:
- complexity of the policy is crazy. It is unreasonable to expect good compliance to such complex rules. Other concurrent threads are speaking to the complexity of the tax code and the challenges of educating oneself on good DIY investing practices. The challenge of compliance to such nuanced travel accounting rules reminded me of these discussions. A simpler process is beyond our grasp. Probably for good reasons but geez. Isn't the work in the regular job hard enough?


Quote:
Originally Posted by heeyy_joe View Post
I say it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Advise your people of the rules and let the chips fall where they may.
Brings me to my second point:
- essentially forgiveness is what I do end up asking for. As the nature of the process guarantees compliance failures will occur. The absurd thing is I can process $100k+ invoices for services or licenses with hardly a question. But let somebody on my team charge a laundry expense on the last 2 days of their overseas trip (its okay earlier in their trip) and I'll likely get a call from an Executive scolding me for our compliance failure. Such is the nature of megacorp.

It's a complicated world out here. Complex policies for everything. Nothing is simple and you must be an expert on everything. It's just the way it is. And it makes me ready to be an expert in my own personal FIRE world and leave this nuttiness behind.

I know that's not a news flash to anybody here. Just venting after this latest episode.
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Old 04-25-2013, 10:16 PM   #13
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This thread reminds me of when I traveled every week 45+ weeks / year for about 5 years. The only real rules were that air, car, and hotel had to be booked through the onsite (at HQ) Amex Travel Agency -- I had a personal travel assistant assigned, and she was pretty good -- and I was far from being a big shot -- just an individual contributor that traveled a lot. We were generally allowed to select our airline and flights, and hotels. The cars we had to get from whomever the travel dept was using at the time. I never had to explain one expense, and I turned in one each week (actually their system used a postage-paid envelope that was mailed to HQ and I usually had a direct deposit within a week). Had 24x7 service through the travel agency, and it was very reassuring to hear a familiar voice after getting stranded/diverted.

That was a very good company to work w*rk for, but they are gone now.

Edit: Observing rule about forbidden words.
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:46 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Shanky View Post
I understand why such policies are needed. You would be surprised how many people treat company travel like it was free money. They rent nicer cars then they would if they paid, they eat more expensive dinners than if they paid and generally treat business travel as a "perk" instead of a necessary business expense that should be minimized. I tell folks to spend the money and make the travel decision as if it all comes out of their pockets. If they do that, they will apply the correct frugal mindset to business travel.
When I traveled on business I had no guilt about spending much more than I would if I was traveling for myself. I would always take the fastest, easiest, most convenient option: room service, black car service, more expensive but closer hotels, more expensive flights but at better times, expensive restaurants (at least more expensive than I would normally go to), etc. I wouldn't go overboard or anything, but I certainly didn't take the cheapest option (unless it was also the easiest/fastest).
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Old 04-26-2013, 12:57 AM   #15
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With the way we all know most people spend their money, how do you think they spend other people's money (company money)? That's why there are so many seemingly ridiculous rules
+1. Rules are there because of employees who rort the system to supplement their incomes
If there were no rules, then they could not be held accountable.
In the case of the public sector , its ensuring that the organisation is accountable for how taxpayer money is spent and being able to withstand audit and public scrutiny.
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Old 04-26-2013, 08:01 AM   #16
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I'm not sure why this thread is in the "Life after FIRE" section - but it does bring back memories -
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:02 AM   #17
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Our travel policy covered it all in about 4-6 pages, didn't take 30. Administering it was pretty easy, the policy said if an employee violated the (mostly IRS driven) rules, the employee would not be reimbursed for any extra expense. Each manager had to approve their employees T&E's, so it was pretty easy. And accounting audited T&E reports more often than not (esp if they didn't trust certain managers/employees based on past behavior). And in fact, we usually have employees the benefit of the doubt once when they went off policy, but told them 'next time I have no choice but to modify/not approve your T&E expense report.'

Most employees made innocent mistakes and were embarrased, not confrontational. Employees who didn't travel often usually asked what was expected before travel or erred of the side of (extreme) conservative spending. I once had an employee who brown bagged it and didn't charge any meals over almost 2 days - I added expenses and reimbursed him despite himself.

In reality, most employees wanted to follow policy, it shouldn't be a game between employees and managers - and usually wasn't. YMMV
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:10 AM   #18
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Ours used to be short and sweet, but now reads like the ones above. I don't travel anymore, found a job that doesn't need it.

And I have seen abuse, and it is ugly. I understand some of the policies.

And forget about forgiveness. Our controllers don't forgive. The way they have it set up is we must use a card in our name. The controllers only release money for accepted expenses. If you screw up, you pay.

FINALLY, we had a guy in our area last week DIE at 51 y.o. He traveled 1/2 way around the world in coach (as required). Apparently got a DVT and died on his hotel room bed first night. Good job Megacorp, forcing coach on people on 14 hour flights.
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:11 AM   #19
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When I traveled on business I had no guilt about spending much more than I would if I was traveling for myself. I would always take the fastest, easiest, most convenient option: room service, black car service, more expensive but closer hotels, more expensive flights but at better times, expensive restaurants (at least more expensive than I would normally go to), etc. I wouldn't go overboard or anything, but I certainly didn't take the cheapest option (unless it was also the easiest/fastest).
I am curious as to why you would spend differently then you would if it was your own money? I understand you are not the only one who thinks like this, but I never understood why.
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Old 04-26-2013, 10:27 AM   #20
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I am curious as to why you would spend differently then you would if it was your own money? I understand you are not the only one who thinks like this, but I never understood why.
+1. Which brings us full circle to the OP, and why companies need to write elaborate policies to have a basis to refuse to reimburse employees for what the IRS considers excessive. Funny how people abuse a simple common sense policy, and then wonder/complain when a more complicated/restrictive policy update comes along.

Boy I miss the good old (corporate) days when I got to explain why to the same employees who brought it on themselves by spending company money recklessly...
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