PERSONAL VERSUS BUSINESS COSTS – GETTING THE BALANCE RIGHT

27 February 2017

Most, if not all large South African corporations have a travel policy that determines how employees may spend the corporations’ funds while travelling on their behalf. Corporations will, in all probability have contractual arrangements with a travel management company (TMC) and/or travel suppliers. These arrangements are negotiated by the corporations’ internal travel departments, arrangements with which travelling employees must comply; for example, airlines, hotels, rental car organisations, etc.

But what about personal versus business costs while travelling? Any seasoned corporate traveller knows that it’s essential to understand which costs are deemed to be business and what costs are deemed to be personal. Ideally, the difference should be black and white, with few, if any, grey areas.

Communication, accountability and trust are key.

Many corporations will provide you, the travelling employee, with a company card while others, especially SMMEs, will deposit an agreed amount into your personal account. This will cover expenses such as meals, entertainment, local transport, on-the-ground personal safety (if travelling in high risk areas), refreshments between meals, perhaps even laundry. For an indication of per diem rates in countries across the world, search for the World Health Organisation/United Nations per diem and stipend rates.

You can also visit SARS at http://bit.ly/2mW6Mrm to establish the maximum subsistence allowance for incremental costs per day, per country visited. Subsistence allowances which fall within the prescribed SARS limits are tax-free. Find out from your company what their travel policy is regarding these tax free SARS subsistence allowances.

Obviously, as the travelling representative of your company, it is your responsibility to retain all receipts for reconciliation. Particularly when entertaining; the name, company and designation of the client or clients being entertained must accompany the receipts.

However, grey areas do exist, especially if you’re a relatively unseasoned business traveller. Say you’re running late between appointments somewhere in Africa and are forced to take a local taxi that does not issue receipts. Speak to your company beforehand about these unforeseen, unsubstantiated occurrences, or to seasoned colleagues who have experienced this kind of situation and get their advice.

Be aware that extra bank charges may be incurred when using your personal card in a foreign country. With the unfavourable state of the Rand relative to many other currencies, these charges can be significant. Does your company pay these extra charges or are they for your account? Again, establish what the policy is before embarking on your business journey.

Travelling with enough local currency is prudent. Imagine entertaining an important client and when the bill arrives, your credit card, for whatever reason, is not accepted. The reality is that extra tax is incurred when purchasing foreign currency abroad, the result being that Forex costs are often excessive. Therefore plan very precisely all your costs and expenses, both those to be approved by your company as well as your personal expenses, setting up either daily or weekly limits to ensure, firstly, you do not run out of cash and, secondly, you ensure what percentage of Forex costs you can claim from your company.

Remember, eradicating the grey area between your personal versus business travel costs requires the correct balance between communication, accountability and trust.

Get this right and you will enjoy many great returns.