CFOs reveal most outrageous expense submissions

25 June 2019 2 min. read
More news on

A recent survey from Robert Half Management Resources dug into the most inappropriate expense report submissions Canadian CFOs saw in the last three years. Some of the more ludicrous expensing attempts included a helicopter ride, a goat rental, and a live octopus.

Despite the presence of rigorous expense reporting guidelines at most organizations, employees are still willing to test the waters on what they can get away with. Whether it’s due to a lack of information or common sense – or a solid dose of bravado – the attempts can make for some chuckle-worthy material.

The Robert Half survey of 300 Canadian CFOs found that 58% reported an increase in the number of inappropriate reimbursement submissions over the last three years. Thirty-two percent reported no change, while 10% saw a decrease.

Some of the more audacious expense reports included a speeding ticket and cowboy boots. And though perhaps a guilty party could have purchased cowboy boots to impress a big client in Calgary, and then was speeding in the company car to make it on time to a client meeting, those expenses likely don’t fall within company guidelines.

CFOs reveal most outrageous expense submissions

Expenditures for pets were commonly flagged, with CFOs reporting attempts to expense cat food, pet sitting, and a cleaning bill to remove dog feces.

Household items were also a common target, including ice cream mixers, popcorn makers, and even bricks for a wall.

An employee even attempted to expense an octopus – as a pet. Grill up that octopus and have it a client dinner-meeting, however, and you’ll have a better chance at expensing it.

"While some expense requests may seem humorous or even bold, they can cause problems for businesses," David King, senior district president of Robert Half Management Resources, said. "Organizations benefit from having clear company policies and effective review processes – otherwise, things like expense reports can become time-consuming issues for the company."

The survey found that 90% of companies use a technology-based solution for expense reporting, while the remaining 10% used manual processes. The survey, however, polled companies with more than 20 employees, which have greater resources to digitize such processes.

Though tech solutions can help, the consultancy believes that clear communication is key to heading off expensing-related issues. "Take measures to resolve any uncertainty among staff about what is considered a valid business expense,” King added. “Make policies readily available, include examples of various potential situations to clarify grey areas, and train accounting staff to address questions or head-off problems before they arise."

Related: Most CFOs in Canada enlist external help during major projects