Maximizing Employee Travel Savings

Technology has provided businesses with a number of ways to minimize travel requirements. Virtual meetings, web conferencing, and other technologies offer new ways to do things that used to require a plane ticket and a hotel stay. Still, there are times when your employees are going to need to travel, and when they do, you want to make sure you’re getting the best possible rates.

Here are some ways your business can maximize its employee travel savings and keep business travel expenses deductible through careful planning:

Carefully restrict the amount of travel necessary for your business. Let’s face it: it’s not the 1980s. There are a hundred different ways your employees can communicate with your branch offices, your clients, your suppliers, and even peers. There are a decreasing number of business-related events for which it’s truly necessary to get on an airplane or rent a car. Sure, there are those instances when an employee needs to go to an industry conference, or a salesperson needs to call on a major client in another city. But for many businesses, video conferencing, webinars, or other technological solutions can eliminate the need for travel in all but the rarest of occasions. Learn to ask the question, “Can this be done remotely?” before booking travel.

Create and implement a travel policy. You need to have a firm policy in place that’s backed up by specific cost-effective procedures. You can then set hard limits on various expenses, and you can dictate just how the travel process is handled so that you can maximize savings. If you’re in a small business, this is relatively simple; in a larger company, you’ll want to make sure you have buy-in from the stakeholders in the policy, such as those who travel often for the company as well as departmental managers. Careful monitoring can also keep most business travel expenses deductible.

Consider working with a travel agency. A company to manage your travel details can benefit you in a number of cost-related ways. For starters, you’re going to have access to discounts that you might not otherwise know about on your own. In addition, working with a travel agency frees up some in-house human resources. Rather than spending all of your time creating travel arrangements, you can have someone else do it for you and often wind up with a lower overall cost as well.

Search out group discounts. If you’re going to be managing your travel internally, you’re going to need to make sure you’re asking for group discounts. Depending on the volume of travel your business does in a given year, you might get discounts on hotels, rental cars, and even airlines. In some cases, smaller local airports can give you a discount if you choose to fly out from there rather than traveling to a nearby regional airport.

Give your employees reasons and tools to save. Give your employees an online booking tool if you have a larger business. If your business is smaller, encourage your employees to avail themselves of frequent flyer miles and hotel frequent stays, too. If you help your employees see the benefits of following your well-defined traveling policy, they’re more likely to follow it. Give them education on how to use these tools and discounts, too.

Review and adjust your travel policy as needed. Saving on employee travel can be, for many businesses, just a matter of looking at your existing travel records and trying to find areas where your business might be able to save going forward. A good example is a company that has a branch office in another city. It could be that, years ago, someone started staying in a particular hotel in that city. That hotel became the default hotel for anyone staying in that town. Today, that hotel probably isn’t nicer, closer, or even less expensive than other hotels in the town; your employees stay there out of habit. Explore other options in the area, and offer that information to your employees when they travel.

Employee travel can’t always be avoided, but there are almost always opportunities to cut down on travel expenses and keep business travel expenses deductible. Figure out what travel policies make sense for your company, and then work together with your employees to realize substantial travel cost savings.

Consider meeting with a tax professional to assist you in keeping your business travel expenses deductible.

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