CFOs Reveal the Most Unusual Expense Report Submittals

March 31, 2016

Toronto, ON. – The number of improper expense report requests – from the surprising to the mundane, from big-ticket items to everyday necessities – shows little sign of decline, new research suggests. In a Robert Half Management Resources survey, chief financial officers (CFOs) said they have seen employees ask for reimbursement for everything from rental homes to cosmetic surgery to toilet paper. Forty per cent of executives have seen an increase in inappropriate requests over the past few years.

CFOs cited the following examples of unusual items submitted for expense reimbursement: 

  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Speeding tickets
  • Vacations
  • A pair of socks
  • Video game console
  • Yoga and Pilates classes
  • Cigars
  • Toilet Paper
  • Hair supplies
  • A trailer rental for a family reunion
  • Sweet 16 birthday venue
  • A camping trip
  • Charges from a day at the spa
  • Flowers that an employee purchased for his wife


View a slideshow with additional examples.


CFOs also were asked, “Have you seen inappropriate expense-report requests increase or decrease in the past three years?” Their responses*:


Significantly increase


Somewhat increase


No change





* Total does not equal 100 per cent due to rounding.


“These examples, while sometimes humorous, also illustrate more serious concerns with inaccurate or inappropriate expense reports – in terms of both the costs incurred by the business itself, as well as the impact on the professional image of those who submit them,” said David King, Canadian president of Robert Half Management Resources.

“Companies should ensure that employees are well-educated on the reporting process, and receive regular updates on how to use and access the tools available,” added King. “Simplifying the system as much as possible, and clearly defining expense approval expectations, will help cut down on inconsistencies and questionable requests.” 


For workers, Robert Half Management Resources offers three questions they should ask themselves before submitting an expense report:

  1. Is this within the company’s policies? Before preparing an expense report, review your organization’s guidelines. If you have questions, check with your manager or human resources representative. Taking a few minutes at the outset can spare the embarrassment of an inappropriate request.
  2. Could there be any confusion? If there is any way a request could be interpreted as being for personal use, clear it with your manager beforehand. If your boss doesn’t know the baseball tickets you bought were to treat a client, for example, you could unnecessarily put yourself in hot water.
  3. Would Grandma approve? Got an item that’s on the border of being inappropriate? Think about what your family might say. If you’d be embarrassed to talk to a parent or grandparent about something, don’t try to expense it.

About the Research

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on telephone interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in Canada.

About Robert Half Management Resources
Robert Half Management Resources is the premier provider of senior-level finance, accounting and business systems professionals to supplement companies’ project and interim staffing needs. The company has more than 145 locations worldwide and offers assistance to consultants and hiring managers at Follow us at and @RobertHalf_CAN on Twitter for additional workplace advice and hiring trends.