Diligent expense management discipline can save both blushes and waste – and a good system that makes things painless (even easy!) can be well worth the investment.
Are you looking to build an expense management software with WordPress?
Then, this article is all you need.
Whether you are:
- an employer looking to manage and automate expenses approvals…
- an employee wanting to build a water tight expenses tracker…
- self-employed needing to lay down a quick an simple archive to prove allowable expense items…
…within the next few minutes you’ll learn how to convert WordPress into just the ideal solution.
Despite the potential reward to be gained by submitting business expenses, alarmingly many eligible expenses go unclaimed each year.
Here are some unclaimed expenses statistics from the United Kingdom:
£123.00 worth of expenses per individual is left unclaimed every year
£962m of unclaimed expenses every year
60% do not claim their expenses properly, or at all
(Source: Go Simple Tax)
The stats above perhaps unveil a more revealing trend.
From the facts above, it could be interpreted that expense claim neglect is generally indicative of our lapsed attitude toward personal accounting administration.
Unless you’re a financial controller or accountant perhaps, most of us simply don’t like the idea of spending our time wrestling with our finances on paper (or screen).
Or at least this theory carries for our poetty cash issues.
In fact, the following reasons were offered up by survey respondents for why they didn’t claim expenses:
The value was deemed too low to go through the process of claiming them (37%)
The required receipts were lost (33%)
(Source: Go Simple Tax)
In short, the value proposition of filing expenses weighed up against the prospect of doing pretty much anything else, seems unworthy.
But all is not lost in the way of expenses.
There is still the potential for pursuasion, if we could make the record management process less costly.
Making it quicker and easier to:
- record &
…receipt totals reduces our time involvement and consequently increases our willingness to engage.
Therefore, as always with business process management – there is a viable business case for making things simpler and smoother for the user.
If we make processes cost efficient enough, we can find ourselves effectively recruiting uptake and use.
And all to the benefit of the company bottom line.
On that note, within this article I proposed to show you how with WordPress you can build such an ROI-beating expense management software.
What are business expenses?
Business expenses are business costs that your government’s revenue collection services will allow you to deduct when working out taxable profit.
The rules governing which expenses pass for being deducitble are peculiar to the respective government.
The following are a selection of the most common business expenses claimed for in the UK:
Loans & Overdrafts
(Source: Go Simple Tax)
Why is identifying business expenses important?
Cost control and tax accountability are the key reasons for keeping concern about business expenses.
And both are real risks to the running of any business.
Employers have the respnosibility for ensuring optimal stewardship of company resources.
By minimising costs or expenses and maximising income, business managers maintain profitability to keep the ship afloat.
Here are some factual reasons why you should prioritise getting a firm grasp of expenses management:
- companies spend on average between 6-12% of their total annual budget on travel and entertainment.
- a single actionable expense report can range from just under $7 for automated systems to over $26 for manual/Excel-based processes.
- a third claimed for things they shouldn’t, averaging out at £117 in fraudulent claims each month
- prove to HMRC that they are genuine, meet all criteria for employee business expenses and that the cost is reasonable and appropriate
Reaching consensus on the importance of expenses management is one thing, but method selection is another.
And as this goes, there are generally 2 systems to choose from:
Traditional (paper-based) vs. digitized
[A] Traditional methods of business expenses management
Petty cash expenses: a company gives it’s employees the authorised budget to buy business related expense items using their own money and promises to pay them back when presented with a valid receipt.
This is a common case for territory sales reps who often will put petrol expenses, lunches and parking tickets, for example, on ‘petty cash’.
- assumes employee has disposable income
- employees can lose out if they lose or forget a reciept
Employee expenses with cash advances: companies give employees the cash upfront, again with authorisation for certain permitted business related purchases.
The advantage for the employee here is that they are not expected to spend their own personal disposable income.
However, on the other hand this method does leave the door open to messy disputes over money spent on cost items that upon examination fail to gain approval.
- holding cash comes with its own risks (personal safety, loss etc.)
- less company control over spending
Traditional credit cards: companies issue credit cards to employees with fixed limits. Whilst it provides greater flexibility of use to the employee, it also produces a greater burden on the company to audit expenses.
Also, approval for cards from lenders and of course the interest payments on money spent are drawbacks vs. teh cash route.
- credit approval
- can take a while before unauthorised expenditure is discovered
[B] Digitized methods of business expenses management
Going digital with finances offers a water-tight container for holding transactional data.
Plus, it provides a granularity of view to records with immediacy of recall that makes governance easy and discrepancy-free.
As far as digital expense management goes, pre-paid cards are a proven winner (both in concept and delivery).
Here’s how that works:
Prepaid cards: companies acquire prepaid payment cards issued by vendors (like Stripe or Soldo) and load the cards with predetermined amounts of money. Each authorised staff member gets a card and using a PIN number just like they would their own personal debit or credit card, pay for purchases.
- transaction or vendor barring
- automatic notifications
- quick reporting
Both companies and employees are accountable to revenue services for incomings and outgoings by way of taxable profit/earnings.
The rules-based calculation of the taxable amount should include permitted expenses only.
In other words, if in the process of delivering a service or product in a business you incurred a related cost of sale…
…then generally speaking this expense is accounted for and deducted from your taxable amount.
However, there is a major caveat here.
You need evidence.
Without proof, any expense can be queried, challenged and even not allowed by revenue collection services in their calculation of taxable profit/earnings.
Therefore, it is critical that you adopt a faultless approach to record keeping.
Record Keeping and Expense Management
The root of good expense management is record keeping.
Expenses must be authorised and approval is often pending sufficient evidences.
Therefore, the key is obtaining, maintaining and accessing expenses related data.
And so, we need a system of record keeping.
Here are the main features:
With expenses come receipts. They are the official papertrail of:
- what was purchased
- where it was purchased
- from whom it was purchased
- how much the purchase costed etc.
The first and most important step in expenses record keeping is therefore receipt collection.
For as long as expenses need to be verified – reciepts need to be stored.
There are two options with reciept storage:
Digital reciepts are easily stored (cloud or on local machine) and printed when needed as hard copy.
If in the cloud, digital receipt copies can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection.
Physical receipts need physical storage which takes up physical space. Plus, they are not easily portable.
Paper can also be lost, get damaged, ink faded etc. If for these reasons they become inaccessible, you lose your proof.
Having receipts is one thing, but accessing them is another.
Especially when you have a distributed chain of personnel involved in authorisation, accessibility becomes even more critical an issue.
For example, if a manager is working remotely from home…
…how does an office based sales person have their expense receipts verified, at a distance?
A cloud-based repository. Some storage facility like an intranet or ERP that can be accessed by internet connection.
Paper receipts are digitized and then transferred and stored in the repository.
Getting information into databases is one challenge…but getting it out can be another.
Findability helps users lay hands on the required data quickly – saving time and money.
Hidden or ‘difficult to find’ data either gets completely missed, or takes much longer than necessary to find.
The best situation is a database that can be searched readily to locate the required information.
From time to time managers and their staff may need to run expense reports, perhaps to observe trends or insights to assist with decision making.
Using a system that allows for bespoke views of expense data helps managers gain oversight quickly and accurately.
Mapping out the process of business expense management
Breaking down the expense management workflow
As with any business process, tracking it’s steps is best laid out using the project management discipline known as work breakdown structure (WBS).
Sceintific in name, but simple in nature (don’t be put off) – work breakdown structure is simply:
- Taking a program of work and breaking it down into it’s smallest parts;
- Aligning those parts of the activity in seqeunce.
This granularity affords maximum control and better management of the whole process.
Example expense management workflow
So, lets take a look at an example of digital business expenses management:
- A transaction is made, by a member of staff, using a company prepaid payment card.
- The reciept is scanned into the expenses management software via the staff member’s mobile phone by OCR (Optical Character Recognition).
- Alongside the scanned receipt, a web form is also completed by the member of staff for adding to or making amendments to the transaction details.
- Once completed, the web form submission produces an automatic:
- confirmation (giving the user peace of mind that the submission is on its way to being processed)
- notifications (alerting the relevant budget holder of a business expense claim)
- The budget holder reads their notification email and clicks the enclosed link taking them to the expense record in the system
- Upon examination of the expense record, the budget holder deems the transaction as either:
- legitimate, or;
- Decision time:
- If the budget holder approves the expense, they click the ‘approval’ button within the expenses management software checkpoint.
- If the expense has been rejected, the budget holder types in their reason and sends it back to the originating member of staff with:
- instructions on what was missing or erroneous that led to its rejection (if it was legitimate, just missing detail)
- notice of why the expenses was rejected (if judged to be illegitimate)
- The originating member of staff sees a real time message from the budget holder with their decision and instruction if applicable.
- The originating staff member either:
- amends or adds to the record in an attempt to complete what was an incomplete expenses submission.
- accepts rejection
- accepts approval
This outlines an example of what a real expense claim workflow might look like in the average company using a digitized system.
But now we get more specific. The phrase digitized system just isn’t precise enough – as there are just so many expense management systems on the market.
Where do you begin in choosing the best one?
Want my honest opinion?
1st stop: WordPress.
Tutorial: Making an expenses management software with WordPress
To make an expenses management software with WordPress you’ll need to take the following planned approach:
10 Step Guide to making your expenses management software with WordPress
Step 1. Setting up WordPress
a. Set up a web hosting account
Get a WordPress hosting account. From experience, I strongly recommend using a specialist WordPress host.
Their support teams generally have a deeper knowledge of the WordPress platform which gives your project the technical edge.
The best of the bunch in my opinion is WPMUDEV.
Their support agents are WordPress developers, not product support specialists.
Why should you care?
Because it makes all the difference when you all of a sudden need urgent help.
No interpreteation needed. No time wasted ‘painting the picture’.
They aleady know exactly both what the problem is and the solution.
And a problem solved quickly on a web build project can easilty transform the fortunes of your entire day.
b. Install a WordPress theme
Use a WordPress theme framework.
It’s more work initially with a steep learning curve to find your way around the system controls.
But once you’ve cracked it, theme frameworks save you tons of time in the long run in customisation.
With well placed hooks, the framework’s architecture and replicable features help you:
- to zone in precisely on what you want to change
- make changes easily
I recommend StudioPress’s Genesis Framework.
It’s the oldest. Most finessed and perfected with TONS of experience under its belt and over 600,000 installations.
Time: 3 hrs
Step 2. Learning WordPress
Get up to speed with WordPress by sitting through some tutorials.
This keeps your knowledge current of all the possibilities which could help you achieve a successful project.
The best tutorials in the WordPress ecosystem are WP101.
I recommend you subscribe to watch WP101 step-by-step narrated demonstrations of the WordPress software.
- The tutorials are performed by Shawn Hesketh, a leading online educator with 30 years experience.
- Even if you are already familar with WordPress – you’d be surprised how much Shawn’s tutorials are still able to add complementary knowledge.
- Shawn’s teaching style is crystal clear and great reference material.
Consider the videos continued professional development.
Step 3. Install Gravity Forms
The data processing engine of your WordPress expenses management software needs genuine ability.
I recommend Gravity Forms for performing all your WordPress data collection and workflow configuration.
- Gravity Forms is the most enabling data collection and workflow plugin for WordPress.
- It will be the back bone for your expenses inputs and for managing the flow of data from start to finish.
I recommend getting the Gravity Forms plugin with a Pro License.
This package will automatically enable you to integrate with tools in subsequent steps.
Time: 1 hr
Step 4. Install Gravity Kit
Your expenses management software will need a tabular formatted view for searching and filtering for expenses submissions.
I recommend using Gravity Kit’s Gravity View plugin.
- It’s purpose built for Gravity Forms the core data collection engine (in fact, the Gravity Forms development team directly endorse Gravity View as the best solution)
- It’s quick, easy and higly configurable.
Get the Gravity Kit core and extensions license because with this you get the ability to convert your table of expenses into:
…and all at the click of a button.
Step 5. Install Gravity Flow
Practically controlling the flow of data through your planned steps is critical to the success of this project.
Making sure the right automated steps follow on and in the right sequence is mission critical.
I recommend using Gravity Flow.
- As the name would suggest, it’s a Gravity Forms add-on (working on top of Gravity Forms) that enables you to automate workflows following a form submission.
- Gravity Flow is highly configurable and can be used to perform some highly complicated processes.
- Yet still, it’s simple to set up and use.
Step 6. Install Nanonets
Your expenses management software will rely on you scanning receipts into the system.
For this, you’ll need an OCR (optical character recognition) tool.
A software that specialises in recognising shapes on scanned paper documents as either letters or numerals.
As you’ll be using your mobile phone as the scanning device, this OCR software will sit on your handset.
When the app is opened, you simply snap a pic and the scanned information is interpreted into digital data.
For example, “Parking ticket total cost: £2.50” on a receipt will be interpreted by the software and a new expense record complete with title and cost information.
Use Nanonets OCR software to convert document information into data for export into Gravity Forms.
- Only extract the data you need
- AI means the system will recognise patterns and offer up time saving advice
Step 7. Subscribe to Zapier
Use Zapier to allow Gravity Forms and Nanonets to become integrated.
This way when you scan a new receipt into Nanonets this action triggers a new expenses entry in the Gravity Forms software.
- Zapier is a great time and budget saver.
- No-code integration with simple handling, even for the rank beginner.
That Gravity Forms Pro license gives you the credentials to make use of the Zapier integration.
Step 8. Configure data collection
Now, you need to set in motion all of the processing rules for determining what workflows will be actioned.
This is where you can:
…and much more.
Study this step-by-step tutorial of how to use Gravity Flow as a workflow tool.
Step 9. Make payments by Stripe
Finally, you may want to process a payment as final step to your expenses management workflow.
I recommend Stripe for processing payments via Gravity Forms.
It’s quick, simple and has it’s own integration instructions for making it do pretty much everything you’d need for this type of project.
Things to consider before you start…
Skills required (Difficulty level): Beginner friendly
- Basic IT proficiency
- Ability to manage a simple project
- Patience to configure settings
- Basic HTML/CSS
- Some past experience of setting up a WordPress website (an advantage)
- Under £350
- Potential money savings from better tax deductible expenses management
Other tools needed:
- Smart phone for capturing images of receipts
Time to set-up MVP (minimum viable product): 27 hrs
Planning To Go-Live With Your Expenses Management Software with WordPress?
Note that expenses management software using WordPress can become reliant on specialist plugins and APIs. I’ve tried to outline the best solutions, tools and methods in this guide to support your understanding. But, getting things to work exactly as you would like can become frustrating.
If you require some help dissolving some complexities on your project – then take a moment to contact us here at Maguire WEB via this link. One of our account managers will contact you to answer any questions you might want to ask.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do I find WordPress developers to help me with my expenses management software project?
There are so many avenues online through which to find a reliable WordPress developer. Whatever your choice, I recommend hiring a WordPress developer on a full-time basis, rather than piece meal. You get much more satisfactory results that way.
How should I plan building this expenses management software?
Plan your expenses management software using work flow diagrams. It’s the quickest and most meaningful way of picturing exactly how you want things to go.
What if the WordPress tools recommended don’t work for me – can I get a refund?
You’ll have to enquire with each vendor. But most WordPress plugin shops will offer 30 day no questions asked refund – guaranteed.