Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 02-16-2019, 03:41 PM
Nanoda is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Edmonton
Posts: 3,848

Why are receipts such a big deal for accountants?


This could have gone in a few forums, but I really do want to know.
Apparently accounting requires years of school with possibly weeks of additional coursework later; why does it seem like none of that education is helpful in sorting things out when someone doesn't have a receipt?

I'm telling you I had to buy a widget last Tuesday for $29.95. The widget is right there. The credit card billing history has an entry from Widgets-R-Us for $29.95 listed last Tuesday. Whoops I lost the receipt (or maybe it was an online site with not great reporting, or an auto-billing system when our account gets randomly low).

Why do I get a response like I peed in the coffee maker? Much hand-wringing... threats of taking it out of my paycheque... waddarewegonnado...
I manage dozens of servers for the company, each hosting multiple custom client applications and databases - our developers and analysts do dumb stuff that I have to fix monthly, and I've never gotten anywhere near as bent out of shape.

Accountants - how have I caused the end of your world, and how do you not have the tools to put it right?
__________________
Never forget - 14 k of g in a f p d
  #2  
Old 02-16-2019, 03:48 PM
bob++ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Worcestershire UK
Posts: 6,432
The CC bill is your document; what the accountant wants is something from Widgets-R-Us with all the information that they are required to provide where you are. In the UK, this would show VAT (and their registration No) and their business address, maybe yours shows local and federal taxes.

The accountant also does not want to trawl through a list of unrelated stuff: your wife's flowers. your GF's jewellery and last week's shopping. Receipts are legal documents, universally recognised, so unless you have some system for electronic accounting, receipts are here to stay.

Last edited by bob++; 02-16-2019 at 03:49 PM.
  #3  
Old 02-16-2019, 03:55 PM
slash2k is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 2,229
The CC bill shows you bought one or more products at Widgets-R-Us that totalled $29.95. It *doesn't* show whether that was one widget, three widgets, or a widget for the company and four gizmos that are destined for your spouse's side business.

It's not a lack of education; it's a lack of verification. Remember the old line about trust but verify? Accountants don't even trust; they jump straight to verify, and your CC bill does not verify that you spent $29.95 on a single widget for the company's benefit. Padding the bills is a time-honored way for an employee to steal from the company, and the company wants proof that you are not doing that.
  #4  
Old 02-16-2019, 03:56 PM
Baron Greenback's Avatar
Baron Greenback is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Scotland
Posts: 11,442
If you are doing purchasing on behalf of a business, obtaining and retaining receipts is such a basic task that it's understandable that accounts gets pissed off with people who can't manage something so fundamental.
  #5  
Old 02-16-2019, 04:18 PM
kenobi 65's Avatar
kenobi 65 is online now
Corellian Nerfherder
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brookfield, IL
Posts: 13,969
Quote:
Originally Posted by slash2k View Post
It's not a lack of education; it's a lack of verification. Remember the old line about trust but verify? Accountants don't even trust; they jump straight to verify, and your CC bill does not verify that you spent $29.95 on a single widget for the company's benefit. Padding the bills is a time-honored way for an employee to steal from the company, and the company wants proof that you are not doing that.
This, exactly. And, if your company's books ever get audited, a consistent lack of documentation and verification is an enormous red flag to the auditors.
  #6  
Old 02-16-2019, 04:40 PM
k9bfriender is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 10,512
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
This, exactly. And, if your company's books ever get audited, a consistent lack of documentation and verification is an enormous red flag to the auditors.
Right. A company does not pay taxes on the costs incurred during the normal course of business.

If a company were to be audited, then the auditors will look at the receipts to make sure that what you bought was related to your operations, and not something that you just bought for yourself and wrote off the taxes.

Not having that receipt means that the IRS will not be able to tell if you bought a business widget or a personal item. With the IRS, it's usually on you to supply proof, so if you don't have that receipt, you will be docked that deduction.
  #7  
Old 02-16-2019, 11:09 PM
phxjcc is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Noydb, CO
Posts: 432
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baron Greenback View Post
If you are doing purchasing on behalf of a business, obtaining and retaining receipts is such a basic task that it's understandable that accounts gets pissed off with people who can't manage something so fundamental.
This * 1.0 EE06

Really?
  #8  
Old 02-17-2019, 02:54 AM
TokyoBayer's Avatar
TokyoBayer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Taiwan
Posts: 9,931
And it really depends on the company. I have women’s both companies that would rather shoot than ask questions and others who don’t care that much. Credits card statements were fine.
  #9  
Old 02-17-2019, 03:04 AM
Carryon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 693
Because it's easy to spend too much and not have proof

We've had a few controllers in my place of work, most were OK, but one was a miser and the other was likely a thief, in cahoots with the actual thief or lazy, or maybe all three.

In my business I work for a charity. We help find people jobs to get them off welfare.

I deal with a lot of extremely high end people. You know the rich that not only LIKE to give to charity they like to BE SEEN giving to charity

And a simple thing like a cab ride to a fancy club with a donor can shock an accountant, because these people don't have to care about money and you have to go along with it, or risk offending them, which means no donations and no entry jobs at their companies for us to offer.

Many times, it would've been very easy for me to pad the bill in a lot of things, and pocket the change had accounting not been on the ball.
  #10  
Old 02-17-2019, 03:22 AM
guizot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 8,348
How often and how thoroughly do auditors follow-up with vendors to verify that receipts haven't been falsified?
  #11  
Old 02-17-2019, 06:20 AM
TheMightyAtlas is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 975
Quote:
Originally Posted by guizot View Post
How often and how thoroughly do auditors follow-up with vendors to verify that receipts haven't been falsified?
If you falsify a receipt, you’ve graduated past any plausible deniability that you just made a clerical error. And until very recently it’s been quite hard to forge a convincing document.

And yes, when I worked in procurement, we would get inquiries from auditors for confirmation of purchases.

Now our expense reimbursement processing system is pretty good at both document validation (scanned images of receipts) and pattern recognition to identify suspected fraud. So if we only audit 1-in-10,000, you do not have a 99.99% chance of getting away with it. It used to be random but isn’t any more.
  #12  
Old 02-17-2019, 07:58 AM
Heracles's Avatar
Heracles is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern Québec, Canada
Posts: 1,505
In Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!, Richard Feynman briefly recounts his misadventures with having to show receipts. About three-quarters down this page, and the first part of the next.
  #13  
Old 02-17-2019, 11:26 AM
bob++ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Worcestershire UK
Posts: 6,432
"Don't you trust me?"

"Of course we trust you, but there are people around who are not as honest as you and we cannot be seen to treat people differently."

When I was a fleet manager we paid for fuel through a dedicated fuel card. I also recorded the mpg of each vehicle. One stood out as being more thirsty than other similar cars and it turned out that the drive, a manager, was going into the garage each week and his wife would pull up on the other side of the pump. He would half-fill his tank and then pass the nozzle to his wife. It was quite clever because he never bought more than his tank could hold.

His very words when challenged: "Don't you trust me?"
  #14  
Old 02-17-2019, 01:24 PM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is online now
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 81,742
And even if you do have some other form of documentation, or combination of forms, with all the same information, pedigree, etc., they've got a well-established procedure in place, and that procedure is designed around using receipts, not other documentation, because that's what most people do. Bring in other documentation, and you're asking them to create an entirely new process just to deal with your expenses.
  #15  
Old 02-17-2019, 01:37 PM
naita is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Norway
Posts: 5,973
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanoda View Post
Why do I get a response like I peed in the coffee maker?
Because you peed in the coffee maker. I.e. you failed to follow simple universal rules designed to keep business running smoothly, and this failure is creates extra work or makes it plain old impossible for them to reimburse you.

Could the rules be different? Sure, but that makes it easier to rip off the company, or the IRS, so that's not going to happen.

Could they bend the rules for you? Possibly, but then how would you learn that peeing in the coffee maker is a bad thing, since obviously you didn't go into this exchange with the humility you would have had if you knew this.
  #16  
Old 02-17-2019, 02:22 PM
Cleophus is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 1,319
Fraudulent reimbursements are, by far, the way people embezzle from businesses, and techniques range from brazen to incredibly subtle. There's good reason for the strictures on employee reimbursements and why a lot of businesses provide alternatives to discourage the practice as much as possible.

Feynman's anecdote is especially infuriating because, combined with his general childish special snowflake-ism, being an otherwise competent and trustworthy employee while casually stealing from one's employer is so typical as to not even be a noteworthy MO.

Last edited by Cleophus; 02-17-2019 at 02:23 PM.
  #17  
Old 02-17-2019, 04:42 PM
dstarfire is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Tacoma, WA; USA
Posts: 1,503
This one area where online shopping is incredibly helpful (at least, at the biggest sites). For example, on Amazon, I can view an invoice for any order I've ever placed. Same thing on newegg (one of the oldest online retailers, focused on PC supplies). Even many physical stores have the option to email you a receipt or keep it online (Best Buy and Office Depot both do this).

For physical receipts, what I do is just snap a picture with my cellphone and email it to myself (I use webmail so I can access that picture anywhere with internet). I'm terrible at organizing physical stuff, so this has saved me a lot of headache.

Not too helpful for existing situation, or what you were asking about, but it will make future life easier.
__________________
Dion Starfire, grammar atheist.
  #18  
Old 02-17-2019, 04:56 PM
TSBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,541
My accountant doesn't look at receipts (though I do keep them). His bookkeeper looks at my credit card statements and bank statements and they flag anything they're unsure about so I can provide information (but not receipts). For example, a purchase at an ambiguously store--travel supplies purchased while heading to location. Liquor store? Holiday gifts for colleagues. Grocery store? That was personal, my private CC wouldn't work in the POS machine that day. Etc. If I spend personal cash on something business related, I keep those receipts separately and the business reimburses me. My accountant uses a summary I provide him and doesn't look through my individual receipts. I never use cash from the business for anything; if there's a cash need I pay it from personal money and get reimbursed.

In production, when working for another company, I'm expected to produce receipts for everything that gets reimbursed, but for smaller amounts it can be fudged. Example: $100 tip to Skycap for taking care of all our gear.
  #19  
Old 02-17-2019, 05:23 PM
bob++ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Worcestershire UK
Posts: 6,432
Quote:
Originally Posted by TSBG View Post
Example: $100 tip to Skycap for taking care of all our gear.
Yes - there may well be out-of-pocket expenses for which no receipt is given or expected and an accounts clerk will be used to dealing with them. Years ago I used to help set up exhibitions and there were various people that had to be b̶r̶i̶b̶e̶d̶ paid off the books: electricians, plumbers, forklift drivers, painters, riggers and carpet layers etc.

Management had a pretty good idea of how much was needed and I was given a float. Naturally, any cash left over was returned.

Last edited by bob++; 02-17-2019 at 05:24 PM.
  #20  
Old 02-17-2019, 05:24 PM
Melbourne is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 4,668
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleophus View Post
Fraudulent reimbursements are, by far, the way people embezzle from businesses, and techniques range from brazen to incredibly subtle. There's good reason for the strictures on employee reimbursements and why a lot of businesses provide alternatives to discourage the practice as much as possible.

Feynman's anecdote is especially infuriating because, combined with his general childish special snowflake-ism, being an otherwise competent and trustworthy employee while casually stealing from one's employer is so typical as to not even be a noteworthy MO.
Feynman's anecdote is especially infuriating because, having asked a favour of him, they bury him in paperwork, which indicates not ill will, but only how badly organised and managed they are.

It's not like he refused to provide a simple receipt, or didn't want to sign for his wages: and it's not like he punished them for being incompetent. He drew an arbitrary line on how much bullshit he was willing to put up with, but that line was well out past required politeness, and well out past allowance for individual failures.
  #21  
Old 02-17-2019, 06:24 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri is online now
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 41,220
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
Feynman's anecdote is especially infuriating because, having asked a favour of him, they bury him in paperwork, which indicates not ill will, but only how badly organised and managed they are.

It's not like he refused to provide a simple receipt, or didn't want to sign for his wages: and it's not like he punished them for being incompetent. He drew an arbitrary line on how much bullshit he was willing to put up with, but that line was well out past required politeness, and well out past allowance for individual failures.
I'm not sure what you read, but this appears to have no correspondence with Feynman's own account. They didn't "bury him in paperwork," they asked for a simple receipt for $2.35. And in response, Feynman childishly did refuse to provide simple receipts for future expenses, including a large one like the airfare. (I'm not sure where you're getting the bit about "not signing for his wages.)

He complains because the government doesn't operate like a private individual or business, and simply "trust him," but of course they can't. Not asking him for the receipt would have been incompetent. The "bullshit" they required was to produce a couple of simple receipts; it wasn't like they were demanding anything out of the standard practice.
  #22  
Old 02-17-2019, 06:34 PM
TSBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,541
Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
I'm not sure what you read, but this appears to have no correspondence with Feynman's own account. They didn't "bury him in paperwork," they asked for a simple receipt for $2.35. And in response, Feynman childishly did refuse to provide simple receipts for future expenses, including a large one like the airfare. (I'm not sure where you're getting the bit about "not signing for his wages.)

He complains because the government doesn't operate like a private individual or business, and simply "trust him," but of course they can't. Not asking him for the receipt would have been incompetent. The "bullshit" they required was to produce a couple of simple receipts; it wasn't like they were demanding anything out of the standard practice.
You have to wonder how Feynman would have reacted to a graduate assistant who spent a great deal of Feynman's grant money without documentation.
  #23  
Old 02-17-2019, 07:04 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri is online now
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 41,220
I've done my share of government and business travel, and having to provide a receipt for every little thing can be annoying. Sometimes I've been out of pocket for things like tips paid in cash or taxi fares for which no receipt could be provided.

However, a lot of systems do make allowance for this by not requiring receipts for items under some amount, like $10.00. The federal system may just give you a standard per diem or personal expenses allowance, and if you spend less than that you just keep the difference.

When working on projects in Panama I just buy a receipt book and carry it around with me, so I can have taxis or field workers just sign the receipt for me.
  #24  
Old 02-17-2019, 07:42 PM
Icarus's Avatar
Icarus is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: In front of my PC, y tu?
Posts: 4,985
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanoda View Post
This could have gone in a few forums, but I really do want to know.
Apparently accounting requires years of school with possibly weeks of additional coursework later; why does it seem like none of that education is helpful in sorting things out when someone doesn't have a receipt?

I'm telling you I had to buy a widget last Tuesday for $29.95. The widget is right there. The credit card billing history has an entry from Widgets-R-Us for $29.95 listed last Tuesday. Whoops I lost the receipt (or maybe it was an online site with not great reporting, or an auto-billing system when our account gets randomly low).

Why do I get a response like I peed in the coffee maker? Much hand-wringing... threats of taking it out of my paycheque... waddarewegonnado...
I manage dozens of servers for the company, each hosting multiple custom client applications and databases - our developers and analysts do dumb stuff that I have to fix monthly, and I've never gotten anywhere near as bent out of shape.

Accountants - how have I caused the end of your world, and how do you not have the tools to put it right?
I'm going to assume you have a job that required some level of education/training, and that has protocols and maybe even technical "must do" tasks in order to have done your job appropriately as defined. Perhaps even safety or regulatory related steps? If any of this is true, then you are being extremely childish to deny the accountant the same respect you would expect of yourself doing your job.
  #25  
Old 02-17-2019, 07:56 PM
kunilou's Avatar
kunilou is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 24,853
Quote:
Originally Posted by guizot View Post
How often and how thoroughly do auditors follow-up with vendors to verify that receipts haven't been falsified?
Hell, I got called in once because my expense account was too low.

(My flight home had been cancelled and I had to spend the night in a hotel. I had written down something like $3.87 for "meals." They didn't believe me and I had to produce a receipt from the hotel snack bar that showed $3.87 for the miscellaneous junk food that had been my dinner.)

My father was a traveling sales rep and spent 15-25 days a month on the road, racking up thousands of dollars in expenses. His advice was, "Never cheat. It's not worth the effort for penny-ante stuff, and you'll get caught for sure if you try it on big stuff."
__________________
I'm not just a hack writer -- I'm a hack author

Last edited by kunilou; 02-17-2019 at 08:00 PM.
  #26  
Old 02-17-2019, 08:12 PM
TSBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,541
I've also been told by my accountant that a missing receipt here and there won't be an issue even if audited. If you've got say $2000 in expenses and are missing a $20 receipt, it's not going to be an issue. But no accountant has ever wanted to see my actual receipts.

That said, I do save receipts for about ten years, depending on how aggressive I am about shredding in my downtime.

Same applies at work. If I spent $12 on coffee and donuts while meeting someone but lose the receipt, they're not going to hassle me, along the same lines as kunilou laid out. If I tried to claim a $300 dinner without a receipt, there'd be a hassle and if I were trying to cheat them, I'd expect to lose that job and for the word to spread. Not worth it.
  #27  
Old 02-18-2019, 01:04 AM
guizot is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 8,348
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMightyAtlas View Post
So if we only audit 1-in-10,000, you do not have a 99.99% chance of getting away with it. It used to be random but isn’t any more.
I'm not sure what this means. Does that mean you go to the vendor to check a receipt when the automated system catches something with pattern recognition 1 in 10,000 times, but all 10,000 of those receipts have been checked?
Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
Hell, I got called in once because my expense account was too low.

(My flight home had been cancelled and I had to spend the night in a hotel. I had written down something like $3.87 for "meals." They didn't believe me and I had to produce a receipt from the hotel snack bar that showed $3.87 for the miscellaneous junk food that had been my dinner.)

My father was a traveling sales rep and spent 15-25 days a month on the road, racking up thousands of dollars in expenses. His advice was, "Never cheat. It's not worth the effort for penny-ante stuff, and you'll get caught for sure if you try it on big stuff."
OK, but that still doesn't answer the question. How often do auditors actually contact a vendor to verify a receipt? (Not how often do they demand a receipt from an employee.) Is it a routine process that can be done quickly? Are restaurants, for example, used to auditors calling them up and asking if such-and-such employee's receipt for the $50-dinner is legit? Do they readily supply that kind of verification?
  #28  
Old 02-18-2019, 01:19 AM
BeeGee is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,262
I'm a buyer with a state issued credit card using federal funds. I don't make a two dollar purchase unless I've got the vendor's W9. It's so much easier to be sure of what you're doing as you go along than to have to fix it in retrospect.

If you can't handle dealing with company regulations regarding spending, then you probably shouldn't have access too them.
  #29  
Old 02-18-2019, 09:33 AM
Really Not All That Bright is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 68,013
Right. I wouldn't dream of seeking reimbursement from my employer for a business expense I don't have verification of. OP, you know you bought a business widget and that it's "right there" in your workplace. Do you think the company's accounting staff want to traipse down to your desk to verify the widget's presence every time somebody else buys a different business widget? How are they supposed to know the company didn't already own a widget and the one you claimed to have bought from the office wasn't actually for you to use at home?
  #30  
Old 02-18-2019, 10:07 AM
md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 14,526
Keep in mind that in many places that have sales tax, the company can claim reimbursement for that tax if it was expenses for the company. Sometimes the rules can get arcane - no refund for consumables like paper and ink used in the offices, but refund for fixing a machine that produces the items you sell, etc. To claim a refund, the company must if audited be able to show the tax refund claimed was from an actual tax collected by an actual tax-paying company in that state, with registration number. (In Canada, for example, need company GST number...) While an accountant might let some things go (Hmmm... those were the days - Feynman spent $2.36 to park at the airport for a day or more?) there's a limit to what they can let go.

I know I've never had a hassle with claiming taxi expenses including tip, but if it was to the airport ($30 or more) then I DID get a receipt - "$33 for the trip - put $40 on the receipt and I'll give you $40." I never lied, but I wasn't cheap with the company's money - it had a reputation to uphold... For minor things, not so much. We also had a per-diem, you could claim the $50/day (a long time ago!) or provide receipts. Since I never drank, per diem actually made me money.

One time a fellow I worked with and I went to a computer show out of town. We could either take the prop puddle-jumper to the nearest big airport and fly from there, or drive to the airport. The mileage allowance was more that the prop plane fare, so "...to the maximum of equivalent air fare". We drove in my car, I claimed the equivalent air fare, then the other guy's boss insisted on him taking equivalent too. (I suspect that this was a dodge that others had used to make money, and his boss didn't want to raise alerts for future claims). Years later they changed the rules and you had to provide the gas receipts to prove you drove.

Yeah, Feynman was being a dick, as was the accountant. Of course, an expense for $2 back then is like an expense for $20 or more today, so not trivial. OTOH, it's probably a lot cheaper to fly today than back then. They should have a procedure, tolerate missing receipts if it's less than $X and the total for the whole reimbursement is less than $Y. But anyone who thinks the government, or any large corporation, is going to reimburse an airline ticket without any documentation is delusional, especially in those days when one local flight cost more than some transatlantic flights cost today. After all - yes he was at the meeting - but he could have driven, he could have stayed at a friend's instead of a hotel, he could have been dropped off at the airport instead of parking there, etc.

The purpose of reimbursement is to replace out-of-pocket expenses, not to give you a tidy sum which you can pocket if you can cut costs yourself.

Last edited by md2000; 02-18-2019 at 10:09 AM.
  #31  
Old 02-18-2019, 10:39 AM
Northern Piper is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: The snow is back.
Posts: 28,385
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heracles View Post
In Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!, Richard Feynman briefly recounts his misadventures with having to show receipts. About three-quarters down this page, and the first part of the next.
Wow. What an arrogant prick.
  #32  
Old 02-18-2019, 11:10 AM
TSBG is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,541
I read the Feynman book when I was younger. I don't remember the incident from that reading, but I assume my younger self was like "Yeah, stick it to the man!" Now I'm grown up.
  #33  
Old 02-18-2019, 11:13 AM
Really Not All That Bright is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 68,013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Wow. What an arrogant prick.
In the end, he seems to have accepted the fact that they wouldn't reimburse him if he didn't produce documentation, so I guess everyone was happy. I also suspect his writing comes off as more arrogant because of changes in society; I don't doubt that many private enterprises didn't bother to require receipts back then (until they all realized that their employees were skimming off the top). I'm a little curious as to whether US air fares were totally fixed prior to deregulation, since Feynman seems to have thought that the price of an airline ticket to San Francisco was always the same.
  #34  
Old 02-18-2019, 12:07 PM
Northern Piper is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: The snow is back.
Posts: 28,385
Plus there's the basic point that a cancelled airline ticket is proof that someone travelled from LA to San Francisco. It's not just the question of the amount, but the proof of a trip.

Curious whether Mr Feynman took a similar approach when he was reviewing the System used by NASA before Challenger. And did he accept it when he heard from a NASA official, "What, don't you trust us when we tell you what we think happened?"
  #35  
Old 02-18-2019, 05:01 PM
Alley Dweller's Avatar
Alley Dweller is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 4,190
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I'm a little curious as to whether US air fares were totally fixed prior to deregulation, since Feynman seems to have thought that the price of an airline ticket to San Francisco was always the same.
Well, there was first class , business ("clipper") class, coach, and excursion fare. Plus there were the "night" versions of each of the fares: For example coach was Y and night coach was YN.

Every office that did any traveling got a monthly phonebook-like volume called the Official Airline Guide (OAG) that listed nearly every city pair in the United States and the available flights. After the name of the city-pair was a list of all of the available fares. Yes, they were fixed by law and by regulation and every airline had to charge the same fares. (OK, I'm not sure about intra-state flights.)

There was little or no chance a business traveler would ever qualify for an excursion ticket. It required something like 30-days advance purchase and a Saturday night stay. I suppose a traveler could trade in a standard ticket for a night ticket and pocket some cash there, but even after deregulation when I started flying the company would generally buy the tickets using a purchase order through a travel agent and the tickets would be endorsed so that all refunds and adjustments had to go through the travel agent. That created incredible hassle when you had to change tickets out in the field and the paperwork didn't go through right.
  #36  
Old 02-18-2019, 10:04 PM
Kimera757 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 423
I've taken a first year college accounting course, so obviously I'm no expert, but...

Accountants are trained not to trust anybody. We were taught that check signing authority should require more than one person (to prevent fraud), and the person who buys stuff for the company shouldn't be the same person who writes checks to buy that stuff (because if it's just one person, it's easy to defraud the company). The course gave examples of companies being defrauded. They gave an example of business owner who hired a family member as their bookkeeper... who told them they would do random spot checks of the books (to detect fraud). I may have a thick skull, but I detected a running theme there...

I learned why businesses like checks so much, because of the paper trail. A check acts like part of a receipt.

And if that business is ever audited by the tax department, the government can ask to see those receipts, so employees claiming expenses directly impacts the business's bottom line.
  #37  
Old 02-18-2019, 11:27 PM
Pithily Effusive is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
Posts: 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Wow. What an arrogant prick.
Arrogant is when one arrogates something unto oneself. Feynman is one of the United State's, and the world's actual geniuses. It would behoove one to mind what he says. (Unless, of course, your remark referred to the guy who can trust him to approve/disapprove of the textbooks, but doesn't trust him for the $2.35 parking fee without a receipt.)

After the Challenger incident, a group of dozens of astro-and other physicists was gathered in a huge conference room debating what in the world could have happened to the O-rings. Did they freeze and break or not? The consensus was moving toward "we'll just have to run several expensive experiments over the course of months to determine this!"

Feynman was there at the VIP table, which suits his position. He listened to the back and forth for a while. Then, he poured some of the ice water provided on the table to slake the thirsts of the attendees into a styrofoam cup, and dipped an O-ring (the thing being discussed) into it. Then he held it up and snapped it in two for everyone to see. The room fell silent. He left. (Apparently with better things do to.)

Some people might find him arrogant. I think he's cool.

Oh yes, RECEIPTS! Proof baby. Proof.
__________________
If you want to know what God thinks of money just look at the people He gave it to.
-Dorothy Parker-

Last edited by Pithily Effusive; 02-18-2019 at 11:29 PM.
  #38  
Old 02-19-2019, 06:43 AM
TokyoBayer's Avatar
TokyoBayer is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Taiwan
Posts: 9,931
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pithily Effusive View Post
Feynman was there at the VIP table, which suits his position. He listened to the back and forth for a while. Then, he poured some of the ice water provided on the table to slake the thirsts of the attendees into a styrofoam cup, and dipped an O-ring (the thing being discussed) into it. Then he held it up and snapped it in two for everyone to see. The room fell silent. He left. (Apparently with better things do to.)

Some people might find him arrogant. I think he's cool.
He discussed the incident in detail in his second autobiographical book “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”

I no longer have my copy, but this does not sound like how he described it. It sounds more like a dramatization of the incident.

Just going by memory, he was visited privately by one of the other members, IIRC over the weekend. That person was the one who suggested the relationship between temperature and the O-ring.

The book then goes on to describe how he had decided on the experiment, but they didn’t have any water glasses ye, and he needed to get the water before the perfect timing.

He was a genius, but the reality of that incident was different.
  #39  
Old 02-19-2019, 07:12 AM
ftg's Avatar
ftg is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Not the PNW :-(
Posts: 18,642
Back in the day I traveled to conferences and such. Often when I asked for a receipt from a taxi driver or some such they'd just tear off a slip from a pad and hand it to me. Nothing filled in at all.

It was up to me to put in the date and amount. I could have easily padded things a few bucks here and there.

Being a computer person, I also sometimes recreated a missing/damaged receipt.

Like a lot of things, receipts are a form of security theater.
  #40  
Old 02-19-2019, 07:35 AM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri is online now
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 41,220
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pithily Effusive View Post
Arrogant is when one arrogates something unto oneself. Feynman is one of the United State's, and the world's actual geniuses. It would behoove one to mind what he says.
The fact that Feynman was a brilliant physicist has nothing to do with his social skills. If you followed what Feynman said, you would never get reimbursed for your travel expenses. If you weren't the most brilliant physicist in the world, you would most likely be fired too.
  #41  
Old 02-19-2019, 08:34 AM
l0k1 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 113
Accountant here.

I worked for a copy where an employee (out-of-state sales rep) was going through an acrimonious divorce. His soon to be ex believed that he was hiding income from her and the IRS in his expense reimbursements. Lucky for him, I refused to reimburse him for anything without a receipt. When her lawyers subpoenaed his expense reports, they contended that any reimbursement without a receipt was income, and should be added to his actual income when figuring alimony.

I had a client that hired me after an IRS audit. She is a small business owner. Her auditor rejected her claimed business expenses that lacked documentation. Now all her business expenses are electronic, and heavily documented.

When doing small business taxes, a good faith estimate of an expense is usually enough, but a receipt will withstand an audit.
  #42  
Old 02-19-2019, 08:37 AM
Machine Elf is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 11,603
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pithily Effusive View Post
After the Challenger incident, a group of dozens of astro-and other physicists was gathered in a huge conference room debating what in the world could have happened to the O-rings. Did they freeze and break or not? The consensus was moving toward "we'll just have to run several expensive experiments over the course of months to determine this!"

Feynman was there at the VIP table, which suits his position. He listened to the back and forth for a while. Then, he poured some of the ice water provided on the table to slake the thirsts of the attendees into a styrofoam cup, and dipped an O-ring (the thing being discussed) into it. Then he held it up and snapped it in two for everyone to see. The room fell silent. He left. (Apparently with better things do to.)
The O-rings didn't break. The problem was that when they were cold, they became more viscous: when the gap they were sealing opened up (due to the sudden increase in SRB internal pressure at launch or due to post-launch/in-flight turbulence), cold O-rings were unable to shift rapidly enough to maintain the integrity of their seal. Feynman demonstrated this by squeezing a piece of O-ring material with a clamp, dunking it in ice water for a few minutes, and then removing the clamp to show how the O-ring persisted in its flattened state instead of quickly springing back to round like a warm O-ring did.

Here's the televised hearing where he performed his easy-to-understand demonstration (see at 0:36).
  #43  
Old 02-19-2019, 09:35 AM
Really Not All That Bright is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 68,013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pithily Effusive View Post
Arrogant is when one arrogates something unto oneself. Feynman is one of the United State's, and the world's actual geniuses. It would behoove one to mind what he says.
Sure, if you have a physics question. Ben Carson is one of the world's most eminent neurosurgeons, but I wouldn't "mind what he says" about history. Nor would I have taken advice from Stephen Hawking about sex, or from John Lennon about architecture. Feynman's genius is irrelevant to the validity of his views on accounting practices.
  #44  
Old 02-19-2019, 09:58 AM
Machine Elf is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Challenger Deep
Posts: 11,603
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Sure, if you have a physics question. Ben Carson is one of the world's most eminent neurosurgeons, but I wouldn't "mind what he says" about history. Nor would I have taken advice from Stephen Hawking about sex, or from John Lennon about architecture. Feynman's genius is irrelevant to the validity of his views on accounting practices.
Feynman wasn't even expressing a view on accounting practices so much as expressing a view on who should and should't be trusted to be honest when reporting business expenses. From Heracles' link:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Feynman
"I told you how much it cost. If you don't trust me, why do you let me tell you what I think is good and bad about the schoolbooks?"
He appears to think that his status as a respected textbook consultant merits the conferral of a uniquely elevated degree of trust not extended to mere mortals. But really, anybody drawing a paycheck could make the same argument: "if you don't trust me (a janitor), why do you let me clean the building?" "If you don't trust me (a mailroom intern), then why do you let me distribute critically important letters and packages throughout the company?"
  #45  
Old 02-19-2019, 10:04 AM
md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 14,526
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
Sure, if you have a physics question. Ben Carson is one of the world's most eminent neurosurgeons, but I wouldn't "mind what he says" about history. Nor would I have taken advice from Stephen Hawking about sex, or from John Lennon about architecture. Feynman's genius is irrelevant to the validity of his views on accounting practices.
I don't know... Hawking as I recall got divorced because he was banging his nurse (or more accurately, I assume, she was banging him). He might have some good advice.

There's an accounting term "materiality". In an expense account of a thousand-plus dollars, lack of a $2.36 receipt is not worth the hassle. However as mentioned above about ticket codes, especially in those days, the difference between the full business travel rate (full cancellation, etc.) versus the cheapest book early, stay weekend rate. With planning and luck, there's a he opportunity for skimming if one does not have to present the cancelled ticket. Any genius should understand this.

In the good old days, there was a lot of slack in the systems. There were huge levels of middle management, and in big business money flowed freely. "skimming" seems to have been if not accepted, at least easily overlooked. It was only the frantic mergers and buyouts and arrival of a herd of cutthroat MBA's in the late 1980's that started cleaning out this mess. Ove the next 10 to 20 years, huge numbers of middle management were jettisoned and companies cut back beyond lean.

Last edited by md2000; 02-19-2019 at 10:04 AM.
  #46  
Old 02-19-2019, 10:27 AM
bump is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 17,009
Quote:
Originally Posted by slash2k View Post
The CC bill shows you bought one or more products at Widgets-R-Us that totalled $29.95. It *doesn't* show whether that was one widget, three widgets, or a widget for the company and four gizmos that are destined for your spouse's side business.

It's not a lack of education; it's a lack of verification. Remember the old line about trust but verify? Accountants don't even trust; they jump straight to verify, and your CC bill does not verify that you spent $29.95 on a single widget for the company's benefit. Padding the bills is a time-honored way for an employee to steal from the company, and the company wants proof that you are not doing that.

But he says he bought A widget for $29.95 at store X, and there's a charge for $29.95 for store X on that day. Why the heck isn't that sufficient?

It's that squinty, nitpicking attitude that makes the rest of the civilized world hate accountants- they're like every negative bureaucratic stereotype come to life about obsession for detail and pedantry, etc...
  #47  
Old 02-19-2019, 10:27 AM
Nanoda is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Edmonton
Posts: 3,848
Quote:
Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
The CC bill is your document;
While I have different issues with our expense system, I'm just talking about company credit cards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baron Greenback View Post
If you are doing purchasing on behalf of a business, obtaining and retaining receipts is such a basic task that it's understandable that accounts gets pissed off with people who can't manage something so fundamental.
Uh huh

Quote:
Originally Posted by slash2k View Post
Accountants don't even trust; they jump straight to verify, and your CC bill does not verify that you spent $29.95 on a single widget for the company's benefit.
This is about the only angle that I already understand. But still. There's the widget. There's the issue where we talk about getting a widget. There's the online store where widgets cost $29.95.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
This, exactly. And, if your company's books ever get audited, a consistent lack of documentation and verification is an enormous red flag to the auditors.
What's involved in this "audit"? Who would be doing the auditing, and why would their day be ruined for lack of my $1.95 dealextreme cable receipt? I left management and accounting courses to other people and just assumed this would be a topic covered.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Bring in other documentation, and you're asking them to create an entirely new process just to deal with your expenses.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarus View Post
If any of this is true, then you are being extremely childish to deny the accountant the same respect you would expect of yourself doing your job.
Quote:
Originally Posted by naita View Post
Because you peed in the coffee maker. I.e. you failed to follow simple universal rules designed to keep business running smoothly, and this failure is creates extra work or makes it plain old impossible for them to reimburse you.
Why impossible? That's why I mention that my job is made more difficuly by trivial co-worker actions every day. I will sigh. Then I will use my knowledge in the field that I work to get things done. I will shoot them an email asking that next time, could they please make sure they make a release build before they leave, or put the variable name in the issue rather than making me troll through recent commits? I will not kick my keyboard off my desk and refuse to do anything until they resolve this situation themselves. I will for sure not threaten to ding their paycheque just because they were doing something for the company and there was a completely forseeable happenstance.
__________________
Never forget - 14 k of g in a f p d
  #48  
Old 02-19-2019, 11:01 AM
bob++ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Worcestershire UK
Posts: 6,432
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimera757 View Post
I've taken a first year college accounting course, so obviously I'm no expert, but...

Accountants are trained not to trust anybody. We were taught that check signing authority should require more than one person (to prevent fraud), and the person who buys stuff for the company shouldn't be the same person who writes checks to buy that stuff (because if it's just one person, it's easy to defraud the company). The course gave examples of companies being defrauded. They gave an example of business owner who hired a family member as their bookkeeper... who told them they would do random spot checks of the books (to detect fraud). I may have a thick skull, but I detected a running theme there...

I learned why businesses like checks so much, because of the paper trail. A check acts like part of a receipt.

And if that business is ever audited by the tax department, the government can ask to see those receipts, so employees claiming expenses directly impacts the business's bottom line.
When I did an accounting course (not degree level) we were given details of what had been a fairly common fraud which can only happen if the person doing the ordering is the same person who signs the job off - this relates to services rather than goods.

Bill Stickers runs the transport department of a medium-sized company; part of his job involves ordering transport services from third parties. He sets up a trading account with a company name of BS Transport Ltd and then places an order with them to transport a load. Naturally, he chooses a loading and destination point that had a lot of traffic. At the end of the month, he raises an invoice from BS Ltd and authorises it for payment.

This is known as a "long firm fraud" and provided that Bill does not get greedy, he can keep it going for years.
  #49  
Old 02-19-2019, 11:18 AM
kenobi 65's Avatar
kenobi 65 is online now
Corellian Nerfherder
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brookfield, IL
Posts: 13,969
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanoda View Post
This is about the only angle that I already understand. But still. There's the widget. There's the issue where we talk about getting a widget. There's the online store where widgets cost $29.95.
And there is, in fact, a physical document which shows all of this in one place, which your accountants are accustomed to working with, and which is a paper trail that they can go back to if there is ever a question (or an audit) later -- your receipt.

Without it, you're making more work for them -- they have to find you, find the widget, dig back up the email where you said you were buying a widget, go to the online store site (where it may not, in fact, any longer be $29.95). And, if they need to go back and examine the purchase weeks, even months, later, your "look, here's the widget, here's the web site" method is even less valid.

As others have said, the issue is that fraud in companies is pretty damned common, and documentation rules are in place to minimize that fraud. No, one $29.95 expenditure is not going to break a company (and, as has been said, some companies have policies in which they don't worry about receipts for small purchases), but other companies (probably particularly those which *have* had fraud issues) are draconian about it, because they've adopted a zero-tolerance / zero-exception policy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nanoda View Post
What's involved in this "audit"? Who would be doing the auditing, and why would their day be ruined for lack of my $1.95 dealextreme cable receipt? I left management and accounting courses to other people and just assumed this would be a topic covered.
Depending on how and why your company is undergoing an audit, it might be a third-party accounting firm, or it might be the IRS. In an audit, the general idea is that they're examining the company's financial records closely, to make sure that there aren't any irregularities.

And, again, one small missing receipt is probably not the issue -- it's if there are a *lot* of missing receipts, or if receipts for larger purchases are missing. If a company plays fast and loose with its documentation, they're simply opening themselves up to possible issues down the road (and your accountants were trained to *not* operate that way).

Last edited by kenobi 65; 02-19-2019 at 11:19 AM.
  #50  
Old 02-19-2019, 11:22 AM
doreen is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Woodhaven,Queens, NY
Posts: 6,015
Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
But he says he bought A widget for $29.95 at store X, and there's a charge for $29.95 for store X on that day. Why the heck isn't that sufficient?

Because as the post you responded to stated, $29.95 at store X doesn't mean that you bought a widget for the company there. You may have bought 4 cheaper widgets and only one was for the company and the rest were for personal use. Or ( and I don't think this was mentioned yet) some stores bill under a different name than that of the store. Sometimes it's a just a corporate name ( Metro Mobil bills under L&S Corp, that sort of thing) and sometimes it's so someone who has access to your bill ( spouse or SO ) doesn't know that you actually spent that $29.95 at a strip club.

I think you looking at this from the point of someone who would never cheat rather than the viewpoint of someone trying to discourage/discover those who do. You wouldn't put $29.95 on your expense report for 4 widgets when you brought three home, or claim the $29.95 charge that shows as Widgets R Us that was really a strip club - but others will.



Companies don't usually distinguish between online stores and physical stores in documentation requirements - although most online stores I've dealt with keep a record of my order and I can print a detailed invoice (which is just another name for a receipt in this context) whenever I need to. Much easier than getting a duplicate from a physical store if I've misplaced it

Last edited by doreen; 02-19-2019 at 11:26 AM.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:07 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017