Taxi-related expense fraud is something I’ve highlighted before, and for good reason it seems. Recent research by my company showed it’s common for nearly a third of UK employees to use blank taxi receipts to claim more than they should, or to claim for non-work related ‘phantom fares’.

Ever the optimist, I’d expected and hoped that these practices were a thing of the past. But one thing that really struck me was how many survey respondents saw nothing wrong with making these false claims. A full 40% of those who admitted defrauding their companies felt absolutely no guilt about doing so.

It seems that UK employees have so little consideration for their company’s expenses practices that they don’t really see this as fraud at all. Either that or we’re all so morally bankrupt that we think nothing of committing petty fraud to line our pockets.

Fraud is fraud. It’s inexcusable behaviour and the fact that ‘everyone else does it’ is no defence at all (as so many MPs found out over the last few years). But who’s to blame – companies who fail to have the right policies and systems in place to manage costs, or a nation of dishonest, untrustworthy employees who see expenses fraud as unimportant as stealing a couple of pens from the stationery cupboard (cue another moral discussion perhaps?)

It’s human nature to push boundaries and employees will continue to do so until companies catch up and put proper systems in place for managing this behaviour. It needn’t be draconian of course, we know that will just foster more dishonest behaviour. We need a fair amount of trust and respect on both sides and to do that we need clarity of spend policies, simple expense processes and complete visibility for management.

In the UK we’re seriously behind the rest of the world in our acceptance of card and contactless payments in taxis. We still rely on handwritten scraps of paper which it is difficult for business to audit or challenge. Probably why just 10% of our respondents had ever had a fraudulent claim challenged.

So what’s the answer? Do businesses admit defeat and accept that dodgy taxi fares are an unofficial employee perk? Well no of course not. There are a couple of things that need to happen in my view:

  • Companies to wise up: Businesses need to stop turning a blind eye to this kind of fraud. With the right systems and checks in place there’s no need for them to be losing money this way. They need to be proactive in changing their policies, issue more cards, and put in place expense management systems that give complete control and visibility of all spend.
  • Increase in card payments: London cabbies just love to tell you they’re the best in the world, but until they accept ‘modern’ methods of payment like cards they’re going to have trouble convincing me of that.

Things are changing with the introduction of apps like Hailo that allow you to book and pay for taxis by card. Once taxis realise that more and more corporates are using cards as a secure and effective way of managing spend we’ll start to see behaviour change. Then we just need to find a way to get the ‘world’s best cabbies’ to go south of the river!