Starting in 2013, we have asked people around the U.S. about the most outlandish business expenses they’ve seen, or even submitted themselves, during the course of the year. Since then, we’ve seen everything from vehicle towing fees to llama rentals, and have been amazed at what employers are willing to reimburse.
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that - with COVID keeping most employees from traveling in 2020 - expenses would be far more mundane than usual. It’s certainly true that we saw far more work from home-related expenses than most years, as employers allowed their teams to furnish their home offices with desks and external monitors. But you’d be wrong if you thought that 2020 wouldn’t have a few surprises up its sleeve.
Working from home presented challenges for all of us, but for some people there were some rather unique problems. For example, the person who got a new “COVID dog” that kept on Zoombombing his meetings. The $79 expense for a dog crate probably saved countless hours of the employee’s time, trying to keep their pooch from disturbing every meeting.
Many modern office environments have perks such as a stacked fridge or snacks on demand, and many employees were sad to leave these frills behind. However, employers had mixed feelings about reimbursing some of the other expenses that employees submitted to help replicate the office life. A $39 expense for new house plants was acceptable, but €200 worth of tea was not. Although that’s hardly surprising - even my British colleagues would have a hard time getting through that much tea.
Organizations often provide free or discounted gym memberships for their teams. With many of these closing as a result of the pandemic, health and wellness - both physical and mental - was on many employees’ minds. One lucky employee was reimbursed almost $1,900 toward the cost of a Peloton bike, while another is able to give their brain a workout with $100/month of magazine subscriptions. However, some approvers were rather less forgiving in what they would reimburse their employees in this area. While 2020 has taken its toll on all of us, the employee who submitted a $7,600 expense for a facelift was certainly being overly optimistic in what they could get away with. Their employer clearly wasn’t impressed, and rejected the expense.
Take a look at the infographic for more insight into 2020’s craziest expenses, and you can see how this year compares with previous lists on our Best of infographic.