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Almost one in five condone fiddling expenses

By Caroline Binham, Legal Correspondent for the Financial Times

Almost one in five people believe it is acceptable to exaggerate their work expenses, according to new research.

Eighteen per cent of adults in the UK said that it was fair to fiddle expenses if “an employee works long hours but isn’t paid any overtime”, a survey of 2,130 people conducted by YouGov found.

The response is a drop of five percentage points on last year, when 23 per cent of those surveyed said inflating expenses was justifiable.

“It’s still disappointing to see that attitudes towards expense-fiddling remain so casual,” said David Vine, senior director at Concur, the expenses-management company that commissioned the survey. Mr Vine said that the bleak economic landscape and “January blues” could both be factors for the response rate.

Claims for mileage were the biggest area for potential falsification, with over a quarter of respondents stating that it was reasonable to exaggerate claims when the “mileage rate paid by the employer doesn’t cover the actual car and fuel costs”.

The issue of false expenses was a flashpoint in 2009 when a scandal exposed fiddling of claims on a grand scale by scores of members of parliament. The issue was further heightened in 2011 by the case of Christopher Grierson, a top litigator who now faces four charges of falsifying travel expenses to the tune of £1.2m over a four-year period. He is yet to enter a plea.

The parliamentary expenses scandal, together with an austerity drive necessitating a tighter control of budgets, may, at least, have forced change in the public sector, where employees are least likely to submit exaggerated claims. One in 20 employees said that they had amplified a claim in the last year, compared with one in eight who worked in companies with 250 to 749 employees, and one in seven employees in the voluntary sector.

Younger respondents and students were also more likely to condone a hike in claims, YouGov found. Twenty-eight per cent of those aged 18 to 24, and 32 per cent of full-time students replied that it was permissible to inflate expenses by as much as 10 per cent.

“Young people who finally land their dream job are at risk of jeopardising it because they are unaware of the seriousness of expense fraud,” said Mr Vine.

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