Spend Control

8 Crazy Business Expenses Employees Tried to Write Off

What counts as a business expense? These people tried to write off high-priced dinners, an affair, and a human skull? Read about these weird business expenses and more.

Danielle Antosz
Danielle Antosz writes about business, tech, and finance for ClearSpend. When she's not researching weird facts about business finance, you'll find her looking for her next favorite sci-fi show. Stalk her on Twitter @dantosz.

When you think of business expenses, what comes to mind? Dinner and drinks with clients, airline tickets to a work conference, maybe a new suitcase if yours breaks on a work trip, right? What about a human skull or jockstrap? Those are just two of the crazy expenses some employees have tried to claim—and many of them were approved! 

8 crazy expenses employees tried to get their employers to pay for 

Depending on your company, there's a chance you've had to expense some odd items over the years. But these eight crazy expenses take the cake. In some cases, the purchases were justifiable—other times not so much. 

1. Double-priced internet: Approved ✔️

You can write off plenty of expenses when you work from home, including the internet in some cases. While internet isn't a crazy expense, the cost of this employee's internet was. Here's the "hack" one Reddit user leveraged get extra cash from their employer:  

  1. Download your internet bill 
  2. Edit the PDF and double the cost 
  3. File an expense report with the fake bill
  4. Profit! 
Cringy confessions about uploading fake receipts in expense reports

The worst part? This employer has no idea their employee is ripping them off for over $1,000 a year. Even an expense audit likely wouldn't catch this crazy expense—because it doesn't seem that crazy at all.

2. $3,000 for dinner: Not approved ❌

Former NYC Police Union president Edward D. Mullins got into hot water after he sought reimbursement for more than $1 million in expenses. He claimed $3,000 for dinner at a high-end Greenwich Village restaurant, saying he was meeting with clients. In fact, he hosted family and friends for two different dinners. He also altered his credit card statements to claim even more money from his employer. According to court reports, Mr. Mullins was charged with wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Just goes to show that crime really doesn't pay. 

3. $1,200 guitar amplifier: Approved✔️

Reddit user u/BrokenKiwi was generously gifted $500 on a preloaded credit card as a Christmas gift. Sounds like a great gift, and surely there's no way that could result in fraud, right? As it turns out, the amount on the card never changed no matter how much they spent. Over the course of a few months, the employee spent more than $4,000 on items, including a $1,200 guitar amplifier. Their employer was none the wiser.  

Reddit confession of overspending on company gift card
Source: Reddit

In a later comment, the user admitted to spending an additional $3,000 on a 55" UHD Sony Television and a PS4. The user is still active, leading us to believe they were never caught—or at least didn't serve any jail time. 

4. An expensive affair: Not approved ❌

Some employees take advantage of expenses by ordering steak instead of chicken on their employer's dime. Others try to write off their entire affair off as a business expense—and leave the company footing the bill. After a few higher-than-normal expense reports, one analyst firm realized an employee and client were submitting far more meeting expenses than normal. 

Turns out the employee was having an affair with the client and both were charging the company for hotels, food, and other expenses related to "work" travel. After digging, they realized the employee was having an affair with a customer—and the company was footing the bill. The couple would meet, then submit both of their expenses for reimbursement. The employee was relieved of their position, but the company never was able to figure out which expenses were valid. The entire amount was written off. 

5. 11-foot dinosaur named Buster: Approved ✔️

When Chartboost, a mobile gaming company, moved into their new digs in San Francisco, they wanted to celebrate the fun-loving nature of their company. What better way to do that than with an 11-foot T-rex affectionately named Buster? 

Office dinosaur
Source: Office Snapshots

The massive dino was installed in the company's reception area, which included hanging app boxes, interactive iPads, and several video game-themed conference rooms. While there's no word on how much the company paid for the giant dinosaur, it definitely counts as a strange business expense. 

6. A hotel room for garlic: Not approved ❌

Yes, you read that correctly. A salesman traveling with samples of garlic requested a separate hotel room for the pungent root vegetable. “I couldn’t stand the smell,” the salesman reported

Sadly, he was denied and forced to room with the smelly samples. Some say you can smell the scent of garlic in his office to this day… 

7. Human skull: Approved✔️

In 2013, a finance manager saw a very strange work expense cross their desk—for a human skull. When you work in the medical field, it might be par for the course, but the manager shared, "I would say [it] classifies as an "out-of-the-ordinary" expense. Don't worry; the $800 skull was for a medical experiment, not Halloween decor. 

8. $7,000 for Russell Crowe's leather jockstrap: Approved ✔️

Sometimes we do crazy things for love. In John Oliver's case, that love came with a $7,000 price tag. Oliver, host of the irreverent HBO show "Last Week Tonight." purchased the jockstrap to donate to the last BlockBuster in Alaska, reportedly in an effort to help the struggling store keep its doors open. 

“$7,000! That is a big price to pay just to find out what Russell Crowe’s balls smelled like in 2005.” Oliver joked. Over the years, Oliver has expensed some other crazy costs, including a collection of wax presidents and $15 million in medical debt. For Oliver, those expenses are all in a day's work. 

How ClearSpend makes these crazy expenses impossible (unless you approve) 

Sometimes weird expenses are justifiable. Medical schools need skulls, and John Oliver just likes to spend HBO's money (can't say we blame him). But expense fraud can cost your company thousands of dollars a year. Luckily, there's a simple solution. 

👋 Hi, we're ClearSpend. We're a free spend management solution that helps businesses protect their assets, eliminate expense reports, and control employee expenses. All of the unapproved expenses in this article could have been eliminated with our ClearSpend Go Card, a prepaid debit card that allows employers to add spending limits, restrict where the card can be spent, even turn it off at the click of a button. 

The best part? ClearSpend is totally free. Plus, there are no spending requirements, unlike most of our competitors. Whether you spend $20 a month or $20,000 a month, you get access to every ClearSpend feature for free. 

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