Deep Dive: Approval Workflow Overview

Kirk Barrett
Kirk Barrett Expensify Success Coach - Admin Posts: 128 Expensify Team
edited July 2021 in Deep Dive Docs
Expensify allows you to create approval workflows that fit your company’s structure. Any Policy Admins can modify approval workflows by navigating to Settings > Policies > Group >  [Policy name] > People and scroll to Approval Mode:

Expensify offers three approval workflow modes:

  • Submit and Close for when no approval is required
  • Submit and Approve for when all reports go to a single approver
  • Advanced Approval for more complex workflows

Submit and Close

This is a workflow where no approval occurs in Expensify.

What happens after submission? The report state becomes Closed and is available to view by the user set in Submit reports to and any Policy Admins. A closed report requires no further action.

Who should use this workflow? This mode should be used where you don't require approvals in Expensify. For example where expense approvals occur in another system or where the submitter and approver are the same person.

Submit and Approve

Submit and Approve is a simple workflow where all reports are submitted to a single user for approval. New policies have Submit and Approve enabled by default. 

What happens after submission? The report state becomes Processing and it will be sent to the user indicated in Submit reports to for approval. When the user approves the report, the state will become Approved.

Who should use this workflow? This mode should be used where the same person is responsible for approving all reports for your organization. If submitters have different approvers or multiple levels of approval are required then you will need to use Advance Approval.

Advanced Approval

This approval mode is used to handle more complex workflows:

  • Multiple levels of approval. This is for companies that require more than one person to approve a report before it can be reimbursed. The most common scenario is when an employee needs to submit to their manager, and their manager needs to approve and forward that report to their finance department for a final approval.
  • Varying approval workflows. For example, if a company has Team A submitting reports to Manager A, and Team B to Manager B, Advanced Approval is the way to go (even if they don't need multiple levels of approval).

Group Policy Admins can also set amount thresholds in the case that a report needs to go to a different approver based on the amount.

What happens after submission? After the report is submitted it will follow the set approval chain. The report state will be Processing until it is Final Approved.  We have provided examples of how to set this up below.

Who should use this workflow?
Organizations with complex workflows or 2+ levels of approval. This could be based on manager approvals or where reports over a certain size required additional approvals.


User (Column 1 in the People table): This is a member of the policy and can be a submitter, approver, Auditor, Policy Admin or a combination of these.

Submits to (Column 2): The first approver of a User's own reports. This is the person who receives reports submitted by the User. In the example below, when Employee submits their report it will go to Employee's Manager for approval.

Approves to (Set in Column 3): If the User is an approver, this is the next approver of a report the User approves. In the example below, when Employee submits their report it will go to Employee Manager for approval. After the Employee Manager approves the report it will go to Finance. This field allows you to create an approval chain as long as required. If a User is not an approver or only a single level of approval is required, then this field should be blank.

Category and Tag-based approvals

If your expense reports should be reviewed by an additional approver based on specific categories or tags selected on the expenses within the report, then you can set up category approvers and tag approvers.
  • Category approvers can be set in the Category settings for each policy
  • Tag approvers can be set in the Tag settings for each policy
To learn more about setting category and tag approvers, please see the article Deep Dive: Category and Tag Approvers.

Approval limits

If your reports have to go through an extra level of approval when they're over a certain amount, you can set a report total dependent approval limit.

An example of when you would use this: 

  1. The submitter's manager can approve any report up to a certain limit, let's say $500, and forward it to accounting. 
  2. However, if a report is over that $500 limit, it has to be also approved by the department head before being forwarded to accounting. 

To set this up, click on Edit Settings next to the approving manager's email address and set the "If Report Total is Over" and "Then Approves to" fields.

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