Imagine this scenario: You've gone mystery shopping, made purchases and found out all there is to know about a store and its employees. Then you returned home and submitted a detailed write-up about your experience and sent it to the secret shopping company.
So that means you are all done with your secret shopping job, right? Not if you want to be paid for your time.
Before moving on to your next assignment, make sure to file an expense report. That will tell the mystery shopping company how much money you spent on your assignment and what you need to be paid back for. It will also help you, as a secret shopper, in the future.
At most of the places you will secret shop, your purchases will be fully reimbursed. While there is a spending limit, and you may have to send in what you bought to the secret shopping company, none of the payment should ultimately come out of your pocket. Keep your receipts and make sure to send in what you spent, down to the last penny. That way you will receive a full and accurate refund when it comes time for the secret shopping company to pay you back.
Tracking spending and filing expense reports can also help a mystery shopper be paid back later in the year. Knowing where you went and how much money you spent will be useful when filing federal and state taxes. Read over the contracts you sign with the mystery shopping companies to see in detail what you will be paid back for. Some companies will pay for your gas mileage going to and from the store you are shopping, others will not.
If you are not already paid for travel, that is an item that can be eligible for a tax refund. So too can items like office equipment that would make your secret shopping work easier. How much you will be paid back depends on what type of payment plan your employer has in place.
Per the IRS, "If you received an advance, allowance, or reimbursement for your expenses, how you report this amount and your expenses depends on whether your employer reimbursed you under an accountable plan or a nonaccountable plan."
For a smart mystery shopper who plans on working multiple jobs every week, keeping detailed expense reports is a necessary organizational tool. This can help you keep track of what you are doing, but more importantly, it can help you get paid.