Banks that issue commercial cards are gearing up for a record-keeping change.

Starting in 1998, some employees may no longer have to keep paper receipts for expenses if their companies have certain electronic reporting mechanisms.

Under an anticipated ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, companies whose card providers maintain a secure, independent data base of expenses would not have to collect receipts for charges under $75.

The IRS has said it will issue its ruling in December.

"This is going to dramatically increase the use of corporate travel and entertainment cards," said Jon Casher, chairman of Recap Inc., a financial management consulting firm in Oak Ridge, N.J. "It will also increase the cases in which companies will change the way they do expenses, because they will want to get electronic feeds."

BankAmerica Corp. says it is the only bank now offering software that would comply with the tax agency's electronic record-keeping proposals.

"We think this is going to be a huge opportunity," said Kerry Williams, manager of BankAmerica's commercial card division.

BankAmerica introduced its Time software three months ago after what Mr. Williams called "a very, very large investment" in its development.

The system tracks purchase and T&E expenses for each employee.

Customized for each company's expense policies and cost-center codes, the software walks employees through the expense-tracking process and transmits the data to BankAmerica's administrative center, Mr. Williams said.

"Every step of the way, when a change is made on the expense form-by a manager or whomever-it automatically is updating our central data base," Mr. Williams said.

The system takes one or two days to install and is designed for companies that handle more than $10 million in expenses annually, the executive said. Companies must be "E-mail literate" to use the system.

The first two users had $14 million and $30 million in annual expenses, Mr. Williams said. A few companies with significantly greater volumes have also signed up.

BankAmerica also plans to use Time internally.

This genre of software may prove popular. In a 1997 survey of travel managers conducted by the National Business Travel Association, 76% said automated expense reporting was their top concern.

"We've been getting a pretty good response" to Time, Mr. Williams said. "Our sales force is pretty busy."

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