Policy Library 1 Camino Santa MariaSan Antonio, TX 78228 +1-210-436-3011 Policy Library logo William Joseph Chaminade St. Mary's University, Texas
Official policies of St. Mary's University

Travel for University Business

Approver(s):

Executive Council

Authorizes release:

Vice President for Administration and Finance

Responsible office:

Finance Office

Review cycle:

Annually or as required

Adopted:

Unknown

Last update:

November 2016

Next review:

June 2017

Related policies and additional references:

Credit Card program; Title V Guidelines

Overview

St. Mary’s University provides for reimbursement of all reasonable expenses for authorized official travel in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the following policies. The purpose is to provide a reference tool and administrative procedural guide for University departments that reimburse employees for allowable travel expenses pertaining to official travel of the University. When conducting business on behalf of the University, faculty, staff and students are expected to use good quality services and accommodations appropriate for the business to be conducted. Each department is expected to adhere to the University’s Travel Policy to help assure the University’s compliance with the IRS rules and regulations and to promote good stewardship of University funds. The University reserves the right to deny reimbursement of travel-related expenditures for failing to comply with University policies and procedures. Area Vice Presidents may impose additional restrictions than those outlined in this policy.

Travel that does not require an overnight stay is not considered to be travel-related as defined in this policy. Therefore, travel authorization and reimbursement forms are not required, but may be submitted if desired. Travelers can be reimbursed for registration fees and parking expenses with proper authorization and original receipts using a Check Request. Meals consumed by an employee while conducting University business that does not require an overnight stay are not allowable business expenditures by the IRS. According to the IRS, “It must be necessary for you to stop for substantial sleep or rest to properly perform your duties while traveling away from home on business.” Therefore the University will not reimburse for meals.

When traveling with other persons who are not employees of St. Mary’s University, such as family members, the traveler must make separate arrangements for their travel. The University will not pay for such travel.

Prior to Travel

Before travel occurs, University employees expecting to incur travel expenses while conducting University business or attending approved conferences must complete and have approved the Travel Authorization and Expense Report (TAER). All travel, regardless of payment method, must be authorized prior to travel. The first column of this form shows the estimated amount of travel. It also includes the authorized dates of travel, as well as the business purpose. If others are included in the travel, the names of those travelers must also be included. The form must be signed by the traveler and should have the approval of the immediate supervisor (director or department chair) and appropriate Dean or Vice President. The approval of the President is required for trips with total expenditures of $10,000 and over.

The original Travel Authorization and Expense Report must be sent to the Accounts Payable office prior to travel. Attached to the TAER should be a copy of the agenda or brochure describing the event or conference. Once received by Accounts Payable, a copy of the approved travel form will be forwarded to the traveler.

Travel Advances

The Travel Authorization and Expense Report may be used to obtain an advance for travel as outlined below.

Travel advances may be issued in an amount not to exceed the employee’s estimated expenses. Advances are not given for airfare or registration fees. The Accounts Payable office will issue payments for travel advances when all of the following requirements are met:

  • The TAER has been completed, approved and received in the Accounts Payable office two weeks prior to travel. Include with the TAER a copy of the conference agenda.
  • Budget money is available for the total amount of the travel.
  • The employee requesting the travel advance has no outstanding travel advances due to the University or outstanding Travel Authorization and Expense Reports due for previous travel taken.

After Travel

After travel occurs, the remainder of the Travel Authorization and Expense Report is to be completed and submitted to Accounts Payable within fifteen (15) working days after the completion of travel. This portion of the form is used to account for the actual total cost of the travel. All original and itemized travel receipts should be attached to the completed form. All receipts should be organized by expense category and taped on blank letter size paper. Any advance in excess of the actual expenses must be deposited at the Business Office to the same travel expense account noted on the form, and the receipt attached.

Traveler must make every effort to obtain the original itemized receipts for all travel expenditures. If receipts are not available, and the charge is less than $75.00, the traveler must complete the Documentation for Missing Receipts form. The documentation must include the following: the dollar amount, the date, the business purpose of each item, and an explanation as to why the receipts could not be obtained. This form must be attached to the TAER. As required by the IRS, reimbursement of expenditures greater $75 or more, that are not substantiated with proper receipts is considered taxable income to the employee.

Failure to submit the TAER with required documents and receipts within the fifteen (15) working days can subject the traveler to suspension of travel advance privileges. It may also result in the cost of the trip being added to the traveler’s taxable income and subject to all applicable payroll taxes as required by IRS regulations. See IRS Consideration section below.

If reimbursement it required, checks will be issued in accordance with University’s payment policy.

Compensable Travel for Non-Exempt Employees

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) a non-exempt employee must be paid for all hours the employee is “suffered or permitted to work.” The following describes under what circumstances time spent traveling is considered compensable (i.e., the time is counted as hours worked).

Normal University work schedule, for the purpose of this policy, is Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Home to work travel

In general, the FLSA does not consider ordinary commuting as hours worked. An exception would be running errands while traveling from home to work or vice versa if it is work related. This would be compensable time.

Travel during the work day/in-town

In general, time spent traveling as part of University principal activity counts as hours worked (i.e., travel from job site to job site is compensable).

Out of town travel – no overnight stay

If the employee is assigned to work in another city for one day and the travel is performed for the employer’s benefit and at its request, it is part of the principal activity of the employer and therefore is compensable. This is true even if the employee is traveling by common carrier since this is a special assignment and is not ordinary home to work travel.

Overnight Travel

In general, whether travel time counts as hours worked when an employee travels overnight depends on whether the travel occurs within the employee’s normal work schedule.

Compensable travel activities:

  • Any portion of authorized travel that occurs within the employee’s normal work schedule counts as hours worked, and is compensable.
  • Travel on non-work days (weekends) also counts as hours worked if it occurs within the employee’s normal work schedule (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
  • Therefore, any aproved University business related travel that occurs on any day of the week between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. is compensable.
  • Driving a vehicle, regardless of whether the travel takes place within or outside normal work hours, counts as hours worked. In other words, the act of driving is considered manual labor activity which must be counted as hours worked if it’s for the benefit of the University.
  • If an employee is required to attend meals, social events, etc., that time is counted as hours worked.
  • Time spent waiting at the airport counts as hours worked if it occurs within normal work hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
  • Any work while traveling, which an employee is required to perform, is counted as hours worked (i.e. answering emails, taking business related calls).
  • If an employee is required to ride as an assistant or helper in an automobile, the travel time counts as hours worked.

Non-compensable travel activities:

  • Regular meal periods do not count as hours worked.
  • Riding as a passenger outside normal business hours, via airplane, train, bus, or automobile does not count as hours worked. The act of riding as a passenger is not considered hours worked (e.g. air travel after 5 p.m. or before 8 a.m. is not compensable time).
  • Time spent sleeping does not count as hours worked.
  • Time spent at a hotel with fredom to use time for the employee’s own purpose is not considered hours worked.
  • Time spent waiting at the airport outside of normal work hours does not count as hours worked.
  • Travel between home and work or between hotel and work site is considered normal commuting time and does not count as hours worked.

Other issues

  • When an employee travels between two or more time zones, the time zone associated with the point of departure should be used to determine whether the travel falls within normal work hours.
  • If the time zone changes during the travel day, the hours should be calculated on the “actual” hours when calculating compensable on travel days.
  • If an employee drives a car as a matter of personal preference when an authorized flight or other travel mode is available, and the travel by car would exceed that of the authorized mode, only the estimated travel time associated with the authorized mode will be counted as hours worked.

Travel that Includes Multiple Travelers

If multiple people are traveling and only one traveler is responsible for payment of the expenses, then the name of the traveler on the TAER will be the person responsible for the expenses. Additional travelers should be listed separately on the TAER as additional travelers.

If the additional travelers will incur any travel expenditures, such as meals or parking, then they must complete a TAER as well.

Student Travel

Students at the University whose travel expenses are paid by the University are subject to the travel policy to the same extent as are University employees.

If the student is responsible for the expenditures incurred during travel, then they follow the same policy as University employees. Adequate documentation in accordance with this Policy is required for student expenses.

Spouse Travel

Expenses incurred by a University traveler’s spouse in connection with attendance at a University function or in the conduct of official University business may be reimbursed if it is established that the spouse’s presence served a bona fide University business purpose.

To establish a bona fide University business purpose, the following considerations must be met:

  • The traveler must show that the primary purpose of the spouse’s travel was to engage in the performance of activities directly related to the primary traveler’s employment with the University.
  • Participation in official functions, which by protocol or tradition require the attendance of the recipient’s spouse, may be considered a bona fide University business purpose. Ceremonial functions, alumni gatherings, fund raising activities and community events are examples of activities that may require the attendance of a recipient’s spouse.
  • The business purpose connected with the travel of a spouse must be documented on the traveler’s expense report in accordance with IRS substantiation requirements. In the absence of such evidence, expenditures for spousal travel shall not be reimbursed.
  • Travel for a spouse must be approved by area Vice President prior to making travel arrangements, and travel by the spouse of a Vice President must be approved by the President.

Foreign Travel

Travelers to foreign countries should follow the same policies and procedures as domestic travelers. In addition, it is the traveler’s responsibility to submit the conversion rate for the dates of travel to the foreign country with the travel documents. All receipts should be converted to U.S. dollars prior to submission. One website to obtain the conversion rate is oanda.com. Per diem rates for travel to foreign countries should be approved by area Vice President prior to travel.

Foreign travelers are expected to book the lowest possible airfare. Business Class or Premium Economy for international travel is authorized if the trip is eighteen continuous hours or more in duration, as long as funds are available for the price difference and it is approved by area Vice President prior to booking the airfare.

IRS Considerations

IRS Publication 535 states that reimbursements to employees for travel expenses incurred during the ordinary course of business must follow an accountable plan. An accountable plan requires employees to meet all of the following requirements:

  1. They must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as University employees.
  2. They must adequately account to the University for these expenses within a reasonable amount of time – 60 days.
  3. They must return any excess reimbursement or allowances within a reasonable period of time – 60 days.

Employees must adequately account for travel expenses by submitting original detailed receipts as described in the sections below. Any expenditure of $75 or more that is not properly substantiated does not meet the accountable plan.

If the above requirements are not met, all amounts paid or treated as paid are considered part of a non-accountable plan. Therefore, such amounts are taxable and reported as wages on from W2.

Allowable Costs, Payment Methods, and Documentation Requirements

Travel arrangements and payments should not be made until the TAER has all the proper approvals, and has been submitted to the Accounts Payable Office.

Air Travel

Travelers are expected to book the lowest possible airfare. For domestic travel, business class, premium economy and first class travel cannot be booked or expensed. Business class and premium economy for international travel is authorized if the trip is eighteen continuous hours or more in duration. The University will also reimburse traveler for reasonable baggage fees, upon submission of an original receipt for the baggage fee. Early bird check in fees and airline upgrades will not be reimbursed.

Air travel can be booked using the following methods:

  • Internet purchase using a University issued credit card.
  • University’s designated travel agency – Corporate Travel (210-366-9565). A purchase order is required to book any travel through Corporate Travel.
  • Use of personal funds. This option should only be used as a last resort.

Reimbursement will be not be submitted until travel is complete, and all documentation submitted to Accounts Payable as required and described in these guidelines.

Documentation required for submission with final TAER after travel is completed:

  • Original dated receipt or print out from the internet, if tickets are ordered on-line, showing the amount of the flight, and the dates the flights occurred. Note on the receipt if payment is with personal credit card or University issued credit card.
  • For purchases through Corporate Travel, they will bill the University directly. Attach a copy of the airline receipt or boarding pass.

Registration

Registration fees can be paid using the following methods:

  • Internet payment using a University issued credit card.
  • Accounts Payable check issued prior to the start of the conference. The registration fee will be processed by Accounts Payable upon receipt of a Check Request with a copy of the registration form and the approved TAER attached. The request must be received at least two weeks prior to the registration due date.
  • Use of Personal funds. This option should only be used as a last resort.

Reimbursement will be not be submitted until travel is complete, and all documentation submitted to Accounts Payable as required and described in these guidelines

Documentation required for submission with final TAER after travel is completed:

  • Original dated receipt or print out from the internet, if registration is paid on-line. Note on the receipt if payment is with personal credit card or University issued credit card.
  • For purchases through Accounts Payable, a copy of the registration form should be attached, noting it was paid through Accounts Payable.

If there is no registration fee for the conference/workshop or it has been waived, a copy of the agenda or brochure describing the conference/workshop must still be attached to the TAER to show the business purpose of the trip.

Lodging

Travelers should book standard room accommodations at non-luxury/moderately priced hotels. Reimbursement is for the rate of a standard room, internet access, parking, and applicable taxes only, and is limited to the number of nights authorized on the TAER.

For lodging in Texas, a Hotel Exemption Certificate should be taken with the traveler to provide the Hotel upon check-in.

Personal phone calls, laundry expense, and baggage tips are included in “other expense” section below. Room service included on the hotel bill should be counted as part of meal expense, and not included under lodging.

Charges incurred for items such as laundry, in-room entertainment, health club facilities, mini bar usage, late check-out fees, etc… are considered personal expenses and are not eligible for reimbursement.

Many internet booking agencies, such as Expedia and Orbitz, offer discounts on package deals that include a combination of travel expenses purchased together (such as airfare and lodging).  While they often provide a cost savings, these packages deals rarely include the documentation requirements necessary for University reimbursement. If a breakdown of all expenses and applicable taxes (such as airfare, airfare tax, room rate per night and room tax per night) cannot be provided by the vendor, the expense will not be reimbursed.  The IRS requires that receipts provide a certain amount of detail, and if that detail is not provided by the vendor, IRS requirements have not been met.

Lodging can be paid using the following methods:

  • University issued credit card.
  • Accounts Payable check. Payment for lodging can be processed by the Accounts Payable Office prior to the trip. The payment will be processed after an approved TAER has been submitted and is on file. A copy of the hotel’s estimated cost should be attached to a Check Request and submitted to Accounts Payable at least two weeks prior to departure due date. An original, dated receipt/statement that includes daily itemization of charges and shows a zero balance due should be obtained from the hotel upon departure, and attached to the final TAER.
  • Advance payment received by traveler. At least two weeks prior to travel, submit the approved TAER, and include the estimated amount of the hotel costs in the “Advance Requested” box. The original, dated receipt/statement that includes daily itemization of charges and shows a zero balance due should be obtained from the hotel upon departure, and attached to the final TAER.
  • Use of personal funds. This option should only be used as a last resort.

Reimbursement will be not be submitted until travel is complete, and all documentation submitted to Accounts Payable as required and described in these guidelines.

Documentation required for submission with final TAER after travel is completed:

  • Original, dated receipt that includes daily itemization of charges and shows a zero balance due. Note on the receipt if payment is with personal credit card, University issued credit card or University issued check. IRS requires that the hotel receipt include the name and location of the hotel, the dates of stay, and separate amounts for charges such as for lodging, meals, telephone, etc. . . If a booking agency such as Expedia is used, the final receipt showing how the payment was made may be submitted if it shows the room and tax rate per night, and number of nights.

Meals

Travelers should show prudence and fiscal responsibility in their choice of restaurants. Reimbursement for meals will be for the number of event days approved plus one travel day as authorized on the TAER. Traveler should exercise good judgment to ensure that the safety of faculty, staff and students is not compromised by the consumption of alcoholic beverages. According to the IRS, reimbursement for meals is an allowable business expense only when an overnight stay is required. Therefore, the University will not reimburse meals during travel if an overnight stay is not required.

Travelers are allowed the use of either the per diem or receipt method. Only one method may apply for the entire trip. The University encourages employees to take advantage of the meals provided at conferences to help maximize travel funds available for all employees.

Per Diem Method

  • The per diem rate is $30.00 per day and requires an overnight stay. No receipts are required. The per diem method includes tips. If the traveler selects the per diem method, but hosts a business meal with others in travel status, the University will reimburse this particular meal based on the receipt. The names of the individuals attending, and the business purpose must be written on the receipt.

Receipt Method

  • The traveler must obtain the original, itemized meal receipt for each meal and reasonable tip (15-20 percent) with TAER. Tips over 20 percent will not be reimbursed. Meals that are included on the hotel bill for room service must also be substantiated with an original itemized receipt. The meal charge on the hotel bill or the credit card receipt alone is not sufficient documentation.

Meals can be paid using the following methods:

  • University issued credit card.
  • Advance payment received by traveler. At least two weeks prior to travel, submit the approved TAER, and include the estimated amount of the meal costs in the “Advance Requested” box.
  • Use of Personal funds. This option should only be used as a last resort.

Reimbursement will be not be submitted until travel is complete, and all documentation submitted to Accounts Payable as required and described in these guidelines.

Documentation required for submission with final TAER after travel is completed:

  • For Per Diem Method, no receipts are required.
  • For Receipt Method, the original, itemized receipt is required. A credit card    receipt is not acceptable.
  • If hosting a business-related meal while traveling, IRS requires that the restaurant receipt be the itemized receipt with detail of expenditures. Also include the names of the attendees, their business affiliation with the University and a brief topic of discussion.

Ground Transportation

Rental cars may be used as necessary with appropriate approvals on the TAER when conducting University business, and should be the most economical available. Use of rental car is generally not necessary when staying at hotel where conference is being held. In rare circumstances where a car is needed, please document business reason. University will reimburse employee for gasoline purchased for the rental car.

It is not necessary to purchase insurance with the rental car company. Employees are covered under the University’s insurance. Please contact the Assistant to the Vice President for Administration and Finance to obtain the necessary insurance information needed when renting a vehicle in the name of the University.

University will reimburse traveler for other ground transportation, including taxis, airport transportation, parking charges, and toll.

Ground Transportation can be paid using the following methods:

  • University-issued credit card.
  • Advance payment received by traveler. At least two weeks prior to travel, submit the approved TAER, and include the estimated amount of the ground transportation costs in the “Advance Requested” box.
  • Use of Personal funds. This option should only be used as a last resort.

Reimbursement will be not be submitted until travel is complete, and all documentation submitted to Accounts Payable as required and described in these guidelines.

Documentation required for submission with final TAER after travel is completed:

  • For rental car, obtain original, dated receipt showing the amount, and dates the car was used.   Note on the receipt if payment is with personal credit card or University issued credit card.
  • If gas was purchased include the original gas receipt.
  • For other ground transportation, obtain original dated receipts.

Personal Auto

The University permits the auto mileage allowance published annually by the IRS. The rate is available on the IRS website or from the Accounts Payable office. The mileage rate covers all costs of operating the vehicle including gasoline, oil, insurance, tires, and repairs. The mileage allowance claimed may not exceed the lowest round trip airline coach fare, plus rental car (if necessary). If a reimbursement for mileage is requested, the traveler must attach documentation of coach airfare (14-day advance purchase) from an airline website. Reimbursement will be the lesser of the airfare or the mileage.

Personal Auto Mileage can be paid using the following methods:

  • Advance payment received by traveler. At least two weeks prior to travel, submit the approved TAER, and include the estimated amount of the personal auto mileage costs in the “Advance Requested” box.
  • Reimbursed after travel occurs with submission of final TAER.

Documentation required for submission with final TAER after travel is completed:

  • Mileage log showing the dates, destination, and beginning and ending odometer readings or a mileage calculation from MapQuest along with the business purpose for the trip.
  • If a reimbursement for mileage is requested, the traveler must attach documentation of coach airfare (14-day advance purchase) from an airline website. Reimbursement will be the lesser of the airfare or the mileage.

Employees are reimbursed for workday travel in excess of regular round-trip commute from home to St. Mary’s University. Departments who reimburse mileage for work-day automobile travel should maintain records of the employee’s round-trip commute to ensure accurate calculation of the reimbursement.

Traveler must carry at least the minimum legal limit of liability insurance required by law when using personal vehicle for University business.

Other

Business phone calls, faxes, or Internet use is reimbursable. If these charges are included on the hotel bill, make a notation as to the business purpose, and include the amount under “Other Expenses” on the TAER.

Personal phone calls made from the hotel room are reimbursable if they are reasonable – up to $5.00 per day. Make a notation on the hotel bill that they were personal calls, and include the amount under “Other Expenses” on the TAER.

The University allows a rate of $4.00/day for incidental expenses (e.g., tips for baggage carriers, hotel porters, laundry service) for the number of event days approved plus one travel day. No receipts are required. Include the amount under “Other Expenses” on the TAER.

Travel with Federal Funds

University faculty, staff and students routinely travel in support of sponsored research activities.  The University reimburses these travelers for necessary and reasonable business expenses incurred while traveling.  Reimbursable expenses must conform to university policy, federal and state law and the restrictions placed upon each sponsored project. Travel is allowable as a direct cost when such travel will provide direct benefit to the project.  Federally funded sponsored projects are subject to certain federal guidelines set forth in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), specific agency restrictions, as well as the University’s Travel Policy. The terms and conditions of the individual agreement should be reviewed prior to incurring and/or processing any travel cost. When there is a conflict between university policy and award requirements the most restrictive policy applies. Because each award has unique requirements, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive list of sponsor restrictions. The following list only highlights some common unallowable costs.

  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Entertainment
  • Travel on foreign airlines

The Fly America Act (FAA) requires the use of a U.S. air Carrier for federally funded foreign travel.

Summary of Travel Expenditures Not Reimbursable by the University

  • Business Class, Extended or Premium Economy Airfare for travel with continuous flight time of less than 18 hours.
  • First Class Airfare
  • Airline upgrades
  • Early Bird check-in fees
  • Tips for meals greater than 20 percent
  • Books, magazines, newspapers for personal use
  • Laundry and dry cleaning
  • Personal Entertainment expenses such as in-flight movies, hotel movies, etc.
  • Travel accident insurance premiums and/or purchase of additional travel insurance
  • Other expenses not directly related to the performance of the travel assignment
  • Mini bar items
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