Policy: Employee Travel

Issued By: Business Office and Chief Financial Officer

I. Policy

This policy is intended to provide for the reasonable needs of faculty and staff that have reason to incur  travel expenditures, to facilitate proper reporting, and to ensure compliance with applicable IRS requirements.

II. Scope

This policy applies to all travelers (faculty and staff) regardless of the source of funds. If travel expenses are charged to a grant/contract source, the terms of the grant or contract will take precedence, if they are more restrictive than the College policy.

III. Procedures and Regulations

A. Responsibilities

Travel assignments should be planned and conducted so that costs will not exceed budgetary limitations. The traveler must follow the College’s policies in planning and conducting official travel. The traveler will be reimbursed up to the amount approved by the appropriate Vice President. This approval must be given prior to the commencement of the travel. Only those expenses which are ordinary and necessary will be reimbursed.

The first level of approval for travel expenses (the traveler’s supervisor) is responsible for ensuring the accuracy, integrity and adherence to the College’s travel policy.

B. Definitions

For the sake of clarity, the definitions and procedures in this policy distinguish between “transportation” and “travel.”

  • Transportation: leaving campus for a period of less than 24 hours, generally within a 100-mile radius, and not requiring overnight lodging.
  • Travel: leaving campus or home for a period exceeding 24 hours, beyond the general area, and necessitating an overnight stay.
  • Domestic Travel: travel among any of the fifty United States, its possessions and territories, and Canada.
  • Foreign Travel: travel outside of the United States, its possessions and territories, and Canada.
  • Official Travel: travel on approved College business between home (or normal workplace) and another destination. Commuting between one’s home and regular place of employment is not official travel.

C. Restrictions

For the travel reimbursements and payments to be considered non-taxable income, the College’s policies and procedures must comply with the IRS Accountable Plan Rules, and meet these conditions:

  • Business connection: reimbursements provided to travelers must be for work-related expenses only.
  • Substantiation: travelers must provide, within a reasonable period of time, a statement substantiating the amount, time, use, and business purpose of the expenses.
  • Return of advances: travelers must return any advanced amounts in excess of the substantiated expenses promptly upon completion of the travel assignment.

D. Travel Authorization and Scope

Travel on College business should be authorized in advance by the Vice President responsible for the travel budget to be used. That person should be familiar with the purpose of the travel, and is responsible for assuring that budgeted funds are available to meet the travel commitment. The traveler should request approval of their trip by sending an email (preferably to their Vice President) that outlines the reason for the travel, the dates of travel and breakdown of the estimated costs.   This email serves as the backup documentation for the purchase order, which must be done before the employee travels.

Official travel should utilize the mode of transportation that will be the most the practical and economical, and should generally follow the most direct route.

Prior to Departure: Both the traveler and the authorizing officer should be familiar with the College’s policies and procedures regarding travel. The traveler is expected to analyze comparative costs of modes of travel (e.g., driving vs. air, non-refundable tickets) and should be prepared to document cost savings.

E. Non-College Employees

Travel expenses for non-college employees such as consultants, speakers, job applicants etc. are generally reimbursed in accordance with contracts for services or vendor payment procedures. If not so provided, then these College policies and procedures will prevail.

Travel expenses for Employment Applicants must be arranged and approved through the Director of Human Resources. All Employment Applicants are not eligible for travel reimbursement.

Payment to visiting foreign nationals can be made only if the visitor holds an appropriate visa. In addition to the documentation required for all travel reimbursement, resident aliens must also submit the currently required visa documentation.

The IRS has ruled that the expenses of a spouse or other person accompanying a traveler cannot be reimbursed if the person has no significant role or performs only duties of a clerical, secretarial, or medical nature. Any costs associated with travel by spouses will not be reimbursed. In addition, staff personnel traveling for Admissions, Development or other administrative functions may not be accompanied on business trips by spouses, children or friends unless specifically approved by the Vice President of the traveler.

F. Travel Itinerary

If a travel itinerary includes personal or vacation travel, only the business portion of the trip will be reimbursed. The traveler must provide documentation showing the incremental costs to be treated as personal expenses.

Trips of less than a 100-mile radius do not qualify for an overnight stay and the College does not generally allow meal expenses for such one-day travel.

For approved foreign travel, the actual costs of acquiring passports, visas, tourist cards, identifying photographs, birth certificates, inoculations, currency exchange fees, etc., are reimbursable. The traveler is responsible for ensuring that all necessary documentation is complete and appropriate for the foreign itinerary.

G. Cancelled Travel

Cancellation of reservations for lodging and transportation is the responsibility of the traveler. Any penalty for failure to cancel reservations will be the personal responsibility of the traveler.

Travel Advances for cancelled travel must be returned to the College on the first business day after the cancellation.

H. Advances

A traveler should obtain a travel advance only when necessary, and only if it is to be used for anticipated, reasonable, and allowable out-of-pocket expenditures to cover food, mileage for private auto and other items.

Only individuals traveling on College business may request travel advances. Requests must be made on an Employee Travel and Advance Agreement (Attachment A). Travel advances must be accounted for at the end of each trip. Failure to do so within 15 days of the end of the trip will result in a deduction of the entire amount of the advance from the employee’s paycheck.

I. Documentation

Each traveler should keep a log of daily travel expenses and receipts should be obtained and carefully retained for all expenditures for which they are normally available. Original dated receipts must be submitted with the Travel Expense Report for all claimed reimbursements including meals. Altered receipts will not be honored. All expenditures must be individually dated and included in detail. Electronic airline tickets do constitute an acceptable receipt, if the price is included on the e-ticket.

J. Common Carriers (air, rail, etc.)

Travel by common carrier must be tourist, coach, or economy class. Round-trip or excursion fares should be used if practicable.

Airline and rail tickets may be purchased directly from the carrier or via the web to obtain best pricing.

If travel is extended over a Saturday night to achieve better pricing, the reduction in cost of the travel must be greater than the cost of hotel and meals for the added period.

Taxi or limousine fares are reimbursable for travel between home/office and the departure terminal, between arrival terminal and hotel or place of business, and between hotels and places of business during the working day. Receipts are required for reimbursement.

K. Auto, private/rental

For insurance purposes, staff should not use personal autos for business travel. There may be exceptions to this but all exceptions must be approved by the Vice President of the traveler. Rental cars (see below) should be used for any extended trips.

When travel by private automobile is chosen over a common carrier to save time, transport equipment, or reduce costs when a number of people are traveling to the same destination, reimbursement to the traveler will be on the basis of actual business mileage traveled. If several travelers use a privately owned vehicle, only the owner of the vehicle will be reimbursed for mileage.

An accurate daily record of miles traveled must be maintained and submitted with the Travel Expense Report. The reimbursement rate will be the Federal Government rate in effect on the date of the travel. The mileage reimbursement covers all operating costs of the vehicle including but not limited to gasoline, repairs, depreciation, antifreeze, of the vehicle including towing and insurance. No reimbursement is permitted for costs of repairs or damages to vehicle, costs for locksmiths, car washes, or towing whether they result from the acts of the traveler or others. Fines for moving or parking traffic violations are not reimbursable.

Commuting costs (transportation between home and work place) are never reimbursable.

Rental vehicles may be authorized when other transportation is not available or when their use results in savings. Vehicles should be economy or compact models. College insurance will generally cover vehicles rented domestically for collision and liability. Optional insurance offered by the rental agency will not be reimbursed on rental within the United States. Automobile rentals in foreign countries must elect the optional insurance for the vehicle, but not for luggage.

L. Limousine and Taxi Services

Public transportation should be used whenever practical. In cases where there is a business reason to use a taxi service, (e.g., time constraints or the needs to transport college materials), it is reimbursable. Limousine and taxi service to and from airports and terminals, and reasonable tips are allowed. The least costly transportation should be used, especially if shuttle services are available. Receipts are required for public transportation; however, an itemized log is required, with date, destination and cost.

M. Lodging and Meals

When a conference or meeting is offered as a package including hotel room and meals, payment is usually made in advance and reimbursement of the traveler is not necessary.

Travelers are expected to use prudent judgment in the selection of hotels and restaurants while on official College business.

Where possible, travelers should actively seek discounts for educators, AAA members, etc.

Lodging within 100 miles of the traveler’s home is not allowable. Lodging reimbursement is limited to single occupancy, single room only, unless accommodations are shared by more than one authorized traveler, in which case separate receipts should be obtained or only one person should submit for reimbursement.

The traveler will be reimbursed for the actual expense of lodging. Personal expenses and services (in-room movies, health club fees etc.) are the responsibility of the traveler.

Transport between hotel and restaurant is allowable; a receipt is necessary and the cost should be itemized on the transportation log.

The traveler is responsible for payment of the lodging bill immediately upon receipt. The original itemized, dated hotel bill, marked as paid, must be submitted with the Travel Expense Report.

The traveler will be reimbursed for the actual reasonable costs of meals, including tax and gratuity, incurred during the travel period.  Travel period, for purposes of this policy, is defined as any day that the traveler is out of the office for the entire day due to official Trinity business. Itemized Receipts for all meals must be kept and submitted with the Travel Expense Report. Itemized meal receipts are necessary – showing food and beverage totals separately. Food and beverage expenses relating to approve travel will be reimbursed at no more than $25 per day, upon submission of appropriate receipts. Altered receipts will not be honored. Costs of alcoholic beverages will not be reimbursed.

If approved in advance, entertainment meals may be reimbursed, provided substantiation requirements are met; these require original receipts, names and titles of guests and the business relationship to the traveler. The purpose, place, date, and amount must be documented. Costs of alcohol must be reported separately from meals to be reimbursed.

N. Other Travel Expenses

The following travel related items are generally reimbursable to the extent they are reasonable and necessary business expenses, and receipts are provided:

  • Telephone calls related to business or travel
  • Registration fees
  • Currency conversion fees
  • Fax charges
  • Gasoline for rental cars, including final fill
  • Parking
  • Mileage on personal vehicles
  • Taxi/limousine to make travel connections
  • Tips
  • Tolls
  • Required vaccinations for foreign travel
  • Conference fees
  • Visa and passport fees

Other documented and justified cost items will be given consideration for reimbursement. The College will reimburse a traveler only for items paid personally, and only after the travel has taken place.

O. Travel Expense Report

Each traveler must prepare and submit a complete individual report of expenditures as expeditiously as possible but no more than 15 days after completion of travel. The Travel Expense Report must be approved by the Vice President who approved the original travel authorization, or a designee, and must be someone who does not report to the traveler. The approving Vice President certifies by signature that each expense declared is an ordinary and necessary expense incurred in accordance with the College’s travel policy. Approved Travel Expense Reports are submitted to the Accounts Payable section of the Controller’s Office. Full documentation must accompany the report. The Accounts Payable unit of the Controller’s Office will review the Report only to establish the existence of approvals and documentation for each expenditure claimed; they will also check the mathematical accuracy of the Report.

Travelers certify by the submission of their Travel Expense Report that the expenses were incurred in the course of official travel on legitimate College business, and that they have not been, and will not be reimbursed by another entity.

A traveler on extended assignment (greater than 30 days) should submit monthly interim Travel Expense Reports. Extended assignments that cross fiscal years will require submission of a travel report as of the last date of the fiscal year, even if less than one month has elapsed since the most recent interim report.

Additional audits of compliance with College policy may occur before or after payment.

If a balance is due the traveler, Accounts Payable will issue a check payable to the traveler after the Travel Expense Report receives departmental budgetary/accounting approval.

If a refund is due the College, the traveler must submit a check payable to Trinity College with the Travel Expense Report.

Traveler Expense Reports with significant lapses between travel and submission may be subject to additional justification and verification. Under no circumstances will travel expenses for travel completed during a fiscal year be reimbursed after the close of that fiscal year. The Controller shall publish reasonable deadlines at the fiscal year end for reimbursement requests to be processed.