A Model School Travel Policy

My previous post was about the benefits that may accrue form using an online service to manage the travel arrangements for your school employees and visitors. This follow-up post contains language that could be used should you wish to create or update a school travel policy.

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[insert name here] (School) recognizes the importance of travel to its global education, professional development, recruiting, and other programs. However, travel related activity is a significant consumer of resources including time and money and can materially contribute to our school’s carbon footprint.

This policy applies to employees and non-employees traveling on authorized School business, and to all travel expenses reimbursed by the School or paid for on the School’s Travel Card, regardless of the source of funds.

The School’s policy is to pay for necessary and reasonable travel expenses incurred for authorized School business by employees and approved non-employees. The intent of this policy is that such payments be fair and equitable to both the traveler and the School and consistent with federal regulations. Individuals traveling on business are responsible for complying with School travel policy, and should exercise the same care in incurring expenses as they would in personal travel. Expenses should be submitted in a timely manner. Absent exceptional circumstances, expenses submitted more than 60 days after completion of travel will be reported as additional income to the individual, in accordance with Internal Revenue Service guidance.

Authority and responsibility for approving travel by employees and guests of the School rests with the person responsible for the account to which the expense will be charged. Travel expenses are payable only when all required approvals are obtained before incurring the expense. Expenses incurred during sabbatical leave are payable when the expenses are incurred for reasonable and necessary School business and have the advance written approval of [insert approving authorities here].

Employees may not authorize travel or approve expense payments for themselves, or for a person to whom they report directly or indirectly.

Economical Transportation Required

To be fully paid by the School, the traveler must use the most economical mode of transportation available, consistent with the authorized purpose of the trip. More expensive transportation may be used if the traveler pays the incremental cost.

Automobile transportation is generally most appropriate for round trips up to 200 miles. Commercial air travel is generally the most economical and practical for longer trips. For ground transportation, rental or privately-owned vehicles and taxis should be used only if other means of transportation are unavailable, more costly, impractical, or if the time saved is advantageous to the conduct of the School’s business.

Limitation on Group Travel

Travel by a group of employees in the same aircraft, automobile or other means of transportation is discouraged when an accident could seriously affect the functioning of a School activity.

Travel Agency and Online Booking Tool

The School has a “preferred” travel agency [INSERT HERE] and has negotiated contracts to provide services for School employees and their families as well guests of the School. The School will pay travelers for the service fee charged by its travel agency for the School’s business travel. The School will not pay travel costs that exceed the cost of substantially similar travel available through its agency.

Commercial Air Travel

Lowest Available Airfare
All School staff, faculty members, students and School visitors traveling on business are expected to travel at the lowest available airfare and to take advantage of fares that are available through the School’s travel agency.

Criteria used to determine the lowest available airfare are:

  • Leaves or arrives within a 1-hour window on each side of the traveler’s desired departure or arrival time
  • Allows the traveler to choose airports
  • A nonstop flight if requested by the traveler
  • Does not require staying over Saturday night unless requested by the traveler
  • Does not include circuitous routing when a stopover is required
  • The class is reasonably adequate for the medical needs of the traveler

School Reimbursement
The School reimburses fares up to:

  • Coach class for domestic flights and international flights of less than eight hours total.
  • [insert appropriate approval authority here] may approve business class for international flights of eight hours or more total. This includes connecting domestic legs, provided there are no layovers.

Overnight Delays
Should an airline mechanical delay necessitate an overnight stay, the airline is responsible for overnight lodging if there are no flights to the traveler’s destination. In the event the airline is uncooperative, the traveler should use reasonable judgment in finding economical lodgings include the cost on their Expense Report.

Denied Boarding Compensation
Airlines occasionally offer free tickets or cash allowances to compensate travelers for delays and inconveniences due to overbooking, flight cancellations, changes of equipment, etc. Travelers may volunteer to give up their seats and receive compensation in this situation only if:

  • The delay will not affect the functioning of a School activity
  • The School will not incur any additional cost

Charges in Excess of Authorized Airfare
When a traveler prefers a higher class than that authorized, the traveler must pay the incremental difference.

Change Penalties
If a ticket has to be changed and a penalty is incurred, the traveler may claim payment from the School for the penalty. When trips must be cancelled, travelers are encouraged to rebook tickets for travel at a later date whenever possible.

Unused Airline Tickets
Travelers are encouraged to rebook unused tickets whenever possible. If it is not possible to use the ticket through rebooking, then it may be payable with proper documentation.

Meals and Lodging
Lodging Choice
School business travelers are expected to use lodging accommodations that are necessary and reasonable. The lowest standard room rates are generally available through our travel agency corporate rates.

Reimbursement Options for Lodging and Meals

OptionsThe traveler may use one of two methods for expenses

1. Actual Expenses
The traveler may be paid for the actual costs of reasonable and necessary meals, lodging, and gratuities.

  • Tips for meals must not exceed [insert percentage here] of the cost of meals.
  • When there is no overnight travel, meals will only be paid when the meal has a defined School business purpose.

2. Per Diem for Lodging and Meals
The traveler may be paid for lodging, meals and incidental expenses on the basis of per diem for both lodging and meals. The School follows U.S. Government General Services Administration travel rates when estimating per diems.

  • When two or more employees dine together the tab may be picked up by one employee and reimbursed on one expense report
  • When a meal has been paid for as part of a registration fee or included in the hotel rate, a deduction must be made from the applicable per diem rate.
  • Travelers who participate in hotel frequent guest programs may accept room upgrades to suites or executive floor rooms if the upgrade is at no additional cost to the School.

Local Travel
Local travel is defined as less than 50 miles one way from the School or the traveler’s residence, whichever is greater. Barring exceptional business reasons, local travel does not qualify for an overnight stay or payment of personal meals. If a trip exceeds the local travel limit, but the traveler chooses not to stay overnight, personal meals will be eligible for payment. A bona fide business meal is generally eligible for payment.

Trips Over 30 Days
When estimated travel is for more than 30 consecutive days in one location, or when the circumstances of the travel are such that the traveler can reasonably be expected to incur expenses comparable to those arising from the use of establishments catering to the long-term visitor or from the use of noncommercial facilities (e.g., house-trailers or camping equipment), the traveler may choose to be paid either for the actual and reasonable cost of lodging and meals or a basic per diem allowance of 55% of the standard rate for the appropriate geographic area. The rate begins with the first day of travel.

Foreign Travel
Foreign travel expenses are payable by the same methods as domestic travel.

Sabbatical Lodging
Sabbatical lodging expenses are paid only if the faculty member incurs two sets of living expenses simultaneously and there is a stated School business purpose for the expenses incurred during the sabbatical. If the primary home is rented out, the faculty member may not be paid for lodging expenses at a location away from the School.

Private Automobiles
Expenses Allowed — The School will pay a standard rate per mile for official travel by private automobile based on the actual driving distance by the most direct route (not more than 105% of the mileage listed on the Google Maps page at: http://maps.google.com/

  • Standard Mileage Allowance — The standard mileage allowance is in lieu of all actual automobile expenses such as fuel and lubrication, towing charges, physical damage to the vehicle, repairs, replacements, tires, depreciation, insurance, etc.
  • Mileage may be computed from the traveler’s home when travel occurs during weekends, holidays, or outside normal business hours (usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Mileage must be computed from home whenever the trip does not involve a business stop at the School and the distance from home is less than the distance from the School.
  • Automobile-related Expenses — In addition to the standard mileage allowance, necessary and reasonable charges for the following automobile-related expenses are allowed: tolls, ferries, parking, bridges, tunnels, and liability and physical damage insurance coverage for driving in foreign countries or Hawaii.
  • Traffic ticket and parking ticket expenses must be paid personally, not by the School.

Auto in Lieu of Airport Shuttle — Travelers should use the most economical means for travel to the airport, including parking costs. Shuttle services usually provide the most economical means.

Automobile in Lieu of Commercial Air — When an automobile is used in travel for which air is generally most appropriate, payment may not exceed actual miles the automobile is driven at the standard rate per mile, and may not exceed the allowable cost that would have been incurred had travel been by air.

Trips of More Than One Day — The School will pay the mileage allowance, meals, lodging, and automobile-related expenses if travel by automobile is the most economical mode of transportation available. Otherwise the School will pay the cost of the least expensive alternate method of travel. The School will calculate an en-route per diem based on an average driving distance of 400 miles a day by the most direct route, or actual number of days taken, whichever is less.

Two or More People Traveling Together — Because payment for private automobile is to reimburse the owner for use of the car, mileage and related expenses are payable only to one of the two or more persons traveling together in the same vehicle.

Rental Cars

  • Economical Alternatives — The School will pay the traveler for the cost of renting a compact or standard size car and for the automobile-related expenses, if use of the rental vehicle is the most economical mode of transportation. Hybrid, electric, or high MPG automobiles are preferred where available and when the cost does not exceed that of a compact or standard size car by more than [insert percentage here]%. Before renting a car, the traveler should consider shuttle services and taxis, particularly for transportation between airport and lodging.
  • School Name on Rental Agreement — Car rental agreements for both employees and non-employees renting for School business should, for insurance reasons, whenever possible include [insert name of school] with the name of an individual.
  • Driver and Location Limitations — For the traveler to be covered by the rental agency’s basic insurance, the rental vehicle may not be driven by persons other than the renter, or leave the state in which it is rented, without the agency’s permission.
  • When returning a rental car, do the following whenever possible:
    • Return the car to the original rental location to avoid additional charges.
    • Refuel the car prior to return to avoid fuel surcharges.
  • Accident Notification — If a rented vehicle is involved in an accident, [insert title of administrator] should be notified immediately.
  • Additional Insurance Needed?
    • Within the continental United States: NO — Since the School’s insurance policy provides coverage in excess of the rental agencies’ within the United States, travelers should not buy and will not be reimbursed for extra insurance from a car rental agency. Visitors to the School should be advised that additional insurance is unnecessary.
    • Within Hawaii: YES — A traveler planning to drive a rental vehicle in Hawaii must purchase the rental agency’s insurance. The School will pay the cost of such insurance.
    • Outside United States: YES — A traveler planning to drive a rental vehicle in any foreign country must purchase the rental agency’s insurance. The School will pay the cost of such insurance.

Other Forms of Transportation

  • Rail or Bus — For each night that railroad or bus accommodation is used, an amount equal to the lodging allowance will be deducted from the per diem rate, if applicable.
  • Ship — Payment of per diem will not be allowed for the period of travel aboard a ship where the cost of subsistence is included in the fare for passage and stateroom.

Combinations of School Travel with Personal Travel

  • Expenses Payable by Others — Travelers are encouraged to combine School travel with other business so that travel expenses can be shared with other organizations, and are responsible for seeking reimbursement for expenses payable by others. If a traveler is taking a trip payable jointly by the School and another entity, the School will pay for its share of the actual fare necessary for School business. Fares greater than coach fare (first class, business class, etc.) cannot be used as the basis for prorating air travel costs. When an outside organization pays for lodging or meals, the traveler may not claim per diem from the School. In no case may the amount paid for the trip from all sources exceed the total expenses incurred.
  • Non-business Expenses — The School does not pay travel expenses that are not required for official School travel.
  • Indirect Routes — If, for other than School business, the traveler takes an indirect route or interrupts a direct route, payment for air fare will be at either the actual charge or the charge that would have been incurred by traveling the direct route by the most economical means, whichever is less. The charge that would have been incurred for a direct route must be documented.
  • Rental Cars
    • Payment — Any personal portion of the cost of a rental car must be subtracted from the total rental bill before requesting payment. The personal portion is calculated by prorating the cost of the rental over the number of days for personal use and number of days for business use.
    • Insurance — If the traveler accepts extra insurance cost for a domestic, mainland car rental in order to be covered during the personal portion, the entire cost of the insurance coverage for the entire rental period will be a personal expense. However, if the rental occurs in a foreign country or Hawaii, the cost may be prorated.

Travel Expenses of Spouses and Others

  • Non-business Expenses — In general, the expenses of a spouse, family member, or other person accompanying the business traveler are not payable. Such expenses are only payable if the accompanying person has a position with the School and is traveling to make a significant contribution in furtherance of School business.
  • Hotel Rates — When a double hotel room is occupied by the business traveler and others whose attendance does not constitute a business purpose, the School will pay the single room rate. The single vs. double room rate must be provided in the notes section in the expense report or backup documentation. If the single room rate is not available or provided, the amount paid will be [insert percentage here]% of the double rate. In all cases, only reasonable and necessary accommodations will be paid.

Miscellaneous Travel Expenses

  • Registration Fees — Registration fees may be expensed at the time of registration by requesting payment using [insert schools payment method here] or seeking reimbursement for a personally paid registration. For conferences and events requiring travel, the School Travel Card can be charged.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses — Miscellaneous expenses essential to the purpose of the authorized travel must be submitted for payment on the same expense report as other travel expenses.
    • Meeting Expenses — Registration (if not prepaid), costs of presentations, published proceedings, rental of meeting rooms and other actual expenses in connection with professional meetings, conferences, and seminars will be paid.
    • Telephone, Fax and Computer Connections — Actual costs of necessary and reasonable business telephone calls, faxes and computer connections are allowable. Single telephone calls that cost [insert dollar amount here] and above must be itemized by business purpose and name of person called, even if the call is to a School number.
    • Checked Baggage. The School reimburses fees associated with checked baggage. Baggage requirements should be reasonable and necessary to support the business need. A justification should be included in the expense report business purpose when more than two pieces of baggage are checked.
    • Foreign Travel Costs — Actual costs of acquiring passports, visas, tourist cards, necessary photographs, birth certificates, required inoculations, immunizations, health cards, and fees for the conversion of funds to foreign currencies will be paid.
    • Insurance — Insurance costs such as life insurance, flight insurance, personal automobile insurance, rental car insurance (except for foreign countries or Hawaii as noted in paragraph 6.e.(2) and (3)), and baggage insurance will not be paid by the School.
    • Expenses on Behalf of Others — Ordinary and necessary business expenses incurred on behalf of others, including but not limited to food, beverages, refreshments and social or recreational activities will be paid. Expenses for personal entertainment are not payable.
      • Business Purpose Required — To be considered nontaxable, the Internal Revenue Service requires that the business purpose and the names of persons entertained be shown on the expense report. Individual names are not required if a group is involved and it can be identified as a single body.
      • Unallowable Expenditure Type — Business entertainment and alcohol must be charged to the appropriate expenditure type for unallowable expenses.
      • Per Diem and Entertaining or Business Meals — When a traveler who is paid at the full per diem rate furnishes a meal to others, either as entertainment or during a business discussion, the traveler must prorate the cost of the meal and seek additional payment only for the guest(s) meals. If multiple business or entertainment meals occur during a trip, or such a meal occurs during a trip of four days or less, the use of per diem for meals is not appropriate. Payment for actual meal expenses with appropriate receipts should be requested for the entire trip.
    • Personal Expenses — Expenses that are not directly related to and required for official School travel but that are incurred for the personal use or convenience of the traveler will not be paid. Except for unusual circumstances, laundry costs will not be paid unless a trip exceeds six days.

Special Travel

  • Interview Travel — Travel expenses in connection with employment interviews are authorized when necessary to acquire key personnel for employment at the School. Travel expenses are allowed to the extent authorized in a formal written invitation to the prospective employee, as long as they do not exceed the limits and are consistent with the policies and procedures in this policy. Travel expenses of spouses accompanying prospective employees are also allowed to the extent authorized in the invitation. Requirements and limitations in specific sponsored project awards apply.
  • Remote Workers — The School may hire employees who work remotely. These employees do not work in a regular School office, but work from their homes or other location as their principal place of business. If the employee works remotely 100% of the time, occasional trips to campus for department meetings, special projects, peak-time work, etc. may be paid by the department [insert appropriate approval authority here]. Such payments are generally not considered to be commuting expenses and therefore are not taxable income to the employee.

Records and Payment Procedures

  • Receipts — Dated original receipts or invoices for expenses of [insert amount here] or more must be provided to the originator for electronic submission to the Business Office as backup to a properly completed expense report. In accordance with IRS rules, the backup must support the cost and business character of the transaction, and, for a reimbursement, must show evidence of payment. Credit card statements are proof of payment, but are not considered to be itemized receipts, and are generally not enough documentation standing alone. If proof of payment by check is required, a copy of the cancelled check or bank statement is sufficient.
  • The electronic image attached to the expense report is considered the document of record, and the originator should destroy the original paper receipts once the Business Office has completed processing and the expense report has been paid.
  • Meals — The cardholder’s copy of the charge form obtained at the time the charge is made will be accepted as documentation for meals.
  • Transportation Tickets — Passenger copies of air, rail, boat, helicopter, and non-local bus tickets. For electronic tickets, provide a detailed invoice/itinerary (which may also be identified by the air carrier as a receipt), as long as it shows all times of departure, flight numbers, class of service, fare basis, ticket number or confirmation number, and cost of ticket, along with proof of payment (i.e., card being charged). Documentation that does not include this information is not acceptable as a receipt.
  • Car Rentals — Original car rental agreements or invoices showing proof of payment.
  • Lodging — Itemized lodging bill, unless a per diem allowance is claimed for the trip. Express checkout itemized receipts are acceptable. The express checkout must show credit card being charged. When the method of per diem for meals is chosen, there will be no payment of meals charged to the lodging bill.
  • Other Expenses — Expenses under [insert dollar amount here] may be paid without a receipt. However, the amounts claimed must be accurate.
  • Foreign Exchange Rate — The $U.S. equivalent should be included on receipts for purchases in foreign currencies. A School-approved currency converter is available on the web at http://www.oanda.com/converter/classic. If a copy of the traveler’s credit card statement is included with receipts, payment will be for the amount shown for the item on the statement.
  • Missing Original Receipts — The traveler must seek a duplicate of a missing original receipt from the billing agency. When submitting an expense report, include the duplicate receipt showing proof of payment
  • Expense Report — The School requires preparation of an expense report to account for any travel expenses that are to be charged to a School account.
    • Purpose — The expense report must include a statement of the purpose of the travel that shows the direct relationship of the travel to an official School function. The purpose for any stopover en route must also be included. If conference expenses are charged to a sponsored project, the conference must directly support the purpose of the sponsored project. A copy of the conference agenda or program should be included electronically with the submitted backup documentation.
    • Dates — All days from day of departure to the return date must be included on the expense report. Days for personal use must be shown as such.
    • Expenses — Costs of transportation, meals, lodging, and miscellaneous expenses must be listed by date and location on the expense report.
    • Approvals — The expense report must be approved online by the appropriate person authorized to approve expenses for the account(s) charged.
    • Improperly Completed Forms — The traveler is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the expense report and electronically submitted backup receipts. If the report is not completed properly, it will be returned. The business Office needs to receive all required backup documents before an expense report can be processed.
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