Reimbursement of Travel
Section: Travel Index: F-1
Subject: Reimbursement of Travel
It is the policy of the University that all reasonable expenses for official travel shall be reimbursed in accordance with the guidelines set forth below. All travel must be for official University business. All applicable laws and University of Houston System (UHS) policies and procedures will be adhered to. All travel will comply with UHS Policy 03.A.03, Business Travel. All travel paid or reimbursed with state-appropriated funds must comply with the requirements of Textravel and the State Travel Management Program (STMP). Textravel will be applicable for all local travel situations that are not specifically covered in UHV policies and procedures.
Internal Revenue Service rules and regulations have specific requirements to determine if travel payments are considered to be part of an “accountable plan” and therefore non-taxable to the employee traveler. See IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses. This policy constitutes an “accountable plan” by IRS standards and travel payments that are in compliance with this policy are considered non-taxable to the employee, unless otherwise indicated.
Cost Center Manager
The department manager that has budget authority for a department and is the authorized approver for transactions for cost centers within that department; a current list of Sources with Approvers and Alternative Approvers is maintained on the UHV Intranet.
Days Spent on Business Activities
Includes days in which (1) the principal activity for that day was conducting University business, (2) the traveler was required to be present at a specific date and time for a business meeting, even if most of the day was not spent on business activities, (3) travel days to and from the business destination (not including travel to or from personal destinations or non-business side trips), and (4) non-working days, weekends, and holidays that fall between days in which business was conducted.
Department Travel Coordinator
Each department shall assign employee travel arrangements, including airfare, lodging and rental car reservations, to a Department Travel Coordinator. The Department Travel Coordinator will also be the main contact person between the department and travel-related staff in the Finance Department.
The geographic location that is the employee’s primary place of business. This should be the UHV campus or a UH campus or teaching center.
The location other than the employee’s designated headquarters to which the employee travels to conduct official University business.
Includes all travel by University employees and prospective employees to or from all countries outside Canada, Mexico, the United States and U.S. territories and possessions.
Funds collected at the University for goods or services, provided by non-state grants or contracts, or provided by donors, as opposed to funds appropriated by the Texas Legislature in the General Appropriations Act.
A commercial lodging establishment such as a motel, hotel, inn, apartment, house or similar establishment that provides lodging to the public for pay.
Mileage Only Reporting Form
Form used to record and request reimbursement to be paid with local funds for mileage only.
State Appropriated Funds
Funds appropriated by the Texas Legislature in the General Appropriations Act, whether held inside or outside the State Treasury. These funds include general revenue, special line items, Higher Education Assistance Funds (HEAF), and other funds designated as “state” funds.
State of Texas Travel Voucher Form
Form used to record and request reimbursement for travel expenses to be paid with state appropriated funds, including mileage, airfare, lodging meals, rental car, taxi, tolls and parking.
Travel Expense Report Form
Form used to record and request reimbursement for travel expenses to be paid with local funds, including mileage incurred in conjunction with other travel expenses, airfare, lodging, meals, rental car, taxi, tolls, and parking.
Travel Request Form
The Travel Request Form is used to authorize and request official University travel in advance of the trip. Not required for non-overnight mileage, parking, tolls, or other transportation expenses.
Travel Specialist/Travel Analyst
The Finance Department employees who review and approve travel related vouchers, answer travel related questions and serve as the campus Travel Card administrators.
An individual who voluntarily and without compensation provides recognition or support to the University in contribution to the University’s mission. This person may be a donor, potential donor, volunteer, or community, government, or corporate official. It does not include current faculty, staff, or students of the University or persons paid an honorarium or a fee for contracted services.
Advanced Approval and Travel Arrangements
All overnight travel that is related to University business, programs, or activities, whether paid by the University or not, must be approved in advance (prior to departure and before commitment of University funds) by all of the required approvers, on a Travel Request Form. All travel arrangements should be made to minimize travel costs, while fulfilling the objective of the University travel. Official University travel paid or reimbursed from state-appropriated funds must use state contracted vendors and rates; however, official University travel paid or reimbursed from local funds is generally not required to utilize state contracted vendors. See UHV Policy F-5, Travel Arrangements for more detailed information.
Additional requirements and procedures apply to foreign travel; see UHV Policy F-8, Foreign Travel. For information on prospective employee travel, see UHV Policy F-7, Prospective State Employee. For information on student travel, see UHV Policy F-3, Student Travel.
Cash advances are not available. No more than one travel reimbursement voucher should be processed for each business trip. Travel expenses cannot be reimbursed until after travel has concluded. Travel expenses are only to be reimbursed to the traveler; therefore, an individual will not be reimbursed for another traveler’s expenses unless the traveler is a University guest and prior approval of the appropriate Vice President or the President has been obtained on the Travel Request.
For travel within the continental United States, expenses may be reimbursed for travel including only one non-business travel day to and one non-business travel day from a duty point. Expenses for more than one non-business travel day to or from a duty point will only be reimbursed if a cost comparison is provided showing that the cost is less than that of one non-business day of travel.
The Travel Expense Report Form or State of Texas Travel Voucher Form should document all trip-related expenses, whether paid using a University travel card or reimbursed to the traveler, as well as any third-party reimbursements. A clear statement of the purpose and necessity of travel must be stated and acronyms must be spelled out at least once on the voucher. Forms, receipts and all supporting documents are to be attached to vouchers for payment in electronic workflow. If travel was for a conference or event, include a copy of the agenda or event announcement that states the dates of the conference or event and any meals provided by the event. Receipts must be itemized and detailed and must clearly show that the expense has been paid (zero balance due) and whether paid directly by the University or not. If a receipt does not clearly show that the expense has been paid, then proof of payment, such as a credit card receipt/statement or canceled check, must be attached as additional supporting documentation. If the original receipt is lost or not available, a completed and signed Lost Receipt Certification Form can be attached if the expense is paid with local funds.
- Local Funds
Travel Expense Report Form or a Mileage Reporting Form must be completed and submitted to request reimbursement for travel expenses to be paid with local funds. See the UHV Travel Guide or the Local Travel Voucher Entry Job Aid for more information.
- State Appropriated Funds
State of Texas Travel Voucher Form must be completed and submitted to request reimbursement for travel expenses to be paid with state appropriated funds according to the requirements of Textravel and the State Travel Management Program (STMP). See the UHV State Funded Travel Guide or State Funded Travel Voucher Entry Job Aid for more information.
Deadline for Submission of Travel Reimbursements
Employees, prospective employees and students must submit their requests for overnight transportation reimbursement, including the required documentation, to the Department Travel Coordinator no later than 60 days after the last day of travel. Requests for non-overnight transportation reimbursement must be submitted to the Department Travel Coordinator no more than one calendar year after the date of the first non-overnight transportation expense was incurred.
Requests for reimbursements to employees submitted after the above deadlines may not be forwarded to Finance for reimbursement unless documentation of approval by the appropriate Vice President or the President is included with the request.
In accordance with the Internal Revenue Service accountable plan requirements, as described in IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses, all employee reimbursement requests submitted to the Department Travel Coordinator after the above deadlines will be treated as a taxable fringe benefit to the payee. These vouchers must be routed in workflow through the UH Tax Department and must include a completed Exhibit B, Taxable Payments or Reimbursements to Employees Form as additional documentation.
The Department Travel Coordinator should make every effort to submit vouchers for travel reimbursements to Finance as soon as possible, but no later than 15 days following receipt of all required documentation from the traveler.
Airfare must be purchased at the lowest price available (i.e. coach class). No-cost upgrades to business class or first class airfare are acceptable, as long as the airfare receipt provided by the airline or travel agency clearly indicates that there is no additional cost for the upgrade. Additional costs for early check in or seat assignment are not allowed. Reimbursement of the first baggage fee is allowed but reimbursement of additional baggage fees must be justified for a business purpose.
When purchasing a “package deal” that includes airfare and lodging, an itemization of each expense must be obtained.
- Mileage Versus Airfare
Reimbursements for mileage must not exceed the cost of equivalent air coach fare or other reasonable available transportation. If mileage reimbursement is requested for travel from the designated headquarters to duty point for a distance greater than 400 miles, a cost comparison of all costs associated with mileage versus all costs associated with airfare travel including a comparative quote from the designated state-contracted travel agency must be prepared in advance of travel. Reimbursement for mileage and associated costs will be limited to the cost of airfare and associated costs. Extra costs for food or lodging while en route are not reimbursable if the traveler is reimbursed on a mileage basis in preference to air travel or other public transportation.
- Mileage, Rental Car, Tolls and Public Transportation
Designated Headquarters To/From Duty Point or Airport
Travel from the designated headquarters to/from duty point or airport by private auto is reimbursable at the University approved rate per mile at the time of travel available on the UHV Intranet Travel Information page. Travel from home to duty point or airport is not reimbursable unless the distance is documented to be less than from the designated headquarters to duty point. Travelers who choose to rent a car for travel from their designated headquarters may do so, but must pay out of pocket for the rental and fuel, and will still be reimbursed based on mileage if travel is paid with local funds. If travel is paid with state appropriated funds, the reimbursement for mileage will be limited to the cost of the rental car and fuel and receipts must be attached. Charges for parking at a duty point or airport are also reimbursable; paid, detailed receipts must be provided.
Airport To/From Duty Point in Destination City
For travel from an airport in a destination city to/from a hotel, conference or other business duty point, travelers may be reimbursed at the University approved rate per mile at the time of travel available on the UHV Intranet Travel Information page or may be reimbursed for actual expenses for the most cost effective method of travel, such as taxi fares or limo service (including reasonable tips), shuttles or other public transportation. Only the cost of necessary business travel should be considered in determining the most cost effective method. Car rental and fuel for travel to/from business duty points from an airport in a destination city may be reimbursed to the traveler; however, the total cost will be limited to the cost of the most cost effective method of transportation from the airport to/from duty point. Receipts and a cost comparison of car rental, parking, and fuel versus other available public transportation, such as a taxi fare estimate from Taxi Fare Finder, must be attached and the reimbursement will be reduced by any amount that the total rental, parking, and fuel costs exceed the cost of other available public transportation.
Mileage Calculation and Reporting
If mileage is reimbursed from local funds, distances for mileage will be obtained from the UHV Standard Distance Chart if both the starting point and destination are listed on the chart. If both the starting point and destination are not listed on the chart, the distance will be calculated using a web based mapping service, such as Google Maps, using the complete address (i.e. name, street address, city, and state) and the shortest route. If travel is reimbursed with state appropriated funds, all distances must be calculated specifically using Google Maps. A copy of the route and summary of miles must be attached to the reimbursement request.
Mileage must be documented on the Travel Expense Report Form and/or Mileage Reporting Form attached to the voucher for travel paid with local funds or the State of Texas Travel Voucher Form for travel paid with state appropriated funds.
Travelers may be reimbursed for tolls paid while traveling from their designated headquarters to/from a point of duty or from a duty point to/from another duty point. With the exception of the President’s travel, vehicles owned by the University, or vehicles rented on a University Travel Card, a University ProCard or Travel Card may not be used to pay for tolls and toll tag accounts under the University’s name are not permitted. Tolls must be paid out of pocket and then reimbursed in the same reimbursement request as other travel expenses for the same trip using a Travel Expense Report Form, Mileage Reporting Form, or State of Texas Travel Voucher Form. Paid, detailed receipts must be provided. The University will not reimburse for toll fines or fees associated with the use of toll roads without a toll tag, tolls for preferred use areas such as High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, or prepaid tolls or other charges associated with a personal toll tag account. Travelers should consider in advance the use of toll roads and the rules and penalties for the particular toll road system to avoid such non-reimbursable charges and may consider obtaining a personal TxTag to access toll roads.
Local Funds Lodging expenses, including any mandatory charges by a commercial lodging establishment, will be paid or reimbursed from local funds based on actual reasonable expenses, where reasonable is determined prior to travel at the cost center manager’s discretion.
State Appropriated Funds Current State-Contracted Hotels must be used unless the voucher is accompanied by written justification of use of another hotel. Actual lodging expense will be paid or reimbursed up to but not exceeding the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Per Diem Rates for domestic travel or the GSA Foreign Per Diem Rates for foreign travel for the appropriate federal year.
Hotel Occupancy Taxes for Lodging
University employees are exempt from the state portion of hotel occupancy taxes when traveling on official University business in Texas. The employee should present a completed Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Certificate to the Texas lodging establishment at the time of check-in. Employees should verify that they are not charged for the state portion of hotel occupancy taxes at the time of checkout.
If the employee failed to provide a Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Certificate or if the certificate was not honored by the lodging establishment, the state portion of hotel occupancy taxes can be paid or reimbursed to the employee at the cost center manager’s discretion if paid using local funds.
F. Meals and Per Diem
Actual travel meal expense will be reimbursed up to but not exceeding the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Per Diem Rates for domestic travel or the GSA Foreign Per Diem Rates for foreign travel, subject to any current University approved limitations at the time of travel available on the UHV Intranet Travel Information page. A traveler is limited on meals to be reimbursed on the days of departure and return to headquarters as follows:
Departure from Designated Headquarters:
Departure before 7:00 a.m.- Full Per Diem
Departure after 7:00 a.m. and before 12:00 p.m. - Lunch and Dinner Only
Departure after 12:00 p.m. - Dinner Only
Arrival at Designated Headquarters:
Arrival before 12:00 p.m. - Breakfast Only
Arrival between 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. - Breakfast and Lunch Only
Arrival after 7:00 p.m.- Full Per Diem
When partial meals are claimed for a day, actual travel meal expense will be reimbursed up to but not exceeding the rates for each meal per the GSA Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) Breakdown for domestic travel or the GSA Foreign M&IE Breakdown for foreign travel, subject to any current University approved limitations at the time of travel available on the UHV Intranet Travel Information page.
Receipts are not required by the University; however, individual cost center managers may require receipts for their departments. Per Diem includes taxes and tips so travelers will not be reimbursed separately for these items.
Per Diem or meal expense should be claimed only when there is an actual expense. If meals are provided at no cost to the employee as part of a registration fee, an airplane ticket, or a hotel-provided meal, reimbursement for those meals should not be requested and only partial Per Diem should be claimed for those days if Per Diem is used. Complimentary continental breakfasts and refreshments are not considered to be provided meals.
Meal expenses for one day trips (non-overnight travel) are not considered travel expenses and are not reimbursable. An employee’s business meal expense for a business meeting is not considered a travel reimbursement. See UHV Policy B-9, Entertainment and Reimbursement of other Business Related Expenses for information regarding business meal reimbursements. If a meal is reimbursed by the University as a business meal, meal expense for that meal shall not be claimed as part of a travel reimbursement and only partial Per Diem should be claimed for that day if Per Diem is used.
G. Other Necessary Miscellaneous Expenses
Limited incidental expenses for a University business purpose, such as internet access fees, copying charges, postage, telephone calls, or facsimile charges, incurred while traveling for a business purpose may be reimbursed with local funds. Reimbursement with state funds is subject to Textravel guidelines. Receipts must be provided.
Discretion must be used to ensure tips are given only in appropriate circumstances and for appropriate amounts not to exceed 20% of the amount charges. If meals are reimbursed by Per Diem, tips for baggage handling may not be reimbursed separately since such tips are already included in Per Diem.
H. Combining Business and Personal Travel
If travel includes a personal destination in addition to business destinations, a cost comparison of all costs of travel including personal destinations versus all costs associated with travel only to business destinations including comparative quotes for airfare from the designated state-contracted travel agency must be prepared in advance of travel. Reimbursement will be limited to the cost of travel to business destinations only. Airfare that includes personal destinations may not be directly charged to the University travel card.
Other travel expenses, such as meals, lodging, and local transportation, will be reimbursed only if they are incurred on days spent on business activities. All meals, lodging, and other travel expenses incurred on personal days will not be reimbursed to the traveler and may not be directly charged to a University travel card. Any additional expenses incurred (additional hotel room charge, additional baggage fees, etc.) because a family member is traveling with the University employee for personal reasons also may not be charged to the University or reimbursed to the employee.
Travelers who combine business and personal travel must adhere to the following requirements, which are described in IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.
Travel in the United States
If travel is in the United States (all 50 states and the District of Columbia) and the number of days spent on personal activities exceeds the number of days spent on business activities, the cost of traveling to/from the destination (airfare, mileage to/from airport, airport parking, etc.) may be charged to the University or reimbursed, but will be considered a taxable fringe benefit to the employee. These vouchers must be routed in workflow through the UH Tax Department and must include a completed Exhibit B, Taxable Payments or Reimbursements to Employees Form as additional documentation. In the case of travel in the United States when the number of days spent on business activities exceeds the number of days spent on personal activities, transportation costs to/from the business destination will be paid or reimbursed without tax consequences to the employee, not including personal destinations of side trips, which may not be paid or reimbursed. Other expenses that are directly related to conducting University business, such as lodging and meals on days spent on business activities, and local transportation costs to/from business meetings, may also be paid or reimbursed without tax consequences to the employee.
Travel Outside the United States
All University employee business travel outside the US that includes some personal travel days is considered to be entirely for business because the employee is considered to have no substantial control over making the trip. In this case, transportation costs to/from the business destination will be paid or reimbursed without tax consequences to the employee, not including personal destinations or side trips, which may not be paid or reimbursed.
The President’s travel outside the US that is greater than seven (7) days is not automatically considered to be entirely for business because the President is a managing executive and is considered to have substantial control over making business trips. Therefore, the President must substantiate that travel outside the US is considered to be entirely for business or primarily for business when personal travel is combined with business travel in order for the cost of the travel to/from the destination to not be considered a taxable fringe benefit.
I. Alternative Accommodations or Means of Transportation or Indirect Routes of Travel
If travel involves an indirect route or a means of transportation or type of accommodation other than those already addressed in this policy, a cost comparison of all costs of travel involving the indirect route, means of transportation, or alternate accommodation versus all costs associated with travel by a direct route with the methods addressed previously in this policy, including comparative quotes for airfare from the designated state-contracted travel agency, must be prepared in advance of travel. Reimbursement will be limited to the cost of travel by a direct route with the methods addressed previously in this policy.
J. Travel Funded by a Grant or Contract
When an employee’s travel is funded by a grant or contract with guidelines more restrictive than the state, System, or the University policy, those guidelines take precedence.
K. Approval Authority
Travel expenditures and reimbursements for travel expenditures to employees incurred on behalf of the University are subject to the approval, accountability and documentation standards of UHV Policy B-1, Expenditures and Expenditure Authority.
L. Payment Method
Payments to employees for reimbursement of travel expenditures incurred on behalf of the University must be made by direct deposit. Per State Government Code § 403.0551, Deductions for Repayment of Certain Debts or Tax Delinquencies, the University, as a state agency, is prohibited from making a payment for reimbursement of expenditures if the payee has an indebtedness or tax delinquency to any state agency until such indebtedness has been satisfied.
Questions concerning travel reimbursements should be directed to the Travel Specialist, Travel Analyst or Accounting Services Coordinator in the Finance Department.
Resources Available on UHV Intranet
UHV Intranet Travel Information
UHV Travel Guide
UHV State Funded Travel Guide
UHV Standard Distance Chart
Travel Request Form
Travel Expense Report Form
Mileage Reporting Form
State of Texas Travel Voucher Form
Lost Receipt Certification Form
Exhibit B, Taxable Payments or Reimbursements to Employees Form
Local Travel Voucher Entry Job Aid
State Funded Travel Voucher Entry Job Aid
Sources with Approvers and Alternative Approvers
UHV Policy B-1, Expenditures and Expenditure Authority
Signature Obtained______________ 8/17/18______________
Robert K. Glenn, Ph.D. Date
Originating department: Finance
Next Review Date: August 2021 (3 years)