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Accounting | Travel Reimbursement

Travel Procedures: Travel Reimbursement

1. General Provisions

State regulations provide reimbursement limits for meal and lodging costs incurred as a result of authorized travel. No reimbursement is allowed for lunch. Meal and lodging charges within thirty-five miles of an employee's official station or place of residence are also not allowed.

Union agreements specify various reimbursement rates. Care should be exercised to ensure the proper rates are used when submitting vouchers for payment. Special rates are issued by the Office of the State Comptroller for international travel. These rates are available in the Accounting Office Travel Unit, 437-3872.

Employees with permanent disabilities may be entitled to reasonable and necessary expenses in excess of the rates for meals and lodging. Exceptions are made on a case by case basis. Contact the Accounting Office Travel Unit (437-3872) to determine eligibility for additional expense reimbursement.

2. Departure/Arrival Time Requirements

Breakfast

Charges will be allowed when the time of departure from home or office at the beginning of a trip necessarily occurs at least one hour before their normal work start times. 

Dinner 

Charges will be allowed when time of return to home or office at the conclusion of a trip necessarily occurs at least two hours later than their normal ending work time.

 

3. Travel Status

Meal expense reimbursements are excluded from an employee's income when they are associated with overnight business travel. Generally, this rule is satisfied if an employee must be released from his or her principal post for a period that will enable the employee to get sufficient sleep or rest to complete the travel assignment.

Employees on business trips lasting one day or less may be eligible for reimbursement of breakfast and dinner. The Internal Revenue Service requires that meal reimbursements associated with travel not requiring the employee to sleep or rest, constitute taxable income to the employee. Thus, these reimbursements are reported in the employee's gross income and are subject to withholding taxes.

The following examples clarify the application of the Internal Revenue Service requirement regarding taxability of travel reimbursements:

  • An employee travels to Buffalo on business, leaving his residence at 5:30 a.m. to arrive on time for a full day of meetings commencing at 10:30 a.m. The employee eats breakfast on the road and departs Buffalo at 7:45 p.m. after having dinner. In accordance with the State Comptroller's regulations, the employee is reimbursed for breakfast and dinner. As this trip did not require the employee to stop for rest or sleep to complete the trip, the amounts the employee receives to cover meal expenses will be reported as gross income and subject to withholding taxes.

  • Assume the same facts as above except the employee parked in a rest area on the thruway and slept in the car for two hours. The meal reimbursement is taxable because, to be applied, the overnight rule requires a stop of sufficient duration that it would normally result in a significant increase in expenses. In effect, the employee must incur a lodging expense for the overnight rule to apply.

  • An employee goes on a business trip, leaving on a Monday and returning on a Friday. The reimbursement for all meals including those eaten on the last day of the trip, are not taxable. These expenses are treated as part of a trip that required an overnight stay.

  • An employee attends a professional meeting in a city two hours away. A meal is served as part of the program. Reimbursements received are not taxable because the meal consumed is part of a program designed to achieve a business objective.

4. Processing

All requests for reimbursement must be filed on the State of New York Travel Voucher (Form AC 132). Support documents (receipts, etc.) should be attached and cross-referenced on the travel voucher. University at Albany policy requires original receipts for ALL expenses being claimed.

Upon completion of the trip, the traveler prepares a Travel Voucher, signs it, and attaches all documents necessary to support the items being claimed. If a personal car was used, the Statement of Automobile Travel form (Form AC 160) should be completed and attached.

The traveler forwards the Travel Voucher with all supporting documents to the account manager to be approved, signed and forwarded to the Accounting Office, MSC 203.

All travel reimbursement checks are mailed to the traveler's home. The amount received by the traveler is the net of any outstanding travel advance.

5. Reimbursement Rate Schedule

The traveler can be reimbursed for travel expenses by one of two methods. Method I is a per diem allowance, while Method II pays the actual lodging cost to a maximum amount plus a per diem meal allowance. In either case, no reimbursement is allowed for lunch.

Allowable lodging and meal rates are the same for all negotiating units and are dependent upon the county and city to which the person travels.

ATTACHMENT III-1 summarizes allowable reimbursements under Method I and Method II. It also covers reimbursement for personal car mileage, meal allowances for non-overnight travel, and an explanation of how the meal per diem can be used in part to offset lodging rates that exceed the maximum allowance.

When completing Travel Vouchers, the city and county travelled to must be clearly indicated for payment to be made.

6. Transportation By Common Carrier

a. Travel by Air

All airfare must be charged to a Citibank Travel Account(CTA) or your NYS Travel Card with one of the two state contracted travel agencies. Please see the topic, "University Designated Travel Agencies" for a listing of the available travel agents.

Exceptions to the use of this contract shall only be made for emergency situations or where a special incentive fare may save more than $200 over the contract price. Please note, exceptions to the use of the contract require prior approval by the Agency Finance Officer. A quote is required from the State contracted travel agency as to fare price.

When making reservations, you must be able to provide the following information:

The entity you are traveling for (SUNY Albany or the Research Foundation)
The traveler's name and department account number or NYS Travel Card number
Destination and dates of the potential trip

Each agency has created a master profile and will create personal profiles for individuals who request them.

In all cases of travel by air, the passenger's portion of the airline ticket must be attached to the Travel Voucher or the NYS Travel Card reconciliation form.

Intrastate air travel for trips less than 200 miles is prohibited. Travelers are prohibited from using air travel between New York City and Albany. If a traveler still chooses to travel by air when prohibited, the traveler will be reimbursed for travel only up to the amount of a bus or a train ticket, whichever is higher, unless specific exemption is given by the University president. The traveler should submit the president's approval to the Accounting Office with the travel voucher form.

b. Travel by Train or Bus

Reimbursement is limited to coach fare when the trip is a daytime trip of 200 miles or less each way. Regular first class fare will be allowed for trips over 200 miles each way. The traveler should take advantage of round-trip or excursion rates whenever possible.

Service on trains is limited to chair rates for daytime travel and roomette rates for overnight travel. All charges for sleeping car and parlor car accommodations must be supported by a roometteor seat check as well as an appropriate explanation of why such accommodations were needed.

Tipping of porters for official travel within the State will be allowed at the rate of 25 cents for parlor car or chair accommodations and 50 cents for sleeping accommodations. On longer trips involving out-of-state travel, reasonable tipping charges will be allowed.

c. Traveling by Amtrak

Amtrak offers special governmental employee rates for travel between Albany/Rensselaer and New York City, and Schenectady and New York City. The governmental employee rates must be obtained, and reimbursement will be made at these rates only (See AttachmentIII-1). It is suggested that the employee use the University-designated travel agency to schedule all train travel.

Amtrak ticket agents require New York State employees to identify their employment status to obtain the lower rates. Presenting a University Identification Card satisfies this requirement.

d. Taxicab and Limousine Charges

Taxicab charges will not be allowed when regularly established public bus lines are available unless the employee provides reasons to justify such charges. Reasonable customary tipping will be allowed. Tips should not be claimed separately but, rather, should be included in taxicab charges.

e. Reimbursement for Travel between Residence and Transportation Terminal

When in travel status, employees may be reimbursed for the following travel expenses incurred between residence and transportation terminals (bus stations, airports, State garages, etc.).

  • Actual cost incurred.
  • Actual cost incurred for travel between transportation terminals.
  • Personal car mileage at the negotiated rate (see Reimbursement Rate Schedule). The employee must provide receipts to be reimbursed. Parking meter charges will be allowed when the employee lists on the voucher the date and place the charges were incurred.

7. Transaction Fees

Transaction fees vary by travel agency. Please see topic, "University Designated Travel Agencies" for fees.

*Airline Transaction Fee - The contractor is allowed to charge a Transaction Fee for reserving, booking and issuing airline tickets (Electronic or Paper Tickets). One transaction fee may be charged per trip, for booking and ticketing air travel. For purposes of airline transaction fees, a "Trip" is defined as all segments booked for one individual at one time for one itinerary. Any service not itemized separately in this amendment is designated as a non-fee item and shall be considered to be part of and included in the Transaction Fee charge. Additional charges for any service that is not listed will be considered to be a part of the Transaction Fee charge.

**Bus/Train Transaction Fee - Travel agents may charge a transaction fee for booking train and/or bus transportation (bus tickets must be booked with commercial bus transportation companies, such as Greyhound and Trailways). This charge is allowed on a per ticket (per traveler) basis unless the transaction is for bulk ticketing. Bulk ticket issues are allowed only one transaction fee for the entire group of tickets. Bus/Train bulk ticketing is encouraged, when possible. Bulk ticketing is defined as multiple tickets ordered by one entity, at one time, for delivery to one location. Time permitting, train and bus tickets should be mailed first class with no additional charges. (Motor coach group bookings are excluded.)

***Delivery by Messenger has been deleted from the State contract. E-ticketing is highly encouraged to lower the cost of delivery by a State contracted courier service. For non-priority tickets, arrangements for delivery through 1st class mail is acceptable. Ticket delivery shall be accomplished by satellite ticket printer or e-ticketing at no additional fee. When an e-ticket is issued, the travel agent contractor must fax or e-mail a confirmation to the purchasing agency. The using entity may use one of the contractors from the Statewide Courier Services contract to pick up tickets from the travel agent for delivery to their location. If this method of delivery is utilized, consideration should be given to use the least cost delivery time category that provides the tickets within the necessary time frame.

8. Transportation by Motor Vehicles

a. Transportation by Rental Vehicles

In general, a rental vehicle should be used when the trip destination is over 100 miles and common carrier service cannot be used without undue delay. Personally owned vehicles should only be used for trips under 100 miles or when it is otherwise impractical to rent a vehicle.

Reimbursement will be allowed for a period not to exceed 10 days for rental vehicles used within NYS.  There is no time limit on rental vehicles used for out-of-state travel.

Enterprise Car Rental (Enterprise) holds the State contract for rental vehicles and their rates are substantially lower than others in the area. Generally, it is suggested that Enterprise be used when renting a vehicle; however, if a lower rate can be obtained from another vehicle rental agency for similar service, that vehicle rental organization can be used by the traveler. Use of another car rental agency without obtaining a lower price may result in the traveler not being fully reimbursed for the vehicle.

Vehicles should be rented from Enterprise according to the following guidelines:

Department travelers contact Enterprise directly indicating University at Albany employment and reserve the vehicle. At that time, a payment method should be discussed and either the NYS Travel Card or personal credit card should be charged.

Vehicle Pickup can be done three ways:

  1. Vehicles may be picked up at any one of the Enterprise locations. Pickup location should be confirmed when making the reservation.

  2. Vehicles can be delivered to the campus or home and the traveler can leave directly from that location. This arrangement should be made when making the reservation and should be confirmed in advance of the pickup date. Please note this service may not always be available.

  3. Enterprise personnel will pickup the traveler at the campus or home and take them to the appropriate Enterprise location. The traveler will receive the vehicle and depart from the Enterprise location.

Use of method two or three is provided by Enterprise at no additional fee.

At the time of pick up or delivery, the person who will be the primary user of the vehicle must sign the rental agreement and obtain a copy of the agreement. The traveler will need to provide his or her drivers license and their University ID. The traveler will charge the vehicle directly to a credit card. The copy of the rental agreement serves as the vehicle's registration for the time the person is using the vehicle.

Copies of driver licenses must be given to Enterprise for each person who may be driving the vehicle.

Another copy of the rental agreement will be given to the traveler when the trip is completed. This document will serve as the document upon which closeout of the rental situation will be done. It is important that this document be retained by the traveler and submitted to the Accounting Office with the travelers NYS Travel Card reconciliation form.

Upon returning from the trip, the car will be left at the Enterprise Office, unless another arrangement with the Enterprise Office has been made. Assuming there is no damage to the vehicle, it will not be necessary for the traveler to have further interaction with Enterprise personnel.

When arranging for a vehicle, the following policies should be followed:

  1. Vehicles will be rented in the following manner: within 500 miles - compact size vehicle, over 500 miles - compact or mid size vehicle. No upgrades will be allowed unless there are specific mitigating circumstances to support the upgrade. All upgrades must have the prior approval of the Accounting Office. Availability of funds will not be an adequate reason for an upgrade.

  2. Receipts should be obtained by the traveler for the rental, gasoline, insurance, tolls, or other expenses associated with the vehicle. The receipts should be submitted with the persons NYS Travel Card reconciliation form and reimbursement will be made for appropriate items.

  3. The vehicle will be provided to the traveler with a certain level of gas which will be noted at the time the traveler accepts the vehicle. It is expected that the traveler return the vehicle with the same level of gasoline in the tank.

  4. Due to a change in the New York State General Business Law, insurance is automatically included in the rental rates. 

  5. All rentals are exempt from New York State taxes.

The person signing the vehicle rental agreement accepts responsibility for the judicious operation of the vehicle during the time it is under that persons control. The vehicle should be operated only for official University business or for the necessary incidentals of meals, etc., related to the purpose of the trip. Under no circumstances should the vehicle be used for personal use or for travel not associated with the persons official business.

b. Transportation by Privately Owned Vehicles

When a privately owned vehicle is used for University business, the traveler will be reimbursed at the current approved mileage rate ATTACHMENT III-1. Reimbursement is allowed for all travel necessary to accomplish the purpose of the trip.

A Statement of Automobile Travel (Form AC 160) must be attached to the Travel Voucher to support the miles claimed. The total of the "Miles Traveled" column on the Statement of Automobile Travel should agree with line 16 on the Travel Voucher and will be used as the basis for mileage reimbursement.

When a personal car is used for official travel beginning or ending at the employee's residence rather than his or her official station and destination is 35 miles or more from the official station, the traveler may be reimbursed (in accordance with his or her allowed mileage rate) for the distance between their residence and official station.

When an employee uses a personal car on State business and is involved in an accident, the employee's insurance provides the primary source of coverage. State involvement is subject to specific requirements detailed in Section 17 of the New York State Public Officer's Law.

c. Vehicle Incumbent Costs

Tolls and parking charges will be reimbursed. Claims for reimbursement for parking charges must indicate the place and time parking was incurred.

9. Travel By Privately Owned Airplanes

In cases where travel by air is justified, travel by a privately owned airplane will be reimbursed at the maximum rate of $.28, $.25 or $.205 per mile, depending on the bargaining unit. The reimbursement rate is the same regardless of the number of passengers.

If employees are authorized to use privately owned planes on University business, they must have a number of items on file with the Office of the State

Comptroller. Please contact theAccounting Office before using a privately owned plane for Statetravel.

10. Lodging

Please be aware of per diem rates (link to per diem rates) in the city and county you will be staying in. Per diem can only be exceeded under certain circumstances.

http://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/current_forms/st/st129_fill_in.pdf

11. Incidental Travel Expenses

a. Telephone, Telegraph and Fax Charges

Reimbursement claims for long distance telephone calls and fax charges must be fully documented and receipted to be paid in full. The Travel Voucher should include information, such as name of party called, place called, date of call, and statement of official business. Only the date of a call is required for local calls. In the case of charges for telegrams, the employee must provide the date, name, and address of the person to whom the telegram was sent.

Telephone calls and telegrams pertaining to such issues as leaves of absence, payment of salaries, expense vouchers, or personal business are not reimbursable.

b. Miscellaneous Charges

  • Reimbursable Expenses

    Baggage transfer charges are allowed, but must be satisfactorily explained.

    Claims for reimbursement of expenditures made for the purchase of authorized supplies, stenographic and typewriting expenses not exceeding $10 or similar charges incidental to travel must be supported by an itemized receipt. New York State sales taxes will not be reimbursed on these items. Sales tax exempt forms are available in the Accounting Office.

  • Non-reimbursable expenses - laundry, valet service, theater and banquet tickets, and entertainment and alcohol are considered personal items and will not be reimbursed.

c.  E-Z Pass

     There are two types of documentation that may be submitted to reimburse travelers for E-Z Pass tolls.  The travelers may submit their E-Z Pass statement or go to the following website to create the documentation.  To use the E-Z Pass toll calculator please enter the following:

http://www.nysthruway.gov/tolls/calc/index.html

     1.  Go to Tool and Distance Calculator

     2.  Select type of vehicle

     3.  Submit

     4.  Choose a starting point

     5.  Choose an ending point

     6.  Calculate Toll

     7.  Print and attach to travel voucher

 

 

 


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