Travel and Business Expense Reimbursement Guidelines
The purpose of these guidelines is to establish standards and procedures in order to reduce travel costs while complying with Federal regulations regarding reimbursement for business expense. The guidelines are designed to ensure consistency and fair treatment for members of the Vassar community whose travel will be reimbursed or paid for by the College and for visitors (speakers, candidates) whose travel is at Vassar expense. This policy applies to all travel regardless of the source of the funds.
This policy will assist in the following:
- Identifying reimbursable versus non-reimbursable expenditures.
- Clarifying responsibility for controlling and reporting travel and entertainment costs.
- Identifying required documentation.
Travel expenses incurred while on Vassar College business will be paid for by the College if the expenses are reasonable, properly approved and documented. College approved travelers who incur such expenses should neither lose nor gain personal funds as a result. This statement covers reimbursement for transportation, auto mileage, auto rentals, hotel lodging, meals, gratuities, tolls and parking, telephone calls, and other miscellaneous expenses. It also details the documentation required, as well as describing travel advance procedures and the authorizations needed for reimbursement.
Note: If travel expenses are to be charged to a grant or contract sponsored by an outside agency, the requirements of the outside agency prevails if they are more restrictive than the College's travel policies. In general, travelers should make necessary travel arrangements (air travel, ground travel, accommodations through the college's designated travel agency.
- Corporate Card Program:
JPMorgan Chase issues credit cards to Vassar College employees for business travel and entertainment expenditures. An employee who frequently travels on college-related business is encouraged to use a Vassar corporate credit card to pay for business and travel expenses. Individuals are personally liable for the expenses until valid receipts are presented for proper reimbursement. For more information about the Corporate Card Program and how to obtain a corporate card please go to http://purchasing.vassar.edu/policies/corpcard.html or call Purchasing Office at ext. 5845
- Reimbursable Expenses:
Actual reasonable expenses will be reimbursed subject to the limits set forth in these guidelines (see section VI for reimbursement and review procedures)
- Personal automobiles
The use of a personal automobile is discouraged, except for regional travel. Personal vehicle travel shall be reimbursed at a stated IRS rate in effect at the time of travel. IRS mileage reimbursement rate is .54 cents per mile as of January 1, 2016. Normally, the College adopts the IRS standard reimbursement rate for personal auto use, for fuel, insurance, depreciation, and any other costs of usage. Parking and tolls should be itemized separately and receipts should be included. Reimbursement should not exceed the cost of commercial transportation, where available. For two or more persons traveling together in the same vehicle, only one person will be reimbursed for mileage.
Note: An employee involved in an auto accident while on College business and driving his/her own car is covered by his/her own automobile policy for damage to the vehicle and property and must also notify Deanna Touhey (ext. 5467) in the Investment office within 24 hours, in addition to notifying his or her insurance company.
- Rental cars
Automobile rentals should be limited to situations where other means of transportation are not practical, economical or available. Travelers are encouraged to choose compact or mid-sized cars whenever possible. All Liability and Physical Damage coverage should be declined when renting a car in the name of Vassar College. The College maintains comprehensive, collision and liability insurance on all vehicles rented or leased for official business. It is mandatory to enter "Vassar College" as well as the individual's signature on the rental forms. If a rented vehicle is involved in an accident, the employee must notify Administrative Services (extension 5467) within 24 hours, in addition to notifying the car rental agency. Reimbursable costs include the daily rental fee, gasoline charges, parking and tolls. The College has discount agreements with major automobile rental agencies. We have negotiated rates with Enterprise and National. Visit the Enterprise website for a complimentary membership in the Emerald Club and to reserve a car rental. We also have rates with Avis. Visit the AVIS corporate awards website for specials and reservations. For discounted rates with Hertz, visit the Hertz website. If you need more information regarding rental cars, contact the Purchasing Department.
Note: Travelers should refill gas tanks before returning the vehicles. Rental companies levy a charge for refueling, far more than the price of gas. Avoid drop charges by returning the vehicle to the renting location. Compare the cost of air travel versus driving and drop charge.
- Bus, Train, Taxi and Limousine Service
A receipt should be requested to document these expenses. Indicate on the receipt the starting and ending point for the trip and a brief description of the purpose of the trip. Limousine service to and from airports should only be used when other means of transportation are not practical or available.
- Commercial Air Travel
Commercial air travel expense is reimbursed on the basis of the actual cost incurred by the traveler using normally traveled routes. All College approved travel should be arranged through the college's designated travel agencies (see below) and will be at the most economical rates, not first or business class. First and business class travel is approved only in cases when air travel takes 10 hours or longer. In the event an employee discovers a low fare "special" on-line, the individual should contact the College's travel agent for final booking. This will allow the employee to have access to our travel agent for any assistance needed during the trip. Travelers are expected to take the least costly fare offered that realistically meets scheduling needs. Air carrier selection cannot be biased by any traveler's frequent flyer affiliation. The lowest cost air travel should take precedence over frequent flyer programs. The last page of an original airline ticket, called the "passenger receipt", is required for reimbursement, or in the case of E-tickets, the receipt provided or the ticket itinerary from the travel agent.
When planning your airline itinerary, consider the following cost saving strategies:
- Stay over one Saturday night. Many discounted airfares require staying over a Saturday night. Compare the cost of hotel and meal expenses of staying Saturday night to the savings in airfare.
- Make reservations in advance, most discounted fares are available when purchased several days prior to departure.
- Be flexible in selection of airlines and flight time.
Travelers are strongly encouraged to use standard accommodations at reasonably priced mid-market hotels or motels. Requests should be made for educational discounts or business traveler's rates. Original itemized hotel receipts are required for reimbursement. The College does not approve accommodations at up market or luxury hotels (Ritz, Four Seasons, etc.) However, an exception is made when a conference, workshop, or other college business is scheduled at a luxury or up scale hotel.
- Miscellaneous Expenses
Miscellaneous reimbursable expenses include business telephone calls, and charges for baggage handling, storage and tips (maximum of $20 per day). Personal phone calls to home from Vassar employees traveling on College business are reimbursed on the basis of one call each day.
- Conference Registration
Original receipts or proof of payment are required accompanied by a requisition for reimbursement. Prepayment registration can be arranged through the Accounts Payable office.
- Expenses of authorized Visitors
Departments may authorize reimbursement to official visitors for expenses incurred in connection with their travel to Vassar. The College Travel Policy as well as reimbursement procedures as authorized in this document should be followed.
- Personal automobiles
- Meals and Incidentals:
Vassar College will reimburse a traveler for allowable meal and incidental expenses incurred during college-related travel. The college provides two distinct methods for reimbursement: meal and incidentals per diem and actual cost.
Incidental expenses include fees and tips for persons providing services, such as food servers, hotel housekeeping and luggage handlers. Incidental expenses do not include ground transportation, telephone calls or laundry.
Receipts and detailed documentation are not required when requesting reimbursement of meals and incidentals using the per-diem option. The following apply using the meal and incidentals per-diem method of reimbursement:
Domestic Per-diem Rates
Vassar College expects to reimburse meal and incidental expenses based on the per-diem rates and refers to the IRS per-diem rates guidelines according to geographic areas involved in travel. IRS per-diem rates can be found in the IRS Publication 1542 at: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1542.pdf
Foreign Per-diem Rates
For per-diem rates for foreign travel Vassar College refers to guidelines for per diem rates as established by the U.S. Department of State by country and locality. These rates can be found at: http://www.state.gov/m/a/als/prdm/c16476.htm
Because rates for specific localities may change as often as every two months, the traveler must be careful to ensure that the applied rate is appropriate to the actual dates of travel.
Actual Cost Reimbursement
The College will generally reimburse travelers for three meals a day. On the days of travel to or from the destination, the individual's departure and return times should determine whether a meal was incurred during the period of travel.
Total meal expense for the day should generally be in line with per-diem levels. All restaurant receipts are required when the total meal expenses for the day exceed the average per-diem rate of $40.
Individual meals over $40 should include justification.
The College will not reimburse for gratuities that are greater than the accepted standards. (Currently, the domestic standard is 15-20% of the total bill; international standards may vary.)
In cases of reimbursement requests for business meals for others (e.g. additional guests) reimbursement will be made on the actual cost basis. Indicate on the receipt the name(s) of those at the meal and the purpose of the meal.
Meal reimbursement for same day travel is allowed only for meals purchased out-of-town.
Note: If reimbursement is requested from grant funds, additional restrictions and limitation may apply as stipulated by the grant. In such cases, refer to the terms and conditions of the grant. Federal regulations prohibit reimbursement of any expenditure for alcoholic beverages with federal funds.
- Personal entertainment expenses (movies, games, health club, golf outings, and other optional conference activities not included in the general conference fee)
- Valet parking, unless the hotel or venue prohibits guests from parking their own vehicles
- Travel accident insurance premiums
- Costs incurred by failure to cancel transportation or hotel reservations
- Traffic and/or parking violation fines
- Repairs to personal vehicles used for College travel
- Spouse or other family member expenses
- Commuting costs between home and the College
- Laundry service (unless the trip is longer than 5 days)
- Reimbursement Procedure
All requests for reimbursements of travel related expenses must be submitted on a properly completed Direct Payment/Reimbursement Requisition Form (long form). These forms are available in the office of Accounts Payable or upon request by calling ext. 5887. The Reimbursement Requisition Form must be signed by the Department supervisor/chair or an authorized signatory on the account out of which the reimbursement is being requested. All requests for reimbursements of travel related expenses must be submitted to Accounts Payable (Box 721). In the event of discrepancies in a reimbursement request (e.g. absence of original receipts, non-matching receipted and requested amounts, etc.) the request for reimbursement will be reviewed by the Assistant Controller. If a request for reimbursement is denied in full or in part, an appeal may be made to the Controller, who will review the business rationale for the exception.
Note: Any advance and reimbursement requests made to oneself must be approved by the "next-in-line" supervisor through requisitions. For example, faculty members must have their chair's approval; department chairs must have the Dean's approval. Staff and Administration must have administrative head approval, and administrative heads must have Senior Officer's approval. Senior officers must submit their reimbursement requests to the Controller for review.
- Travel Advances:
When necessary, an advance of funds may be obtained from Accounting Payable for authorized travel purposes, up to $50 per day by submitting a properly completed Direct Payment/Reimbursement Requisition Form. These forms are available in the office of Accounts Payable or upon request by calling ext. 5887. Not more than one travel advance may be outstanding at any one time to an individual. A travel Expense Report properly completed and signed must be submitted to the Accounting Payable (Box 721) within one week of the conclusion of the trip. Settlement for additional funds due to, or from, the College, is to be made at this time. Original receipts for actual expenditures are required. If funds are due to you, submit a travel expense report with a requisition to the Accounting Services. If funds are due Vassar, deliver your travel expense report with payment (check or cash) to the Cashier's Office.
Preferred Travel Agencies
Hooker Avenue Travel
271 Hooker Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Contact: Mary Truncale, Proprietor
Air / ground travel, business & leisure, domestic & abroad, hotel accommodation as well as rent a car arrangement
Method of payment for College transactions - Central billing through authorized College budget accounts and/or College corporate cards