Policy Manual

Travel Regulations

 

About This Guide

This guide is intended for the faculty, staff and student community who are authorized to travel on behalf of the university.

Introduction

Georgia College adheres to the Georgia Statewide Travel Regulations as a matter of policy on travel related business.

In addition, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia publishes travel regulations for units of the University System of Georgia in Section 4 of its Business Procedures Manual.

As an agency of the State of Georgia and a unit of the University System of Georgia, employees and students of each agency and unit must adhere to these regulations.  Additionally, each agency and unit may implement other guidelines as long as they are not more lenient than those established.

For a quick reference, a Travel Procedures Checklist is located at the end of this document.

Funding

Funding for approved business travel is authorized by designated departmental or project/grant approvers. Each department is responsible for assuring that adequate funding is available and that the requested travel is appropriate for university business.

Purpose

This document highlights the best practices for obtaining approval of travel engagements, making travel arrangements and obtaining reimbursement of travel expenditures. It provides guidance for the most common travel procedures to assure quality and consistency of travel processing.

Scope

The policies and procedures outlined in this document apply to all official university travel, including travel funded by grants.

Roles and Responsibilities

The three primary roles involved in the travel reimbursement process include:

  • The Traveler requesting the reimbursement;
  • The Approver(s) authorizing the travel engagement and travel expense; and
  • Accounting Services, who audits and processes the payment.

Traveler

The traveler is responsible for requesting authorization for the travel and pursuing knowledge of any restrictions in handling university funds for business travel. The traveler is also responsible for maintaining proper documentation and associated receipts of all travel related expenses. Specific information regarding the requirements of such documentation and receipts are noted throughout this guide.

Approver(s)

Department approvers are responsible for ensuring that travel expenses incurred by travelers while on travel status for the university are pre-authorized and reasonable.

Accounting Services

Accounting Services is responsible for auditing and processing all approved Travel Expense Statements for faculty, staff, students and athletic teams. Accounting Services must receive a properly completed and approved Travel Expense Statement substantiating the amount, dates, time, business purpose and proof of payment. If no travel advance was received, the expense statement must be submitted within 30 days from the traveler’s return date. If an advance was received, the expense statement must be submitted within 10 business days from the traveler’s return date.

Web Resources

U.S. General Services Administration

In-state and Out-of-state travel per diem rates only include the cost of meal expenses and not incidental expenses. Incidental expenses include: fees and tips given to porters, baggage carriers, bellhops, hotel housekeeping, stewards or stewardesses, and hotel staff, transportation between places of lodging or business and restaurants, and mailing costs associated with filing expense reports and reimbursements due to the State. Incidental expenses may be reimbursed separately as they are excluded from the per diem rate.

GSA per diem rates address:  http://www.gsa.gov/perdiem

The breakdown by meal for federal per diem amounts may be found at the following address:  http://www.gsa.gov/mie

The federal government has also established per diem rates for foreign travel. The Internet address for this information is: http://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem.asp

MapQuest:  http://www.mapquest.com/

  • Get maps, driving directions, gas prices and calculate travel mileage.

Travel Forms

Accountable Plan Rules

Travelers should submit all expenses for reimbursement and reconciliation within 10 days of the completion of the event or trip but no later than 45 calendar days.  Expense reports submitted after 45 day will require the completion of the 45 Day Exception Form.  Due to IRS regulations, traveler must adequately account to the employer and submit travel expense reimbursement requests within 60 days of the end of the trip. Such expenses, if reimbursed after 60 days, become taxable income to the traveler.  Any expense requests submitted after 90 days of the completion of the trip will not be reimbursed.

Travel Guidelines

It is the policy of the university to abide by the Georgia Statewide Travel Regulations established by the State Accounting Office. A comprehensive view of the minimum guidelines relating to travel expenses is listed in the Georgia Statewide Travel Regulations.

Exception: Georgia College does not currently participate in the Corporate American Express Travel Card program. Therefore, faculty, staff, athletic teams and student groups are eligible to receive travel advances under the current travel regulations pending departmental approval, and faculty and staff are eligible to receive travel advances under the current travel regulations IF their current annual salary is $50,000 or less, pending departmental approval. Cash advances are available for international travel regardless of salary.

Authorization to Travel

Travel Authorizations will no longer be required except in these situations:

  • International travel when business class air travel is requested
    note: business class is reimbursable, providing funds are available, when the portion of the flight that is nonstop exceeds 10 hours in duration
  • When a Travel Cash Advance is requested. (Note: Travel advances are limited and available only to an employee whose current annual salary is $50,000 or less or if travel is international)
  • When requested by department chair, dean, vice president or other administrative personnel

Funding of Travel Expenses

There are several methods for paying travel expenses while conducting business on behalf of the university. This section covers the various funding sources available to meet the cost of travel and other expenses.

  1. Prepaid Expenses
    Charges for transportation and lodging may be paid in advance of a travel engagement. 
    1. Transportation
      The traveler may purchase airline tickets with a personal credit card and submit the paid receipt with an approved Travel Advance Authorization, ONLY if the employee's current annual salary is $50,000 or less OR travel is international.  
    2. Hotels
      The traveler may request a check payable to the hotel with a Check Request. The request must also include the hotel confirmation with the amount to be charged for the stay. Travelers should check with the hotel to determine if the hotel will accept a GC check for payment. In keeping with the SAO Travel Policy 3.1, “…All lodging claims must be documented with receipts and must be at a business that offers lodging to the general public, such as a hotel or motel, and not a private residence…”, Georgia College is unable to reimburse lodging at private residences.  This includes but is not limited to lodging booked through such online sites as AirBnB, HomeAway, etc.
    3. Registrations
      Payments for registration, although not considered a travel expense, may also be paid in advance. The traveler should submit an approved Check Request along with the Registration Form to the Budget Office for payment. It is the practice of GC to mail the registration payment directly to the Payor unless other instructions are provided.
  2. Advance Travel Payments
    A travel advance is prepayment for travel expenses incurred for a scheduled future trip.

    In accordance with the Board of Regents’ University System of Georgia Business Procedures Manual, the purpose of a travel advance is to minimize the financial burden on employees while traveling on behalf of the state. Since GC does not currently participate in the American Express Travel Card program, employees are eligible for travel advances. The traveler will need to complete the Travel Advance Authorization (note new restrictions) and identify the anticipated expenses. Advances for meals will be limited to the current per diem rate. The Travel Advance Authorization must be approved by the budgetary unit head. The Travel Advance Request should be sent to the Comptroller for approval and payment processing. (NOTE:Travel advances are limited and available only to an employee whose current annual salary is $50,000 or less or for international travel).
  3. Reimbursement of Travel Expenses
    All travel related forms require approval by a department’s budgetary head or other designee. The approvers are responsible for ensuring that the purpose of the trip is valid, the cost of the trip is within budget and reasonable, and expenses are charged to the appropriate account.

    Travel reimbursement for meals is paid on a per diem basis. The U.S. General Services Administration publishes the per diem rates for the continental United States and foreign travel (see Web Resources for URLs). Generally, lodging rates above those in the GSA guidelines must be justified.  Meals are reimbursed at the current per diem rates.

    Because most conferences, etc., accommodate a variety of dietary needs/restrictions, employees are expected to participate in such meals. In rare circumstances, an employee may be unable to participate in a conference meal. In such a case, the employee may request the per diem amount associated with the meal purchased in lieu of that provided. If requesting such reimbursement, a receipt documenting the meal purchase must be attached to the travel expense statement; also, justification for the meal purchase must be indicated on the statement.

    Employees may only receive per diem for meals occurring while officially on travel status. "Travel Status" is defined as overnight stays for official business OR if an employee is on a one-day trip, he/she must be on travel status for a minimum of 12 hours that day and travel in excess of 50 miles to be eligible for meal expense reimbursement.

    Receipts for meals are not required except when meals are purchased in lieu of meals provided by a conference.

    Within 30 days upon return from the travel engagement, the traveler is responsible for submitting the Travel Expense Statement for reimbursement of travel expenditures related to official university business.  Attach all applicable receipts and other supporting documentation as required. If the traveler received a Cash Advance for the travel engagement, the Cash Advance must be cleared within ten (10) business days.

Reimbursable Expenses

Employees requesting reimbursement of travel expenses are required to submit their claim on a Travel Expense Statement. Traveler must submit original receipts for the following expenses:

  • Meals (only those purchased in lieu of meals provided at a conference/training event)
  • Lodging
  • Airline and railroad fares
  • Car rentals
  • Gasoline purchased for rental vehicles
  • Supplies
  • Visa/Passport fees (under certain circumstances…see BOR policy)
  • Miscellaneous (if approved)

Receipts for parking, tolls, mass transit, taxi, airport vans and telecommunication expenses are recommended.  However, if receipts are not available, travelers are required to include an explanation of the expenses on the Travel Expense Statement.  Receipts for meals are not required, except as noted above.

Non-Reimbursable Expenses

The following expenses are not reimbursable:

  • Laundry (reimbursable only when overnight travel exceeds seven consecutive days)
  • Valet services for parking, when self-parking options are available
  • Theater
  • Entertainment
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fees for choosing particular airline seats
  • Travel Insurance or fee for airline seat selection

Miscellaneous Expenses

A miscellaneous travel expense is a necessary and reasonable expense incurred while traveling on university business. Miscellaneous expenses do not apply to meals, lodging, mileage or transportation costs. Certain miscellaneous expenses associated with travel may be reimbursed. Such reimbursable expenses include:

  • Business telecommunication expenses, including fax
  • Internet usage charges
  • Stationery, supplies and postage expenses
  • Baggage handling services (unless for convenience)
  • Registration Fees
  • Visa/Passport fees (under certain circumstances…see BOR policy)

Receipts

An original paid receipt with a description of the item purchased is the traveler’s supporting documentation and proof of reimbursable expenses. Original receipts must accompany the Travel Expense Statement for:

  • Airline and railroad tickets
  • Car rentals
  • Gasoline purchased for rental vehicles
  • Lodging
  • Visa/Passport Fees (See BOR policy for allowability)
  • Supplies
  • Meals (only required for meals purchased in lieu of meals provided at a conference/training event, when the meal does not accommodate the traveler’s dietary needs/restrictions). Justification for the meal purchase must be indicated on the Travel Expense Statement.

Per Diem (Overnight Trip):

Meals are paid at 75% of the daily allowance on departure date and return date less the full allowance for provided meals.

For example, if the per diem rate allows a $28.00 total reimbursement, $21.00 would be allowable on a travel departure or return day: ($28 x .75 - $21).

When meals are provided at no cost in conjunction with travel events on a travel departure or return day, the full meal per diem reimbursement rate is reduced to the 75% proration before the full cost of the provided meal(s) is deducted.

For example, if the per diem allows a $28 total reimbursement, and lunch was provided at no cost on a travel departure or return day, the total allowable reimbursement for that day would be $14 [($28 * .75 ) = $21 - $7 lunch = $14].

General Per Diem Guide: In State Meal Allowance

Eligible Meals

Per Diem Amount

Breakfast

$6.00

Lunch

$7.00

Dinner

$15.00

High Cost Areas: Employees are considered traveling in high cost areas of Georgia when their official responsibilities must be performed at a location designated as a high cost or lodging is obtained in a location designated as a high cost area. High cost areas in Georgia are limited to the following counties: Chatham, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Glynn and Richmond Counties. Current per diem rates applicable to these high cost areas are outlined below:

Eligible Meals

Per Diem Amount

Breakfast

$7.00

Lunch

$9.00

Dinner

$20.00

Per diem meal rates associated with travel to high cost out-of-state areas should be approved by the traveler’s budget authority prior to the trip in order that the employee may plan meals accordingly. Per Diem rates for high cost out-of-state locations can be found at the GSA website.

Per Diem During Non-Overnight Travel: Employees on State business who travel more than 50 miles from their residence and primary work station on a work assignment, AND are away for more than twelve (12) hours, may receive the total day's per diem rate, even when there is no overnight lodging.  The per diem allowance must, however, be adjusted for any meals provided to the traveler, as stated above.

Lodging

  • Employees traveling more than 50 miles from their home office, residence or headquarters may be reimbursed for lodging expenses associated with approved overnight travel.
  • Overnight travelers are responsible for ensuring the most reasonable lodging rates are obtained. To accomplish this, employees should:
    • Make reservations in advance, whenever practical;
    • Utilize minimum rate accommodations;
    • Avoid “deluxe” hotels and motels; and
    • Obtain corporate, state government, or conference rate if available.
  • Whenever possible, a traveler should reserve lodging arrangements in advance.
  • Employees will be reimbursed for the actual lodging expenses, provided the expenses are reasonable. Refer to the Federal Per Diem Rates for the continental United States and foreign travel. The Federal Per Diem Rate is a guideline for reasonableness. (Note: These rates are based on Federal Government rates and may not always be available).
  • Conference hotel rates for conferences hosted by the Board of Regents or other State Agencies are considered reasonable.
  • Other conferences that have negotiated rates are acceptable due to the conferences providing opportunities for interaction and networking with colleagues from other institutions.
  • Lodging in excess of the conference rate or Federal guideline would need to be justified.
  • Employees are considered traveling outside of Georgia when their official responsibilities must be performed from an out-of-state location.
  • Employees working in-state, but spending the night in out-of-state lodging are not considered as traveling outside of Georgia to perform official business on behalf of the university.
  • When paying for in-state lodging, Georgia College, as a state agency is exempt from taxation. This exemption includes state, local and occupancy tax. When a traveler pays a hotel or motel directly using their own funds, they should present the establishment with the Hotel/Motel Excise Tax Exemption form. This form exempts the traveler from paying local and/or occupancy tax only.

    Note: Travelers are required to pay state taxes. Reimbursement for the state tax may be requested on the Travel Expense Statement.

Transportation

  • Travelers may use their personal motor vehicle for university business related travel. However, if the trip is outside the state of Georgia, the employee is required to complete the Cost Comparison Calculator at http://ssl.doas.state.ga.us/vehcostcomp/ as discussed below in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 rate discussions and include it along with the travel expense reimbursement form.
  • The Georgia State Accounting Office sets the current mileage rates. Refer to the SAO website for current mileage reimbursement rates.
  • A deduction for normal commuting miles must be made (enter under “personal miles”), unless travel is on a weekend or holiday.
  • Employees should utilize commercial air transportation when it is more cost effective and efficient to travel by air than by vehicle.
  • State agencies may reimburse employees for expenses incurred for air travel, provided these expenses were approved prior to the date of travel.
  • Employees officially on travel status may be reimbursed for the necessary costs of transportation by bus, taxi or airport vans for the following situations:
    • Between the individual’s departure point and the common carrier’s departure point
    • Between the common carrier’s arrival point and the individual’s lodging or meeting place
    • Between the lodging and meeting places if at different locations
  • It is expected that airport vans will be utilized when available and practical, and when they are the lowest cost alternative.
  • Travelers may use commercially leased vehicles as permitted by their travel authority and are necessary while on travel status. Contact the university Purchasing Office at x4582 to obtain information on contracts with various car rental companies. First priority should be given to Georgia College vehicles available through Parking & Transportation.
  • Employees requiring the use of commercially leased vehicles will be reimbursed for gasoline purchases associated with the business use of such vehicle, provided appropriate receipts are included.
  • Travelers may receive reimbursement for the cost of rail transportation as permitted by their Travel Authority. There is no statewide contract for transportation by rail. Travelers are encouraged to obtain the lowest possible fare.
  • By law, the State mileage reimbursement rates follow the published General Services Administration (GSA) rates and are as follows:
    • Tier 1 Rate: When it is determined that a personal motor vehicle is the most advantageous AND least expensive form of travel, the employee will be reimbursed for business miles traveled based on the applicable GSA Tier 1 rates. (The Car Rental Cost Comparison Calculator results should be attached, along with other receipts, as justification for Tier 1 rate reimbursement for out of state travel). Tier 1 rate will be paid for all trips within the State of Georgia.
    • Tier 2 Rate: For out of state travel, if a government-owned (agency-owned) vehicle is available, and its use is determined to be the most advantageous form of travel to the State, OR a rental vehicle (under the statewide vendor contracts) is the recommended and least expensive method of travel, BUT a personal motor vehicle is used, the employee will be reimbursed for business miles based on the applicable GSA Tier 2 Rate.

Study Abroad

Faculty-led study abroad programs require approval from the traveler’s designated budget authority and submission of a Study Abroad Program Approval form. For more information, visit the Board of Regents website to read the procedure manual for study abroad programs.

Travel Expense Reporting

Immediately upon return from a trip, travelers are required to submit their claims for travel reimbursement on a Travel Expense Statement. The Travel Expense Statement may only include those items that are approved as reimbursable expenses. The following items should be included on the Travel Expense Statement:

  • Itemized expenses for authorized meals, lodging, mileage, transportation and miscellaneous expenses. In lieu of vehicle odometer readings, a MapQuest printout is an acceptable form of documentation to substantiate mileage reimbursement. The departure and destination points and the number of miles between travel points should be clearly marked on the form (indicate commuting miles and/or personal miles in the “Personal Miles” column);
  • All supporting documentation of expenditures;
  • Explanation of expenses that exceed the established limits or are considered irregular;
  • Explanation of the purpose of the trip;
  • Description of the type(s) of transportation used;
  • Approval Signature;
  • Travel Authorization;
  • Amount of funds advanced for travel related expenses.

In cases where a traveler accepts advanced funding to cover the cost of a trip, the traveler will be notified of the excess advance funds to be returned after Accounting Services has audited the Travel Expense Statement. The excess funds must be deposited with the Business Office within 10 business days.

After official notification that advanced funds have not been returned within the specified time, the Payroll Office will deduct the amount of the travel advance from an employee’s paycheck if the travel advance is not settled in a timely manner. In this situation, the traveler will not be permitted to receive advances in the future. Timely processing is defined as 10 business days after completion of the trip.

Students who fail to settle a travel advance within 10 business days after returning from the trip will have a hold placed on their account.

Obtain all the necessary approvals and submit the Travel Expense Statement and applicable receipts to Accounting Services. If the amount of the expenditure is greater than the travel advance, the traveler will receive a net reimbursement after the Travel Expense Statement is processed. 

Travel Procedures Checklist

Before you Travel:

  • Apply for Travel Advance Authorization, if applicable.
  • Purchase airline tickets, if applicable.
  • Submit check request for registration to Financial Services, Parks 201.
  • Submit check request for hotel expense with confirmation from hotel to Financial Services, Parks 201.
  • If a personal vehicle will be used and the trip is out of state, the Vehicle Cost Comparison form must be completed and included with the travel expense reimbursement form if requesting Tier 1 mileage. (Note: The answer to #4 on the cost comparison is "No".)

While you are on Travel Status:

  • Refer to meal/lodging per diem rates for allowable rates of reimbursement for meals.
  • Retain all receipts. Exceptions require a written explanation. You do not have to submit meal receipts unless meals are purchased that would otherwise have been provided.
  • Retain copy of agenda

When you Return:

Complete Travel Expense Statement and secure approval(s). Be sure to attach the following:

  • Dates & Time of Travel (each day)
  • Miles traveled in personal vehicle, if used; a MapQuest printout is an acceptable form of documentation to substantiate mileage reimbursement
  • Copy of airline ticket
  • Hotel folio
  • Miscellaneous receipts such as public transportation, taxis, etc
  • Purpose of trip
  • Copy of agenda
  • Indicate amount of travel advance funds received
  • Return excess travel advance funds to Business Office
  • Receipt for meals that were purchased outside of conference provided meals, with explanation
  • Explanation of any unusual or excessive charge