The Catholic University of America

Archived 9/15/05

Travel Policy (Finance Policy Number 13)

Finance Policy Number 13


Date Issued: March 14, 2002

Subject: University Travel

Applies to: All University Faculty and Staff

Issued By: Office of the Vice President for Finance and Treasurer



This policy is intended to provide for the reasonable needs of travelers, to control travel expenditures, to maximize the University's ability to negotiate discounted rates with preferred suppliers, to facilitate proper reporting, and to ensure compliance with applicable IRS requirements.


This policy applies to all travelers (faculty, staff, students, and guests) regardless of the source of funds. If travel expenses are charged to a grant/contract source, the terms of the grant or contract will take precedence if they are more restrictive than the University policy. Departments may establish conditions and terms of their own; these may be more restrictive than the University's, but may not be less restrictive.

Procedures and Regulations

A. Responsibilities

Travel assignments should be planned and conducted so that costs will not exceed budgetary limitations.

The University trusts the integrity of the traveler in following its policies in planning and conducting official travel. The traveler will be fully reimbursed for all ordinary, necessary, and reasonable expenses incurred in connection with any required travel assignment, having first obtained appropriate approvals.

B. Definitions

For the sake of clarity, the definitions and procedures in this policy and related practice guides distinguish between "transportation" and "travel."

Transportation: leaving campus for a period of less than 24 hours, generally within a 50-mile radius, and not requiring overnight lodging.

Travel: leaving campus or home for a period exceeding 24 hours, beyond the general area, and necessitating an overnight stay.

Domestic Travel: travel among any of the fifty United States, its possessions and territories, and Canada. In the case of sponsored projects, domestic travel may be defined in the contractual documents.

Foreign Travel: travel outside of the United States, its possessions and territories, and Canada. In the case of sponsored projects, foreign travel may be defined in the contractual documents. Federal grants or contracts must comply with the Fly American Act and all applicable federal requirements. Any questions should be directed to the Office of Grants and Contracts.

Official Travel: travel on approved University business between home (or normal workplace) and another destination. Commuting between one's home and regular place of employment is not official travel.

C. Restrictions

Travel by more than two University employees in the same aircraft, automobile, or other means of transportation is discouraged when the employees' responsibilities are such that an accident could seriously affect the functioning of a University activity.

For travel reimbursements and payments to be considered non-taxable income, the University's policies and procedures must comply with the IRS Accountable Plan Rules, meeting three conditions:

  • Business connection: reimbursements and advances provided to travelers must be for work-related expenses only. An advance payment must be reasonably related to the business expenses that a traveler is expected to incur.
  • Substantiation: travelers must provide, within a reasonable period of time, a statement substantiating the amount, time, use, and business purpose of the expenses.
  • Return of advances: travelers must return any advanced amounts in excess of the substantiated expenses promptly upon completion of the travel assignment. Requirements are included in Campus User Practice Guide Number 7, Travel Advances.

D. Travel Authorization and Scope

Travel on University business should be authorized in advance by the Vice President, Dean, Department Chairperson, Director or Principal Investigator responsible for the travel budget to be used. That person should be familiar with the purpose of the travel, and will be responsible for assuring that budgeted funds are available to meet any travel commitment. The purpose of the travel must be specific. Statements such as, "official business, in connection with duties, or by distinction of" are not acceptable. Examples of specific purposes, which are detailed enough, include, "meet with clients Mr. And Mrs. X, or attend AAU committee meeting."

Official travel should utilize the mode of transportation that will be the most practical and economical, and should generally follow the most direct route.

Certain grants and contracts may require explicit permission of the granting agency. In some situations, compliance with U.S. Government travel regulations is required. When in doubt, consult with the Grants and Contracts unit of the Controller's Office.

Prior to Departure: Both the traveler and the authorizing officer should be familiar with the University's policies and procedures regarding travel. The traveler is expected to analyze comparative costs of modes of travel (e.g., driving vs. air, non-refundable tickets) and should be prepared to document cost savings.

E. Non-University Employees

Travel expenses for non-University employees such as consultants, speakers, job applicants etc. are generally reimbursed in accordance with contracts for services or vendor payment procedures. If not so provided, then these University policies and procedures will prevail.

Payment to visiting foreign nationals can be made only if the visitor holds an appropriate visa. In addition to the documentation required for all travel reimbursement, resident aliens must also submit the currently required visa documentation.

The IRS has ruled that the expenses of a spouse or other person accompanying a traveler cannot be reimbursed if the person has no significant role or performs only duties of a clerical, secretarial, or medical nature. All requests for reimbursement of spousal travel require the advance approval of the cognizant Vice President who shall require demonstration of significant duties as stipulated by the IRS before approving.

F. Travel Itinerary

If a travel itinerary includes personal or vacation travel, only the business portion of the trip will be reimbursed. The traveler must provide documentation showing the

incremental costs to be treated as personal expenses.

Trips of less than 50-mile radius do not qualify for an overnight stay and the University does not generally allow meal expenses for such one-day travel.

For approved foreign travel, the actual costs of acquiring passports, visas, tourist cards, identifying photographs, birth certificates, inoculations, currency exchange fees, etc., are reimbursable. The traveler is responsible for ensuring that all necessary documentation is complete and appropriate for the foreign itinerary.

G. Cancelled Travel

If a trip is cancelled for reasons beyond the traveler's control (e.g., conference cancellation, and weather closings), the University will reimburse the costs expended to date which are not returned. Cancellation of reservations for lodging and transportation is the responsibility of the traveler. Any penalty for failure to cancel reservations will be the personal responsibility of the traveler if the supervisor determines that the reservation could have been cancelled in time to avoid the penalty.

Travel Advances for cancelled travel must be returned to the University on the first business day after the cancellation.

Unused transportation tickets purchased by the University must be returned to Accounts Payable for recovery and credit to the originating budget.

H. Advances

A traveler should obtain a travel advance only when necessary, and only when it is to be used for anticipated, reasonable, and allowable out-of-pocket expenditures to cover actual subsistence, mileage for private auto and other items. Major costs, such as airline tickets and conference fees, should be obtained through University Purchasing, thus minimizing the need for advances.

Only individuals traveling on university business may request travel advances. All individuals receiving travel advances shall be required to sign the Travel Advance Agreement which stipulates that the recipient deduction of any travel advance which is not repaid within the required period from the employee's pay.

Guidelines for Travel Advances are provided in Campus User Practice Guide 7, Travel Advances.

I. Documentation

Each traveler should keep a log of daily travel expenses and receipts should be obtained and carefully retained for all expenditures for which they are normally available. Original dated receipts must be submitted with the Travel Expense Report for all claimed reimbursements of $25.00 or more, except for meals where receipts are required for all meals in excess of $10.00. See Section M on Meals. Smaller expenditures do not need to be receipted but must be individually dated and included in detail. Electronic airline tickets do constitute an acceptable receipt.

J. Common Carriers (air, rail, etc)

Travel by common carrier is to be for tourist, coach, or economy class unless the cognizant Vice President specifically approves an upgrade. Rail fares may not exceed the regular fare charged to the general public. Round-trip or excursion fares should be used if practicable. Sleeping accommodations, if justified, may be utilized. The traveler's supervisor must specifically approve charges for ticket changes and excess baggage consisting of University materials.

Air line and rail tickets may be purchased through a travel agent approved by the University. The University Purchasing Office can provide a list of approved travel agents. Purchases directly from the carrier or via the web are permitted to obtain best pricing.

If travel is extended over a Saturday night to achieve better pricing, the reduction in cost of the travel must be greater than the cost of hotel and meals for the added period.

Taxi or limousine fares are reimbursable for travel between home/office and the departure terminal, between arrival terminal and hotel or place of business, and between hotels and places of business during the working day.

K. Auto, private/rental

When travel by private automobile is chosen over a common carrier to save time, transport equipment, or reduce costs when a number of people are traveling to the same destination together, reimbursement to the traveler will be on the basis of actual business mileage traveled. Reimbursement for private vehicle use will not exceed the cost (or sum of costs for more than one traveler) of round trip air travel between the nearest airport of origin and destination, including coach fare and incidental expenses to travel to or from the airport. If several travelers share a privately-owned vehicle, only the owner of the vehicle will be reimbursed for mileage.

An accurate daily record of miles traveled must be maintained and submitted with the Travel Expense Report. The reimbursement rate will be the Federal Government rate in effect on the date of the travel. The mileage reimbursement covers all operating costs of the vehicle including but not limited to gasoline, repairs, depreciation, antifreeze, towing, and insurance. Private vehicles used for business travel are not covered by University insurance. No reimbursement is permitted for costs of repairs or damages to vehicles, costs for locksmiths, car washes, or towing whether they result from the acts of the traveler or others. Fines for moving or parking traffic violations are not reimbursable.

Commuting costs (transportation between home and work place) are never reimbursable.

Rental vehicles may be authorized when other transportation is not available or when their use results in savings. Vehicles should be economy or compact models unless the cognizant Vice President approves an alternative. University insurance will generally cover vehicles rented domestically for collision and liability. Optional insurance offered by the rental agency will not be reimbursed on rentals within the United States. Automobile rentals in foreign countries must elect the optional insurance for the vehicle, but not for luggage.

L. Limousine and Taxi Services

When traveling, public transportation should be used whenever practical. In cases where there is a business reason to use a taxi service, (e.g., time constraints or the need to transport University materials), it is reimbursable. Limousine and taxi service to and from airports and terminals, and reasonable tips, are allowed. The least costly transportation should be used, especially if shuttle services are available. Receipts are required for taxis or limousine services. Receipts are not required for public transportation; however, an itemized log is required, with date, destination and cost.

M. Lodging and Meals

When a conference or meeting is offered as a package including hotel room and meals, payment is usually made in advance and reimbursement of the traveler is not necessary. Travelers are expected to use prudent judgment in the selection of hotels and restaurants while on official University business.

Where possible, travelers should actively seek discounts for educators, AAA members, etc.

Reimbursement for subsistence is made on an actual reasonable expense basis.

Lodging within 50 miles of the traveler's home is not allowable unless fully justified as to the compelling business purpose or extraordinary circumstances. The cognizant Vice President must approve such cases. Lodging reimbursement is limited to single occupancy, single room only, unless accommodations are shared by more than one authorized traveler, in which case separate receipts should be obtained or only one person should submit for reimbursement.

The traveler will be reimbursed for the actual expense of lodging. Personal expenses and services (in-room movies, health club fees, room service fees excluding food, etc.) are the responsibility of the traveler. Room service is permitted when the traveler is dining alone and would be uncomfortable in a restaurant. In that case, the meal is allowable; the room service fee is not. Personal laundry expenses may be reimbursed when travel exceeds 5 days.

Where possible, telephone cards should be used; hotel phone service is discouraged because of the extraordinary charges. Travelers are permitted to be reimbursed for one phone call home per day unless extraordinary circumstances exist. A brief description of the extraordinary circumstances must be included on the reimbursement request (e.g., family member ill).

Transport between hotel and restaurant is allowable; no receipt is necessary but the cost should be itemized on the transportation log.

The traveler is responsible for payment of the lodging bill immediately upon receipt. The original itemized, dated hotel bill, marked as paid, must be submitted with the Travel Expense Report.

The traveler will be reimbursed for the actual reasonable cost of meals, including tax and gratuity, incurred during the travel period. Itemized Receipts for all meals in excess of $10, must be kept and submitted with the Travel Expense report. Itemized meal receipts are necessary - showing food and beverage totals separately. Costs of alcoholic beverages must be reported separately from meals to be reimbursed.

If approved in advance, entertainment meals may be reimbursed, provided substantiation requirements are met; these require original receipts, names and titles of guests, and the business relationship to the traveler. The purpose, place, date, and amount must be documented. Costs of alcohol must be reported separately from meals to be reimbursed.

N. Other Travel Expenses

The following items are generally reimbursable to the extent they are reasonable and necessary business expenses:

  • telephone calls related to business or travel
  • registration fees
  • stenographic/clerical services
  • computer network access
  • lease of laptop computer
  • cellular phone use for business
  • currency conversion fees
  • fax charges
  • gasoline for rental cars, including final fill
  • laundry/dry cleaning on trips exceeding 5 business days
  • overnight packet service when needed for business documents
  • parking
  • mileage on personal vehicles
  • taxi/limousine to make travel connections
  • tips
  • tolls
  • required vaccinations for foreign travel
  • conference fees
  • fees for purchase of traveler's checks
  • visa and passport fees

Other documented and justified cost items will be given consideration for reimbursement. Prohibited reimbursements are included in Financial Policy Number 8, Prohibited Transactions. The University will reimburse a traveler only for items paid personally, and only after the travel has taken place.

O. Travel Expense Report

Each traveler must prepare and submit a complete individual report of expenditures as expeditiously as possible, but no more than 15 days after completion of travel. Approved Travel Expense Reports are submitted to the Accounts Payable section of the Controller's Office. Full documentation must accompany the report (see "Documentation" above).

Receipts, ticket portions and other charges that are being paid directly by the University, for which the traveler cannot claim reimbursement, must also be attached.

A traveler on extended assignment (greater than 30 days) should submit monthly interim Travel Expense Reports. Extended assignments that cross fiscal years will require submission of a travel report as of the last date of the fiscal year, even if less than one month has elapsed since the most recent interim report.

Travelers certify by the submission of their Travel Expense Report that the expenses were incurred in the course of official travel on legitimate University business, and that they have not been, and will not be reimbursed by another entity.

Reimbursement resulting from the Travel Expense Report must be approved by the administrator who approved the original travel authorization, or his designee who must be someone who does not report to the traveler.

The approving administrator certifies by signature that each expense declared is an ordinary and necessary expense incurred in accordance with the University's travel policy. Travel Expense Reports that are to be charged to Grants and Contracts will also require approval by the Office of Grants and Contracts.

The Accounts Payable unit of the Controller's Office will review the Report only to establish the existence of approvals and documentation for each claimed expenditure; they will also check the mathematical accuracy of the Report. Additional audits of compliance with University policy may occur before or after payment.

If a balance is due the traveler, Accounts Payable will issue a check payable to the traveler after the Travel Expense Report receives departmental budgetary/accounting approval. This check will be mailed to the traveler's campus address or, if arranged in advance, may be picked up in person.

If a refund is due the University, the traveler must submit a check payable to The Catholic University of America with the Travel Expense Report.

Travel expense reports with significant lapses between travel and submission may be subject to additional justification and verification. Under no circumstances will travel expenses for travel completed during a fiscal year be reimbursed after the close of that fiscal year. The Controller shall publish reasonable deadlines at the fiscal year end for reimbursement requests to be processed.

P. Travel Outside University Policy

At their discretion, given extenuating circumstances, the President, the Vice President for Finance and Treasurer or the Provost may waive a University travel restriction; grant-sponsored restrictions may be waived only by the sponsoring agency.


Controller and Assistant Treasurer: 202 319-5031

The University Purchasing Office: 202 319-5044

Accounts Payable Manager: 202 319-5853

Office of Grants and Contracts: 202 319-5682

Related Policies and Practice Guides

Relocation Expense: Financial Policy Number 16

Grants and Contracts: Financial Policy Number 22

Campus Users
Travel Advances: Practice Guide Number TBD

Travel Reimbursements: Practice Guide Number TBD

Finance Users

Travel Advance Default Procedure: Practice Guide Number TBD

Processing Travel Reimbursements: Practice Guide Number TBD