Frequently Asked Questions - Travel
The following is intended to answer frequently asked questions regarding the Travel Policy 658.
General Reimbursement Request Questions
- Can my purchasing card (P-Card) be used to pay for travel expenses?
P-Cards may be used by faculty and staff only for the payment of basic registration fees and required advance airline payments, coach fair with no early check-in. P-Cards may not be used for expenses incurred during actual travel time except in instances of team/group travel. Also, P-Cards should not be used when booking flights with MTSU’s contracted travel agent.
All trip expenses must be recorded on the travel expense claim form including P-Card expenses to report the total cost of the trip. Original receipts must be attached to the travel claim submitted to Accounting Services for reimbursement EXCEPT for P-Card receipts. Copies of P-Card receipts must be attached to the travel claim form (Travel Policy) and the originals maintained in the department’s files per the University Purchasing Card policy 632.
- Where can I get a Travel Expense Claim Form?
The Claim for Travel Expenses form is found on the Business Office website and can be printed and completed manually, or it can be completed in Microsoft Excel. Do not download this form to your desktop to ensure you’re always using the most current form for mileage rates.
- What signatures are required for travel reimbursement?
The claim form must be signed in ink by the employee/traveler, and be approved by the next approving authority prior to reimbursement. Principal Investigators (PI’s) can sign for travel paid on their research grants, but cannot approve their own travel claim. All signatures on the claim form must be original or electronic in accordance with MTSU Travel Policy.
- When should my travel expenses be submitted?
A claim for travel expenses should be submitted no later than thirty (30) days following the completion of any travel. Claims submitted later than 30 days from the date of travel completion are considered in violation of the policy and could potentially be denied.
- What if I have an exception to the travel policy?
When an exception to the policy is necessary, a brief explanation must be attached to the travel claim and approval must be obtained from the Dean or Chair of the employee’s department, their Vice President or Provost, and the Vice President of Business and Finance who has been designated to approve on behalf of the President.
- If several people from the same office are traveling together, is this considered
to be group travel?
No. Per travel policy, group travel is “defined as a group traveling as a single unit that does not consist entirely of university personnel.” A university employee is responsible for all expenses to be paid by the University for the trip and one travel claim for reimbursement will be submitted.
- Is it allowable to request a Travel Authorization (TA) for group travel expenses,
such as airfare and basic conference registrations, and also request separate TA’s
for the same group participants (same trip) for expenses personally paid, such as
meals and lodging?
No. Not if the University is going to reimburse all the expenses for participants. Remember, group travel is considered a “single unit” and the employee will submit one claim for reimbursement. The TA for group travel must include an attached roster/list of all individuals traveling on a particular trip. (This is a requirement for study abroad travel, even if the students are providing their own expenses.) To avoid possible duplicate payments of expenses associated with the same trip, more than one claim cannot be submitted for group travel. Accounting Services can provide additional guidance if needed.
- What constitutes proper supporting documentation?
Supporting documentation is defined as an original document, from the vendor that contains the amount paid. Monthly credit card statements and canceled checks alone will not be accepted as supporting documentation.
Lodging receipts: Must reflect a PAID or zero balance and must itemize room charges and taxes. Receipts that do not provide room breakdowns are not adequate and will require additional time and effort on the employee’s part to substantiate the charges. Higher rates on lodging at the location of a convention or conference allowed IF supported by a conference brochure attached to the Travel Authorization form or travel claim.
Gas receipts: Please note, per internal audit, prepaid gas receipts are unacceptable. Gas receipts must show actual amount paid/gallons pumped.
Meal receipts: When claiming actual expenses, receipts must be detailed or additional substantiation may be necessary on the employee’s part.
Receipts submitted must be legible or will not be reimbursed.
Supporting documents for international travel should be translated in a manner that easily identifies the vendor/purchase and amount being claimed.
- When is supporting documentation required to be submitted?
Original supporting documentation is required for all actual reimbursable travel expenses, regardless of amount, except where P-Card receipts are required to be maintained in departmental files. (Copies of P-Card receipts should be attached to the claim instead.) Receipts should be furnished on necessary charges for airport and hotel parking. Supporting documentation is not required when requesting reimbursement of meals and incidentals using per diem rates.
- What documentation is required to request a travel advance?
The employee may request an advance on the Travel Authorization Form (TA) for international/group travel only. (Travel advances for employees who are in individual travel status within the U.S. are no longer allowed.) A list of those persons actually traveling in the group must be attached to the TA.
- Does supporting documentation need to be submitted with my travel claim when a check
request was issued to pay registration fees directly? (i.e., MTSU prepaid the registration
through the accounts payable process)
No. Supporting documentation for a check already requested does not need to be submitted again with the travel claim; however, the amount should be included in the registration column of the claim form and deducted on the line “LESS MTSU PAID EXPENSES.” All costs associated with the trip should be included on the form to show gross total expenses of the trip.
Reimbursable Travel Expenses
- What travel expenses are reimbursable?
- Lowest available standard airfare;
- Lodging rates at the amount allowed per MTSU Travel Policy or CONUS;
- Higher rates on lodging at the location of a convention or conference IF supported by a conference brochure (recommend always attaching brochure to Travel Authorization form)
- In-state travel meals paid in accordance with MTSU Travel Policy;
- Out-of-state travel meals per M&I CONUS rates;
- Automobile rental at destination;
- Gas for rental car (No prepaid gas receipts accepted);
- Reasonable limousine and taxi service allowed when practical and necessary;
- When personal automobile is used by the employee for convenience on a work related trip, a more comprehensive review of all costs of flying versus driving must be considered and employee must submit supporting documentation to substantiate the claim for mileage; the lowest expense, automobile mileage vs airfare, will be reimbursed;
- Basic registration fees to attend a convention or conference;
- Baggage fees allowed when necessary (receipt is required);
- VISA if permission is required by the government of the country visiting for business;
- Telephone/internet expense when used for business purposes;
- Necessary charges for hotel and airport parking;
- Handling fees of equipment or promotional materials per MTSU Travel Policy.
Actual Meal Expense Reimbursement
- Are alcoholic beverages reimbursable?
Alcoholic beverages are not allowed and will not be reimbursed.
- Is there a maximum amount allowed per meal?
Meals, while on authorized travel, are subject to the meal allowance provided on the MTSU Travel Policy. The maximum per diem rates include a fixed allowance for meals and for incidental expenses (M&I). The M&I rate, or fraction thereof, is payable to the employee/traveler without itemization of expenses or receipts. Out-of-country meals are reimbursed at actual expenses with receipts. If no receipts are provided, the maximum rate will be the maximum CONUS rate of out-of-state travel.
- Does a detailed meal receipt need to be submitted?
Yes. The detailed meal receipt must be submitted when claiming actual meal expenses instead of a per diem. If detailed receipt not submitted, reimbursement will be delayed and employee/traveler may need to provide additional supporting documentation.
Meals and Incidental (M&I) Per Diem
- What is per diem?
Reimbursement on a per diem basis is the actual payment of a flat sum to cover meal and incidental expenses each day in lieu of actual costs. With per diem, the employee/traveler is not required to provide receipts for meals and incidentals.
- How do I determine the per diem rate to use?
The university will reimburse using the General Services Administration (GSA) per diem rates for destinations within the Continental United States (CONUS). To avoid possible taxable income, per diem cannot exceed the federal rates. The employee/traveler should print out the location and per diem rates used from the government’s website as documentation attached to the travel claim.
- What is included in incidental expenses?
Incidental expenses included in the per diem rate include fees and tips given to baggage carriers, bellhops, hotel maids, taxi drivers, etc.
- When must the per diem rate be adjusted?
For the day of departure and day of return, appropriate rate for lodging location is reduced to 75%
Per diem is reduced for meals provided by a conference or by others. When appropriate the single meal rate to be deducted may be determined by referring to MTSU Travel Policy.
- Can per diem be claimed for a day trip?
No. Per diem may not be claimed for one-day travel when there is no overnight stay.
- Can both per diem and actual expenses be claimed while on the same trip?
No. Employees/travelers may not request reimbursement based on actual expenses for one portion of the trip and per diem for other days.
- Will the University reimburse passport application fees and photographs?
No. Passports are personal in nature and are good for ten years. The University views the business related expense as minimal in comparison to the personal benefit.
- Will the University reimburse VISA expenses related to foreign country travel?
Yes. VISA’s are country-specific documents that authorize individuals to enter foreign territories within specified time constraints. The University deems VISA requirements as a necessary business expense relative to the business trip.
- The University has verbally approved my out-of-country travel; now what should I
A Travel Authorization (TA) form should be completed with a memorandum explaining the business purpose of the travel attached. The TA and memorandum must be signed by your chain of command, including approval from the President.
- May I receive an advance for my international travel?
An amount equal to 80% of estimated expenditures will be allowed as an advance when traveling international. Students traveling under individual authorizations or an employee who is responsible for disbursing all funds for student travel may be advanced 100% of the authorization. If you receive an advance, the University creates an accounts receivable in your name. The total amount advanced must be accounted for by submitting appropriate supporting documentation of the expense with the travel claim. No advance should exceed actual expenses; however, should this happen, the excess money must be returned immediately by the employee to the Business Office for deposit as a credit against the advanced receivable on your account. A duplicate copy of the receipt must be attached to the travel claim to show the returned funds.
- Will a boarding pass serve as proof of airfare purchase?
No. A boarding pass is not sufficient documentation for an airline ticket. A paid receipt must be submitted with the travel claim for reimbursement of airfare.
- Will the University reimburse for vaccinations “recommended” by the U.S. State Department
CDC when traveling to certain countries?
No. The University reimburses only those business expenses required for the trip. If the vaccination is not required for entering a foreign country or territory, the cost is viewed to be a personal expense.
- When traveling out-of-country, what amount may be reimbursed for meals and incidental
Out-of-country meals are reimbursed at actual expenses with receipts. If no receipts are provided, the maximum rate will be the maximum CONUS rate for out-of-state travel. Employees/travelers should use one method or the other, the reimbursement method should not be mixed. Refer to MTSU Travel Policy for Standard Out-of-Country Rates.
- Can money be wired to foreign vendors for making deposits on travel arrangements?
Yes. To make payment to foreign vendors, specific wiring instructions must be obtained. To assist in obtaining the correct information, an International Transfer Instructions form may be completed. Also, for IRS purposes, the vendor will need to provide a W8-BEN-E, or possibly a W-9 if they have a U.S. presence, before the payment can be wired.
- When traveling out-of-country, how should foreign language and currency receipts
be documented on the travel claim for reimbursement?
To ensure a quicker turnaround of your claim, vendor receipts printed in a foreign language must be translated to English before submitting for reimbursement. A helpful tool for doing so is Google Translate.
Fluctuating exchange rates make reimbursement for foreign travel somewhat complex. Hotel and dining bills paid with a credit card will be charged in the foreign country’s currency and the credit card company will convert the bill to US dollars. To ensure accurate and fair reimbursement, a copy of the credit card statement in US dollars should be submitted with the request for reimbursement, in addition to the original receipt in the foreign currency. If payment is in cash, a receipt showing the amount spent and items purchased must accompany the claim form. These amounts should be converted to US dollars by using one of the following websites: OANDA Currency Converter or XE Travel Expense Calculator.
- What is the recommended method of tracking business travel expenses?
Per policy, the travel claim “form must show movement and detail of expenses on a daily basis (MTSU Travel Policy).” It is strongly recommended during your trip abroad, tracking daily expenses by utilizing an Expense Log in a PDF document or an Excel spreadsheet or the Claim for Travel Expenses form. Also, receipts must be stored in a manner to protect them from loss or damage. Taking these steps will make compiling your claim for submission easier and assist the travel clerk during the review process for quicker reimbursement. Accounting Services will assist in preparing you for this process.
- An external funding agency has granted an award to the University that requires payment
to workers in a foreign country in order to accomplish the grant objective. What procedures
and documentation is needed in order to pay the foreign workers?
When a granting agency provides an award that requires payment to workers in a foreign country in order to accomplish a research initiative, please contact Accounting Services to discuss available options.
- Can I claim gasoline expenses and mileage?
When renting an automobile, gasoline expenses will be reimbursed based on actual gas purchases, not mileage. Prepaid receipt will not be acceptable for reimbursement.
When a personal automobile is used, automobile expenses will be reimbursed at the current mileage rate allowed. Reimbursement based upon actual expenses is not allowed.
- Can I be reimbursed for additional insurance purchased on an automobile rental?
Even though it has been determined the State of Tennessee will not cover accidents involving rental vehicles, employees should NOT accept additional unnecessary fees for damage coverage when asking for the state rate to apply. Effective July 1st, 2015, the State of Tennessee renewed its contract with Enterprise for vehicle rentals; consequently, the negotiated state rate for MTSU business rental now includes coverage for both loss and collision damage.
- If I choose to drive a long distance out-of-state instead of fly for business travel,
will I be reimbursed the standard mileage rate?
When a personal automobile is used for the convenience of the employee on a work related trip, a more comprehensive review of all costs of flying versus driving should be considered. Reimbursement for personal vehicle use may be claimed at the lesser of the standard mileage rate or comparable cost of commercial transportation including taxi fares and/or limousines charges. The employee is responsible for documenting the comparison of the standard mileage rate cost to airfare or other common carrier modes for the dates of travel and submitting with the claim for reimbursement. Failure to do so may delay reimbursement.
Non-Reimbursable Travel Expenses
- What travel expenses will NOT be reimbursed?
- Personal entertainment expenses including tours, in-flight movies, headsets, books, magazines, newspapers, health club fees, hotel pay-per-view movies, in room refrigerators, greens fees, social activities, honor bar charges, etc.
- Incremental travel costs including airfare (e.g., airfare higher than the Wanna Get Away rate for Southwest), early bird check-in, etc.
- Late fees related to personal credit cards
- Traffic fines, court costs, parking violations, and auto repairs
- Over the counter medicine or prescription medicines
- Vaccinations/immunizations not required
- Airline club fees
- Fees charged by any travel agent who is NOT our contracted agent
- Passports (issued for 10 years) are considered a personal expense
- Books, supplies, postage, and other items that do not constitute actual traveling expense
- Do phone, internet, or other various expenses listed on the hotel bill need to be
broken out separately on the travel claim form?
Yes. Only the cost of the hotel room and any applicable taxes should be recorded as lodging. Also, the claim form must show movement and detail of expenses on a daily basis. All other charges for business related phone calls, internet, meals, etc., should be allocated to the correct categories on the travel claim.
- How should university approved business travel for individuals other than employees
(guest lecturers, researchers, or students) be handled?
In general, all terms and conditions of the travel policy apply to any individual who is authorized to travel at University expense. A travel claim from should be submitted immediately after completion of the trip and a clear description of the business purpose should be included on the form.
- Is it possible to reimburse travel expenses of a non-U.S. citizen visiting MTSU?
Generally, yes, but should contact Accounting Services prior to making arrangements. Travel claims for foreign nationals should include a copy of the VISA, passport, IAP-66 or I-20 papers, and a completed Foreign National Information Form (FNIF). MTSU faculty and staff should NOT agree to reimburse travel for non-U.S. citizens until all of the immigration paperwork has been completed and reviewed by Accounting Services. As with other University visitors, all terms and conditions of the travel policy apply and a travel claim for reimbursement should be submitted with original receipts attached and a clear explanation of the business purpose included.