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Travel Guidelines

Applicability

These Stephen F. Austin State University Travel Guidelines (Travel Guidelines) are authorized by Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents Policy C-49, Travel. Unless otherwise stated, these Travel Guidelines apply to anyone traveling in a university capacity, including employees, students, and prospective employees, except members of the Board of Regents, the president, and intercollegiate athletics. All policies, rules, and regulations related to travel on behalf of, or in connection with, intercollegiate athletics are located in the current issue of the Intercollegiate Athletics Policy Manual.

The reimbursement limits for lodging stated in these Travel Guidelines may be exceeded only if funds are available in, and the additional costs are charged to, a discretionary account controlled by the budget manager authorizing the additional expenditure. For purposes of these Travel Guidelines, discretionary funds shall be defined as specified funds that can be used for discretionary purposes. A list of these funds can be found on the travel office website. Expenses paid above the allowable limits will be reported annually to the respective division vice president and the vice president of finance and administration.

Employees traveling under contracts and grants (federal, state, local, or private) shall be reimbursed for travel expenses and allowances on the same basis as other university employees, except in those instances where the terms of the contract or grant specify travel guidelines and reimbursement rates which differ from university reimbursement rates.

General Travel Regulations

Generally, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (TCPA) is the authoritative source regarding travel. TCPA travel rules, Textravel, are located on the university's travel website. In case of conflict between SFA Travel Guidelines and Textravel, SFA Travel Guidelines take precedence except where state of Texas law prevails. The university president, at his/her discretion, may establish lower travel reimbursement rates than those in Textravel. Travelers will be notified in advance of the effective date of any rate change. The university shall make every effort to ensure that travel expenses paid and/or reimbursed are reasonable and the most cost-effective considering all relevant circumstances.

A state employee is responsible for ensuring that his/her travel complies with applicable state law and SFA Travel Guidelines. Failure to comply may result in reimbursement delays and/or rejection of the employee's claim for travel reimbursement. Fraudulent travel claims will be grounds for disciplinary action.

Employees and others traveling on behalf of the university are reimbursed for actual lodging expenses up to the maximum allowable rates, and on a per diem basis for meals, subject to the provisions of these Travel Guidelines. (See sections pertaining to lodging and meals, below, for maximum reimbursement rates.) In the case of employees traveling together, each must pay and claim reimbursement for his/her own expenses (except taxi or limousine expenses - see Incidental Expenses section of these Travel Guidelines). No expenses can be reimbursed to the traveler until the trip has been completed and a properly documented travel voucher is submitted.

Tips and gratuities are generally not reimbursable. (See Student and Other Group Travel section below for exception.)  The applicable account manager may limit or prohibit reimbursement of any travel expenditure provided the traveler is notified in advance.

Travel Request

Except as stated in the Applicability section of these Travel Guidelines, anyone traveling on university business must obtain permission in advance of the trip. Travel requests must be submitted online according to the instructions available on the travel website. All estimated expenses of the trip must be reflected on the travel request regardless of how they are to be paid. (See Registration Fees section below.) A travel request must be submitted and approved at all applicable levels even if no travel expenses are anticipated.

The online travel request can be initiated only when account balances are sufficient to cover the total estimated cost of the trip. Whenever possible, the travel request should be entered and approved at least seven (7) working days prior to departure.

NOTE: Expenses cannot be reimbursed from an account not listed on the approved request.

Blanket Travel Request

A blanket travel request is a continuing authority to travel when the job duties require numerous repetitive trips for the same purpose. Under this scenario and on a case-by-case basis, the travel office may approve a blanket travel request for the traveler covering a specific period of time (e.g., month, semester, or fiscal year). Each blanket travel request must indicate the purpose of travel and the destinations.

Blanket travel requests are not allowed for travel outside the United States, groups of travelers, or when airfare costs or travel advances are involved.

Travel expense vouchers should be submitted on a weekly or monthly basis for employees on continuous travel. Departments will be responsible for notifying the travel office when travel is completed so that any remaining funds can be unencumbered.

Travel to Washington, DC

All travel to Washington DC requires the approval of the president. A completed online travel request must be approved at all the appropriate administrative levels in sufficient time to be reviewed and approved by the president prior to the date of departure.

In addition, an employee traveling to Washington, DC to confer on legislative or appropriations issues shall inform the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations about the timing and purpose of the trip, and provide the office with the name of a person who may be contacted for additional information about the trip. A completed form, Report of State Agency Travel to Washington, DC will meet this requirement when submitted prior to the trip.

Foreign Travel

Official university business travel to any foreign country other than Canada or Mexico requires advance written approval from the president of the university. To be considered for approval, foreign travel must be directly related to the university's mission and must require a duty that cannot be performed without the travel.

A completed online travel request must be approved at all the appropriate administrative levels in sufficient time to be reviewed and approved by the president prior to the date of departure.

Individual Traveler's Charge Card for Travel Expenses

An individual traveler's state-issued charge card is available for eligible employees. To be eligible to apply, the employee must take, or expect to take, three (3) or more business trips per fiscal year, or expend at least $500 per fiscal year for official state business travel. An employee is not required to apply for or accept a state-issued charge card.

The state-issued individual traveler's charge card is to be used for business-related charges only while traveling on official state business. Use of the card for personal business is considered a violation of state policy and these Travel Guidelines, and the employee may be subject to disciplinary action. The individual whose name appears on the card is solely responsible for payment of the account. If the card is suspended or cancelled for misuse or nonpayment, the employee will be ineligible for travel advances from the university.

If the application is approved by the credit card company, the employee agrees to be bound by the card member agreement which will be sent with each card. Additionally, the employee agrees to be bound by the state policies governing the use of the card. Applications and further information concerning this program are available online at the travel website. The employee, the employee's supervisor, and the travel office manager must sign the application. The individual traveler's charge card must be returned to the university for cancellation upon termination of employment or if the employee becomes ineligible to travel.

Departmental Charge Card for Travel Expenses – T-Card

The state-issued departmental travel charge card (T-Card) is to be used for travel charges related to official state business. Use of the card for personal travel is considered a violation of state policy and these Travel Guidelines, and the employee may be subject to disciplinary action.

Use of the T-Card should be used only for certain travel related expenses. This includes registration fees, airfare, lodging expenses, and rental car charges. Other type charges may be allowed if approved by the Travel Office. Employees using the card agree to be bound by the state and university policies governing the use of the card. The T-Card is issued to the department head or account manager.  Department heads have the option of using one card for all the accounts (Banner Fund-Organization-Programs (FOP) under his/her control, or having separate cards for different FOPs.

Advance Travel Funds

Advance travel funds are available for employees who wish to obtain money in advance of the trip and are ineligible to apply for the individual traveler's charge card. Employees eligible to apply for the individual traveler's credit card are not eligible for advances; however, any employee may request advance travel funds when taking student groups. Advance travel funds may be requested by entering an online travel request (see online instructions for complete details). The minimum amount of advance funds that can be obtained is $100. The maximum amount of advance funds that can be obtained is 50 percent of the traveler's anticipated out-of-pocket expenditures. Exceptions must be approved by the appropriate vice president or the president.

To receive advance travel funds, the travel request with "Advance Travel" in the comments field should be entered and approved at least seven (7) working days prior to departure. An advance will not be issued unless the travel request has been approved. Generally, the requested funds will be available at the university business office at least one working day prior to departure. Advance travel funds will be issued by a check made payable to the individual requesting the funds. As a condition of receiving advance travel funds, the employee agrees to refund any excess (amount advanced less documented eligible expenditures on the travel voucher) within 15 days from the ending date of the trip, except at fiscal year-end when the travel office will establish the deadline. An employee receiving advance travel funds will be ineligible for future travel advances until the outstanding travel voucher is submitted. An employee who receives an advance and does not travel must immediately return the advance funds. Abuse of the travel advance privilege will result in ineligibility for future advances and the employee may be subject to disciplinary action.

An advance travel check will only be issued prior to the trip. No advancement is authorized if the trip has already commenced. The traveler should submit a travel voucher for reimbursement subsequent to the trip.

Travel Voucher (Travel Expense Documentation and Reimbursement)

In order to receive reimbursement, travel expenditures must be documented on the travel voucher approved by the travel office (available online at the travel website) and signed by the traveler. If the voucher exceeds the original request by more than $50, a revised travel request must be approved at all applicable levels. The travel voucher must reflect the total reimbursable expenses paid by the employee, regardless of whether advance travel funds were received. Expenses paid by the university should not be on the travel voucher. Original receipts are required for most travel expenses (see applicable section of these Travel Guidelines for specific details), except meals. In the case of meal expenses for group travel, the sponsor/advisor must provide documentation of how the funds were expended. See Student and Other Group Travel, below.

The travel voucher should be submitted, with original receipts attached, to the travel office within 15 days from the ending date of the trip, except at fiscal year-end when the deadline will be established by the travel office. All prior year encumbrances will be cancelled after the end of the fiscal year.

Conference, workshop, or meeting agendas are required to be attached to the travel voucher. The registration fees paid often include the cost of certain meals provided during the event. An employee cannot claim per diem for the meals that are included in the cost of the conference or any meals provided by a third party.

Foreign Currency Conversion

All amounts listed on the travel voucher must be converted to U.S. dollars using the rate applicable on the date of the expenditure. A foreign currency conversion table is available online at the travel website. Documentation of the conversion calculation must be attached to the travel voucher. Receipts are required for all reimbursed expenses. In lieu of providing receipts and foreign currency conversions for foreign meals, travelers may elect to be reimbursed at in-state per diem rates.

Reimbursement Rates - Lodging

Reimbursement may not exceed the amount of lodging expenses actually incurred at a commercial lodging establishment, subject to maximum allowances stated below. The original itemized lodging receipt, attached to the travel voucher, is required. If the actual cost of lodging exceeds a locality's lodging allowance, an employee may reduce the maximum meal and incidental expenses (MIE) reimbursement rate for that locality and use the reduction to increase the lodging reimbursement rate for that locality. No such adjustment can be made to increase the maximum meal reimbursement rate.

The State Travel Management Program of the Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) has contracted with several commercial lodging establishments for special rates. The contracted vendors and rates are listed on the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website. Employees are encouraged to utilize the contracted vendors when possible.

Travel Tip: The governmental rate for lodging is usually less than the conference rate. Employees should check the governmental rate first. Since there is often a limited number of rooms available at the governmental rate, employees should make hotel reservations far in advance of the travel dates.

In-State Lodging

Travelers may be reimbursed for the actual cost of lodging, not to exceed the travel rates published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Generally, the rates listed refer to amounts designated in the federal Domestic Per Diem Rates published by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). However, if a specific area is not listed, the comptroller's published rate will apply. The president may, at his/her discretion, establish a lower rate. Travelers will be notified in advance of the effective date of any rate change.

Hotel taxes are not included in maximum lodging reimbursement rates. Local taxes on the allowable lodging cost will be reimbursed and should be recorded as lodging tax on the travel voucher. State tax on in-state lodging will not be reimbursed to state employees. Instead, state employees must submit a completed Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Certificate (available online at the travel Web site) to commercial lodging establishments at check-in. Employees should also be prepared to show proof of state employment.

Out-of-State Lodging

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts provides the maximum reimbursement rates for out-of-state lodging. A list of the rates, which is updated from time to time, is available online at the travel website. Within the continental United States, lodging reimbursement is limited to the locality-based allowance as stated on the Domestic Maximum Per Diem Rates published by the General Services Administration (GSA). For cities and counties not included on the list, the allowance is the Continental US (CONUS) rate established for lodging in that state. For Alaska and Hawaii, the lodging rate is set by the Department of Defense (OCONUS rates.) Since employees are not exempt from any tax for out-of-state or international travel, they may be reimbursed for hotel occupancy taxes paid on the allowable lodging costs in addition to the hotel charges.. Travelers to a foreign country may be reimbursed for actual, reasonable costs.

Shared Lodging

Shared lodging between travelers is reimbursable to one of the travelers if it does not exceed the maximum reimbursement rate. If the room rate exceeds the maximum reimbursement rate, the cost must be split between the two or more travelers and individual requests for reimbursements must be submitted. Individual receipts showing the traveler's prorated share of the split costs will be required for each request for reimbursement. 


Reimbursement Rates - Meals

This section of the Travel Guidelines is inapplicable to road bus drivers. Normally, road bus drivers are not reimbursed for meals. Any reimbursement of meal expenditures for road bus drivers is subject to the discretion and approval of the director of the physical plant.

Meals are eligible for reimbursement if travel includes an overnight stay. The following table sets the per diem rate of reimbursement:

IN-STATE

OUT-OF-STATE**

With Overnight Stay

With Overnight Stay

Breakfast

$ 6.50

17% of locality-based allowance

Lunch

$11.50

33% of locality-based allowance

Dinner

$18.00

50% of locality-based allowance

TOTAL

$36.00

 

* Within the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii, meal and incidental expenses (MIE) reimbursement is limited to the federal Domestic Per Diem rates provided by the GSA. For cities and counties not included on the list, the allowance is the CONUS or OCONUS rate established in that state for meals and incidental expenses. Per the GSA's website, incidental expenses include tips and transportation between places of lodging or business and places where meals are taken. When using the MIE rate, these costs will not be separately reimbursed. Travelers to a foreign country may be reimbursed for actual, reasonable costs.

Meal per diems for initial day of travel and final day of travel will be based on the following schedule according to departure and arrival times.
Initial day of travel:


Final day of travel:


No per diem meal reimbursement is allowed for trips not including an overnight stay.

The daily reimbursement rate for meals and incidental expenses is established by state and federal government regulation and is subject to change.

Some registration fees include meals. In this case, the registration fee is fully reimbursable but the employee must not claim per diem for the included meal, according to the applicable rates above.

Meals purchased for the traveler by another person or entity are not reimbursable. In this instance, the employee must not claim per diem for that meal, according to the applicable rates above.

In the case of employees traveling together, each must pay and claim his/her own expenses.

Receipts are not required for meal expenses except for group and foreign travel. (Refer to the Student and Group Travel section of these Travel Guidelines.)

Travel To/From the Duty Point; Travel Before/After Conducting Official Business

Subject to the other provisions of these Travel Guidelines, meals and lodging expenses may be reimbursed for travel expenses to/from the duty point and prior to/after conducting official business. This is only as necessary, and generally limited to no more than one day before/after the business event, unless it is financially beneficial to the university (e.g., when discounted airfare requires Saturday night stay and the additional expenses incurred (hotel/meals/transportation) would not exceed the airfare savings). In these instances, the total net savings must be documented and attached to the travel voucher.

Reimbursement Rates - Mileage

Employees will be reimbursed for the most efficient mode of travel when deciding to use their personal vehicle or a rental vehicle.  A cost comparison calculator is available on the Travel Website to help the employee in determining which method to use. The employee will be reimbursed for the lower rate based on the results of the cost comparison calculator. The university has negotiated with Enterprise to provide cost savings to the university, including no additional charge for the extra day when you pick up a car on Saturday (or after 4 pm on Friday) for usage on Sunday or Monday morning.  Enterprise will not charge a drop fee associated with one way rentals, so it is often much cheaper to rent a vehicle to drive to the airport and drop it off there than to use a personal vehicle and pay parking fees associated with airport parking. These calculations are not included in the cost comparison calculator, but should be considered by the traveler.

The number of reimbursable miles traveled by an employee may not exceed the number of miles of the most cost-effective route. The shortest route between points, including the use of all farm-to-market roads, is presumed to be the most cost-effective route between two duty points. Google Maps or Mapquest (both available online at the travel website) calculates the mileage between two locations. When both locations are in the  map website database, the employee may be reimbursed for the number of miles calculated by the map website. A copy of the mileage calculation must be included with the travel voucher. When one or both locations are not in the map website database, the number of reimbursable miles is calculated by the employee's odometer. Mileage determined by use of the employee's odometer must be itemized on a point-to-point basis on the travel voucher. Any vicinity mileage at the destination location must also be itemized separately on a point-to-point basis. For the purposes of this paragraph, "point" means a building, house, highway intersection, or other similarly localized spot. A Point-to-Point Odometer Log is available in the forms section of the travel website if needed.

The maximum reimbursement rate for use of an employee's personal vehicle is established by state and federal regulation, and is subject to change. The president may establish a lower rate than the state or federal rate. 

Motor Vehicle Rentals

If approved on the travel request, some expenses of renting a motor vehicle are reimbursable. The daily rate, applicable taxes, and other mandatory charges are reimbursable. An additional driver charge is reimbursable if it is incurred for an official state business reason. Based on the current contract with Enterprise, there is no charge for an additional driver.

Collision damage waiver and loss damage waiver expenses are reimbursable if they are not already included in the contracted rate (see next paragraph). The following expenses are not reimbursable: liability insurance supplement, personal accident insurance, safe trip insurance, personal effects insurance, fuel purchased from the rental car company, GPS or other extras, and prepaid fuel without an itemized receipt of the number of gallons and the rate per gallon.

The Texas Travel Management Program has contracted with several vehicle rental agencies to provide special rental rates. Most rates include unlimited free mileage, free loss damage waiver, and free primary liability coverage. University employees traveling on official state business are encouraged to use these contracted rates when possible. A listing of the agencies and rates is available online at the travel website with detailed instructions for making your reservation at the state contracted rate. The university has additionally partnered with the University of Texas System Office for even lower rates than the state contracted rates. More information about these contracted rates is available on the travel office website.

A detailed receipt from the motor vehicle rental company, attached to the travel voucher, is required for reimbursement of motor vehicle rental expenses. In order to take advantage of the tax exempt status of the university, the employee should provide a vehicle tax exemption form when renting a vehicle.

Four-Per-Car-Rule

Coordination of travel must occur when two, three, or four employees travel on the same dates with the same itinerary to conduct the same official state business. When coordination of travel is required, only one employee may be reimbursed for mileage.

Reimbursement Rates –Board of Regents, University President, President's Spouse, and Representative of the President

Members of the Board of Regents, the president, and the president's spouse are reimbursed for actual expenses when traveling on university business in an official capacity.

If the president is unable to attend a meeting or conference, the president may designate, on an individual trip basis, one employee as a representative to travel. Under this provision, the employee is reimbursed for actual expenses. The travel voucher must be accompanied by the original designating document from the president. Receipts are required as specified in these Travel Guidelines, and the employee may only claim his/her own expenses.

Registration Fees

The registration fee for attendance at a professional meeting or conference must be reflected on the travel request regardless of how it is paid. The registration fee can be paid in any of three ways after the travel request has been approved:


Attendance at in-town conferences does not require a travel request. Employees may be reimbursed for in-town registration fees by submitting an online purchase requisition and sending the original receipt to accounts payable. The description should indicate that the conference was in Nacogdoches.

Some registration fees include meals. In this case, the registration fee is fully reimbursable but no additional amount can be claimed for the included meals.

Airline Ticket Purchases

Any airline ticket expense, whether to be prepaid or reimbursed, must be listed on the approved travel request.

The State Travel Management Program of the Texas Procurement and Support Service has contracted with several airlines to provide special airfare rates for certain flights. A listing of the flights and rates is available online at the travel website.

Employees are encouraged to make flight reservations at discounted fares. Often this requires that the ticket be purchased well in advance of the travel date. Upon approval of the travel request, employees may make the airfare purchase personally or have it charged to the university, using the following procedures:

NEW: If a department has a T-Card available, the employee is expected to use the T-Card for these purchases. No advances for airfare will be made after the department has been issued a T-Card.  

Until such time that a T-Card has been issued, if a travel request has been approved, an employee may personally pay for an airline ticket and receive funds from the Cash Advance Account by submitting an original receipt to the travel office. These funds will be treated as a cash advance requiring submission of a properly completed travel voucher within fifteen (15) days after the end of the trip, but will not be subject to the 50% limit. An employee wishing to charge an airline ticket directly to the university must submit an Airfare Billing Form (available from University Printing Services) to the travel office. After approval, the employee must present the signed form to a local participating travel agency (list available online at the travel website). The travel agency will book the flight and charge the expense to the university rather than to the employee.

If it is necessary to change an airline ticket, the traveler may be reimbursed for the additional fee only if there is a valid reason for the change as outlined by TPASS. The reason must be documented in writing, and approved by the account manager. If the total cost of the trip, including the additional fee, exceeds the original approved request, a revised request must be submitted and approved at all levels.

A traveler will not be reimbursed for a second ticket to or from the same destination.

The university cannot reimburse an employee for the cost of air transportation by a non-commercial transportation company.

Use of Non-University Owned Vehicle While on Official Business

An employee operating a personal vehicle must carry insurance as required by state law. An employee operating any non-university owned vehicle, including his/her own personal vehicle or a personally rented vehicle, does so at his/her own risk. The university accepts no responsibility for vehicle or other damage, personal injury, claims filing, vehicle repair, maintenance, insurance costs, towing or citations.

Incidental Expenses

Expenses for ground transportation to and from the airport such as taxi, limousine, subway, bus and other modes of mass transit are reimbursable, subject to the provisions of this section. (Travel to and from restaurants at the destination are not reimbursed since the MIE rate includes these expenses.) All expenses must be listed on the approved travel request and travel voucher. Limousine expenses are reimbursable if it was the least costly transportation available considering all relevant circumstances. If two or more state employees share a taxi or limousine, it is allowable for one employee to pay and be reimbursed for that full expense. Other official business expenses (e.g., parking, telephone calls, and copy services) are also reimbursable. Valet parking is not reimbursable unless there is a valid written explanation as to why self-parking is not feasible, advisable, or available.

Receipts are requested, but not required, for reimbursement of these incidental expenses. If receipts are not provided, an explanation of the reimbursable expenses must be detailed on the travel voucher (including type of expense, date, amount and location).

The following are not reimbursable: expenses of a personal nature, expenses that would be incurred by the traveler regardless of official state business travel, and tips and gratuities.

Student and Other Group Travel

With the exception of the president and vice-presidents, employees traveling together are not considered group travel. Each employee must pay and claim his/her own expenses.

When a non-employee group, such as a student group, travels together, it may be more convenient for one person to pay and claim expenses of the entire group. In this case, the person paying the expenses will be responsible for submitting the travel request and the travel voucher. Receipts are required for all expenses of group travel, including meals. The students may be given funds for their meals by signing individually on a list of names (including their campus ID) of all travelers that they have received a certain sum of money for their meals (not to exceed university per diem rates per day). If the sponsor pays for meals, the itemized receipts must be attached to the travel voucher in order to be reimbursed. Additionally, the signed list of all travelers' names and campus IDs must be included on the travel request and attached to the travel voucher.

Tips or gratuities paid in conjunction with meal expenses are generally not reimbursable. A "mandatory" service charge may only be reimbursed if the service charge is imposed by an establishment and cannot be refused by the customer. In this case, the person paying the expenses must obtain and submit documentation that the charge was mandatory.

If the group sponsor/advisor is an employee, he may request advance travel funds (not subject to the 50% limit) to pay expenses for the group (refer to the Advance Travel Funds section of these Travel Guidelines for procedures). The sponsor/advisor will be solely responsible for claiming reimbursement on the travel voucher, and for repayment of the advance travel funds. Refer to the Group Travel Guidelines available online at the travel website.

No Educational and General Funds (fund 10755x or 12xxxx or 13xxxx funds) may be used to pay or reimburse travel expenses for students. All other provisions of these Travel Guidelines apply to student travel.

Prospective Employees

All provisions of these Travel Guidelines apply to prospective employees. Additional methods of payment are available to pay expenses incurred during the interview process and are listed on the Travel Request-Prospective Employee form (available online at the travel website).

Non-Reimbursed Travel

A travel request is required for any out-of-town university-related travel even if travel expenses are not reimbursed. Examples include travel:


Original Implementation:
July 17, 2012
Revisions: August 22, 2014

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