Office of General Accounting

Business Travel and Entertainment

Utica University will reimburse for ordinary, necessary, and reasonable travel and entertainment expenses when directly related to the transaction of University business in compliance with accountable plan rules promulgated by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
If the terms of a grant, contract, award, or other external funding source differ from this policy, the terms of the external funding source will supersede this policy. For example, Circular A-21, Section J3 governing federal grants does not allow reimbursement for alcoholic beverages.
This policy and its procedures apply to all individuals whose travel and entertainment expenses are paid for by the University whether they are funded through the University’s operating budget or through grants, awards, or other external funding sources. Said individuals include faculty, staff, students, guest lecturers and other visitors, trustees, alumni, and candidates.
This policy is designed to ensure:
  • Reasonable reimbursement within a timely manner
  • Communication of equitable standards and effective procedures for controlling travel costs
  • Compliance with IRS accountable plan rules
  • Compliance with granting agency regulations
  • Compliance with applicable laws
  • Adherence to ethical business practices 

Official Travel – University-sanctioned travel from a person’s home or regular place of employment to another destination and back again. Commuting between a person’s home and regular place of employment is not considered official travel.
Federal Per Diem and Mileage Rates – Reimbursement rates set by the federal government. While receipts may be submitted for meals, tips, and incidentals, Utica University encourages the use of the federal per diem to simplify the reimbursement process. Current per diem rates can be found at the following websites:
Travel Advances – Payments made before the start of a trip, including cash to cover out-of-pocket expenses; prepayments for airfare, conference registration, lodging, etc.; and/or prepayments on credit cards in anticipation of charges being made to that credit card while traveler is on the road.
Out-of-Pocket Expenses – Expenses that cannot be prepaid prior to departure nor billed directly to the University.
Entertainment Expenses – Expenses incurred for social activities with individuals other than Utica University employees, including meals, recreational activities, etc. while conducting University-sanctioned business.
Receipts – Original dated bills from the service provider that fully describe the expense incurred and indicate that payment has been made. Receipts for meals, tips, and incidentals are not required if using the federal per diem rates.
Personal Property – Personal items such as luggage, purses, phones, etc. Does not include automobiles.
Utica University will reimburse individuals for expenses incurred while traveling for University business purposes. Examples of these expenses include meals, entertainment, transportation, lodging, vehicle usage, etc.
With the exception of the president, all employees must obtain prior approval in writing (email, memo, or the Travel Authorization and Advance Form) from their area vice president or his or her designee before embarking upon a trip. Employees who require a cash advance for their trip must complete a Travel Authorization and Advance Form. Upon completion of the trip, all travelers, including vice presidents and non-employees, must complete a Travel Expense Reconciliation Form to account for all expenses, including cash advances, prepayments, and expenses incurred while traveling. This form should also be used to explain any unusual expenditure or to request exceptions to this policy. All Travel Expense Reconciliation Forms require supervisory approval to meet audit requirements.
In addition, expenses such as meals with donors, entertainment, and gifts in lieu of lodging must be accounted for on the Business Meals and Entertainment Record. To expedite the reimbursement process, travelers should bring this form with them during their trip and document expenses as they are incurred.
Travel by vice presidents will be approved by either another vice president or the president on the Travel Expense Reconciliation Form. Travel by the President of the University will be reviewed by the chair of the Audit Committee of the Board or Trustees.

Note that information about car rentals, hotels, and other travel information can be found under Helpful Links on the Purchasing/Accounts Payable home page.
Planning a Trip
  1. Prepayments and Cash Advances
    When planning a trip, all employees with the exception of the President must obtain their supervisor’s prior approval in writing. A completed Travel Authorization and Advance Request Form must be submitted it to the Office of Financial Affairs if a prepayments or cash advance is needed. The request form must include the following information: the department that will be paying for the trip, date(s) of the trip, destination, purpose, amount(s) requested, account number to be charged, and authorized signatures. Any expenses that are to be prepaid – for example, registration fees for conferences – should be noted on this form along with all anticipated expenses that will be charged to a University credit card or paid out of pocket.

    The Travel Authorization and Advance Request Form must be submitted to the Office of Financial Affairs at least seven days in advance of the start of the trip, to ensure that the cash advance will be ready in time. In addition to prepaying expenses such as conference registrations, airfare, etc., the University will provide cash advances to faculty and staff to cover reasonable miscellaneous costs such as taxi fares, tips, and other expenses that cannot readily be charged to a credit card or directly paid by the University. The size of the advance must be a reasonable estimate of the amount of cash required and should not exceed $500. Cash advances will generally be issued no earlier than 10 business days prior to departure. Frequent travelers and international travelers should use a University-issued credit card for the applicable expenses associated with their trips. If there are special circumstances, vice presidents are authorized to approve larger cash advances, but it should be noted that the University-issued credit card is a more secure method of payment. Approval from a vice president is required for the issuance of a University credit card. 

    In general, travelers may not have more than one travel advance outstanding at any time. Cash advances are the personal obligation of the traveler, and must be accounted for in a timely manner to ensure that reimbursements are made under IRS rules and are therefore not taxable to the employee. IRS regulations require that Utica University report unaccounted for travel advances at year end. 

    Travelers must account for all expenses, including cash advances and prepayments, normally within 14 business days after the completion of the trip by submitting a Travel Expense Reconciliation Form. Non-reconciled cash advances are taxable and will be reported to the IRS by being added to the traveler’s W-2 in compliance with IRS regulations. 
  2. Tax Exempt Status
    Utica University is exempt from paying New York State sales tax and Federal excise tax on all goods and services purchased by travelers for business use, including hotel or motel stays, air or train travel, and automobile rentals. Tax exempt forms for New York State as well as some other states are available from the Office of Purchasing and Accounts Payable, and should be provided to vendors in advance or presented upon arrival at each destination. Tax exempt forms should be used whenever possible, but vice presidents may approve reimbursement of taxes paid at their discretion.
  3. Reservations
    Reservations should be made in advance whenever possible for the traveler’s hotel, air or train travel, and automobile rental. Utica University has arrangements with several vendors that will bill the University directly and may offer preferred rates. Contact the Office of Human Resources, the Office of Purchasing and Accounts Payable, or the Office of Financial Affairs for more information regarding these vendors.

    Since some conferences offer special hotel and airfare rates, conference attendees should compare those rates with rates that are available elsewhere.
  4. Registration Fees
    Registration fees can be paid for with a University-issued credit card or can be prepaid by UC directly to the sponsoring organization upon submission of a properly completed Travel Authorization and Advance Request Form, with the registration application, the registration confirmation (if the traveler has already registered for the conference), and the conference agenda, which details meals covered by the registration fee, all attached. 
  5. Foreign Travel
    Travelers who will be traveling to other countries are encouraged to use credit cards to ensure the most favorable exchange rate. Whether using a Utica University credit card or their own personal card, travelers are also encouraged to call the credit company to advise them of the travel destination(s) and dates. Upon return, travelers using a personal credit card can visit their credit card company’s website and print out a transaction detail that will provide the most favorable exchange rate and attach the detail to the Travel Expense Reconciliation Form. If the expense was not charged to a credit card, the traveler must convert the expense to U.S. funds using the exchange rate in effect when the expense was incurred. Assistance with the conversion is available from the Office of Financial Affairs or by visiting these websites: 

In planning a trip, travelers should consider whether flying, taking the train, or renting a vehicle would cost less than using a personal vehicle.
  1. Air – Reservations for traveling by air should be made at least 21 days in advance whenever possible. Travelers who plan to fly are urged to work closely with travel agents to obtain the lowest fares and rates. When flying, travelers should fly coach class unless special circumstances justify otherwise. Travelers who choose to fly in an upgraded class without prior authorization will be reimbursed at the coach class rate. In some cases, the trip may require a Saturday stay-over to obtain the lowest rates. For more information, see Reservations, above. 
  2. Vehicle
    1. Rental – Travelers who plan to rent a car should reserve compact or mid-size vehicles unless special circumstances justify otherwise. Do not purchase collision insurance. Utica University maintains its own automobile insurance, which provides hired vehicle physical damage coverage. Return the car with the same amount of gas that was in the tank when the vehicle was picked up to avoid expensive refueling charges. Be sure to keep the rental agreement, since this is the receipt required for reimbursement.
    2. Personal – Utica University follows the federal mileage reimbursement rate for use of a personal vehicle for University-related travel. This mileage rate is intended to cover all vehicle operation expenses such as gasoline, oil, tire repair/replacement, mechanical repairs, and insurance. Tolls and parking fees are additionally reimbursable. If an employee is in an accident while on University business, the employee’s personal insurance policy responds first. 
  3. Train – Reservations for traveling by train should be made in advance. Note that departing from Albany, NY will provide more scheduling options. See Reservations, above. 
Utica University will reimburse travelers for lodging when:
  • Travel is for two or more days; and/or
  • The distance from the traveler’s home is more than 120 miles; and/or
  • The starting time of the conference or meeting necessitates arrival the evening before; and/or
  • The cost of staying overnight is less than the cost of traveling home and back the next day.
Travelers should use their best judgment in selecting accommodations that are safe, convenient, and economical. The original hotel or motel bill and proof of payment is required for reimbursement. Note that many hotels will not honor a tax exemption unless the bill is paid by a University credit card or by direct bill to the University. Therefore, usage of a University credit card by frequent travelers is strongly encouraged to avoid unreimbursed expenses. Since Utica University is tax-exempt in the state of New York, the University will not reimburse for New York state sales tax, unless special circumstances are approved by a vice president. Note that use of a personal credit card to obtain frequent flyer miles or bonus points that result in the disallowance of a properly presented tax exempt form is not valid special circumstance. When traveling within New York State, obtain a tax-exempt form from the Office of Purchasing and Accounts Payable or the Office of Financial Affairs and present it to the hotel at check-in.
Some states other than New York may accept Utica University’s tax-exempt status; call the Office of Purchasing and Accounts Payable or the Office of Financial Affairs for more information.
Utica University will reimburse travelers for meals and associated tips per itemized receipts or at the federal per diem rate when an individual’s travel schedule makes it difficult to eat at home before or after a trip. Travelers will generally be reimbursed for one alcoholic beverage with dinner if the trip is not grant funded.
When travelers use per diems, reimbursement for travel for part of a day or when conferences provide some meals should reflect a pro-rated federal per diem. Prorations are generally 20 percent for breakfast, 30 percent for lunch, and 50 percent for dinner. Travelers dining with persons who are not being entertained for University business and who cannot obtain a separate receipt for their meal should use the per diem to account for these meals. When travelers use receipts, the federal per diem will be used as a general guideline for reasonableness. Business entertainment meals should not be accounted for using federal per diem rates.
For information regarding business meals not related to travel, see the Purchasing and Accounts Payable policy.
Normal tipping for meals is included in the federal per diem rates. Reimbursements for travelers not using the federal per diem will follow ordinary and customary rules: 
  • For meals served directly to the traveler, tipping rates are generally 15-20 percent.  Travelers are asked to review all bills first, because some establishments automatically add a tip.
  • For buffet-style meals, tipping rates are generally 10 percent.
  • Tips for housekeeping are generally $2-4 per night. Note that it is advisable to leave a dated note with the tip to ensure that the proper housekeeper is receiving the tip.
  • Tips for bellmen are generally $2-3 per bag if they assist the traveler to the room.
  • Tips for valet parking are generally $2-3 per bag and are paid when the car is delivered.
  • Tips for doormen who hale cabs are generally $2-3 for a business trip at the beginning of the stay and $2-5 at the end of the stay.
  • Concierges are not tipped for answering questions, giving directions, or recommending a restaurant.
  • Tips for taxi drivers are generally 15-20 percent.
  • Tips for free shuttle drivers are generally $2-3 per bag. 
University-related exceptions to these rules will be reimbursed providing that documentation is provided.
Entertainment expenses, including business meals, will be reimbursed when they are incurred while advancing the mission of the University. Personal entertainment expenses unrelated to the University-sanctioned purpose of the trip are not reimbursable. Examples include movies in the hotel room and socializing unrelated to the purpose of the trip.
Combining Business Travel with Personal Travel 
Utica University does not reimburse personal expenses incurred while on official travel. If the traveler takes an indirect route to accommodate personal travel, reimbursement for transportation costs will be the lesser of the actual charges or the amount that would have been incurred by traveling the direct route.
Travel Expenses of Spouse/Significant Other/Family Members 
In general, expenses for spouses/significant other/family members are not reimbursable unless attendance at special functions is required and there is a bona fide University-sanctioned purpose. In such cases the University will pay for properly authorized and documented expenses. The University-related business purpose of the spousal/significant other travel should be recorded separately on the Travel Expense Reimbursement Form along with the primary traveler’s business purpose.
If the traveler’s spouse or significant other accompanies the traveler for non-business purposes, the use of per diems for meal reimbursement is encouraged to simplify completion of the Travel Expense Reimbursement Form. Hotel room charges will be reimbursed at the full rate providing there were no additional costs for double occupancy. Airfare and train tickets for spouses or significant others are not reimbursable when they have no University-sanctioned business purpose to accompany the employee on the trip.
Travel Insurance 
  • Business Travel – Utica University maintains an insurance policy that provides coverage for accidental death or dismemberment that may occur while an employee is on official travel. More information may be obtained from the Office of Financial Affairs.
  • Personal Property – Travelers using the Utica University credit card are insured for loss of or damage to any personal property while on official travel. Travelers not using the University credit card should seek reimbursement from their personal insurance company or directly from the responsible party.
  • Personal Automobiles – If a University employee who is traveling on official business is involved in an accident resulting in damage to his or her vehicle, the University may reimburse the employee for his or her deductible or expenses up to $200. If a University employee who is traveling on official business is involved in an accident that causes bodily injury or property damage to a third party, the traveler’s personal insurance will apply first and if necessary, the University’s insurance will supplement. Employees using their vehicles for official travel should check with their insurance agents to make sure their coverage is adequate. 
The loss or theft of University-owned property or involvement in an accident while traveling for Utica University should be reported to the Office of Campus Safety.
Returning from a Trip 
All travel and entertainment expenses that were prepaid or that are to be reimbursed by the University are subject to appropriate approval. To be reimbursed for expenses incurred and to reconcile travel advances and charges to Utica University credit cards, travelers must submit a signed and approved Travel Expense Reconciliation Form to the Office of Financial Affairs within 14 business days of the end of the trip.
All information on the Travel Expense Reconciliation Form must be completed, including a complete itinerary, dates of travel, purpose of trip, and breakdown of all expenses. An explanation of extraordinary expenses must be included when needed. The form must be signed by the traveler and approved by the appropriate responsible individual, and receipts for all expenses, including any expenses that were prepaid, must be attached. Meals for which there are no receipts will be reimbursed at the federal per diem rate.
When the trip involves the entertainment of donors and other dignitaries the IRS requires that additional information be collected, including the person being entertained and the business purpose of the entertainment. If prepaid or reimbursable expenses include entertainment, the traveler must document the business purpose and the person entertained. This may be completed either on the receipt if legible or on a Business Meals and Entertainment Record and in either case included when submitting the Travel Expense Reconciliation Form.

Enforcement of Utica University policies is the responsibility of the office or offices listed in the “Resources/Questions” section of each policy. The responsible office will contact the appropriate authority regarding faculty or staff members, students, vendors, or visitors who violate policies.
Utica University acknowledges that University policies may not anticipate every possible issue that may arise. The University therefore reserves the right to make reasonable and relevant decisions regarding the enforcement of this policy. All such decisions must be approved by an officer of the University (i.e. President, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer, Vice President for Financial Affairs, or Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel).
For questions or additional information, please contact the Office of Financial Affairs.
Please note that other Utica University policies may apply or be related to this policy. To search for related policies, use the Keyword Search function of the online policy manual.
Effective Date: 07/25/2007
Promulgation Date: 09/24/2007
Date Last Revised: 07/07/2014
Revision Promulgation Date: 09/10/2014

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