Travel Policy

Sponsor:

Office of Administration

Contact:

Assistant Vice President for Administration or Director of Procurement

Category:

Administration and Facilities Management

Number:

400.007

Effective Date:

2008/09/01

Review Date:

2014/10/01

Implementation History:

revised 10/08/2013

Keywords:

Travel

Background Information:

Purpose

To set the policy for employees traveling on official college business.

Definitions

Statements

The purpose of this travel manual is to help employees understand and apply the state’s travel rules and regulations and to provide instructions regarding reimbursement for expenses while in travel status. The Office of the State Comptroller sets rules and regulations for reimbursement of expenses incurred while traveling on official state business. While these policies reflect the guidance provided by the state comptroller regarding expenses charged against state and IFR accounts, these guidelines also establish standards for travel reimbursement charged to ESCF and RF accounts. These rules and regulations are included by reference in collective bargaining agreements. When traveling on official state business, only actual, necessary and reasonable business expenses will be reimbursed. The OSC travel manual is at  www.osc.state.ny.us/agencies/travel/manual.pdf

Specific procedures related to the travel policies detailed here are available on ESCnet in the Fiscal Budgetary Procedures at http://mail.esc.edu/escnet/escdocuments/fisc-bud.nsf/8b7e6a319cb42aa68525692300550ba7/c26581afbded0916852569050065d436?OpenDocument

General Guidelines and Responsibilities

Employees are in travel status when they are more than 35 miles from both their official station and their home.

The designation of official station is determined by the college management in the best interest of the state and not for the convenience of the employee. OSC reserves the right to request justification from an agency to support their designation of official station. Official station designation belongs to the position, not to the person.

Travel between the employee’s home and official station is considered commuting and is not reimbursable. Employees working from two locations will only be reimbursed if they travel between the two locations on the same day. Travel to one location in a day will not be reimbursed since this is considered commuting. Travel to a location that is not the employee’s official station will be reimbursed for mileage. See Travel in Proximity of Official Station or Home.

Vouchers must be submitted in a timely manner. OSC will not allow reimbursement for employees travel expenses when the college’s fiscal year has lapsed.

 College Responsibility

  • ensure all authorized travel is in the best interest of the state
  • all charges are actual, reasonable and necessary
  • all expenses comply with travel rules and regulations
  • the most economical method of travel is used in the best interest of the state
  • compliance with IRS regulations
  • the official station of each employee is designated in the best interest of the state
  • employees obtain appropriate approvals prior to traveling
  • exceptions or waivers are justified and necessary
  • adequate funds are available for travel
  • provide guidance and training to agency supervisors and staff in proper procedures for reimbursing travel expenses
  • a means to minimize out-of-pocket travel expenses. (e.g., cash advance)
  • control all travel related documents (e.g., vouchers, tax exempt certificates).

Supervisor’s Responsibility

  • know state travel rules and regulations
  • know the college’s specific travel policies and procedures
  • know your staff’s official stations and its effect on their travel reimbursement
  • authorize travel only when necessary
  • review traveler’s itinerary in advance to ensure the most economical method of travel is used in the best interest of the state
  • verify that vouchers are within allowable rates and all required documentation is attached
  • review and certify travelers' vouchers in a complete and timely manner
  • forward vouchers to the college business office in a timely manner (generally within five business days after submission by the employee).

Traveler's responsibility

  • know state travel rules and regulations
  • know the college’s policies and procedures
  • know your official station and its effect on your eligibility for travel reimbursement
  • obtain necessary approvals for travel, including method of travel
  • secure the most economical method of travel in the best interest of the State
  • obtain all necessary travel documents (e.g., voucher, tax exempt certificate)
  • maintain an accurate record of expenses including departure and return times, and mileage
  • obtain required receipts or documentation
  • claim reimbursement only for actual allowed expenses within reimbursement rates
  • account for any cash advance received
  • complete and submit travel vouchers accurately and timely (generally within 15 business days of completion of the travel).

All parties have a responsibility to ensure that reimbursement for the same travel expenses are not charged to multiple funding sources. Knowingly submitting duplicate travel expenses or making false statements on travel vouchers constitutes a fraudulent act and such matters will be referred to the university for counsel on action to be taken, including possible dismissal of employee and/or criminal charges. The college requires original documentation and appropriate supervisory authorization in order to avoid both intentional and unintentional duplicate payments.

Official Station

The official station is the employee’s usual work location. The official station is designated by the college and must be in the best interest of the state. The purpose of an official station is to establish when the employee is in travel status and eligible for reimbursement of travel expenses. Travel between the employee’s home and official station is considered commuting and is not reimbursable. The employee’s home is considered to be in the city or town in which the employee primarily resides when working at his or her official station. The employee’s home generally may not be considered their official station.

Pre-Approvals for Out-of-State Travel, Over-the-Maximum Per Diem and/or Air Travel

Employees planning on traveling on college business (including college-sponsored professional development opportunities) out-of-state or seeking reimbursement for over-the-maximum per diem allowance or traveling by airplane as described in subsequent sections of these guidelines must seek pre-approval prior to the travel. Center employees should seek pre-approval from their dean, deans from the provost, Coordinating Center employees from their appropriate vice president or assistant vice president designee, Vice presidents from the president or vice president for administration and the president from the vice president for administration. In making determination as to approval of out-of-state, over-the-max or air travel, centers and offices must stay within their total travel budget allocation for the fiscal year. Documentation reflecting this approval must be included with the voucher submitted for payment.

Annual Travel Budget Allocation

All travel expenditures above the center’s or office’s total annual travel allocation need pre-approval by the vice president for administration.

Determining Travel Status

When employees are on assignment at a work location more than 35 miles from both their official station and their home, they are considered in travel status and are eligible for reimbursement of travel expenses. Employees must obtain appropriate approvals prior to traveling on the assignment.

Travel in Proximity of Official Station or Home

When an employee is assigned to work at an alternate work location which is less than 35 miles from either his or her home or his or her official station, the employee is not considered to be in travel status, but rather is considered to be traveling in proximity of his or her official station. Employees traveling less than 35 miles from home or official station will not be reimbursed for overnight lodging or meals. When traveling in proximity of home or official station, an employee using a personal vehicle, is, as outlined below, entitled to reimbursement of transportation expenses associated with travel in the following circumstances:

  • from home to an alternate work location
  • between the official station and an alternate work location or another official station on the same day
  • between alternate work locations that are not within the same city
  • from an alternate work location to the employees home.

Effective September 1, 2008, when travel is from an employees home to an alternate work location, or from an alternate work location to home, at a minimum, transportation expenses must be reimbursed using the lesser of:

  1. mileage between the employees home and the alternate work location
  2. mileage between the employees official station and the alternate work location, times the Internal Revenue Service mileage reimbursement rate. This reimbursement method is called the lesser of mileage rule.

When travel is between an employees official station and an alternate work location, or between two or more alternate work locations in the same day, transportation expenses must be reimbursed by payment for the actual mileage between such locations, times the Internal Revenue Service mileage reimbursement rate. Parking expenses will be reimbursed if the employee is traveling to a location that is not the employee’s official station. Public transportation is recommended where practical and will be reimbursed.

The expense of meals or lodging within the proximity of the official station will not normally be reimbursed. Reimbursement for travel in the proximity of the home or the official station is subject to the audit of the comptroller. No transportation costs will be allowed between any employee's home and his or her official station.

Click here for examples: www.osc.state.ny.us/agencies/travel/lesser.pdf

Reimbursement Allowances

Overnight Travel Reimbursement

Employees may choose one of two methods for reimbursement for overnight travel, whichever is to their advantage. Travelers may not, however, combine the two methods on the same trip. Breakfast and dinner are reimbursable meals; lunch is not.

Unreceipted Method (Method 1)

This method provides for a flat rate allowance for meals, lodging and incidental expenses regardless of where lodging is obtained, including lodging with relatives or friends. Rates are established

Effective Sept. 1, 2008, the city or county where lodging is obtained or the location to which the employee was traveling (whichever rate is less), such location must be indicated on the travel voucher. No receipts are required when using this method. Current rates are as follows:

Location Per Diem:

  • New York City and Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland and Westchester Counties:$50
  • Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuseand their respective surrounding metropolitan areas: $40
  • all other locations in New York state: $35
  • out of state (this includes any out of state tax on lodging): $50

Travelers using this unreceipted method are also eligible for an additional $5 for breakfast on the day of departure if they have to leave more than one hour before their normal work start time. They are also eligible for an additional $12 for dinner on the day of return if they return more than two hours later than their normal work ending time.

For example, a traveler leaves Albany before 7:30 a.m. heading to NYC. The traveler stays overnight at a friend’s house in NYC and arrives back in Albany the next day after 7 p.m. The traveler’s scheduled work hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The traveler is entitled to the unreceipted per diem of $50 for the one night stay in NYC. In addition, the traveler is entitled to an additional $5 for breakfast and $12 for dinner.

Receipted Method (Method 2)

This method provides reimbursement of actual lodging costs and an allowance for meals based on federal reimbursement rates for the county of lodging. The per diem rates for locations within the continental United States are revised annually. Click here for current rates: www.gsa.gov/perdiem

Since rates are based on location of lodging, the county and city must be indicated on the travel voucher. Receipts are required for lodging, but are not required for meals when using method 2.

Each day the traveler is in overnight travel status, the traveler is eligible for reimbursement for lodging up to a maximum lodging per diem and a per diem allowance for meals. The meal per diem is for dinner the first night and breakfast the following day.

Travelers using this method are also eligible for an additional per diem for breakfast if they have to leave more than one hour before their normal work start time the first day, and/or for dinner if they return more than two hours later than their normal work ending time on the last day of travel. In these cases, breakfast and/or dinner will be reimbursed up to the maximum amount of the meal per diem allowance specified for the particular area of lodging. The meal per diem allowance is apportioned for breakfast and dinner. See www.osc.state.ny.us/agencies/travel/meals.htm for current meal allowances.

Maximum lodging rates exclude taxes. For travel within New York state, a tax exemption certificate (ST-129) should be used. For travel outside of New York state, state and local taxes are not included in the maximum lodging amount and will be reimbursed in addition to the per diem amount. Some out-of-state hotels will accept the tax-exempt certificate. Check at the hotel to see of the hotel will accept the tax-exempt status.

Finally, on occasion, travelers may be unable to find a hotel at a rate that does not exceed the maximum federal lodging per diem rate for the location of travel. If that occurs, the traveler must obtain prior approval to exceed the federal rate from his or her dean or appropriate vice president.

Day Trip Reimbursement

Travelers may be reimbursed for breakfast and/or dinner for day trips based on departure and return times. Travelers are entitled to reimbursement for breakfast if they have to leave at least one hour before their normal work start time, and/or for dinner if they return at least two hours later than their normal work ending time.

Travelers without meal receipts are reimbursed $5 for breakfast and/or $12 for dinner. For example, a traveler leaves Albany before 7:30 a.m. for NYC. The traveler arrives back in Albany the same day after 7 p.m. The travelers scheduled work hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The traveler is entitled to $5 for breakfast and $12 for dinner.

Travelers with meal receipts are reimbursed up to the maximum amount of the meal per diem allowance specified for the particular area of travel. The meal per diem allowance is apportioned for breakfast and dinner.

See www.osc.state.ny.us/agencies/travel/meals.htm for current meal allowances.

Day trip meal reimbursements are reportable as income to the IRS.

Meals and Lodging Provided by the College

If the college or another agency or organization provides meals and/or lodging without charge to the traveler, that fact including the name of the agency or organization must be indicated on the voucher. Lodging and/or meals when provided at no cost to the employee by the college or another agency or organization as part of an assignment to duty are not reimbursable. If only lodging was provided, meal allowances based on location of lodging may still be claimed.

Weekend Allowance

Travelers are allowed lodging and meals for weekends when their agency deems it necessary for them to be in travel status. An additional reimbursement over and above the per diems may be allowed in accordance with the traveler's bargaining agreement if the traveler is 300 miles or more away from home and official station.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Only actual, reasonable and necessary business related expenses will be reimbursed and must be properly indicated and justified on the voucher. Receipts are not required by OSC for miscellaneous expenses under $75, such as tolls on toll roads, bridges and tunnels, reasonable parking charges, taxis, and local bus or subway fares.

Reimbursable Expenses

Business related expenses such as:

  • telephone calls
  • Internet connection fees
  • baggage transfer and storage expenses
  • supplies and materials

Nonreimbursable Expenses

  • expenses for speeding fines, parking tickets, laundry, valet services, entertainment (e.g., theater tickets, in-room movies), and other personal charges

Conference Considerations

Whenever possible, college sponsored conferences should be arranged at facilities honoring the federal per diem rates for meals and lodging. The cost of meeting room rentals, equipment, luncheons and breaks are normally paid directly by the college. In selecting the conference site, the college will consider cost, location and other special requirements. Standard procurement procedures will be followed.

On occasion, travelers must attend conferences sponsored by other organizations at facilities that exceed the maximum lodging rate. Travelers must obtain prior written (via email) approval to exceed the rate. Prior approval will come from the dean for center employees, from the appropriate vice president for coordinating center employees, from the provost for deans and from the vice president for administration for vice presidents. When considering an employee's request to exceed government rates, the approver should consider the following:

  • available lodging within the rate at a location nearby
  • transportation costs saved by staying at the conference site
  • late evening or early morning conference events
  • whether the attendee is an officer of the sponsoring organization
  • whether the attendee is a speaker or is performing other functions essential to the conference.

Social activities such as sightseeing and golf outings are considered personal expenses and will not be reimbursed. When meals and lodging are provided as a part of a college sponsored conference or event, additional reimbursement is not permitted.

If meals are paid by another employee, such as a dean or vice president and reimbursed to the dean or vice president from other than state funds, such as the ESC Foundation or the Research Foundation, no additional reimbursement shall be made by the state.

International Travel

Individuals traveling abroad on official college business must adhere to all existing guidelines with regard to travel authorizations, advances and receipt requirements.

Travel outside the continental United Statesis reimbursed based on the maximum per diem allowance established by the U.S. Department of State. The foreign per diem rates are published monthly and are available at www.gsa.gov/perdiem or www.state.gov/travel.

International travel rates provide for lodging costs up to a maximum amount and an allowance for meals and incidental expenses. Similar to method 2 above, the meal per diem is for dinner the first night and breakfast the following day. Travelers are also eligible for an additional per diem for breakfast if they have to leave more than one hour before their normal work start time the first day, and/or for dinner if they return more than two hours later than their normal work ending time on the last day of travel. In these cases, the traveler would be entitled to 20 percent of the foreign meal per diem for breakfast or 80 percent for dinner.

Expenses directly related to lodging and meals are included in the foreign per diem allowance; however, some expenses unique to foreign travel may be reimbursed at the discretion of the college.

Travelers requesting reimbursement for expenses made in foreign currencies must document the exchange rate for the time of travel and provide the conversion to U.S. dollars with the request for reimbursement.

Faculty and administrative staff teams traveling to regularly scheduled residencies and graduation ceremonies may be pre-approved by including a summary list displaying all travelers, travel dates and applicable locations. Current college policy allows for these faculty/administrative groups to receive a travel advance of 75 percent of anticipated lodging and meal expenses prior to pre-approved travel with the remaining 25 percent to be reimbursed with appropriate documentation submitted within a reasonable amount of time upon return.

Transportation

Common Carrier

Travelers should use the most efficient and cost-effective method of transportation available. Often times, this means using a common carrier such as a train, bus, taxicab or airplane. This is especially true when traveling between Albany and New York City. Where possible, travel should be scheduled using NYS travel services contracts, coach accommodations and excursion fares. When traveling by commercial air, the contract established by OGS for airline travel must be used.

The passenger’s portion of the airline ticket or an e-ticket must be submitted with the travel voucher. Boarding passes are not acceptable. Super savers may be used only if the noncontract fare saves $200 or more per round trip. Appropriate documentation must be submitted confirming savings in excess of $200.

When choosing a method of transportation several factors should be considered:

  • distance being traveled
  • travel time
  • number of travelers
  • number of locations to be visited
  • type of transportation available
  • employee salaries and overtime.

Train travel on Amtrak will be reimbursed at the current Amtrak government rate, and the original ticket must be provided with the travel voucher.

When a common carrier is available but a more expensive method is chosen without sufficient justification, the college may reimburse only the common carrier rate. Any unused common carrier tickets should be returned to the college business office for a refund or credit on a future trip. If a trip is cancelled at the direction of the college, the traveler will not be responsible for any costs incurred. If cancelled for the traveler’s convenience, he/she may be responsible for any costs.

Charges for traveling by common carrier between a transportation terminal (airport, bus or train station) and home or official station may be incurred and are reimbursable for actual costs. Personal car mileage is reimbursable in accordance with collective bargaining agreements.

Personal Vehicle

A personal vehicle may be used when a state vehicle or common carrier is not available, is not cost effective or is otherwise not appropriate (for example, there is a need to transport voluminous files or documents). Mileage reimbursement rates are determined by the Internal Revenue Service and collective bargaining agreements. All reasonable and necessary parking and toll charges will be reimbursed whether paid in cash or with personally issued EZPass.

Charges for gasoline, accessories, repairs, depreciation, anti-freeze, towing, insurance and other expenditures will not be allowed. These are considered operational costs and are covered in the mileage allowance.

State Vehicle

If available, state vehicles should always be considered when the use of an automobile is required. Gasoline and other necessary expenses will be reimbursed. Emergency expenses, if justified, will be reimbursed.

Rental Vehicle

When a rental vehicle is necessary or prudent, employees should use the OGS centralized passenger vehicle rental contract. Information about this contract may be obtained from the business office or the OGS Travel Contracts website. The current contract is with Enterprise.

  • for upstate New York and New York City the information you will need to give Enterprise is JN0225
  • For western New York the code is 29B5316
  • out of state is NA24NYS.

Make sure you have your college ID when you pick up the car. When renting for state business, the traveler should rent in the name of New York State and sign the agreement as the agent for the state. It is recommended that the traveler purchase the collision damage waiver. If the collision damage waiver is not purchased, the traveler’s agency is responsible for any damages to the vehicle. In case of accidents, travelers should notify the central services director as soon as possible. A copy of any accident report is to be filed with central services in Saratoga Springs as well as with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the insurance carrier. Any gasoline purchases and other direct costs associated with the vehicle will be reimbursed. Reimbursement for personal car mileage when using a rental vehicle under the state contract will not be allowed.

Travel by Personally Owned Airplane

Authorization by the vice president for sdministration is required for the use of the traveler’s privately owned plane while on dtate business. A liability insurance policy must be currently in force and provide coverage of at least $1,000,000.00 with the State of New York as a named insured. The insurer must be licensed by the state insurance department to conduct business in New York State and a copy of the policy must be filed with the vice president for administration.

Travel by privately owned plane would be reimbursed at the lesser of the personal car mileage rate (regardless of the number of passengers carried) or the published coach fare for each passenger on state business (if commercial air transportation is available between points of travel).

Airline or Train Tickets ordered through the Central Travel Account (CTA)

For employees (or their designee) ordering airline or train tickets from Child Albany Travel for state authorized travel:

Before contacting Child Albany Travel, the traveler or designee must email Travel Authorization@esc.edu and provide the following information:

  1. name of traveler
  2. account number to be charged or description such as area of study meeting, professional development funds, faculty development funds, staff development funds or governance committee meeting
  3. date of departure
  4. destination
  5. mode of transportation.

The traveler or designee will then receive a return email providing an authorization number, which must be used when contacting Child Albany Travel to make your travel arrangements. The authorization number will be used to track all travel costs and ensure that the expenditures are charged to the correct account. These procedures are to be used in conjunction with existing rules and regulations already established by the college and the Office of the State Comptroller governing travel. All travelers must complete a business traveler preference profile form before using Child Albany Travel for the first time.

If the funding for the trip will be sponsored by the Empire State College Foundation, remember to complete a foundation check transfer form to generate payment to the college to cover your travel costs.

Travel Advances

The college can issue a travel advance to the traveler to pay expenses while on official state business. The traveler may request a travel advance by submitting a travel voucher for an advance to the business office. The amount of the advance is limited to $400 and is paid through the Quick Pay Travel Voucher process.

If necessary, recovery of funds may include deductions from the employee’s salary or other monies due him/her.

IRS Requirements

The Internal Revenue Service generally requires withholding and W-2 reporting for the following types of travel reimbursements:

  • per diem amounts paid in excess of the rates allowed by the federal government which are not supported by receipts
  • meal allowances paid for non-overnight travel or day trips
  • mileage reimbursements in excess of the maximum federal rate
  • reimbursement for expenses incurred at a single location when the job assignment is realistically expected to last in excess of one year.

Interviews for Employment

The appointing officer of the college may authorize reimbursement for travel expenses necessarily incurred by candidates attending interviews for positions for which there is a shortage of qualified candidates. Positions in the competitive class for which there are shortages of qualified candidates shall be determined by the State Department of Civil Service; for positions outside the competitive class the vice president for administration of the college shall make such determination. Reimbursement will be allowed to candidates who reside more than 50 miles from place of interview in accordance with the rules detailed above. Expenses may include transportation, food, and lodging.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

OSC Travel Manual: www.osc.state.ny.us/agencies/travel/manual.pdf

Per Diem rates:  www.gsa.gov/perdiem or www.state.gov/travel.