This section highlights the University’s travel policies and procedures. The University will either directly pay for, or reimburse travelers for, travel expenses that are necessary for the traveler to facilitate University business purposes. Employees will be reimbursed for expenses within the limits imposed by policy. Employees must be familiar with University travel policy and any applicable campus or institute procedures governing travel.
The University uses the federal meals and lodging per diem rates for travel inside the continental United States (CONUS) and travel outside the continental United States (OCONUS). Current CONUS and OCONUS rates are available on the U.S. General Services Administration website. CONUS rates only apply to the continental United States (sometimes referred to as “the lower 48” states). Travel to a U.S. destination outside of the lower 48 states falls under OCONUS rates. Also, please note that the University’s rental-car insurance only applies to travel within 1 of the 50 states (and it does not apply to U.S. territories outside of the 50 states). Each campus or institute must issue a procedure that establishes a review process for international travel requests. Travelers to all international destinations must comply with U.S. export control laws and regulations.
When traveling on sponsored funds, employees are responsible for complying with the sponsor’s requirements. If a sponsor’s requirements are more restrictive than policy, the employee must comply with the sponsor’s requirements.
Employees travel under such varied circumstances that abuses can easily occur. Department heads must be aware of University-wide travel policies and procedures as well as supplemental travel procedures at the campus or institute.
Highlights of Travel Policies
The University encourages employees to use the University’s travel card to the extent possible. When using the travel card, the employee does not have to use personal funds and, therefore, does not have to wait for the reimbursement process for expenses placed on the travel card.
The campus or institute Chief Business Officer (or designee) must review any exceptions to the travel policy and will serve as the final review step for exceptions to policy except that the CBO may not approve exceptions for their campus chancellor or institute head. The University’s Chief Financial Officer (or designee) will approve exceptions for the campus chancellors and institute head officials.
When attending a conference, seminar or group meeting and with a negotiated rate, the University will reimburse employees at the conference or group’s negotiated rate. Conference lodging will be limited to the lessor of 150% of CONUS or CONUS, or the rate of the conference hotel. Documentation must be provided to support the conference lodging rate and the dates of the conference.
Guests (Non-employees) are individuals who are not University employees, and who will incur travel expenses for a University business purpose. Departments must ensure that guest travel complies with the University’s Travel policy and applicable procedures. Before the University will reimburse guest expenses, the individual must be set up as a “guest” in the ERP system and assigned an employee number.
Employees who receive an honorarium from outside organizations must remit it to the University if they claim reimbursement for travel expenses.
Employees will be reimbursed the actual amounts for lodging up to the maximum rates established by the University. Under University travel policy, Employees are allowed to book up to 150% of CONUS or OCONUS. Itemized receipts provided by the vendor are required for reimbursement.
Employees are reimbursed a daily allowance for meals. Reimbursement for meals for the day of departure and return will be 75% of the normal reimbursement rate regardless of time of departure or return Employees may, but are not required to, deduct meals from their per diem allowance if attending a conference or third-party (non-University) event. Employees must deduct meals that the University provides through a University-hosted event or entity.
University’s procurement cards may not be used for travel-related expenses, including airfare, lodging, vehicle expenses, and meals. However, they may be used for conference registration fees. A group travel card is available when needed. Cardholders have the responsibility to read the following policies and procedures and complete the procurement card questionnaire in the K@TE learning management system.
If an employee utilizes a University travel card, receipts are required for expenses more than $75. If an employee does not have a travel card, the University requires receipts for expenses that are more than $50. Acceptable receipts must be legible, issued by the vendor, itemized, and reflect line item and total charges. For out-of-pocket expenses that an employee fails to maintain a receipt, the employee must submit a missing-receipt declaration or written explanation and provide whatever documentation the employee has available such as a credit card statement.
Reimbursement of Expenses
Employees must submit claims for reimbursement of travel expenses no later than 120 days after the completion of travel. When a cash advance is provided, employees must submit their expense report within 30 days of the end of the trip.
Travel expenses paid from sponsored program funds will be reimbursed in accordance with University policy unless otherwise stated in the grant or contract. Airfare will be reimbursed at standard coach airfare, regardless of the funding source.
Excluding tips to hotel staff, the University will reimburse employees for providing gratuities. The University will not reimburse an employee for providing tips to hotel staff. Tips must not exceed 20% of the related charge. The traveler is allowed to add the tip to the receipt (this does not constitute an alteration of the receipt).
Employees should always choose the most practical and economical means of transportation. State law limits airfare reimbursement to the standard coach airfare (the lowest class airfare), see Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-7-130. This limit applies regardless of the funding sources used to purchase the airfare. If standard coach airfare is not available, employees must purchase the ticket through the University’s Travel Agency. For airlines that do not label an airfare as “coach”, such as Southwest Airlines, employees are limited to purchasing the lowest-cost airfare (equivalent to standard coach airfare)
Employees must obtain comparison quotes for airfare if personal travel is combined with business travel and includes additional destinations, or the departure airport is other than the duty station departure airport.
Employees may request a travel advance if the situation falls within one of the following:
- The employee does not have a travel card;
- The employee is traveling with a student or group of students; or
- The employee will engage in international travel.
Cash advances constitute a loan to the employee. By requesting a travel advance, the employee agrees the University may deduct all amounts that the employee owes from payroll.
WARNING: Deliberate disregard of UT’s travel policies while traveling on University business or filing an intentionally misleading or fraudulent travel claim is grounds for disciplinary action, including termination of employment.
Department Head’s Role in Managing Travel
Your responsibilities include the following activities.
- Be familiar with the University’s travel policies and ensure that all departmental employees who travel, process travel expenses, and make travel arrangements are also familiar with these policies.
- Determine that all travel is justifiable before approving the travel or reimbursement of expenses. The travel should be necessary to conduct University business or to pursue the University’s objectives. Conferences and other meetings should relate directly to the employees’ duties and responsibilities.
- Ensure that policy exceptions for employees are approved by the University treasurer and the campus or institute chief business officer. Approvals are performed in the Concur travel system.
- Ensure employees contact their campus or Institute for International travel to verify that the employee is aware of all applicable laws and regulations. Approve travel expense claims via the Travel Expense Report in Concur. Your approval indicates the expenses claimed are in accordance with University policy and payment should be made from the cost center or WBS element indicated.
- Approve arrangements and expenses for all guests, such as consultants and candidates for positions.
- Approve written requests for travel advances as allowed by University policy and ensure that requests are not made for students or for non-exempt employees who are not expected to be on campus 30 days after completing the travel to clear the advance.
- Ensure that employees are conservative in expending University funds for travel.
An employee obtained reimbursement for false travel expenses by creating a fake invoice.
Closer scrutiny of supporting documents for travel expenses by departmental staff who process travel may have detected this situation in a timely manner.
Fiscal Policy References
FI0530 – Procurement Cards
FI0531 – Travel Cards
FI0705 – Travel