The University can reimburse faculty, staff, students and visitors/guests for qualified travel expenses incurred while on University business. The University maintains a list of reimbursable expenses. Benefits eligible University employees can be reimbursed via GEMS for expenses while on University business. All others should use ePayment requests. Travel reimbursements for students and paid using federal funds must be accompanied with a Student Certification for Business Related Reimbursement form. Spouses or dependent travel companions cannot be reimbursed for their expenses without prior written approval from the Vice-President for Administration and the CFO.
Whether or not an expense can be considered for reimbursement depends on who initially pays for it. Only those expenses that the traveler actually pays for can be eligible for reimbursement. Expenses that others pay for on the traveler's behalf cannot be treated like a travel reimbursement. For example, if a prospective faculty member visits campus for an interview and the department offers to reimburse travel expenses, then meals, transportation, and lodging paid for by the traveler would qualify as travel expenses. However, if the department chose to pay for the traveler's meals and transportation directly, such expenses could not be treated as reimbursable travel expenses because they were never paid for by the traveler. Instead the department would need to treat them as business expenses (e.g. meals = subaccount 3xxx instead of 7xxx or local taxis = subaccout 44xx instead of 7xxx).
When faculty, staff, or students travel 50 miles or less from Campus (not the traveler’s home) the traveler may be reimbursed for local transportation costs, but not for meals or lodging according to the IRS provisions on local travel.
Note: There are few exceptions, see your financial administrator for details.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using federal funds for travel expenses:
- To comply with the Fly America Act, a US airline or flight code-shared with a US airline must be used, with the following exceptions: a European Union airline may be used when traveling to a European Union member state; an Australian, Japanese, or Swiss airline may be used when traveling to those respective countries when the GSA does not have a published rate for your specific city pair destination (see GSA city pair rates). The receipts and ticket stubs must be able to demonstrate the airline and any code-sharing.
Foreign airlines may be permitted under other limited circumstances depending upon agency rules. If one intends to use a foreign airline, the Financial Administrator should be consulted in advance to determine how the expense should be handled.
If the airfare does not comply with the Fly America Act, then it must charged to an internally funded account or paid for by the traveler.
- While travel meals are allowed on federal grants/contracts, alcohol is always prohibited.
Receipts and Per Diem
Receipts for expenses over $75 must be retained. All lodging receipts regardless of amount must be retained. All receipts must indicate both what was purchased and proof of purchase. Travel itineraries and reservation confirmations are not sufficient substitutes. When completing the reimbursement request, the traveler must itemize all reimbursable expenses including those for which receipts are not required or missing.
Note: Even meals and taxi trips should have detailed receipts. When expecting reimbursement, retain both the itemized meals receipt and the payment receipt. Likewise with taxis, ask the driver to fill out the receipt and sign it or request one from the cab company afterwards.
If required receipts are lost or missing, the traveler should first request replacement copies from the service provider. If the receipt proves to be unobtainable, the traveler should consult his/her Financial Administrator about appropriate substitute documentation (e.g. credit card statements, etc.). When submitting a duplicate copy of a receipt or alternate documentation, write the following statement on the receipt and sign it: “This expense was incurred in connection with University business. I have not and will not be reimbursed from any other source.”
The reimbursement must be based in US dollars. Any receipts in foreign currencies must be converted using the prevailing rate at the time of the transaction or on the last day of travel. GEMS has a built-in currency conversion tool, but other thrid-party conversion tools are allowable such as oanda.com. The currency conversion method should be included with the receipts. If necessary, ultimate payment can be issued in various currencies through a wire transfer.
Per diem for meals/incidentals and lodging is an option for travel reimbursements to University employees (students and visitors may not use per diem). When using per diem, receipts and itemization are not required. One can choose to receive per diem for meals/incidentals alone or both meals/incidentals and lodging, but per diem for lodging alone is not permitted. The meals/incidentals rate covers expenses such as: fees and tips given to porters, baggage carriers, hotel staff, etc. The traveler cannot seek additional reimbursement for such charges if taking per diem.
When requesting per diem, it applies to the entire trip. One cannot choose per diem for some days and actual expenses for others. The meals/incidentals or M&IE rate is capped at no more than 75% on the first and last days of travel, and must also be reduced on any days when meals are provided for without additional out-of-pocket cost (e.g. conference meals included in registration or meals included in the hotel room rate). The deductions for international trips are 15% for breakfast, 25% for lunch, and 40% for dinner (rounded to the nearest dollar). The deductions are different for domestic trips because incidentals are fixed at $5 for all rates. See Federal Travel Regulation §301-11.18 for full details). For the calculation, subtract $5 from the M&IE rate and then deduct 18% for breakfast, 26% for lunch, or 55% for dinner (rounded to the nearest dollar). The full per diem for lodging is allowed on all days of travel except the last day, any day when lodging is provided free of charge or included in another reimbursed expense (e.g. conference registration), and any overnight time spent on commercial transportation. Current federal per diem rates can be found at the following links – Domestic per diem rates / Foreign per diem rates.
Travelers are free to choose their primary mode of transportation whether it is by air, train, bus, rental car, or personal car. Whatever method is chosen, the traveler cannot be reimbursed for more than the standard available coach airfare for the equivalent journey (see your Financial Administrator for exceptions if necessary).
The value of redeemed frequent flyer miles used towards airline tickets is not reimbursable.
Airline baggage fees are reimbursable, but other purely voluntary fees like early boarding, economy plus upgrades, etc. are not.
Insurance on domestic (US or Canada) car rentals is not reimbursable and should not be purchased additionally since faculty, staff, and students are covered by the University's blanket auto insurance coverage while traveling on University business. This applies to domestic car rentals, but not to personal vehicles or foreign rentals. Purchasing insurance is suggested and reimbursable when renting a car abroad. Travelers may need to show proof of insurance to waive additional insurance fees on domestic car rentals. It is best to obtain proof of insurance in advance. Instructions for doing so can be found at http://rmia.uchicago.edu/page/certificate-requests.
It is recommended that University travelers use one of the the contracted rental car agencies, Enterprise for local (Chicago metro/NW Indiana) rentals and National for other US locations. The traveler should reference the corporate contract numbers when scheduling a rental. If a car accident occurs while driving on University business, the traveler should report the accident to the Risk Management Department as soon as possible (no more than 24 hours later) at 773-702-1951. For more detailed instructions to follow after an accident, see the Risk Management website about claim reporting.
If using a private car, the traveler can be reimbursed for mileage (not fuel costs) at the prevailing federal rate during the time of travel. A map of the route to the destination (e.g. mapquest, google maps, AAA) should be provided and attached to the reimbursement request to establish the mileage of the trip. Road tolls and reasonable parking fees may also be reimbursed.
Local transportation at the destination by public transit, taxi, ferries, etc. is also reimbursable. However, trips on recreational and touring vehicles cannot be reimbursed.
University employees traveling on University business are covered by the University's Business Travel Accident Insurance which covers death or a serious injuries in an accident while traveling on University business away from University premises. Any additional personal accident insurance coverage is not reimbursable.
Some insurance products are reimburseable only for foreign trips. Trip insurance (protection against additional costs that are caused by cancellations or delays/interruptions to travel) is reimbursable for foreign trips only. Collision damage waivers can be reimbursed only for car rentals in foreign countries because the University's insurance coverage in this area does not apply overseas.
Insurance protection for the loss of or damage to personal property is not offered by the University and is not reimbursable.