Travel Authorization and Expense Reimbursement
This page outlines the general guidelines regarding travel expense reimbursement and answers the most frequently asked questions.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board policy/procedure 5.19.3, requires written prior approval for all out-of-state travel. Submit the Out-Of-State Travel Authorization form to your supervisor for approval at least 14 business days prior to departure date in order to be processed before travel. After receiving appropriate signatures, this form will be returned to Requester and should be attached to the employee expense reports that are submitted to Business Services. Out-of-state and international travel expenses will not be advanced or reimbursed without written prior approval. In-state travel requires verbal approval of immediate supervisor.
Reimbursement of employee expenses is requested on the Expense Report. When completing an Expense Report please note that:
- Itemized receipts are required for all expenses except meals, parking meters, taxi services, and baggage handling.
- Canceled checks and credit card statements are not acceptable receipts.
- Dean or VP signature is required for all contractual travel and travel for professional purposes reimbursements.
- Each employee will be reimbursed only for his/her own expenses.
At the close of the fiscal year (June 30th) all travel expense reports must be received in Business Services according to established due dates (usually July 10th) or they will be charged to the next fiscal year. Expense reports received after July 31st require a written explanation signed by the supervisor.
When Can I Expect My Reimbursement/Advance?
Reimbursements/Advances follow the payroll cycle (bi-weekly). Reports must be completed properly and received in Business Services by Wednesday of the payroll processing week. Payment will be made on Friday of the following week (payday) as a separate “check” from payroll.
Will Taxes Be Taken From My Reimbursement?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employee business expenses to be submitted for reimbursement within 60 days after the expense is incurred. If not submitted within 60 days, the reimbursement becomes taxable for federal, state, FICA and Medicare; and withholding tax must be taken. According to IRS regulations, reimbursement of meals not involving overnight lodging is taxable income and taxes will be withheld.
What If I Don't have a Receipt?
In the event that the original receipt was lost, please obtain a duplicate receipt from the vendor. If you cannot locate a receipt, and cannot obtain a duplicate, you must complete an Expense Affidavit and it must be signed by a notary. Attach the affidavit and proof of payment to the expense report. Notaries on campus are Peggy Anderson (Library, BA 538/303), Carol Bossuyt (Education, IL 229), and Barb Okrina (Human Resources, BA 269).
Below are the links to the various Expense Reimbursement Allowances by collective bargaining agreements.
- Commissioner’s Plan / AFSCME, Council 5 / MAPE, and MSCF information available here.
- MnSCU Administrator’s Personnel Plan / Managerial Plan / MSUAASF / MMA / MNA / IFO available here.
When Am I Eligible for Meal Reimbursement?
Meal reimbursement is allowed when the employee is in travel status 35 or more miles from permanent work location.
- Employees are to claim actual expenses for meals, up to the maximum allowance established by the appropriate bargaining agreement. The cost of the meal includes tax and a reasonable gratuity. Alcoholic beverages may never be reimbursed.
- The breakfast meal is reimbursed only when the trip begins before 6:00 a.m.
- The lunch meal is reimbursed only when the employee is in travel status through the normal lunch period.
- The dinner meal is reimbursed only when the trip ends after 7:00 p.m.
- Times for all travel must be indicated for all meal reimbursement requests.
- Original receipts are not required but recommended as meals should not be treated as “per diem” amounts.
- Employees who meet the eligibility requirements for two or more consecutive meals shall be reimbursed for the actual costs of the meals up to the combined maximum reimbursement amount for the eligible meals. Combined reimbursement allows an employee to group the allowable limits for several meals and claim reimbursement on the amount actually spent on all meals up to the combined total. For example, current MAPE rates for MN travel are: breakfast - $9.00, lunch - $11.00, and dinner - $16.00. If the employee’s trip covers seven meals, dinner the first night and all three meals the next two days, the employee could claim actual meal expenses up to a total of $88.00 for this trip. The $88.00 total allowed may be divided among the seven meals in any way the employee chooses.
- When the University is paying the cost of commercial transportation or conference registration fee and a meal is included as a part of the travel or conference, employees are not eligible to be reimbursed for the same meal.
- Employees are to claim actual expenses for meals, but reimbursement, including tips, may not exceed the maximums. Meals exceeding these maximums require the filing of a Special Expense form in advance of the event. Students (including Graduate Assistants) are reimbursed for meals at the AFSCME rates below.
- According to IRS regulations, reimbursements for meal expenses on trips not involving an overnight stay are taxable income. Therefore, when the expenses are paid, federal, state, FICA, and Medicare taxes will be withheld from the employee's pay, and the amount of the expense will be included in wages on the employee's W-2 form. The overnight stay distinction applies whether or not the employee incurs a lodging expense. For example, if an employee stays with friends or relatives at no charge, meal expenses for that trip are not taxable, even though there will be no lodging expense reimbursement.
- The following meal allowance rates are effective beginning July 1, 2011:
IFO, MSUAASF, MAPE, MMA, Managerial Plan, Administrators
Allowances for meals in high cost metro areas:
MMA, MAPE, Commissioner’s Plan:
IFO, MSUAASF, Managerial Plan, Administrators
- The following meal allowance rates are effective beginning January 1, 2014:
AFSCME, Commissioners, IFO, Managerial, MAPE, MMA, MSUAASF, Commissioners:
Allowances for meals in high cost metro areas, effective January 1, 2014:
AFSCME, Commissioners, IFO, Managerial, MAPE, MMA, MSUAASF, Commissioners:
Does SMSU Have a Motor Pool?
No, SMSU encourages employees to rent vehicles from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which is considered as a State vehicle. Please review the Enterprise rental information found under Vehicle/Bus Rental information.
Personal Vehicle vs. Enterprise Rental Vehicle
Wondering which to choose? Check out these comparison charts to help you choose. Personal Vehicle vs. Enterprise Rental Comparison. When using a rental vehicle you may be reimbursed for the actual cost of fuel you purchase.
What Is the Rate of Reimbursement For Using My Personal Car on State Business?
The State bargaining agreements and compensation plans base mileage reimbursement rates on the standard IRS mileage rate that is in place at the time of travel. If a State vehicle (Enterprise Rent-A-Car) is offered but the employee declines and travels in his or her own vehicle, the reimbursement rate is 7¢ less than the current IRS rate. Trips that cross calendar years must use the two rates to determine the reimbursement.
New Mileage Rates Effective January 1, 2014: 49 cents per mile when the employee elects to use a personal car when a State vehicle may have been available (in state or out-of-state travel); 56 cents per mile when a State vehicle was not available.
Mileage Rates Effective January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013: 49.5 cents per mile when the employee elects to use a personal car when a State vehicle may have been available (in state or out-of-state travel); 56.5 cents per mile when a State vehicle was not available.
Mileage shall be paid based on the most direct route. This amount should be listed under "Trip Miles" on the Expense Report. Vicinity driving should be listed in the "Local Miles" box.
If an employee leaves on a trip from his/her residence, the allowable mileage shall be the lesser of:
- Mileage from the residence to the destination, or
- Mileage from permanent work location (SMSU) to the destination.
May I Use a Car for Out-of-State Travel?
Commercial or public transportation should normally be used for out-of-state travel except to communities which border Minnesota (for example Sioux Falls, SD). Travel to border communities is treated as in-state travel.
A rental car may be considered if business travel is required, and public transportation is clearly not adequate. Rental car usage requires justification (indicating why a rental car was used instead of public transportation) on the Expense Report.
Out-of-state travel by personal car may be authorized. All out-of-state mileage is based on the lesser rate as noted above. Employees utilizing this option must include with their expense report an airfare quote dated at least two weeks prior to the trip and any other related expenses (airport parking, etc). Your expenses by personal car cannot exceed this quote and you will be reimbursed the lesser of the two amounts.
What Are the Maximum Lodging Allowances?
There is no rate schedule, but reimbursement is limited to the single room rate. Inquire about government rates when making reservations.
Are Receipts Required to Claim Lodging Reimbursement?
The itemized lodging receipt showing room rate and tax is required.
What if Two Employees Share Accommodations?
Each employee may claim one-half of the lodging expenses. You will not be reimbursed for expenses incurred by another employee even if you did in fact pay for his/her share. Each employee is required to submit his/her own expenses on his/her own expense report with receipts as evidence of payment. Each employee submits a receipt, each claiming half the room rate. Note the other employee on your expense report.
What Amount of Lodging Reimbursement Will I Be Allowed to Claim If My Spouse Accompanies Me On An Overnight Trip?
The State of Minnesota allows reimbursement at the single rate. The employee should have the establishment certify the single rate on the receipt.
May I Request A Travel Advance?
If your anticipated reimbursable expenses exceed $100.00, you may request a short-term travel advance. The amount of the advance should not include any expense that will be billed directly. An employee may have only one outstanding advance at any time.
How Do I Request A Travel Advance?
Submit a completed Expense Report for the anticipated amount of expenses to Business Services at least two weeks prior to departure.
How Do I Settle A Travel Advance?
After your trip is completed, and within five days of your return, submit a second Expense Report indicating the actual expenses, and attaching the appropriate receipts for actual costs. Any excess advance funds will be taken out of the employee's paycheck. A Travel Advance not settled within 28 days of the return date will be deducted from the employee's paycheck automatically.
Special expenses are expenses incurred in connection with official functions or duties which are not reimbursable through the regular expense regulations. Please note that receipts are required for all special expenses. Special expenses include, but are not limited to:
- Meals exceeding the maximum allowance
- Meals within 35 miles of the workstation, including on campus
- Conference fees in excess of $1,000.00
- Purchases from Aramark
Employees wishing reimbursement of special expenses must obtain approval prior to incurring the expense. Their supervisor and the responsible person of the cost center from which the charges will be paid must sign the form indicating their approval. The Special Expense Form is then attached to the expense report.
Any international travel requires approval in advance by the President on the Travel Authorization form. International travel means travel to all destinations outside the United States or its territories.
Are Receipts Required For Reimbursement of International Travel Expenses?
Receipts are required for the same expenses as domestic travel. Claims should be converted to U.S. Dollars at the exchange rate in effect at the time the travel occurred. For assistance in currency conversion you may use the website http://www.xe.com/tec/.
Employees must not travel to countries for which a travel advisory has been issued by the United States Department of State. Check for Travel Warnings at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html.
Employees traveling on state business may be offered travel benefits issued by lodging facilities or airlines. Benefits issued by lodging facilities may include a free night of lodging given after a specified number of days paid. Airline benefits may include cash payments, discount coupons, free tickets, and frequent flyer mileage either as compensation to passengers who have been delayed or as rewards for frequent trips with a specific airline. Employees must not accept these benefits for personal use, according to Minnesota Statutes 43A.38, subdivision 2.
In addition, Minnesota Statutes 15.435, Airline Travel Credit, prohibits state employees and other officials using state funds traveling on state business and using commercial airlines from claiming frequent flyer mileage as their own. Frequent flyer miles accumulated as a result of state business travel may only be accepted if the benefit can be accrued to the state and used exclusively for state business travel.
When submitting expenses for reimbursement, employees must certify, (by signing the expense report) that they have not accepted personal travel benefits when they apply for travel reimbursement.
Personal Vehicle vs. Enterprise Rental Vehicle
Wondering which to choose? Check out these comparison charts to help you choose. Personal Vehicle vs. Enterprise Rental Comparison.
SMSU Travel Calendar
A new SMSU travel calendar can be accessed through Microsoft Outlook. Under "All Outlook Items" click on "Public Folders" then "All Public Folders" and then "SMSU Travel Calendar". SMSU encourages employees to use this voluntary system to list their travel plans and use the calendar in much the same way as a "ride board" would be used to coordinate travel with other SMSU employees. Employees will need to include their name, where they are traveling to, times they are traveling, and a way to contact you (phone and/or email).
Expense Reimbursement Matrixes
Employees can find information regarding expense reimbursements from the MnSCU webpage. Links to these pages are provided below. Please reference your contract or plan for other specific information.
- MnSCU Contract Reference Materials: http://www.finance.mnscu.edu/contracts-purchasing/contracts/reference/index.html.
- Chart 1 provides details for Commissioner's, AFSCME, and MAPE plans.
- Chart 2 provides details of travel reimbursements, for MnSCU Administrators, Managerial, MSUAASF, MMA, and IFO plans.
From Marshall to cities within Minnesota: Mileage Chart
Employees are responsible for compliance with MnSCU travel policy and procedures, the employee's respective bargaining agreement or compensation plan, state laws, federal laws, and IRS guidelines and for accurately completing all required forms for reimbursement of authorized business travel expenses. The employee's supervisor is responsible for reviewing and approving all travel requests and expenses.
Below is a listing of policies and procedures.
- MnSCU Travel Management Policy
- MnSCU Travel Management Procedure
- MnSCU Finance/Facilities, Risk Management (pertains to Motor Vehicle use Agreement)
- State of MN Employee Business/Travel Expenses Policy and Procedure (http://www.sema4.state.mn.us), then click on
- SEMA4 Help
- Operating Policies and Procedures
- Payroll Policies and Procedures/Listed by Business Function
- Business/Travel/Relocation Expense
- Employee Business/Travel Expenses
Questions regarding employee expenses and reimbursements can be directed to Mari Haecherl, Business Services, IL 139 at extension 6198 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions regarding student expenses and reimbursement can be directed to Business Services, IL 139 at extension 6215.
Additional questions may be directed to Jeff Kuiper, Director of Purchasing at extension 6225 or email email@example.com.
Please keep in mind that most regulations are the result of legislative action, and changes to those regulations are through labor negotiations and legislative process. Maximum rates are set by collective bargaining agreements and the Department of Employee Relations, and may change for any or all of the various bargaining units each time the contracts are renegotiated.