Misc Travel Expenses

In the course of travel, a traveler may incur additional expenses eligible for reimbursement.   These include:

  • Baggage handling and storage expenses
  • Business office expenses (copy services, postage, etc.)
  • Business-related phone calls (including cell phone), faxes, internet connectivity, including those necessary to obtain transportation and hotel reservations
  • Up to 3 personal calls per day of reasonable duration
  • Currency conversion, ATM and traveler’s check fees
  • Excess baggage fee due to the size or weight of an item being transported at the request of the University
  • Reasonable and usual gratuities to porters, bellhops and other service personnel
  • Internet access
  • Laundry or cleaning expenses on trips lasting over five (5) days, unless emergency circumstances are documented
  • Vaccinations when traveling abroad on University business

 

Documentation Required

Where appropriate, travelers should obtain and submit the original or cash register receipts for miscellaneous expenses.  The receipt must include:

  • the date
  • the items purchased or services provided
  • the total amount
  • proof of payment


Combination packages

In order to save money, some travelers may consider booking a package (airfare, hotel, car rental) on a discount website such as Expedia, Orbitz or Priceline.  Policies relating to airfare, hotel, and car rental continue to apply.   University designated travel agencies may also provide package deals and additional traveler support for changes and cancellations.

 

Extending Travel beyond the Minimum Days Required for Business Reasons

The University will typically not reimburse the cost of lodging, local transportation, meals or other costs in excess of the minimum days necessary for travel or conference attendance.    The traveler must first obtain Supplemental Approval and obtain approval of the exception request. 

A detailed business purpose must also be provided in conjunction with supplemental approval for extended travel beyond the minimum days required.

If the traveler and/or employee does not have a legitimate business purpose for general expenses (not including air or rail fare) incurred for their extended stay, reimbursement will not be granted for travel exceeding the minimum days required for business purposes. 

Documentation Required

If general expenses related to an earlier departure and/or later return are being reimbursed, please provide the specific business purpose for the extended stay.  All documentation requirements for the specific expenditure type apply.

 

Extending Travel beyond the Minimum Days Required for Personal Reasons (Air or Rail Fare)

The costs related to an earlier departure and/or later return for airfare or rail fare may be reimbursed when the total cost of the airfare or rail fare is clearly documented and demonstrated to be equal to or lower than it would have been for the dates required for business travel.

Documentation Required

If air or rail expenses related to an earlier departure and/or later return are being reimbursed, the total cost of airfare or rail fare should be compared to the costs for traveling on the dates required for business travel. Documentation should include a price quote from either the air carrier and/ or rail carrier for the dates that would have been used if the travel was not extended.  All documentation requirements for the specific expenditure type apply.

 

Airline Baggage Charges (Baggage Fee)

When traveling by air, airlines may charge for a first or second checked bag.  The University will reimburse that charge if the bag is needed on a business trip, or when traveling with heavy or bulky materials or equipment that is required for business.

If the trip includes business and pleasure and the bag is used for pleasure (golf clubs, skis, etc), the extra charge is not reimbursable. 

 

Use of Frequent Traveler Awards for Travel

Travelers will not be reimbursed for airline tickets purchased, partially purchased or accomodations and upgrades obtained using frequent flyer miles.

 

Use of Credit Card and Airline Reward Programs/Points

Travelers will not be reimbursed for airline tickets purchased, partially purchased or accommodations and upgrades obtained using credit card or airline points. 


Expenses to Change or Cancel Travel Plans

The University will reimburse the costs of travel purchased (i.e. airfare, deposits) or surcharges imposed due to cancellations or changes in travel arrangements only when required for business needs.


Reimbursement for Travel Expenses of Spouses, Significant Others and Dependents

The University will not reimburse transportation, lodging and meal expenses for a traveler’s spouse, significant other, or dependent.  Reimbursement may only be allowed in limited circumstances when the travel by the spouse, significant other or dependent is:

  • Required by the University for a specific business event or meeting and is pre-approved by a Dean, VP, Associate Dean or Senior Financial Officer
  • Related to “R&R (Rest & Recuperation)” travel allowable under the terms of a sponsored project
  • In both circumstances, Supplemental Approval must be provided by the department                                                                                                     

Documentation Required

In addition to the necessary receipts, the following business purpose must be explicitly documented:

  • If required by the University for a specific business event or meeting, the detailed explanation of this requirement should be provided and signed by a Dean, VP, Associate Dean or Senior Financial Officer.  This should be segregated to an appropriate ARC account.
  • If “R&R” travel is allowable under the terms of a sponsored project, provide a copy of the section of the grant award/budget demonstrating that allows R&R or a written approval from the departments Research Administration project officer authorizing the expenditure
  • In both circumstances, Supplemental Approval must be provided by the department. 

Departments that choose to reimburse spousal, significant other, and/or dependent travel without a legitimate business purpose should inform the traveler that the reimbursement for the non employee travel will be taxable income to the employee and will be reported to the IRS. 

 

Employee Recruitment Travel

Travel for prospective employees and their families must be authorized by the school or department in order to be reimbursed.  Reimbursements for authorized travel expenses such as airfare, hotel, and meals incurred during the recruitment process are not taxable to the prospective employee. 

Once an offer of employment has been accepted, departments and schools should refer to the Relocation and Moving Expenses section of the Business Expense policy. 


Emergency Purchases of Supplies/Equipment during Travel

The University requires that travelers use the proper designated purchasing path to purchase supplies and equipment. A traveler may occasionally have to incur expenses for an emergency purchase of supplies or equipment.  The traveler will be reimbursed for these emergency expenditures under $500.  Expenditures in excess of $500 will not be reimbursed unless the traveler obtains Supplemental Approval.  Expenditures in excess of $2500 that ordinarily require a Purchase Order will not be reimbursed without approval from Purchasing.

Although the University is exempt from sales tax, if taxes are paid on an emergency purchase during travel, the traveler will be reimbursed.  Where possible, the traveler should request tax exemption.

 

Purchase of Supplies/Equipment Not during Travel

The University requires that employees use the proper designated purchasing path to purchase supplies and equipment. An employee may occasionally have to incur expenses for purchases of supplies or equipment when CU purchasing mechanisms are not available. The employee will be reimbursed for these expenditures under $500. Expenditures in excess of $500 will not be reimbursed unless the employee obtains Supplemental Approval. Expenditures in excess of $2500 that ordinarily require a Purchase Order will not be reimbursed without approval from Purchasing.

Although the University is exempt from sales tax, if taxes are paid on purchases, the employee will be reimbursed. As a reminder, tax exemption certificates are available for Columbia University purchases and should be requested.

 

Travel Accident Insurance

The University's Business Travel Accident Insurance policy provides coverage for all active, full time employees and graduate and teaching assistants.  Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are excluded from coverage, unless the agreement specifically provides for coverage under this policy. Supplemental insurance is not necessary and will not be reimbursed. Coverage is provided on a 24 hour basis while traveling on a business trip, away from the employee's place of regular assignment. Commuting to and from work is excluded from coverage.

Full time employees are provided coverage while on paid leave only while doing research under a project financed by another institution.  Faculty members of the University are provided coverage while on sabbatical provided such arrangements have been made by the Provost's Office.  Coverage during the summer vacation is excluded unless the individual is receiving additional compensation from the University during that time or the travel is paid by the University. Coverage is also excluded if the individual is employed by another institution while on sabbatical.

Coverage is further subject to the terms and conditions of the University's insurance contract.  Specific details on insurance coverage are available through the Risk Management Department