Hamilton College Travel Policy
Employees are encouraged to use Direct Travel, the College’s designated travel agency to make reservations. Reservations may be made using the online line reservation system or by phone. Airline reservations made online may be charged directly to the College by entering the appropriate 13 digit account code. Reservations may also be charged to a corporate or personal credit card.
Travelers on College business are expected to use good judgment in securing hotel/motel accommodations which are most economical to the total cost of the trip from both a rate and location standpoint. Overnight accommodations at a hotel should normally be at the minimum single rate.
Employees staying in hotels in states which exempt the College from sales tax should notify the hotel they are on college business and provide a copy of the College’s tax exempt form. Hamilton College is exempt from sales tax in New York and several other states.
Employees must attach a copy of the hotel invoice with detail of charges to their travel expense report to adequately substantiate the cost of lodging. Sales tax charged by hotels in New York State is considered unallowable since it is the employee’s responsibility to notify the hotel of the College’s tax exempt status.
There may be situations in which an employee can save money on lodging by booking a room through a website such as Hotwire and sites such as these will always charge sales tax regardless of tax exempt status. If an employee uses Hotwire to pay for lodging in a state which exempts the college from sales tax, the employee may be reimbursed for such sales tax if they provide documentation that their total lodging costs were less than the amount that would have been paid if booked through the online reservation tool available through Direct Travel. A print screen of the hotel options and pricing offered by Direct Travel for the travel destination will be considered adequate documentation.
Gifts in Lieu of Lodging
Expenses for modest gestures of appreciation for individuals who provided lodging to a college employee traveling on college business may be an allowable traveling expense unless the travel is to be charged to a federal grant or contract. The expense must be substantiated with a detailed receipt describing the item and include a brief explanation.
Train, Air Fare and Rental Cars
Travelers should utilize rental agencies with which the College has negotiated discounted pricing. If using the Direct Travel Reservation System, these discounted price options will be automatically provided.
College employees should purchase tickets that provide the greatest economic benefit to the College. This requires flying coach, and may require flying discount airlines rather than those in which an employee may be enrolled in a frequent flyer or similar program.
If a personal vehicle is used to travel to a single destination, the mileage allowance should not exceed what the cost of what air fare would be for travel to that destination.
Employees using their personal vehicle for business travel may claim mileage allowance using the standard mileage rate authorized by the IRS. The rate currently approved for 2023 is 65.5 cents per mile. The allowance is intended to cover all operating expenses such as insurance, gasoline, oil, tire and engine repair and maintenance. Costs of tolls and parking fees are reimbursable and not included in the mileage allowance.
Corporate travel cards are available to college employees who travel frequently on College business.
As a tax-exempt organization, the College may be exempt from sales and similar taxes in most jurisdictions. Corporate travel credit cards include the College’s tax exempt number though some venues require a copy of our tax exempt certification. Employees are expected to take advantage of the College’s tax-exempt status where ever possible.
Employees may at times combine personal travel with business on a single trip. If a traveler takes an indirect route in order to include personal travel, the allowable expense which may be charged to the College is the cost of the direct route and the employee is responsible for any excess cost. Expenses incurred during the personal travel portion of a business trip are the responsibility of the employee and not to be charged to the College.
Meals & Entertainment
A $69 daily per diem is normally permitted for meals when an employee is traveling on business for a full day. The general allocation of the per diem is $16 for breakfast, $24 for lunch, $29 for dinner. The daily per diem for faculty involving more than 7 days of travel is $35.
Employees electing the per diem are not required to submit receipts for meals.
Employees may submit receipts for meals rather than requesting the per diem. Receipts must be itemized receipts listing items served, not credit card receipts. The typical restaurant tip for good/excellent service ranges between 15%-20% and cannot exceed 20% of the bill to be reimbursed by the College.
Reimbursement for alcohol beverages are allowed only during authorized entertainment events; however, Hamilton employees are expected to maintain professional standards of conduct at all times and are personally responsible and accountable for their behavior. Expenses associated with authorized entertainment events are those for food, beverages, and social activities incurred while conducting college business with individuals who are not college employees such as job candidates, donors, students, parents, etc. Reporting of entertainment expenses must include information describing the names of individuals being entertained and the business purpose of the meal or event.
In accordance with IRS regulations, meal expenses not requiring an overnight stay or work day (including travel) exceeding 10 hours may be reimbursed, but are generally not considered tax exempt. If an employee submits an approved expense report for meals not involving overnight travel or workday exceeding 10 hours, the appropriate payroll taxes will be withheld from the employee’s next salary payment.
There are occasions in which meal costs not pertaining to travel are considered tax exempt. Such occasions are listed below.
- The meal is provided on an occasional basis to allow the employee to work overtime.
- The meal qualifies as a legitimate business expense, i.e. college business is conducted during the meal.
The College will provide cash advances to faculty, staff, and, on occasion, students traveling on authorized college business to pay for out of pocket costs which cannot be paid by credit card or directly paid by the College. The size of the advance must be a reasonable amount for the length and location of the trip and may not exceed $500. Each cash advance is the personal obligation of the traveler; therefore, the traveler is responsible for any lost or stolen cash advances as well as providing receipts documenting the utilization of the funds.
Travel advances may be requested by submitting an approved check request form to the Business Office. If the employee is enrolled in direct deposit for Accounts Payable through WebAdvisor, the advance will be automatically deposited to the account. Otherwise a check will be issued for the advance. Approved payment requests with all required information received by Monday at 4 p.m. will be issued on the following Friday.
An approved expense report must be submitted to substantiate the expenses paid with the advance within 20 business days after the trip. Any advance funds not used must be returned with the report. If an expense report to clear an advance is not received within the required time frame, the Business Office will send a reminder. An advance not accounted for with an expense report within 90 days will be reported to the appropriate vice president. If the advance remains unaccounted for after 120 days, it will be treated as taxable compensation and appropriate payroll taxes will be withheld in the employee’s next salary payment.
Employees may not have more than one travel advance outstanding at any time. Reimbursements for other business expenditures and additional advances will not be made until the prior advance is substantiated.
Travel Expense Reports
Employees must receive approval from their supervisor for college business travel in advance of the trip. Upon completion of travel, employees must prepare travel and entertainment expense reports to substantiate all travel expenses paid by the College which must be approved by the appropriate responsible persons. The appropriate responsible person must be a College employee with budget authority for the accounts being charged for the travel that has a higher level of authority than the traveler. Travel expenses in excess of $2,000 per report must be approved by the applicable division Vice President. Senior staff members travel expenses may be approved by the President or the VP of Administration and Finance, at the President’s discretion. With the exception of the VP for Administration and Finance, employees may not approve travel expense reports for their supervisors.
Travel expense reports submitted for reimbursement or to substantiate a travel advance must be submitted to the Business Office within a timely manner, generally 20 days within completion of the trip. Examples of non-allowable travel expenses which are not to be charged to the College include:
- Lost or stolen property, tickets, cash
- Alcoholic beverages unless for authorized entertainment events
- Damage to personal vehicles, clothing or other items
- Fines, parking tickets
- Movies, including those charged to a hotel bill
- Expenses for family, spouses, and companions traveling with the employee unless there is a legitimate and approved business purpose.
- Extra baggage fees
- Travel insurance
Information regarding insurance while traveling is available on the Auxiliary Services website.
If an employee’s car is damaged while traveling on business, the College may reimburse the employee for their insurance deductible amount up to $350, depending on fault and circumstances. If an employee traveling on College business is involved in an accident which causes injury or property damage to a third party, the employee’s personal insurance will apply first, and, on a case-by-case basis, the College’s insurance may supplement.
The College does not provide insurance for loss or damage to personal property, either at work or while traveling on College business. The loss of College property while in a vehicle may be covered dependent on the value. However, it is the responsibility of the employee to safeguard College property and leaving property unattended in a vehicle may be considered negligent and the employee may be responsible for reimbursement to the College.
Sales Tax Exempt Certificates
Several states have granted the College tax exempt status and service providers such as hotels will generally waive sales tax if provided with the tax exempt certificate issued to the College by their state with proof the expense is for college business. Many vendors require the bill be paid with a college corporate card as proof the expense is for college business. Whenever possible, employees should request the sales tax be waived when paying travel costs for college business.
Employees traveling to foreign countries are encouraged to review the rules and benefits offered by the College’s International Packet of its insurance program. All expenses incurred on foreign travel should indicate the exchange rate in effect during the travel period and the traveler’s expense report must report expenses in U.S. dollars. Employees needing assistance in converting their foreign expenses to U.S. dollars may contact Accounts Payable and/or use an online currency conversion tool at www.xe.com.
Travel Using Sponsored Funds
Sponsored funds are those funds received by the College to finance a specific project or grant and the sponsoring agency is frequently a governmental entity. In some cases, the sponsoring agency has specific requirements in regards to travel expenses. In order to ensure the college meets all such requirements, travel supported by sponsored funds must comply with the College’s Travel Policy and Procedures, the terms of the award, and all applicable regulations; when there is disagreement among these, the most restrictive guidance applies. It is the Principal Investigator/Project Director’s responsibility to ensure compliance with regulations relating to travel charged to sponsored funds, including specific rules relating to travel charged to federal awards. Rules for travel charged to federal funds include but are not limited to the following:
- Alcoholic beverages, even those that are part of meals, cannot be charged to federal funds.
- When traveling on federal funds, travelers are required to select the least expensive airfare class offered by an airline (i.e. economy—not first class, business-class, upgraded economy, economy comfort, or exit row seating upgrades).”
Employees should consult Jeff Ritchie, the Director of Sponsored Programs, before booking travel to be charged to any federal grant.