HBP Part 11.5. Travel Reimbursements - General Information

Handbook of Business Procedures

Date published: June 29, 2005
Last revised: May 28, 2021
Issued by: Travel Services


A. Introduction

Information about general rules for travel reimbursements includes required forms, appropriate purposes of travel, timing, discounted travel, travel that occurs on weekends or while the traveler is on personal leave, and interrupted travel.

Any University of Texas at Austin employee, prospective employee, student, or independent contractor is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses incurred while conducting official university business for only his or her travel expenses and not for any other individual, regardless of who paid the travel expense.

B. Required Forms

1. Request for Travel Authorization (RTA)

A Request for Travel Authorization (RTA) must be prepared by the department and approved before a UT employee can be reimbursed for travel. The electronic RTA is created in *DEFINE using the VE5 command. This document can also be used to authorize travel expenses for prospective employees, students, and non-employees who will not receive an honorarium for travel expenses.

2. Travel Payment Voucher (VP5)

An electronic Travel Payment Voucher (*DEFINE VP5) must be prepared to reimburse any traveler with an approved RTA. Print the VP5 coversheet, have the traveler sign it, and forward the signed coversheet and all required receipts to  Imaging & Documentation Services, mail code K6000; Main Building, room 132. For more information about receipts, refer to 11.5.4. Receipts.

Note: If the traveler is an employee, student employee, or prospective employee, the traveler’s signature is required only when paying with state funds. If the reimbursement is being paid with local funds, the signature on the VP5 coversheet is optional. However, if a transfer document (VT6) is created to move the expense from local to state funds, the VT6 document will not be approved by Accounting and Financial Management until the traveler’s signature is obtained on the VP5 coversheet.

Travel Services

3. Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Certificate

A UT employee must provide a Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Certificate at Texas lodging establishments in order to be exempt from state lodging taxes.

Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Certificate*

C. Conservation of Funds

An employee's travel must be planned to achieve maximum savings and efficiency. The travel expenses must be the lowest possible considering all relevant circumstances. A department may adopt expense reimbursement and payment rates lower than the maximum rate. The department's employees must be notified in writing before the lower rates are implemented.

D. Erroneous Vouchers

Previous payment of an unallowable travel expense does not justify future reimbursement of unallowable expenses.

E. Official University Business

The purpose of travel must clearly involve official University business and be consistent with the legal responsibilities of the University.

Voucher requirements:

  • The voucher must identify the duty point. If the duty point is in Texas, only the city must be specified. If the duty point is outside Texas, the voucher must specify the city, county, and state.
  • The nature of the official state business conducted at each location must be stated on the voucher.
  • If abbreviations or acronyms are used, the voucher must clearly define them.

F. Timing of Reimbursement Requests

Every effort should be made to submit your expenses for reimbursement as soon as possible after incurring the costs in order to eliminate any confusion that might occur due to invalid account numbers, unavailable funds, or reporting periods.

Due to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations and the Safe Harbor rules, expenses older than 60 days require a written explanation as to the reasons for the lateness. These late reimbursement requests will also require additional levels of approval and may even run the risk of being disallowed entirely or reported as taxable income to the payee. For exceptions to this policy, contact Travel Services.

Encumbered funds will be disencumbered on the 61st day after the ending date of travel shown in the electronic Request for Travel Authorization (*DEFINE VE5 or VE6).

Internal Revenue Service Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses

Travel Services

G. Foreign Exchange Rates

Foreign exchange rates may be found at OANDA.com. An average rate may be used for the entire trip.

OANDA Currency Converter

H. Cancellation or Change Charges

A cancellation or change charge is reimbursable only if the charge is incurred for a business-related reason or a reason listed on the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Textravel Exceptions page.

Voucher Requirements:

  • The voucher must specify the business-related reason or unrelated state business exception for the cancellation.
  • Proof that the cancellation charge has been paid must be submitted with the voucher transmittal form.
  • If the cancellation charge is for an unused airline ticket, the original ticket must be submitted with the voucher transmittal form.

I. Free or Discounted Travel

An employee cannot be reimbursed for travel if no expense has been incurred. Receiving free transportation or lodging in exchange for mileage or credit card points does not constitute an expense. An employee can be reimbursed for discounted travel only if money was paid directly to obtain the discount. If money is paid directly to obtain a discount, then reimbursement is limited to the lesser of the cost of obtaining the discount, the amount of the discount, or the maximum reimbursement allowed for that type of travel expense.

Voucher Requirements:

  • An original, complete, and unaltered receipt from the seller of the discount must be submitted with the voucher transmittal form.
  • The voucher must contain a detailed description of the discount.

J. Weekend Travel

If official state business temporarily ends on Friday and resumes on Monday, the employee may have the option to stay at the duty point or return to headquarters for the weekend. If the employee chooses to remain at the duty point, expenses for the weekend are subject to the same limitations as weekday travel. If the employee decides to return to headquarters, the travel reimbursement would be limited to the lesser of the expenses that would have been reimbursed had the employee stayed at the duty point and the transportation expenses incurred returning to headquarters and going back to the duty point.

Reimbursable expenses are limited if an employee leaves a duty point and travels for personal reasons to a location other than headquarters for the weekend. Weekend travel expenses may not exceed the average weekday travel cost multiplied by the number of days in the weekend.

K. Packaged Travel Arrangements

If meal or lodging expenses are mandatory and included with the registration fee, then they are fully reimbursable. If meal and lodging expenses are not mandatory, the reimbursement may not exceed the meal and lodging limits. For more information about meal and lodging reimbursements, refer to 11.5.2. Meals and Lodging.

Voucher Requirements:

  • An original and complete receipt from the seller of the package must be submitted with the voucher transmittal form.
  • Meal or lodging expenses packaged with a registration fee are considered part of the registration fee and must be claimed as a registration fee. If meal or lodging expenses are not mandatory, they must be separated from the registration fee and charged to the usual object codes for meals or lodging.

L. Expenses Incurred while Qualifying for Discount Airfare

When an employee stays extra days at a duty point to qualify for a discount airfare, the employee may be reimbursed for the travel expenses incurred if the additional expenses plus the discount airfare are less than or equal to the average coach airfare. It must be in the best interest of the University to allow the employee to be absent for the extra days. The extra days may occur before or after the official state business.

Voucher Requirements:

  • The voucher must show that additional expenses incurred are less than or equal to the average coach airfare. The voucher must state the average coach airfare and the source used to determine that airfare.

M. Travel While on Personal Leave

If an employee on personal leave at a location outside the designated headquarters is required to travel to a duty point, the travel expenses incurred may be reimbursed. The reimbursement is not to exceed the lesser of the amount of actual travel expenses and the amount that would have been incurred had the employee traveled from their headquarters.

When an employee is required to return to headquarters while on personal leave, they may be reimbursed for the travel expenses they incurred while traveling to headquarters and returning to the place they were staying while on personal leave.

Voucher Requirements:

  • The voucher must state that the chief administrator required the travel.

N. Lost or Stolen Tickets

An employee may be reimbursed for a lost or stolen ticket if reasonable care was exercised to safeguard the ticket.

Voucher Requirements:

  • The voucher must state that the employee exercised reasonable care. Someone in the employee's line of supervision must sign the statement.

O. Employees with Disabilities

Disabled employees may be reimbursed for attendant care expenses for travel if such care is deemed medically necessary by a licensed physician. Documentation of the physician's determination is required. The attendant's travel expenses are subject to the same rules as the employee. First class or business class airfare for disabled employees is allowable only if it is medically necessary.

Voucher Requirements:

  • A statement and documentation explaining the disability and the need for additional expenses must be submitted with the voucher transmittal form.

P. Prospective State Employees

When a prospective employee is requested to travel for an employment interview, travel expenses may be reimbursed in the same manner as for a state employee. A travel advance may not be issued to a prospective employee. Prospective employees are not exempt from hotel occupancy taxes and may be reimbursed for those taxes.

Voucher Requirements:

  • The voucher must include a daily itemization of the meal and lodging expenses.

Q. Death of an Employee

The University may pay the cost of transporting an employee's body to the employee's headquarters. The amount paid may not exceed the amount that would have been reimbursed if the employee had not died. The payment may not be paid directly to the company transporting the body. The state will pay for return of the remains and any costs involved in the unused ticket.

R. Post-Payment Audit of Local Travel Reimbursements less than $200 using local funds

VP5 travel reimbursement documents paid from local funds for amounts of less than $200 will final approve at the department or dean level. A post-payment audit of these departmental approved travel reimbursements is conducted monthly by Travel Services in Payment Services. If there are any violations of UT’s travel policy as outlined in HBP 11, the document creator is notified about the violation and asked to correct, such as requesting return of funds from a traveler when meal per diem is paid with no overnight stay or missing an imaged detailed receipt.

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Part 11. Travel - Table of Contents