The University can reimburse faculty, staff, students and visitors/guests for qualified expenses incurred while on University business. The University maintains a list of reimbursable expenses. Benefits eligible University employees should be reimbursed via GEMS. Students should use the Student Reimbursement Request Form. All other travel reimbursements should use ePayment. Spouses or dependent travel companions cannot be reimbursed for their expenses without prior written approval from the VP of Finance 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 personally 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 for qualified expenses, 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.
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. Contact your Business Manager for more information.
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 charge 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
Original receipts are required for any expenses greater than or equal to $75, but retention of all receipts is encouraged. All lodging receipts, regardless of the amount, must be retained. All receipts must indicate both what was purchased and proof of purchase (i.e. billing information). Travel itineraries, reservation confirmations, quotes, and estimates 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.
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 their Business Manager about appropriate substitute documentation (e.g. credit card statements). When submitting a lost receipt form 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.”
All reimbursements are paid in $USD by default. Any foreign currency amounts must be converted into $USD. When converting currencies, a PDF of the conversion method used (e.g. OANDA) should be attached to the bottom of the corresponding receipt. The currency conversion should be based on the exchange rate at the time of the transaction or the end of the travel period (not the time of reimbursement).
Per diem for meals/incidentals is an option for travel reimbursements to University employees (students and visitors may not use per diem). Receipts and itemization are not required when using per diem. 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. Per diem for lodging is not permitted. While lodging reimbursements must be based on actual receipts on federal awards, they may also need to be capped at the maximum per diem rate for the locale (calculated as the rate times the number travel days, excluding the final day of travel and any days on which lodging was not paid for) if the award documents reference the GSA spending limits.
Requested per diem applies to the entirety of a trip. One cannot choose per diem for some days and actual expenses for others. The meals/incidentals (M&IE) rate is capped at 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 meal 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 as opposed to 20% for international trips (consult the GSA website for details).
Travelers are free to choose their primary mode of transportation whether it is by air, train, bus, rental vehicles, or personal vehicles. Whatever method is chosen, the traveler cannot be reimbursed for more than the standard available coach/economy airfare for the same journey. Contact your assigned Business Manager for more information.
The value of redeemed frequent flyer miles used towards airline tickets is not reimbursable.
Airline baggage fees are reimbursable, but other purely voluntary fees, such as early boarding and economy plus upgrades, are not.
Insurance on domestic (US or Canada) car rentals are 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 – more on this under ‘Insurance’. This does not apply 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 here.
It is recommended that University travelers use one of 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 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) 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. Fuel costs are only reimbursable for rental cars.
Local transportation at the destination by public transit, taxi, ferries, etc. are also reimbursable. However, trips on recreational and touring vehicles cannot be reimbursed.
University faculty, students, and staff 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 reimbursable 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.
To learn more about how non travel reimbursement, please contact your assigned Business Manager or the SSD LBC at SSD-LBC@uchicago.edu, and the Business Manager assigned to your accounts will get in touch with you within two business days.