Traveling for University Business
University business travel requires implementing proper procedures, completing appropriate forms, before and after the travel takes place. Employ university travel policy (2.11) and guidelines to ensure compliance with the University, State and Federal regulations. Travelers deviating from this policy or failing to follow procedures (such as not submitting a pre-travel form prior to their travel) are taking the risk of not fully reimbursed or getting their requests denied.
Ohio State will pay for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by faculty, staff, students, and eligible guests or visitors for authorized business travel on behalf of the university. Below are the major highlights of the travel policy.
- Before You Travel
- Pre-Travel Work Flow
- Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Visiting Scholars
- Contacts at ESL
- Forms and Helpful Links
Prior to your trip have your (estimated) expenses approved by completing a Travel Worksheet in order to be eligible for a reimbursement. Complete all sections on the first page and top of the second page. Sign the form under the “Approval” section and obtain your PI’s signature where it says “department signature”. Once completed and signed by all parties, present this form to the appropriate personnel at ESL at least three business days prior to your trip. Remember: your request will go through at least two approval levels. You need to allow sufficient lead time to get your paperwork entered and approved due to vacations, travel and other circumstances that may prevent your requests from getting processed prior to your trip. For guidelines on how to complete this form, please download ESL Guidelines on How to Complete a Pre-Travel Worksheet. For topics that are not covered on the guidelines or you have a unique case that is not addressed on this document, please contact Jennifer McCord (primary), Michelle Diefenbach or Yesim Anter for assistance.
What happens after you complete and submit the Travel Worksheet prior to your trip?
- Once you give your travel worksheet to the appropriate staff member at ESL, at least three business days prior to your trip, he or she will enter your request on the eTravel system. That person will contact you if you are missing any information or supporting document. It’s the traveler’s responsibility to present a complete and an accurate travel form, therefore, gathering missing information will be the traveler’s responsibility and will likely delay the approval process.
- Once everything is entered in the travel system it will be transmitted to Level 1, and for travelers with certain type of appointments to Level 2 Approvers, and to Sponsored Research Office for OSURF funded travel requests. Each approver will examine your request and documents submitted. You may be asked to provide additional information or documentation at any level.
- Once your travel request is approved by appropriate levels you will receive an email that will include a “T” (Travel) number. This T # will be your reference to all communications pertinent to this particular trip. T # is unique to each trip and you will receive a different T # for each travel request.
- After you receive your T#, you can start making pre-payment arrangements for certain type of expenses (airfare, lodging, registration) if you would like to get these expenses billed directly to OSU funds or projects. The process for the payment of conference registration fees through OSU requires travelers to initiate the travel request at least three weeks in advance. Refer to the ESL Guidelines for detailed information on pre-payment of these expenses directly from OSU funds/projects.
Over the years we observed some sections of the travel policy being employed incorrectly. Some common mistakes that travelers should avoid making are:
- Missing insurance coverage on car rentals via non-university rental agencies: While the university highly encourages the travelers to use University contracted vehicle rental agencies (Enterprise or National) -due to negotiated discounts and DW/CDW/LDW/liability insurance coverage included at no additional cost-, it’s not uncommon for travelers to use non-university contracted vehicle rental agencies if these agencies offer lower price options or meet unique business needs. However if the travelers do use these agencies they are required to purchase Damage Waiver or Collision Damage Waiver or Loss Damage Waiver (DW/CDW/LDW) and liability insurance which must be documented in the executed rental agreement (Travel Policy 2.11, section IV on Rental Vehicle). By going through the non-contracted agency, travelers are also taking the risks of not fully getting reimbursed, depending on the type of fees the agency charges.
- Missing approvals:
- Prior to the trip: The traveler must receive an approval from their supervisors, advisors or PIs on their travel forms prior to their trip. If the signature cannot be obtained on the form, an email from the supervisor/advisor/PI approving the travel request with specific reference to the travel destination, total cost, funding source, and purpose must be obtained and attached to the worksheet before submitting the form to the ESL staff member.
- After the trip, when the reimbursement request exceeds 20% threshold: When total amount on the the reimbursement request puts the traveler above the 20% allowable variance (reimbursement request is at least 1.2 times of the estimated total cost in the travel request), the traveler should obtain their supervisor or PI's signature next to the total amount displayed on the travel reimbursement form.
- Reimbursements submitted after 90 days: According to the IRS Accountable Plan publication 463, the traveler is responsible for adequately accounting for travel expenses within the university’s established accountable plan window of 90 days after the expenses were paid or incurred. The traveler must submit a request for reimbursement with supporting documentation (original receipts) within 90 days of completion of the trip to obtain reimbursement of travel expenses. In order to employ best practices and process your reimbursement smoothly, the travelers are highly encouraged to submit their travel reimbursement form along with the supporting documentation and receipts within 30 days of the completion of their travel.
- Requesting per diem for meals that are already provided as part of travel or a business related event: Full meal allowances while on travel status will not be paid if a meal is served on the plane, included in a conference registration fee, built into the hotel room rate, or replaced by a legitimate business meal. Therefore, travelers should not request or include a Per Diem amount for these meals that are provided as described above. The allowance will be adjusted by deducting the appropriate meal percentage from the full per diem allowance for the applicable city location.
- Missing original receipts: Original, hard-copy receipts for expenses incurred must accompany the post-trip paperwork. Itemized receipts are required if over $50.
- Missing cost comparisons: Travelers must calculate and attach a cost comparison of the expenses when:
- Combining vacation time with business travel: Cost comparisons should be provided to show the pricing differences as if only business time was included. Cost comparisons should be conducted at the same time the expenditure of funds occurs and must be clearly documented and attached to your travel worksheet. Keep in mind that expenses such as parking and per diem will be prorated and limited to only the business travel date/time.
- Using a personal vehicle as a primary mode of transportation: Mileage will be reimbursed for personal vehicles as a primary mode of transportation only if the cost does not exceed the least expensive airfare. Additional expenses, including and not limited to lodging, parking, and per diem, must be calculated in advance of the trip when comparing the cost of auto to airfare and provided as part of your cost comparison and attached to your travel worksheet.
- Lodging rate exceeds the federal allowable rate: Reimbursable lodging rates are based on two factors. You can get your lodging expenses reimbursed if you are using a conference rate, or when the rate falls within the allowable federal lodging rate published by the General Services Administration. If your lodging rate falls within the range of 1.5 to 2 times the federal lodging rate and is not a conference rate, then you need to provide justification to why your (estimated) lodging expense is higher than allowable rate.
- For example: You are going to travel to Ames, Iowa, and staying for 7 nights. You estimated that your lodging expenses will be $1,200. The daily lodging rate for Ames (as of May 2016) is $ 89/night. You are staying 7 nights which brings the cost to $623. With applicable lodging taxes for Ames (12%), your estimate should not exceed $697.76. If you estimated your expenses are going to be $ 1200, then you need provide and attach a justification to why your lodging expense will exceed 1.5 times of the federal lodging rate for this city.
- Tip: Research the federal lodging rate for the city you are traveling prior to your travel. Click here to find out the applicable federal per diem rates for your destination. If you cannot avoid higher lodging rates, then provide appropriate justification and documentation. Such as: take screenshot images of the locations/venues compared, provide safety concerns, details or additional cost considerations to properly justify the selection.
In most cases, reimbursement of travel expenses incurred by Visiting Scholars are coordinated between them and their home institution, hence they receive their reimbursements from their own organization. In these circumstances, no OSU travel paperwork needs to be completed by the visiting scholar. However if there are any arrangements between the scholar and the PI at ESL regarding the reimbursement of scholar's travel expenses by OSU funds, then all travel guidelines and policies highlighted in the sections above are applicable to the visiting scholars. They should:
- Complete the travel worksheet form and have the PI sign the request.
- Provide all relevant information and supplemantal documentation, such as Vendor Setup Form if never received payment from OSU before, and where applicable, registration information, cost comperison.
- Submit travel paperwork to the appropriate staff processing travel requests at ESL. Read the "Pre-Travel Work Flow" section to get familiar with the steps and consult the "ESL Pre-Travel Guidelines" or "OSU Travel Policy" for more information on the best practices.
Submit your pre- and post-travel worksheets, or any questions you may have about the policy and procedures to the staff listed below.
- Primary Contact: Jennifer McCord, room 147C, mccord.87
- Michelle Diefenbach, room 148, diefenbach.8
- Yesim Anter, room 144, anter.3
- Travel Worksheet:
- Pre-travel section: first page and top of the second page, including the "Approval" section.
- Post-travel section: second page under "Post Trip Information"
- ESL Guidelines on How to Complete a Travel Worksheet
- Cash Advance Procedure
- OSU Travel Policy
- OSU Travel Website
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Search Federal Per Diem Rates
- Mileage Rate (OSU Website - login required)
- Mileage Rate (GSA)
- Car Rental Discounts/University-Contracted Car Rental Agencies
- Airline Discounts/University-Contracted Travel Agencies (Concur)
- Airport Parking
- Vendor Setup Form