There will be updates to the university travel policy, effective August 1. The per diem reimbursement is easier and faster to submit, review and approve. Using a per diem will dramatically decrease the time it takes for a traveler to submit an expense request and the time it takes for service teams to process the request. This method allows for simplified expense planning and a predictable expense payout.
The policy updates will make it easier for faculty and staff to plan their trip expenses, find acceptable lodging and meals, create expense reports, and more clearly understand total reimbursement.
Why are the updates needed? The updates will bring Iowa State in line with our peers and overall industry standards. They remedy several issues that have emerged in recent years. For example, meal reimbursement rates for travel have not been adjusted in years, causing some significant under-reimbursements for faculty and staff. Also, numerous inconsistent travel practices have been adopted over the years in units across campus, a source of confusion and potential audit concerns.
The new policy changes create a more consistent university-wide travel reimbursement policy, and simplify the reimbursement process. All allowable reimbursements will be determined in the same manner. Supervisors continue to have the authority to determine who travels — including the option to limit travel as a cost savings during a time of reduced budgets. Supervisors also may set a maximum dollar amount prior to a trip, documenting that maximum on the Workday Spend Authorization. They also may set acceptable travel hours for their employees.
Meal reimbursements. Meal reimbursements will be paid on a per diem basis, both domestic and international. For travel within the state of Iowa, ISU’s per diem rate for meals is $35. For travel outside Iowa, ISU will follow per diem meal rates established by three federal agencies: the General Services Administration for domestic rates; the U.S. Department of Defense for Hawaii, Alaska and other U.S. territories and possessions; and the U.S. Department of State for international destinations.
For individual travelers, meal receipts are not required. However, group meals still require a receipt.
Per-diem meal reimbursements are subject to limitations established by the Board of Regents. Limitations include time of travel: An employee must be in travel status from 7:30 a.m. through 8:00 a.m. to claim breakfast, noon through 1:00 p.m. to claim lunch, and 5:30 p.m. through 6:30 p.m. to claim dinner. They also include whether a meal was included in conference registration, paid as part of a group meal, or otherwise provided. The traveler must submit a conference agenda to assist in verification of meals. The percentage of per diem rates allocated to daily meals are reflected as follows:
- Breakfast 20%
- Lunch 30%
- Dinner 50%
Lodging reimbursements. The updated policy requires lodging expenses to be reimbursed based on actual costs up to the established per diem room rates (taxes or related room fees above this room rate are allowable as documented with a receipt). For travel within the state of Iowa, ISU’s maximum daily rate for lodging is $96. For travel outside Iowa, ISU will follow lodging rates established by three federal agencies: the General Services Administration for domestic rates; the U.S. Department of Defense for Hawaii, Alaska and other U.S. territories and possessions; and the U.S. Department of State for international destinations.
Exceptions for lodging costs that exceed limits may be allowed based on the business case and where appropriately documented.
International travel. The policy on international travel (including athletic competition) has been clarified and re-emphasized. Since January 2020, an employee planning to travel internationally must register with the Office of Risk Management and complete international travel processes.
Other policy updates include:
- Deadline for submitting travel expenses. Travel expense reports must be submitted within 120 days of the trip’s end date. Travel expenses reimbursed after 120 days will be recorded as taxable to the employee.
- Exceeding allowed expenses. If the traveler’s T&H card charges exceed the maximum allowable travel expenses, the excess charges will be deducted from any personally paid reimbursable amounts. Any remaining overages will be charged to the traveler’s U-Bill.