The College pays all necessary, appropriate, and reasonable business-related travel, business and entertainment expenditures incurred by its employees and by other designated individuals on its behalf. Employees are responsible for carefully managing College resources by incurring moderate and economic expenses consistent with the business purpose of the travel or event.
The terms set forth in sponsored contracts and grants shall apply if they are more restrictive than those contained in this Policy. Travel paid with specific institutional funds such as Faculty Development Funds, Global Pathways, Education Abroad and Domestic Programs, are subject to individual College guidelines. Please consult with the respective offices that manage these funds.
The College travel policy is outlined in general terms and is not intended to cover every situation or scenario that may arise. Departments may establish more restrictive procedures than those set forth in this Policy, if desired.
Reason for Policy
This Policy establishes the reimbursement procedures for official College travel and entertainment expenses that meet standard business practices and are in compliance with the Internal Revenue Code and applicable Treasury Regulations, as well as other external regulatory requirements.
Who Should Read This Policy
Anyone who incurs travel or business related expenses on behalf of the College; Vice Presidents, Deans, department administrators, as well as supervisors and Cost Center Managers responsible for the approval of such expenses incurred by employees and other individuals conducting College business.
|Actual Expense Method||Reimbursement method that requires the traveler to provide justification and itemized receipts for all business-related purchases.|
|Business Entertainment||Any activity generally considered to provide entertainment, amusement, or recreation, including the furnishing of business meals. The expense must be ordinary, necessary, and reasonable and must be either directly related to or associated with the active conduct of College business.|
|Business Meal||A meal attended by faculty, staff, or students that may or may not include other individuals not employed by the College, which is directly related to or associated with the conduct of College business.|
|Business Purpose||Describes how the expense benefits the College and furthers the educational and research mission of the College.|
|Cost Center Manager||A College employee, designated by a Vice President, or Dean who has fiscal responsibility for all revenue and expense transactions charged to their assigned cost centers as well as budget monitoring responsibility.|
|Expense Reimbursement Form||The Expense Reimbursement Form used by an employee to obtain reimbursement for business-related travel and entertainment expenses paid for with a personal credit card or personal funds.|
|Incidental Expenses||Tips for baggage handlers, hotel maids, etc. If the Per Diem Method is used, such expenses are included in the Federal Meals and Incidental Expense rate (M&IE).|
|FOAPAL (or FOAP)||The acronym representing each element of the College’s chart of accounts, ie, Fund, Organization, Account, Program, Activity and Location.|
|Ordinary, Necessary, and Reasonable Expense||An expense is ordinary if it is normal and customary. An expense is necessary if it is essential to College business. An expense is reasonable if a prudent person would incur the expense in a similar situation.|
|Per Diem||The daily dollar amounts authorized for the reimbursement of meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) for individuals traveling on College business. Per diem rates are set the Federal Government and broken out by country/location. https://www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/per-diem-rates|
|Travel Meal||A meal purchased by an individual while traveling overnight on College business.|
|Purchasing Card for Travelers||A bank-issued Visa card with a standard single transaction limit of $5,000 and a monthly credit limit of $10,000. This card may be used for small dollar, business-related purchases. Cards may be used for travel and entertainment expenses when authorized by a Cost Center Manager or supervisor.|
|Traveler||A College employee or other designated individual who is approved to travel on College business.|
Elaboration of the Policy
Travel and personal expenses that are reimbursed following Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “accountable plan” rules are not included in the gross income of the employee and are therefore not subject to income or employment taxes. Generally an IRS accountable plan requires that the expenses are:
- Reasonable and Necessary: Even though in some cases the business purpose may be implied, it must be specifically documented so that a third party would have no question as to its benefit to the institution. Adequate documentation answers the 5 W’s:
- Who incurred the expense
- What was purchased (receipts, invoices) are itemized
- When the expense(s) was incurred
- Where (location) the expense was incurred
- Why the expense was incurred. For example: “Dinner with candidate at XX restaurant to discuss course curriculum”. Those in attendance were Sue Smith, Sam Snead and John Jones.”
Accounted for with appropriate documentation: If using the Actual Expense Method, original receipts for an expense costing $50.00 or more are required.
Reported timely: Emerson College will not reimburse expenditures if they are not submitted within IRS guidelines.
- For the purposes of the policy, reimbursement requests must be submitted within 30 days of the date the expenses were incurred or the trip was completed.
- Cash advances may not be issued earlier than 5 business days before the anticipated expenses and must be substantiated within 30 days of the date of the expense.
The IRS requires that payments to individuals which do not qualify as part of an “Accountable Plan” be included in the person’s income, either on a W-2 form or on a Form 1099. This includes unreconciled transactions made by the employee using the College Purchasing Card.
Most travel and business expenses may be paid using the College Purchasing Card. This is the preferable method. Travel and business expenses may also be procured by processing a direct payment via Accounts Payable, by processing a purchase order if the vendor will accept one, or by contacting the College’s travel agent. When using personal funds or a personal credit card, the College will reimburse the traveler after the trip or event is completed. To request reimbursement, follow the instructions on an Expense Reimbursement Form.
Procurement Services has established relationships with certain travel suppliers. Travelers are encouraged to use them whenever possible. The Travel Collaborative is the official travel agency for the college and has been selected to provide a full range of travel services to college employees. For more information, please contact Procurement Services at purchasing [at] emerson.edutarget="_blank" title="Email Procurement Services " In addition, Procurement Services has negotiated rates that can provide cost savings on hotel stays and/or rental car agreements. For a full listing of these preferred vendors, please check the Procurement website.
The following travel and entertainment expenses are eligible for reimbursement, subject to the availability of funds.
1. Transportation Costs
Air, Rail, Bus tickets
Airline, rail or bus tickets for travel should generally be booked by using the most direct route, in economy class, and at the lowest airfare available. Travelers are encouraged to consider alternative airports to obtain better pricing. Airline tickets should be purchased using the College Purchasing Card or the College’s authorized travel agency. Transportation costs purchased with personal credit cards will not be reimbursed until the trip has been completed.
First class travel is not allowable nor is business class generally allowable unless there is a rare exception. Exceptions are approved by the relevant supervisor and Vice President and documented on the expense report.
Budgetary restrictions will supersede college policy. Stricter rules governing trips being charged to a sponsored grant may apply.
When using a College Purchasing Card, if a traveler must cancel a ticket, and a credit towards a future purchase is received, the credit must be used towards the traveler’s next College business trip. The College will not reimburse travelers for tickets obtained with frequent flier miles.
The College will pay for one checked bag used to transport the traveler’s personal belongings. The costs to check any baggage necessary to support the business purpose of the trip (ie. meeting materials and equipment, etc.) are reimbursable.
Emerson College's preferred car rental vendors are Enterprise and National. Rental bookings may be made through Emerson’s travel booking tool Concur, or directly with the rental companies using a specific discount code. Contact purchasing [at] emerson.edu for more information. The College will reimburse travelers for the cost of an economy or mid-size rental car when other ground transportation is not available or when such use will result in cost savings and time efficiencies. Rental costs for a larger vehicle may be reimbursed when traveling in a group, when a no-cost upgrade is available or if a special circumstance exists (e.g. need to transport equipment, etc.) that is approved and documented in advance by the relevant Vice President or his/her designee.
Travelers should avoid incurring expensive refueling charges (i.e., purchasing fuel in advance) when renting a vehicle, consistent with the business requirements and time constraints of the trip.
Travelers may use a personal vehicle for business-related travel when it is more cost-effective than purchasing a round trip economy airline ticket or using alternate forms of ground transportation.
Expenses for travel between an employee's residence and the College (i.e., commuting expense) shall not be reimbursed. However, there are instances where an employee may be reimbursed for partial or full mileage from their residence to a temporary location.
Example 1. If an employee commutes to work each day using public transportation, but attends an occasional business meeting at a different location, the IRS permits a full mileage reimbursement from their residence to the temporary location. However, if this same employee stopped at Emerson on their way to the temporary location, only the mileage from the college to the temporary location would be reimbursable.
Example 2. If an employee regularly commutes to work using their personal vehicle and attends an occasional business meeting at a different location, the number of miles from the employee’s residence to the college should be deducted from the overall mileage reimbursement.
In all instances, reimbursement is based on the actual distance from the starting point to the destination by the most direct route, multiplied by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standard mileage rate in effect at the time of travel. The IRS mileage rate covers all expenses incurred in connection with the use of a privately-owned vehicle, including gasoline purchased for the trip, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, and other cost associated with the use of the vehicle. The number of miles eligible for reimbursement should be documented by using an online mapping service, based on the starting point and destination addresses, and attaching a copy of it to the expense reimbursement.
The costs of public transportation, shuttle buses, taxis, and rideshare applications for travel to and from airports, meetings, and hotels are reimbursable by the College. Such costs, including tips, must be reasonable for the location of travel. Airport shuttles or buses are encouraged wherever possible. Private limousine service for such transportation is not allowable without prior written approval of the relevant Vice President.
Necessary and reasonable charges for automobile-related expenses are reimbursable when either a personally-owned vehicle or rental car is used while traveling on College business, including charges for road tolls, ferries, bridges, tunnels, parking, etc. Gasoline for business-related trips will be reimbursed only for rental cars. If a personal vehicle is used, reimbursement for gasoline expenses is included as part of the IRS standard mileage rate.
Travelers will be reimbursed for lodging accommodations that are necessary and reasonable. The College will reimburse the cost of a single room unless a larger room is shared with another College employee or conference attendee, or special circumstances warrant a larger room or suite (e.g., to host a business reception or meetings, etc.). Expanded accommodations for family members and/or guests are the responsibility of the traveler and will not be reimbursed.
Other hotel charges
The cost of laundering, cleaning, or pressing of clothing incurred while traveling is reimbursable if a trip exceeds five consecutive days. Tips for services (baggage handlers, hotel maids, etc.) are reimbursable if such tips are customary and reasonable for the area and service provided. Additional charges for the use of a hotel fitness center are reimbursable but not spa charges. Meals or food charged to a hotel room must be accompanied by an itemized receipt.
Note: Hotel fitness center expenses incurred while an employee is traveling are not allowable charges to Federal contracts and grants.
The College expects travelers to use the most economical means of accessing the Internet when traveling. Travelers will be reimbursed for reasonable, business-related Internet charges incurred (e.g., hotel Internet access charges) while traveling on College business but not for the cost of home internet service.
Gifts in lieu of lodging
If a traveler stays overnight at the home of a friend or relative while on college business, the cost of a gift, which could include a meal for the host, flowers etc., is reimbursable. The cost of a “gift in lieu of lodging” is limited to $75.00 per visit.
Note: Gifts in lieu of lodging expenses are not allowable charges to Federal contracts or grants.
The College will reimburse the cost of meals purchased while traveling overnight on business. Meals or food charged to a hotel room must be accompanied by an itemized receipt. Meals provided to a traveler at no charge or as part of a conference registration fee are not reimbursable. Meal expenses incurred either before a trip begins or after a trip ends are also not reimbursable. In general, meals are not reimbursable unless an employee is traveling at least 50 miles from his or her principal place of business, unless a meal qualifies as a business or entertainment meal (see below). In addition, under IRS regulations, the travel must include an “overnight stay” as supported by a lodging receipt.
There are two reimbursement method; per diem or actual expense method. In general, you may not mix per diem and actual expense methods during the same trip.
Per diem rates are set by the General Services Administration and are the maximum allowances for meals and incidental expenses. Per diem includes meals and incidentals (e.g. tips, gratuities, taxi to/from meal) for the city visited. Food charges on a hotel room bill will not be reimbursed if the per diem method is used. See rates
Under the per diem method, receipts are not required. You are required to show proof of city visited (e.g. boarding pass, hotel receipt etc.). If the traveler chooses the per diem method, and one or more meals are provided such as through a registration fee for a conference, or the traveler hosts a dinner with colleagues, the reimbursement amount must be reduced by the Federal meals and incidental amount for the specific meals(s) in the city visited. For example, a traveler takes a colleague to dinner in a city with a Federal per diem amount of $64 per day, and the receipt for the dinner including the tip is $135.00, the amount eligible for reimbursement for the dinner is $102.00 (actual cost $135.00 LESS dinner per diem breakdown amount of $28, LESS “incidental” per diem breakdown of $5 = $102.00). A receipt for the dinner must be attached to the Expense Reimbursement Form. Therefore the maximum per diem amount for that day would be breakfast $15, lunch $16, and dinner $102.00 or $133.00. See the Federal per diem breakdown by meal here Note: first and last day of per diem is calculated at 75%.
Actual Expense Method
When NOT using Federal per diem you may submit for reimbursement of actual meal expense by providing:
- List of attendees (if two or more people)
- Business Purpose for the meal (describe the benefit to the College)
- Itemized restaurant slip detailing food and beverages purchased including proof of payment and gratuity
The following are suggested amounts per person and are based on the most current meals and incidental Federal per diem for Suffolk County. These suggested amounts per person are subject to change when the GSA updates the federal per diem. Please check for updated rates here In addition, your department may have different guidelines so please check with your department in advance.
Continental Breakfast - $17
Lunch - $18
Dinner - $31
Alcohol may be allowed under certain circumstances at the discretion of the appropriate Vice President and is generally limited to one glass per meal. Individuals should discuss guidelines for alcohol in advance of a trip, meal or event with their relevant Vice President. If alcohol is allowed, please have the applicable Vice President sign the Expense Reimbursement Form, or attach a copy of an email from the Vice President authorizing alcohol before sending to Accounts Payable. Use account code 71006 to isolate alcohol expenses on the Expense Reimbursement Form. (Note: alcohol is not allowed on grants or sponsored projects.)
Business Entertainment Meals
The College will reimburse employees for the actual cost (no per diem allowed) of business meals and related entertainment expenses (e.g., tickets to an athletic event) incurred in hosting events for prospective donors, visitors, and other individuals who have a business relationship with the College. Under IRS regulations, amounts paid for business entertainment must be either directly related to or associated with the active conduct of business. An entertainment expense is directly related when there is an active discussion aimed at obtaining a specific business benefit and the activity takes place in a clear business setting such as a hospitality room. An entertainment expense is associated with the active conduct of business when the event directly precedes or follows a substantial business discussion.
Business meal and entertainment expenses must be reasonable and customary for the location where the activity or event takes place.
Business meals or light refreshments may be provided in connection with certain College events that include only employees (or employees and students). Such events include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Employee morale events, e.g., annual retreats, new employee receptions, holiday gatherings, etc.;
- Convocations, staff forum meetings, and similar events;
- Business meetings, conferences, and training sessions that take place over an extended period of time, e.g., an entire day.
Meals or light refreshments provided to employees in connection with such events must be furnished on an infrequent basis.
Note: Business entertainment expenses are not reimbursable under Federal contract or grant funding.
Domestic Travel within the continental United States
The college does not cover a traveler’s personal belongings, trip cancellation or flight insurance. Therefore, if a traveler desires these types of insurance they should purchase the insurance(s) at their own expense.
Individuals who book vehicles through Emerson’s business rental program with either Enterprise or National Car rental are automatically covered for collision damage and limited injury amounts with no deductible. In addition, car rentals paid using the College Purchasing Card are also covered for collision damage but only for the vehicle and only in the U.S. If a traveler is involved in a car accident while traveling on College business, he or she should contact their supervisor and Risk Management (ext. 8258) in the Finance Department as soon as possible. Employees are also covered under Workers Compensation insurance when travelling within the continental U.S. on college business.
Employees traveling outside the continental United States are covered by a separate policy with United Healthcare for medical, security and travel-related assistant services. In order to be protected, the traveler must register prior to the trip. Please contact Risk Management in the Finance Department (ext. 8258) for information about this policy and to register in advance of the trip.
Renting a vehicle in a foreign country is discouraged. However, if it is necessary to rent a vehicle, and prior approval has been obtained from the employee’s supervisor, local insurance must be purchased due to limitations of domestic insurance and local laws. If a traveler is involved in a car accident while traveling on College business, he or she should contact their supervisor and Risk Management (ext. 8258) in the Finance Department as soon as possible.
Although cash advances are highly discouraged, the College will issue an advance for up to $50 per day, in cases where the college Purchasing Card is not accepted to pay an expense due to the nature of the travel (e.g., certain foreign travel involving the hiring of guides, translators, and local labor). Such cash advances may be requested by completing a Cash Advance Request. Requests in excess of $50 per day require justification. Please submit the request at least 30 days in advance of the trip.
Cash advances must be substantiated by submitting an Expense Reimbursement Form, with receipts, within a reasonable period of time. Any excess cash must be returned to the College by attaching a check to the Expense Reimbursement Form. For the purposes of this policy, a reasonable period of time is within 30 days of completion of the trip. This timeframe complies with IRS guidance for a fixed date method. Failure to meet these requirements will result in the employee having the amount of the cash advance added to their taxable gross on their W-2.
Miscellaneous Expenses—Foreign Travel
Special fees for foreign travel are reimbursable, including charges for required inoculations; visas, fees and surcharges related to currency conversion, and the cost for international cell phone service. Passport fees are generally not reimbursable except in rare circumstances, and require the approval of the relevant Vice President.
Sponsored Project Travel (grants and contracts)
Travel costs under a sponsored project are subject to those allowed by Emerson Colleges travel policy and procedures which govern college related travel unless federal regulations or the sponsor imposes greater restrictions. Certain sponsored projects may contain provisions that further limit the amount and type of reimbursable travel expenditures. When there is a conflict between college policy and sponsor requirements, the more restrictive policy applies.
Federal policy requires that U.S. flag air carriers or approved carriers under the Open Skies agreement be used regardless of cost, convenience, or personal travel preference when charging federally sponsored projects. For more information, refer to the Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement prior to incurring travel.
Individuals traveling on sponsored project awards are encouraged to contact the Office for Research and Creative Scholarship for guidance regarding approved travel costs.
Some expenses are considered personal expenses even though they were incurred while traveling on College business or conducting department events. Under IRS regulations, personal expenses are those that are not ordinary, necessary, and reasonable in relation to the taxpayer’s business. Examples of non-reimbursable expenses are included in the Appendix A.
Traveler/Person Incurring Expense
- Obtains approval for business trips, cash advances, and related expenses.
- Incurs business-related expenses at the best available rates.
- Completes Expense Reimbursement Form, including proper documentation, and submits it to their supervisor and Cost Center Manager in accordance with this Policy within 30 days of the date the expenses were incurred or the trip was completed.
- Reviews, reconciles, and obtains the necessary approvals for business-related Purchasing Card charges.
- Reviews and certifies that all business-related charges are correct.
Cost Center Manager or Supervisor
- Authorizes business-related travel and entertainment expenses.
- Ensures there are budgeted funds available for expenses.
- Reviews and approves Expense Reimbursement Forms, charges, and receipts.
- Reviews and approves Purchasing Card charges and reviews receipts as well as financial allocation.
- Ensures expenses are business-related and are in compliance with all College policies.
President, Vice Presidents, and Deans
- Approves expenses that are an exception to this Policy or require higher-level approval for employees in his or her division.
- Reviews and approves Expense Reimbursement Forms and charges for his or her direct reports.
- Ensures all employees in his or her division are in compliance with this Policy.
Travelers are responsible for providing sufficient documentary evidence to support the business purpose of all travel and entertainment expenses.
An original receipt is required for all expenses of $50 or more, except for expenses reimbursed under the Per Diem Method. See Appendix B for a summary of the documentation requirements.
Note: If a required original receipt is lost, and every effort has been made to obtain a copy of the receipt, the traveler must complete a Missing Receipt Form. If the receipt is for reimbursement of an expense paid for with personal funds, a cancelled check or credit card statement must be included with the Missing Receipt Form as proof of payment.
Approval of Expense Reimbursement Form
The Expense Reimbursement Form must be approved for payment by the employee's supervisor and/or Cost Center Manager. The Expense Reimbursement Form should not be approved by a person who reports directly or indirectly to the employee. Persons authorized to approve travel and entertainment expenses shall not approve their own expense reimbursements. In addition, an employee shall not approve the expenses of an immediate family member, including the employee’s spouse, partner, parents, children, siblings, and in-laws. See Conflict of Interest Policy.
A violation of any portion of this Policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. In addition an employee may be personally liable for any financial liability incurred by the College as a result of expenses approved by the employee that were not reviewed and approved as required under this Policy.
The Vice President of Administration and Finance is responsible for this policy.
Key Office to Contact Regarding Policy
Disbursements is responsible for the policy and questions about process and reimbursements. Procurement Services manages the College Purchasing Card and contracts with travel vendors and travel partners. Questions concerning insurance should be directed to the Director of Treasury and Risk Management.
In order to be reimbursed, an expense has to be necessary and appropriate in supporting the mission of the College (teaching and research). In general, any expense that is personal in nature is not allowed. The list below is an example of unallowable expenses; it is not intended to be all inclusive but rather a representation of unallowable costs. Travelers are expected to be prudent and show good judgment when expending College funds.
- Airline tickets purchased using frequent flier miles
- Alcohol unless approved in advance by appropriate Vice President
- Airline club membership fees
- Birthday celebration (must be approved by relevant Dean or V.P.)
- Baby showers (must be approved by relevant Dean or V.P.)
- Baby sitter fees
- Baggage insurance
- Barbers, hairdressers, shoe shines
- Business class airfare or railway (see policy detail)
- Car wash
- Child care
- Child travel
- Clothing or toiletries
- Laundry or dry cleaning expenses for trips lasting 5 days or less
- Commuting costs to/from home and normal place of business
- Costs incurred by unreasonable failure to cancel reservations
- Doctor bills, prescriptions, or other medical services (see miscellaneous expenses; foreign travel)
- Dependent care
- Expenses for personal entertainment (such as sporting events or sight-seeing tours)
- Expenses that have been or will be paid or reimbursed by an outside source.
- Expenses for spouses, domestic partners or family members
- Entertainment under Federal grants and contracts
- Excessive tipping
- Fees, interest, and/or late charges associated with personal credit cards
- Fines or tickets resulting from traffic, parking, or other violations
- First class airfare (see policy detail)
- Golf or tennis court fees, membership in country, tennis, or golf clubs, or any sporting equipment, except when part of a preauthorized group event
- Graduation presents
- Health club memberships
- Personal grooming
- In-flight headsets
- Life, accident, or flight insurance premiums
- Lost, broken or stolen property
- Luggage or briefcases
- Maid service
- Meals when traveling locally on College business (see policy details)
- Mini-bar charges (except water)
- Movies or games (hotel, theater or rentals)
- Newspaper and magazines (unless authorized subscription to professional journal)
- Pet care
- Pet travel
- Personal entertainment
- Rental car upgrades such as satellite radio
- Spa or health club fees (except fees for the use of a hotel fitness facility)
- Spousal travel
Travel Non-Reimbursable Expenses - Federal Contract and Grant Travel
In addition to the expenses listed in Appendix A, the following are examples of expenses that may not be charged to Federal contracts or grants:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Alumni activities
- Business meals
- Calling cards
- Donations and contributions
- Foreign travel on non-U.S. carrier
- Gifts and souvenirs
- Hotel fitness fees
- Personal calls
- Staff retreat costs
Documentation Requirements Summary
|Type of expense||Documentation to be attached to Expense Reimbursement Form 1||Information required for Expense Reimbursement Form|
|Airfare, economy class||Original itinerary and receipt; boarding pass, e-ticket||
|Airfare, business class||Original itinerary, receipt, boarding pass, e-ticket and written exception approval (e-mail approval acceptable)
|Rail or bus travel||Original itinerary and receipt||
|Rental car||Original rental contract and receipt||
|Conference or Registration Fee||Original receipt
|Personal car||Documented by using an online mapping service||
|Hotel - actual expense method||Original receipt itemizing all charges to the room||
|Travel meals--per diem method (see policy if meals included in conference fees)||No receipt||
|Travel meals--actual expense method||Original itemized receipt (not just charge slip) even if charged to hotel room||
|Business entertainment||Original itemized receipt not just charge slip)||
|Gift in lieu of lodging||Not to exceed $75 – receipt must be provided, if available||
|Miscellaneous Costs||Original receipt||