How to request travel funds and get reimbursed.
USC faculty, staff, and students routinely incur business and travel expenses on behalf of the university or in support of sponsored research activities. The university reimburses legitimate expenses that conform to federal and state law and the restrictions placed upon sponsored projects. To provide this reimbursement, the university requires employees to complete and submit approved travel expense reports that document the business purpose of the expenses incurred.
Please note: Remain aware that we are in positions of public trust and these funds should be used with the utmost discretion. Our trips are increasingly scrutinized so think of travel funds as a means to support your work and further the reputation your school, the college and the university.
Any individual incurring travel expenses must be familiar with college and university policies to ensure compliance and prudent spending of funds.
- The travel request form is an online form requesting permission to travel from your director or supervisor. Access the travel request form. A travel request form should be completed at least 30 days prior to travel. Detailed cost estimates must be attached. No travel is permitted without an approved travel request form.
- Once approved, the signed travel request form will be returned to the traveler, and a travel authorization form (an electronic form in PeopleSoft) is completed by travel proxy/administrator. That form formally notifies the University of your intention to travel.
- The travel reimbursement form is an electronic form that documents all travel expenses that were incurred. The travel reimbursement form must be submitted to travel proxy/administrator within 7 business days after travel. Traveler should attach receipts for all expenses being reimbursed.
Expense Approval Roles & Responsibilities
Each individual is responsible for making sure that travel is authorized, information provided is accurate, expenditures are allocated to the correct source of funding and anything submitted meets the standards of an outside auditor.
- Sends completed the online travel request form requesting permission for travel to travel proxy/administrator.
- While traveling, obtains proper documentation for each expense. (Typically, this documentation will be an itemized receipt that identifies the expense and reflects proof of payment of the expense. A credit card receipt typically is not enough.)
- Provides the business purpose or justification for each expense. This helps to document why the expense is eligible for reimbursement and should not be considered as taxable income.
- Sends completed travel reimbursement form to travel proxy/administrator within 7 business days after returning from the business trip. Receipts and documentation should be attached to travel reimbursement form. Please do not expect the proxy to hold receipts.
Administrative Processor/Proxy (Administrative Coordinators)
- Creates travel authorization form in PeopleSoft and attaches signed/approved travel request form.
- Completes the travel expense report in PeopleSoft in accordance with university policy and procedure.
- Verifies that the submitted travel expenses are ordinary and necessary expenses of traveling away from home on authorized university business.
- Examines documentation for completeness and accuracy.
- Verifies the application of travel authorization/cash advances.
- Examines all expenditures within the report and ensures they comply with college and university policy.
- Determines that the chart string (account codes) used is appropriate.
Grant Approval (An optional approval that may be assigned to PIs and managers of project accounts)
- Approves the use of the project’s funds for expense reimbursement. In doing so, the project approver is agreeing that the purpose of the travel was in accordance with any restrictions mandated by the sponsor or donor.
- Has prior knowledge of the travel occurring.
- Agrees that the total expense reimbursement is reasonable given their knowledge of the nature of the trip.
Key Compliance & Tips
Reimbursement Submission Time Limit
In order to adhere to generally accepted accounting principles, the traveler should be mindful of the university’s June 30th fiscal year-end, and all expenses for that year should be reported prior to year-end to ensure that the expense is appropriately captured in the financial statements and in the department’s budget for the appropriate fiscal period. Reimbursement for travel expenses should be submitted within seven (7) business days of the trip. Travel reimbursement forms received more than 30 days after the completion of the trip may not be reimbursed. Travel office will require a memo justification for any forms received more than 30 days after completion of travel.
All expenses must be for a valid business purpose that is necessary and reasonable in order to conduct university business. A business purpose must be documented for all expenditures for which a traveler is requesting reimbursement.
Business purpose must be specific and describe the benefit to the university: “Attend National Payable Network conference to present a research paper. This furthers the reputation of the the program and university,” is appropriate documentation for a business purpose. “Travel to Boston for conference” is not. Keep in mind, the business purpose of an expense may be obvious to the traveler, but not to a third-party reviewer or state auditors.
Each travel and business reimbursement request must be supported by a detailed business purpose that includes the following information:
- Who traveled or attended the event
- What was the event or activity or what purchase was made
- When the event or activity took place
- Where the event or activity took place
- Why and how it ties in to university business
The traveler is expected to obtain original receipts for all expenses for which they plan to be reimbursed. An original receipt may take many forms (i.e. cash register receipt, copy of an order form, web receipt or confirmation). A receipt must identify:
- the date of purchase
- the vendor name
- itemized list and unit price of the purchased items
- the total amount
If the traveler is unable to obtain an original receipt that contains all the required information, documentation should be submitted to demonstrate as many of the required items as possible. A copy of the traveler’s credit or debit card statement identifying the date, location, and amount of the expense, or a rental agreement, may be submitted along with a description of the purchase, identifying the amount of any expenses to be segregated (i.e. alcohol).
A receipt in a foreign language is considered acceptable documentation, with the US Dollar conversion amount noted on the receipt. Please provide PDF or snapshot of the conversion rate.
Proof of Payment
The traveler is expected to obtain proof of payment for all expenses for which they plan to be reimbursed. Proof of payment may take many forms and must demonstrate payment was tendered and must identify how it was tendered. This is often part of the original receipt. Examples of this may include notation of:
- “Cash Tendered” (traveler’s signature is required on receipt if paid in cash)
- A zero balance due
- Debit/Credit card payment (card type, last four digits of card and/or signature)
If no proof of payment is available in this form, a debit or credit card statement may also be provided. Please black out any private or unrelated information.
Receipts Required for Air Travel
The original passenger ticket/receipt, boarding pass, e-ticket or website statement or confirmation, or itinerary issued by a travel agent, must include:
- Dates and points of departure and arrival
- Travel “class”
- Total cost of the flight
- Proof of payment
- If a traveler extend a business trip for personal reasons, they MUST include a cost comparison from the time of purchase that shows the university did not incur any additional expense for the revised itinerary.
Receipts Required for Ground Transportation
Travelers should attempt to obtain a receipt from the driver or transportation company. The original receipts for fares must include:
- the dates and points of origin and destination
- passenger’s name
- the total amount of the fare
- proof of payment
- Ask hotels for the government rate.
- Please chose most economical options.
Ground transportation / air travel
- All flights should be most economical possible.
- All flights charged to federal projects must be taken on U.S. flag air carriers or on foreign air carriers that code share with a U.S. flag carrier on the flight taken. This includes flights within the U.S. See Fly America Act.
- Show dates and points of origin and destination on all ground transportation receipts.
- You may elect to receive mileage in lieu of flying as long as the mileage is less than economy airfare. In such cases, it will be necessary to provide a comparison of the costs.
- Uber tips over 15%.
- Attach a map showing distance when requesting mileage reimbursement.
- Don’t include tips over 20%.
- Check receipt calculations.
- Deduct from your per diem any conference provided meals. (Traveler must provide conference agenda.)
- Do not request per diem if you purchased a meal package with your hotel room. (Meal packages are not recommended.)
- Provide receipts that are clear and have required information.
- Submit itemized receipts that show date, location, time, items purchased, and proof of payment. (Item ordered and/or shipped is not proof of purchase.)
- Provide the daily conversion rate for international travel expenses.
- Do not pay for another traveler’s expenses. He or she should submit separately.
- Submit travel reimbursement form within 7 business days of travel. Forms submitted more than 30 days after traveler’s return may not be reimbursed.
- If a traveler wishes to extend business travel for personal reasons, list only the business travel dates on the travel request and travel authorization forms. Do not list extended personal days. Also, provide a price comparison from the time of purchase showing the change did not increase costs to the university.
- Travel costs should be the most practical and economical with due consideration given to the time involved, extra meals, lodging costs, and the mission to be accomplished.
- If travel costs are inconsistent among a group of travelers, expense reports will likely be returned for additional information and may not be reimbursed.
- Provide details!
For more information:
USC Travel Policy (Includes current rates. Please note college rates may be significantly less. Ask if you have questions.)