Travel Policies and Regulations
Statutory regulations for per diem, transportation, and subsistence allowances for state departments, agencies, boards, commissions, committees, and councils are contained in G.S. 138-5, 138-6, and 138-7. It is the intent of this section to provide statements of policy to enable state departments and agencies a comprehensive reference for uniform interpretation to pay or reimburse allowable state travel expenses pertaining to official travel and subsistence.
An employee traveling on official state business is expected to exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business and expending personal funds. Excess costs, circuitous routes, delays, or luxury accommodations and services unnecessary, unjustified, or for the convenience or personal preference of the employee in the performance of official state business are not acceptable under this standard. Employees will be responsible for unauthorized costs and any additional expenses incurred for personal preference or convenience.
Official State Business
These policies are intended to apply only to those state employees or other persons on official state business. Official state business occurs when the state employee or other person is traveling to attend approved job related training and/or work on behalf of, officially represent, or provide a state service upon the state’s request. Travel that would not directly benefit the state will not be reimbursable.
Travel Policies for State Employees
Per Diem Compensation
Per Diem compensation is not applicable for state employees, only to members of State Boards, Commissions, Committees and Councils who do not receive any salary from the state or services.
The maximum allowable statutory rate (G.S. 138.6) for meals and lodging is $105.20 for in-state travel and $120.00 for out-of-state travel. The payment of sales tax, lodging tax, local tax, or service fees applied to the cost of lodging is allowed in addition to the lodging rate and is to be paid as a lodging expense. The employee may exceed the part of the ceiling allocated for lodging without approval for over expenditure provided that the total lodging and food reimbursement does not exceed the maximum allowed daily subsistence.
The following schedule shall be used for reporting allowable subsistence expenses incurred while traveling on official state business effective 7/1/2015
Breakfast $ 8.30 $ 8.30
Lunch $ 10.90 $ 10.90
Dinner $ 18.70 $ 21.30
Lodging (actual, up to) $ 67.30 $ 79.50
Total $105.20 $120.00
Written approval by the department head or his or her designee must be obtained in order to qualify for reimbursement for overnight stays. Supervisory personnel certifying the reimbursement request as necessary and proper must require documentation from the traveler to substantiate that the overnight lodging was necessary and accomplished. The travel must involve a travel destination located at least 35 miles from the employee's regularly assigned duty station (vicinity) or home, whichever is less.
Reimbursement for Lodging/Tips and Gratuity
Each employee is responsible for his or her own request for reimbursement. The travel must involve a travel destination located at least 35 miles from the employee's regularly assigned duty station (vicinity) or home, whichever is less. Requests for reimbursement should be filed within 30 days after the travel period ends for which the reimbursement is being requested. Specific dates of lodging must be listed on the reimbursement request, and substantiated by a receipt from a commercial lodging establishment, not to exceed $67.30 per night for in-state lodging or $79.50 per night for out-of-state lodging. Reimbursement for lodging in an establishment treated as an apartment building by state or local law or regulation is not allowed unless approved by the Office of State Budget and Management in advance.
Telephone access fees for business calls are considered a miscellaneous expense. Telephone access fees for personal calls are not reimbursable. Baggage handling tips and other tips (except tips for meals or food service) may be claimed as "Miscellaneous." Excessive tips must be documented with a receipt.
Reimbursable gratuity or tips must be considered reasonable for items that are not already covered under subsistence. Excessive tips will not be reimbursed. A reasonable tip would be one that a prudent person would give if traveling or conducting personal business and expending personal funds.
For further guidance, the following information is provided when calculating a tip:
· Airports: Baggage Handling/Skycaps/Shuttle Drivers – no more than $2 per bag;
· Parking/Auto Related: Valets - $2 per car when collecting the car;
· Taxi Drivers – 15% of the fare and $1-$2 a bag
Excess lodging authorization for in-state, out-of-state, and out-of-country travel must be obtained in advance from the department head or his or her designee. (See UNC-GA Travel Authorization Approvals). Excess lodging is allowed when the employee is in a high cost area and unable to secure lodging within the current allowance, or when the employee submits in writing an opinion that his/her personal safety or security is unattainable within the current allowance. Excess lodging authorization is not allowed for reason of convenience or personal preference for the employee. The employee may exceed the part of the ceiling allocated for lodging without approval from department head of his or her designee provided that the total lodging and food reimbursement does not exceed the maximum daily subsistence.
Third Party Lodging
Reimbursement for lodging in an establishment that is being rented out by a third party or an establishment treated as an apartment building by state or local law or regulation is not allowed unless approved by OSBM in advance. Requests for third party lodging must provide evidence of savings to the state. An exception may be granted for requests that do not show a savings with sufficient justification to support the necessity for third party lodging.
In each case where third party lodging is being considered, the applicant must provide their budget officer and OSBM all details regarding the arrangement, including the amount to be charged, the length of stay, and contact information. A signed rental agreement must be presented to receive reimbursement.
Penalties and Charges Resulting from Cancellations
Penalties and charges resulting from the cancellation of travel reservations (including airline or hotel reservations and conference registration) shall be the department's obligation if the employee's travel has been approved in advance and the cancellation or change is made at the direction of and/or for the convenience of the department. If the cancellation or change is made for the personal benefit of the employee, it shall be the employee's obligation to pay the penalties and charges. However, in the event of accidents, serious illness, or death within the employee's immediate family or other critical circumstances beyond the control of the employee, the department may pay the penalties and charges.
Authorization for Meals
Written approval by the department head or his or her designee must be obtained in order to qualify for reimbursement for meals. Supervisory personnel certifying the reimbursement request as necessary and proper must require documentation from the traveler to substantiate that the payment for meals was necessary and accomplished. Such approval shall be documented on the Travel Authorization Form. (See UNC-GA Travel Authorization Approvals).
Each employee is responsible for his or her own request for reimbursement. Tips for meals are included in the meal allowance. Each meal reimbursement rate must be listed on the reimbursement request. Times of departure and arrival must also be listed on the reimbursement request. The costs of meals included in other related activities (registration fees, conference costs, hotel registration, etc.) may not be duplicated in reimbursement requests. An employee may be reimbursed, if requested, for breakfast even if their lodging establishment offers a free continental breakfast.
Meals during Overnight Status
A state employee may be reimbursed for meals including lunches, while on official state business when the employee is in overnight travel status. The travel must involve a travel destination located at least 35 miles from the employee's regularly assigned duty station (vicinity) or home, whichever is less.
Meals during Daily Travel
Employees may be reimbursed for meals for partial days of travel when in overnight travel status and the partial day is the day of departure or the day of return. The following applies:
· Breakfast: depart duty station prior to and extend workday by 2 hours.
· Lunch: depart duty station prior to (day of departure) or return to duty station after
(day of return).
· Dinner: depart duty station prior to (day of departure) or return to duty station after
(day of return) and extend workday by 3 hours.
· The travel must involve a travel destination located at least 35 miles from the employee's
regularly assigned duty station (vicinity) or home, whichever is less.
Allowances can not be paid to employees for lunches if travel does not involve an overnight stay; however, employees can be eligible for allowances for the breakfast and evening meals when the following applies:
· Breakfast (morning): depart duty station prior to and extend workday by 2 hours.
· Dinner (evening): return to duty station after ) and extend workday by 3 hours.
· The travel must involve a travel destination located at least 35 miles from the employee's
regularly assigned duty station (vicinity) or home, whichever is less.
· Allowances for the breakfast and evening meals for employees working nontraditional shifts
must have prior approval of the Office of State Budget and Management.
Meals and Day-to-Day Activities
State employees may not be reimbursed for meals eaten in conjunction with a congress, conference, assembly, convocation or meeting, or by whatever name called, of the employees within a single state department, institution or agency, or between the employees of two or more state departments, institutions or agencies to discuss issues relating to the employee's normal day-to-day business activities.
A state employee may be reimbursed for meals, including lunches, when the employee's job requires his attendance at the meeting of a board, commission, committee, or council in his official capacity and the meal is preplanned as part of the meeting for the entire board, commission, committee or council. Such board, commission, committee, or council must include persons other than the employees of a single state department, institution, or agency.
Meals and Commercial Air Travel
Employees are allowed to claim reimbursement for meals even though they are shown and offered as a part of one's flight schedule on a commercial airline.
No excess reimbursement will be allowed for meals unless such costs are included in registration fees and/or there are predetermined charges, or the meals were for out-of-country travel. The department head or his or her designee may grant excess subsistence for meals for out-of-country travel. Such approval shall be documented on the Travel Authorization Form. (See UNC-GA Travel Authorization Approvals).
State law allows reimbursement of the actual amount of convention registration fees as shown by a valid receipt or invoice [G.S. 138-6(a) (4)].
Reimbursement for cost incurred in obtaining or renewing a passport may be made to an employee who, in the regular course of his duties, is required to travel overseas in the furtherance of official state business. Passport expenses are chargeable to the same fund that supports the employee's trip.
Transportation by Common Carrier
Reimbursement for air, rail, or bus fare is limited to actual coach fare, substantiated by receipt.
Transportation by International Flights
Employees traveling internationally on overseas flights may be reimbursed actual business class fare (substantiated by receipt) with prior approval of the department head or his or her designee.
Frequent Flyer Miles
Frequent flyer miles earned by a state employee while traveling on state business at state expense are the property of the state. Frequent flyer miles accumulated by an individual state employee during previous state business trips should, to the extent possible, be used by the state employee accumulating the frequent flyer miles while traveling on future state business trips.
Coupons or Certificates for Reduced Air Fare
Coupons or certificates for reduced air fare if acquired by a state employee while traveling on state business at state expense are the property of the State and should be used, to the extent possible, by the state employee on future state business trips.
UNC-GA Travel Authorization Approvals:
A UNC-GA Travel Authorization Form (Act Exh 4.0) is required to authorize special approval for official UNC-General Administration (UNC-GA) travel for the following conditions:
• In-state overnight travel
• Out-of-state travel
• Excess lodging expenditures
Penalties and Charges Resulting from Cancellations
Penalties and charges resulting from the cancellation of airline reservations (or other travel reservations) shall be the department's obligation if the employee's travel has been approved in advance and the cancellation or change is made at the direction of and for the convenience of the department. If the cancellation or change is made for the personal benefit of the employee, it shall be the employee's obligation to pay the penalties and charges. However, in the event of accidents, serious illness, or death within the employee's immediate family, or other critical circumstances beyond the control of the employee, the department shall pay the penalties and charges..
Fees and Service Charges
With sufficient justification and documentation and with approval of the department head or his or her designee, state employees can be reimbursed for usual, customary, and reasonable fees and services charges imposed by travel agents for assistance in making travel arrangements.
Division heads or designees must authorize personal vehicle use on the travel reimbursement form. Actual mileage is reimbursable. Mileage is measured from the closer of duty station or point of departure to destination (and return). The business standard mileage rate set by the OSBM (54 cents per mile effective January 1, 2016) will be paid. Parking fees, tolls, and storage fees are reimbursable when the required receipts are obtained. A state employee shall be reimbursed the business standard mileage rate set by the OSBM when using their personal vehicles for state business when the round trip does not exceed 75 miles. If the roundtrip exceeds 75 miles, the employee will be reimbursed at 34 cents per mile.
Transportation by Rental Vehicle
Rental vehicles may be used; however, rental vehicles are not to be used at state expense solely for the convenience or personal preference of the employee. A receipt is necessary for reimbursement. No reimbursement will be made for rental insurance purchased because state employees are covered under the state’s auto insurance program. However, reimbursement for automobile rental insurance will be permitted for individuals engaged in state business during travel to international destinations.
Transportation by Chartered Aircraft
The use of charter aircraft must be approved by the department head or his or her designee provided the following is substantiated and put in writing:
· A state aircraft is not available or not appropriate for the size of the party traveling or the
· The use of a charter flight is more economical than a commercial flight.
· The use of a charter flight is necessary because of unusual travel circumstances.
Reimbursement for costs incurred in the use of aircraft, owned by a state employee, on official state business may be approved by the department head or his or her designee, provided the following is substantiated and put in writing:
· The use of the aircraft owned by a state employee is necessary because of unusual travel
circumstances and is not for the sole convenience of the employee who owns the plane.
· The use of the aircraft, owned by a state employee, at the rates published below is cheaper than
any other method of air travel.
· The allowable reimbursement rate for aircraft owned by a state employee is $.68 per mile per
Non-state Employee Riders
Non-state employees may accompany state employees in state-owned vehicles when they have a business interest in the purpose of the trip and their presence is related to state business. Students of state universities, colleges, and institutions may be passengers in state-owned vehicles to attend athletic events and other activities officially sanctioned by the institution, provided the proper account is reimbursed at the standard mileage cost rate by the student activity fund involved. Spouses and children of state employees may accompany them in state-owned vehicles, if ample space is available and all travel is strictly for official state business [G.S. 143-341.8(i)(7)]. Hitchhikers are not permitted to ride in state-owned vehicles.
Transportation by State Vehicle at Destination
At the employee's destination, state-owned vehicles may be used prudently for travel to obtain meals, but not for private purposes or for entertainment while off duty. No common carrier or public transportation fares are reimbursable on a trip on which an employee uses a state-owned vehicle, unless it is shown that such transportation was more economical in a particular situation.
No reimbursement shall be made for the use of a personal vehicle in commuting from an employee's home to his duty station. (No mileage reimbursement is allowed to employees on "call back" status. For the state's policy on compensation to employees on "call back" status, see the State Personnel Manual.)
Travel to/from Airport at Employee's Duty Station
Reimbursement for travel between the employee's duty station and the nearest airline terminal and for appropriate parking may be made under the following circumstances. For travel by:
· Taxi or Airport Shuttle – Actual costs with receipts.
· Private car - the business standard mileage rate set by the Internal Revenue Services for a maximum of two round trips with no parking charge, or for one round trip with parking charges. Receipts are required for airport parking claims.
· Use of Public Transportation- In lieu of using a taxi or airport shuttle, employees can be reimbursed without receipts $5 for each one-way trip either from the airport to the hotel/meeting or from the hotel/meeting to the airport or the actual cost of travel with the submission of receipt
Travel to/from Airport at Employee's Destination
Reimbursement for travel to and from the airline terminal at the employee's destination may be made where travel is via most economical mode available as listed below:
· Taxi or Airport Shuttle service – Actual costs with receipts.
· Rental vehicles - may be used; however, rental vehicles may not be used for the sole convenience of the employee (receipt required).
· Use of Public Transportation- In lieu of using a taxi or airport shuttle, employees can be reimbursed without receipts $5 for each one-way trip either from the airport to the hotel/meeting or from the hotel/meeting to the airport or the actual cost of the travel with the submission of receipts
Parking expenses are reimbursable while in the course of conducting official State business as long as such expenses are determined reasonable and clearly show that there was care taken to keep the costs to the State as low as possible. Any parking rates considered excessive and only for the convenience of the traveler will not be reimbursable. For example, excessive or inappropriate parking would be the use of an airport’s hourly parking lot for an overnight trip.
Travel Involving Trips Other than to and from the Airport
The actual cost of taxi and shuttle service fares are reimbursable when required for travel on official state business. The request must be documented with a receipt. The use of public transportation is reimbursable for actual costs with a receipt.
All employees who travel on state business may be issued advances when authorized by the department head or his or her designee in order that personal funds will not be required. Such approval shall be documented on the Travel Authorization Form. (See UNC-GA Travel Authorization Approvals). Fiscal records must be maintained by the department for proper control. Eligibility for advances and reporting requirements are as follows:
· State Employees who have been issued state credit cards for travel purposes should not be issued travel advances, unless there is substantiated justification.
· Travel advances for occasional travel must not exceed the estimated cost of the trip and may not be issued more than five working days prior to the date of departure. Advances must be deducted from the reimbursement request on the travel expense report which shall be submitted within 30 days after the travel period or June 30, whichever comes first.
· Travel advances for regularly scheduled travel for employees who travel each month, an annual advance of funds equal to the average monthly expense may be made. All reimbursement requests shall be filed and paid monthly for incurred expenses and the advance must be repaid as of June 30 annually or earlier if required by the agency. If it is determined that the monthly reimbursement has averaged less than the annual advancement, the advance must be reduced to the newly established amount.
Employees are not allowed to charge long distance phone calls to the state for calls made of a personal nature, except as stated below. All long distance calls that are to be paid by the state are those made pursuant to the employee conducting official state business.
Official phone calls are reimbursable under "Miscellaneous." Individual calls over $5.00 must be identified as to point of origin and destination.
Allowable Personal Calls
An employee who is in travel status for two or more consecutive days in a week is allowed one personal long distance telephone call for each two days for which reimbursement to the employee may not exceed $3.00 for each in-state call or $5.00 for each out-of-state call.
Employee emergency calls
Employees may use the state network system, state credit card, or may be reimbursed for a personal long distance call(s) if such call(s) is/are of an emergency nature as determined by the department. An example is a call made when an employee calls home to inform someone that the travel period has been extended beyond original plans due to unforeseen reasons.
Because mobile telephone charges (cellular and digital) are based on measured use, no personal calls should be made on mobile telephones except in case of emergency as determined by the department. Mobile telephone calls to conduct official state business should only be used when more economical means of telephoning are not reasonably available.
If an employee uses his/her personal mobile telephone in conducting state business, the employee can be eligible for reimbursement. In order for the agency to reimburse the employee, the employee must indicate on his/her telephone bill the reimbursable calls, individuals called, and nature of calls and submit the telephone bill to their supervisor for approval. If the supervisor approves the calls as state business related, the agency will reimburse the actual billed cost of the call.
Use of Telephone with Computer Hook-ups
Employees traveling on official state business needing to transmit data via their computers should use the most efficient manner available; including services available through the State’s Information Technology Services (ITS) access.
Employee's Duty Station
"Duty station" is defined as the headquarters or job location at which the employee spends the majority of his or her working hours [G.S. 138-6(a)(1)]. For an employee in travel status, the duty station should be the point where traveling begins the majority of the time (home or office). The designation of an employee's home as the duty station by a department head requires prior approval by the Controller.