Biblically Centered Education
Travel Policy Section 6.74 Dept: Accounting Revised: November 11th, 2015

Policy Overview

This policy recognizes that from time to time university employees may be required to travel out of their normal commute in order to further the purpose and mission of Biola and in doing so may incur travel related charges. In that vein, the policy relates what is acceptable and qualifies for payment or reimbursement from the university. In general, all staff and faculty must keep in mind that university funds are to be efficiently utilized and that no extravagant expenditures are befitting or honorable for those charged with being good stewards of university funds.

Reason for Policy

Biola University is a non-profit, Christian organization charged by its Board of Trustees to steward the resources bestowed upon it through generous gifts by donors and tuition and fees from parents and students. As such, the preservation and efficient use of said funds to promote the mission of the university is of the utmost importance. Travel is a privilege that must be approved in advance of any such excursion will only be approved if traveling is the best means of completing the mission of the university.

Entities Affected by this Policy

All university employees who partake in travel for the purpose of their work for the university are affected by this policy and bound by the tenants therein.

Who Should Read this Policy

Any individual who plans to commence travel for university purposes, may plan or request such travel, or compel others to engage in such travel is responsible to read this policy and remain abreast of any changes or updates to this policy.

Qualified Travel

In order to most efficiently utilize university funds for the furtherance of the mission, vision, and values of Biola, travel expenditures will be limited to situations that have a bona-fide business purpose. If a meeting or conference can be coordinated or attended through the use of technology (conference calls, video chat, webinars, etc.) it will be done and travel avoided in order to save money. However, if it not feasible to use such technologies or if they are not conducive to the nature of the meeting, travel may be reimbursed with advance approval.

Travel expenses incurred without advance approval may not qualify for reimbursement and travel to or from events or training that is undertaken on a purely voluntary basis and is not considered a requirement of the position or of employment will not be reimbursed.

Please note that the normal commute from an employee’s abode to his or her typical working location does not qualify as “travel” even if that commute is particularly long.

Qualified Persons

University employees are eligible for travel reimbursement if the travel is preapproved by the employee’s immediate supervisor and is considered germane to employment and the fulfillment of Biola’s mission.

Multiple Employee Travel & Expenses

When more than one employee travel together and incur travel related expenses (such as paying for a business related lunch) the senior-most employee will pay for the bill and submit the receipt for reimbursement.

In order to secure the knowledge-based assets of the university and protect against serious disruptions to university operations, the following precautions will be taken when employees travel together:

●        no more than three vice presidents,

●        no more than one third of the Board or any Board committee,

●        the President and Provost together,

●        three consecutive management levels for any single department,

●        a complete department, or

●        more than a third of any group of employees with critical skills working on a project together (e.g. Banner Team)

will be allowed to travel together on the same flight or in the same vehicle (car, train, etc.) to avoid a catastrophic loss to the university and serious disruption of services. The above groups may go to the same location (e.g. conference, restaurant, etc.); but, must take different means of transportation to that location.

Non-Employee Travel

There are times when the university may decide to pay for travel expenses for non-employees including guest speakers or other dignitaries. Such travel must be approved in advance by the vice president presiding over the department sponsoring the traveler. If the guest prefers to book travel through his or her own travel agent, they must turn in their travel expenses for the hosting department’s vice president’s approval. Otherwise, the hosting department should make travel and hotel arrangements for the guest through the normal purchase requisition process.

If it is deemed necessary, special travel arrangements may be made for a guest of the university including upgrades to travel class and other accommodations. Such arrangements will be considered an exception and must be approved by the Vice President of Finance.

Taxable Travel Expenses

Any employee or non-employee who receives travel reimbursement for non-business related expenses resulting in taxable income may be subject to federal, state, and/or local tax withholding.

Non-Resident Foreign Nationals

Any reimbursement or compensation to be given to persons who are not US citizens for purposes of travel must first be approved by the Director of Accounting. Special requirements and forms are involved when the payment is to a non-US citizen. Over two dozen treaties that impact such payments exist between the US and other countries and must be reviewed prior to authorization.

Non-Employee Companions

While the university does not generally reimburse travel expenses of spouses, family members, or friends of employees, it does not preclude them from accompanying employees. All costs associated with non-employee companions will be paid for by the employee. For example, the university will pay the single room rate for the employee and the employee will pay the difference for a double room rate or extra person fee charged by the hotel. Any extra airfare, meals, or any other companion-related expenses will be borne by the employee or, if reimbursed, be counted as taxable income to the employee. Reimbursement of such expenses must be approved in advance by the Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs.

There may, on occasion, be a time where there is a legitimate purpose for the presence of a spouse or companion of an employee to accompany the employee on university business. This will be considered an exception typically limited to executive management, special travel programs, chaperones, and related spousal travel expense -- all requiring prior approval from Human Resources and the employee’s vice president. A complete spousal itinerary must be provided demonstrating at least five hours of business related activities on the majority of travel days (including dinners, receptions, speaking, etc.) to justify the travel expense. If a spouse or companion only performs incidental duties, his or her presence does not constitute a business purpose and the reimbursed amount will be counted as taxable income to the employee.

Mixed Business and Pleasure

Vacation time may be mixed with business travel if there is a clear demarcation between the two and only if there has been previous approval. Any vacation, hotel amenities, or personal activities that are not business related (sightseeing tours, souvenirs, movies, magazines, etc.) are not reimbursable. The university will only pay for hotel nights related to business purposes, Any extended nights, additional travel or travel costs (such as extra baggage fees) will be paid for by the employee. In addition, Biola is only responsible for the business portion of the flight. The requestor needs to specify on the purchase requisition request what is business and what is personal. Purchasing will then pull up a fare quote for what it would have cost Biola for business flights only. The traveler will be responsible for any fare difference to Biola.

Non-Student Travel Tours

Travel tours organized for constituents and employees that include sight-seeing or recreational activities are almost always considered non-business activities and thus do not fall under Biola’s tax exemption. All travel for such groups and purposes must be approved by Financial Affairs prior to booking.

A travel tour can only be approved under the premise that it clearly furthers the mission of the university and has ample backup to prove how it furthers the mission of the university. Further, all travel tours must be booked through a third party travel agent in order to avoid Unrelated Business Income as well as limit liability to the university for such travel.

If a travel tour is approved, the Purchasing Department will be contacted to contract with a travel agent and ensure all proper insurance and contract obligations are fulfilled and necessary signatures attained. Neither the university, nor individual departments will take on the role of travel agent. Additionally, all payments for such travel will be made directly to the travel agent and no funds will pass through the university.

Cash advances for travel will be treated in the same manner as other cash advances. Only current Biola employees or current Biola students may check out cash advances. Employees who have a university credit card are ineligible for cash advances. For further information regarding the cash advance process, see the Accounting Cash Advance Policy (Employee Handbook, section 6.7).

Student Travel Tours

All travel booked by the university for student tours or programs must be approved by the Bursars Office and Budget Office. All funds to pay for travel must have been received in full prior to purchase of travel expenses, the university will not pre-fund travel expenses.

Non-Exempt Compensation

Employees who are hourly may claim hourly compensation for travel that occurs during and outside of their normal working hours, under the following guidelines:

  • Travel time to a job site within reasonable proximity of the employee's regular work site is not compensable. If an employee does not have a regular job site, travel time to the new job site each day is not compensable. If an employee has a temporary work location change, the employee will be compensated for any additional time required to travel to the new job site in excess of the employee's normal commute time.
  • If an employee is required to attend an out-of-town business meeting, training session, or any other event, the employee will be compensated for his or her time in getting to and from the location of that event. Compensable time includes: (1) time spent driving, or as a passenger on an airplane, train, bus, taxi cab, car, or other mode of transportation in traveling to and from the out-of-town event, and (2) time spent waiting to purchase a ticket, check baggage, or get on board. On the other hand, time that is not compensable includes time spent taking a break from travel to eat a meal, sleep, or engage in purely personal pursuits not connected with traveling or making necessary travel connections (e.g., spending an extra day in a city to sightsee before the start or following the conclusion of a conference).
  • Hourly employees will be paid at the appropriate overtime rate for any hours worked in excess of 8 in a day or 40 in a week.

Booking Travel

All travel will be booked with advanced approval through the Purchasing Department. Travel that is booked without the use of Purchasing and submitted for reimbursement may not be reimbursed. Employees will not be reimbursed for change fees or non-refundable tickets when travel plans are missed or changed due to the fault of the employee.

Rewards Programs

The university will not reimburse for membership in travel clubs or for airline tickets or hotel stays paid for through rewards programs. In addition, the university will not pay extra for flights or accommodations in order for the individual to receive additional rewards. Any cash rebate obtained by an employee is the property of the university and must be returned to the university.

Lodging

Hotel or overnight stay arrangements should be made through the Purchasing Department on a Purchase Requisition. Employees should request an economically priced hotel at a single room rate for business purposes. If an employee is attending a conference, he or she may stay at the conference hotel, even if it is moderately priced, for the convenience of conference attendance. If the employee wishes to stay outside of the conference hotel, Biola will only be responsible for what the negotiated conference rate is, unless it is sold out and there is no other conference alternative.

If more than one employee of the same gender is staying at a hotel for business purposes, they will not be expected to share a room.

In the event that an employee must be reimbursed for lodging, the IRS requires that an itemized report (i.e. hotel portfolio report) be submitted to show the itemized expenditures. Items that are considered personal expenses, such as toiletries, in-room movies, mini-bar charges, room services, or fees charged for use of the hotel gym, sauna facilities, or swimming pool will not be reimbursed and the employee will be required to reimburse the university if such expenses have been paid by the university.

NOTE: Purchasing will not book through vacation rental websites such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc. If you have any questions regarding this policy or the restricted websites, please contact the Purchasing Department.

Flying

All air travel will be requested through the Purchasing Department and must be approved by the immediate supervisor of the department submitting the request. Airfare requested will be the lowest logical price for economy class booked through a commercial airline. Requests should be made far enough in advance to attain cheaper prices and avoid last minute fare hikes. Purchasing will make every effort to work with the passenger on airline, airport, time, and seat preferences. However, the purchased airfare will be the most reasonable, economy class seat, booked with a commercial airline.

The University will also pay for baggage fees and other fees associated with travel but only for such fees as are related to the university. For example, baggage fees for university property will be covered, but baggage fees for a spouse or for extra clothes for vacation will not be covered. Baggage fees will be paid for by the employee and should be submitted on a reimbursement requisition form according to this policy (see Mixed Business and Pleasure, above). Meals paid for on a flight will be reimbursed according to this policy (see Meals, below).

The university will reimburse for parking fees incurred when an employee must leave his or her car at the airport while they travel; however, the university will only reimburse for the least expensive parking lot available through the airport, which typically is the extended stay parking lot. There may be occasion when the university will reimburse for terminal parking at a greater cost if the employee is flying out in the morning and returning in the evening of the same day. If the employee asks someone to take him/her to the airport or to pick him/her from the airport, only one round trip to and from the airport is reimbursable as mileage reimbursement per travel. The mileage reimbursement is calculated from Biola’s physical address to the airport unless the actual driven distance is shorter.

Overnight Travel Delays

If an employee experiences an unexpected overnight stay due to an airline delay, the employee will first try to attain accommodations through the airline responsible. If accommodations through the airline are not available, Biola will reimburse the employee for the additional hotel expenses.

Alternative Travel Methods

Employees may request to travel by an alternative means such as boat, rail, or bus for personal reasons; however, the University will only pay for an amount equivalent to the lowest airfare of the same trip. The employee will have to reimburse the university for the difference in cost. For example, if an employee desires to take a boat rather than fly to Hawaii and it costs $600 more than if the university were to buy a plane ticket, the employee will have to pay the additional $600. If there is a significant time increase due to the method of travel chosen, pre-approval will be needed from the employee’s supervisor in connection with Human Resources to determine how to allocate labor costs and possibly paid vacation leave for time spent traveling.

Rental Car

If a rental car is needed for travel purposes while conducting university business, an employee will put a request through to the Purchasing Department and make sure they are familiar with the University Driver Policy (Employee Handbook, Section 3.5) and that they qualify as a driver under said policy. Please note that the Purchasing Department cannot rent large passenger vans on behalf of Biola University. At this time, Enterprise and National are the only rental companies the university uses. If an employee goes outside of the Purchasing Department to book their rental car for business purposes, it will not be covered by Biola insurance.

If gas is purchased for a rental car, the receipt can be used to request reimbursement. Please specify that the gas purchase is for a rental car. Please note that a rental car is not a borrowed vehicle from an individual. In order to qualify as a rental car, the vehicle must be rented through the Purchasing Department from a university approved rental car company.

Biola University has automobile physical damage insurance coverage (for rented or leased vehicles used for Biola business) through Guide One Insurance Company, policy #3699-536. Employees should decline optional coverage offered by rental companies.

Biola's policy provides physical damage insurance for all rental vehicles on the following basis:

●      Rental car insurance is offered only on vehicles rented by Biola University. If an employee rents a car under his/her name, it is not covered.

●      Comprehensive: actual cash value, cost of repairs, or $30,000 (whichever is less), minus a $250 deductible for each covered auto.

●      Collision: actual cash value, cost of repairs, or $30,000 (whichever is less), minus a $500 deductible for each covered auto.

All rental cars must be rented in the name of Biola University for this insurance policy to be in effect. Also, this policy provides coverage for accidents and losses occurring in the United States of America and the territories and possessions of Puerto Rico and Canada. It does not provide coverage in Mexico. When going to Mexico, a policy covering driving in Mexico should be obtained prior to entry and all policy stipulations should be followed. Make sure that the rental agency allows its vehicles to be taken into Mexico as well.

In the event of an accident or incident, Risk Management must be notified immediately.

Any traffic fines or tickets incurred while traveling will be the sole responsibility of the employee and will not be reimbursed by the university.

Mileage Reimbursement

When using a personal vehicle for Biola business, authorized business use mileage can be reimbursed through a Reimbursement Requisition form. The mileage reimbursement rate is the current IRS standard rate as of the dates of travel. 

In order for the mileage reimbursement to be approved and processed, 1) the Biola business reason or purpose must be clearly stated, and 2) the mileage calculation must be acceptable by the IRS’s guidelines. Hence, mileage reimbursement requests for things such as commutes, outings, Christmas parties, or other social functions are not eligible for reimbursements. In addition, only one round trip can be considered as a reimbursable business expense.

Example One: If a Biola employee asks someone to take him/her to the airport, only one round trip to and from the airport can be claimed as business mileage. The Biola employee will not be reimbursed for two round trips on behalf of the driver.

Example Two: If an employee telecommutes one or two days a week and on those regular days is occasionally called into the main office for a staff meeting or other business purpose, the trip to the office will still be considered a normal commute and not reimbursed as business mileage.

However, if an employee who has established a permanent office in their home working for Biola (and does not have an office at a property owned or leased by Biola) is called into the office irregularly or infrequently, then the trip to the Biola main campus for a bona fide business purpose will be reimbursed or considered as business mileage.

Please itemize each destination and provide the actual beginning and ending odometer readings. Please note that the odometer reading is the accumulative running mileage number of the vehicle, not the trip distance calculator that can be reset for individual trips. If the odometer readings are not available, please attach a printout of online driving directions to substantiate the miles traveled.

Please note that for long-distance driving (i.e. out-of-town trips) the mileage reimbursement amount will be limited to the lesser of the actual mileage reimbursement or a reasonable airfare. Therefore, prior to the trip, you must obtain a written quote or e-mail from the Purchasing Department for the airfare cost and submit it with your Reimbursement Requisition.

Mileage reimbursement when using your personal vehicle for business purposes is normally calculated from Biola’s physical address unless the actual mileage from your home to the business destination is shorter and you must document that on your reimbursement request. The IRS considers the mileage from your home to the office as regular commuting miles and not reimbursable.

Meals

The university will reimburse employees for meals eaten while on official business travel that also includes an overnight stay. Meals eaten while working at a different location than an employee typically works but not requiring an overnight stay will not be reimbursed. IRS considers meals during the normal 8-hour work day (and not for overnight travel) taxable to the employee unless a business purpose is established. If you can justify the business purpose of the meal (i.e., document that the conversation during the meal was purely business related) then it should be reimbursed. For example, if the employee is driving over to a southern California church to recruit students and stops to eat on the way back to campus, it is not reimbursable, nor is it business related. In addition, incidentals and meals that are taken without a business purpose will not be reimbursed regardless of where they are (on campus or off campus).

Actual cost of meals incurred during university related business trips or meetings will be reimbursed provided that the business purpose is met and is clearly documented on the paperwork. Please submit your itemized receipt and proof of payment. If the meal receipt includes items for another person other than the person requesting the reimbursement, all the participants’ full names must be documented. Please note that an authorized approver who is also a participant of the expenditure cannot approve the expenditure or expense. If any of the listed individuals is a relative of a Biola employee, the relative portion will not be covered or reimbursed as a university expense, unless his/her presence is also related to the business of the university and has been approved, in writing, by the vice president of the area, prior to the event. Any meal receipt including non-Biola business participants will be prorated accordingly.

In general, meal expenses incurred during business trips should not exceed $50/day. Please note that the $50/day guideline is not intended for any given meal per day but for the sum total of all meals in one day.

NOTE: While the university will cover meals for an employee, any snacks or beverages (such as coffee before a meeting) will not be reimbursed as they are considered incidental expenses borne by the employee.

NOTE: Any meal receipt that is considered lavish, extravagant, or non-Biola business related is not eligible to be recorded as a business expense (for example, a coffee at Starbucks before a meeting or lunch at the Biola Café after a meeting). Additionally, remaining consistent with the Biola Employee Handbook and our call to be Christ-like, employees and non-employee visitors to the university will not be reimbursed for alcoholic beverages under any circumstance.

NOTE: Meals purchased at the home airport (i.e. LAX, SNA, etc.) will not be eligible for reimbursement.

Gratuity

Gratuities or tips (including room service) are reimbursed up to a maximum of 15% of the meal charges, regardless of whether a higher gratuity is mandated by the venue (see Employee Handbook, Section 6.7). The 15% limit applies to additional fees that a hotel may charge for room service. So any fee, charge, or gratuity charged to the meal expenditure beyond the 15% of the meal charges is considered a personal out-of-pocket expense.

Other Travel Expenses

The university may decide to cover certain travel expenses for employees who travel frequently or for long periods of time. For a more detailed list of travel expenses that will or will not be reimbursed, see Further Travel Reimbursement Restrictions below.

Further Travel Reimbursement Restrictions

This is not to be considered an exhaustive list, but rather a guideline concerning common expenses, which may or may not be reimbursed.

Reimbursable Expenses

Non-Reimbursable Expenses

Laundry and Dry Cleaning for Travel Over 5 Consecutive Days

Laundry and Dry Cleaning for Travel Less Than 5 Days

Long-term Parking and Toll Fees

Personal Care Items (Hygiene, Clothing, etc.)

Airline and Hotel Internet Access

Reading Material for Travel

Bellhop, Housekeeping, and Other Tips

Snacks and Drinks, Minibar Hotel Charges

Mandatory Resort Fees

Childcare, Pet Care, Housesitting, etc.

 

Fines for Traffic or Parking Fees

 

Hotel club fees (fitness, massages, sauna, etc.)

 

Hotel movies

 

Meals Bought with Flex Points on Employee ID Card

 

Motorcycle Rental

 

Helicopter Service for Airport Transfers

 

Travel Reimbursement

When expenses are incurred during the course of business travel for the university, an employee may submit a Reimbursement Request to the Accounting Department within two weeks of returning from travel. Such requests may or may not be fulfilled depending on the approvals, nature of the expenses, and whether or not the necessary documentation is submitted. For further information regarding the reimbursement process, please refer to the Accounting Policy (Employee Handbook, Section 6.7). The IRS requires that expenses be accounted for within a reasonable period of time, typically 30-60 days, returning any excess cash advance within 120 days (IRS Publication 535, Chapter 11). Biola will process the reimbursement, but it will be considered taxable income when an expenditure is 6 months or older.

Receipts

Original, itemized receipts showing the proof of purchase and proof of payment are required for all business expenditures and reimbursement requests. Scanned receipts may be accepted for reimbursement purposes, but the originals must be retained and be available for audit purposes.

In addition, tax reporting information is required for all rentals (i.e. lodging, equipment, or venue rental). Therefore, please make sure that the tax reporting information (complete legal name, address, and social security number or tax ID) is obtained from the owner or the business. Otherwise, the reimbursement cannot be processed and the expenditure will be reported as taxable income to the person incurring the lodging rental expense.

Grant Funded Travel

Sponsored program travel is subject to different federal guidelines and will be approved and reimbursed accordingly. Absolutely no alcohol or entertainment can be charged to a sponsored program under any circumstances. International flights booked through a sponsored program are also subject to the Fly America Act and must be booked through an American carrier. An employee traveling under a sponsored program can only charge economy class airfare to the sponsored program unless it is due to a medical condition. Any upgrade in flight class must be charged to a different account than the sponsored program. All grant-funded travel is subject to the same accountable rules as employee travel expenses.

Foreign Travel

Foreign travel must be approved by the area’s vice president and be approved in advance with a legitimate business purpose substantiated in order to justify the cost of travel. Any travel advisories issued by the US Government will be taken into consideration when planning business trips and approval may be denied depending on the severity of the travel advisories. Employees also have worldwide emergency travel assistance through Unum, for more information see Employee Handbook, Section 5.27.

Any receipts or bills in foreign languages must be translated prior to submission for reimbursement and accompanied by the exchange rate for each day of expenses incurred. If a Biola guest requires a visa or passport, reimbursement for this expense will be determined by the Senior Director of Human Resources and Director of Accounting prior to the guest's arrival.

Travel Assistance

In the event that an employee becomes injured, sick, or in danger due to riot, natural disaster, or governmental collapse, the employee will contact Human Resources to determine which is the best course of action to take.

Previous to travel, employees will consult Human Resources to determine where they should go in case of sickness or injury in compliance with Biola’s workman’s compensation contract.

University employees must record all university related travel (both domestic and international) using the Employee Travel Census Form, (available on my.Biola Forms) and students, likewise, must record any university related travel using the Student Activity Log (available on my.Biola Forms). Any travel to countries listed on the Department of State's website (travel.state.gov) as a Travel Alert or Travel Warning must be pre-approved through the Risk Management Department. Additionally, university travelers should prepare emergency response plans for the locations on their itinerary. In the event that a university traveler should become injured, sick, experience riot, governmental collapse, natural disasters, or the like, Biola has procured travel accident insurance along with travel assistance services. Prior to departure, please contact Risk Management at rmassistant@biola.edu for a brochure and a travel assistance card, which contains a phone number to Biola's travel assistance service. In the event of an emergency, contact the travel assistance service first and then call Biola's switchboard to report the situation to the university. 

Lost or Stolen Items

The university will not reimburse for lost, damaged, or stolen personal items or cash. If university property is lost, damaged, or stolen (e.g. university laptop or cell phone), the department of Risk Management should be immediately contacted.

Falsifying Records

Falsification of records on a reimbursement request or booking travel under false pretense is grounds for immediate discipline, revocation of university credit card use, and even dismissal from employment. Biola reserves the right to withhold reimbursement for any travel, entertainment, or other expense if determined to be contrary to the interest of this policy or any government regulation.

Biola University
13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639
1-562-903-6000