Travel Information

Travelers’ Responsibilities

Employees must secure authorization to travel from their immediate supervisor and in accordance with travel policies and procedures established by their department or college. Travel authorizations are no longer required by the Accounting Office. However, when purchasing an airline ticket using the university’s credit card through ISU's contracted travel agency, an Air Ticket Order form must be sent directly to the contracted travel agency.

Employees are expected to make travel arrangements in compliance with applicable laws and in a manner that excludes consideration of personal gain. All travel and related expenses must have a business justification and the traveler must exercise reasonable judgment to ensure that travel is conducted in a cost-efficient manner. Travelers may not select air carriers for the purpose of obtaining frequent flyer miles or other premiums that benefit the traveler personally.

Iowa State University has structured its travel policies so that, with only one exception noted below, reimbursements are qualified business expenses for tax purposes and, therefore, do not have to be reported as income to the traveler. As a general rule, the Accounting Office staff must rely on the representations of the traveler and the oversight of the supervisor approving travel reimbursement to ensure that only allowable business expenses are submitted for reimbursement. Particular care should be taken when combining business and personal travel.

The Internal Revenue Service defines meal reimbursements for trips that do not involve an overnight stay as taxable. Reimbursements in this category are subject to withholding and are reported on the employee's W-2.

University reimbursements and vouchers are public records, and travelers should be aware that their expenses are subject to public scrutiny. To maintain the public's trust, it is advisable to be conservative in incurring expenses or requesting reimbursement.

Authorizing Supervisors’ Responsibilities

Authorization to travel is a matter requiring the concurrence of the traveler’s supervisor subject to any departmental or college travel policies. The Accounting Office does not require travel authorizations. However, the contracted travel agency requires an Air Ticket Order form before issuing a ticket charged to the university’s American Express card.

Travel reimbursements must be approved by the traveler’s supervisor or designee. The electronic approval is the principal mechanism relied upon to ensure that university travel policies have been followed. The determination of the business purpose of the travel and the business justification of claims for expense reimbursement requires an intimate understanding of the nature of the activities carried out by the traveler and can only be reasonably determined at the departmental level.

In addition to establishing departmental policies related to travel, the supervisor or department chair should use the following criteria when reviewing and approving travel authorizations and travel reimbursements:

  • The travel expense was incurred while conducting university business
  • The information contained on the expense report and in the attached documentation is accurate and in accordance with university policy.
  • The travel is charged to the proper account or funding source.
  • The expense meets sponsor restrictions if funded by a sponsored program.

The supervisor or department chair may delegate approval authority, but only to individuals who are in a position to make informed judgments about the items noted above. In general, this must be faculty or administrative personnel (other than the traveler) who have broad knowledge of the operations of the department and the related travel activities.

This page was last updated on March 6, 2017.