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April 15, 2008, Volume 54, No. 29

New Travel and Entertainment Policies
Effective July 1, 2008

As part of Penn’s long-term commitment to streamlining its financial processes related to the P2P initiative, we are pleased to introduce certain Travel & Entertainment (T&E) policy changes to simplify the reimbursement process for University employees, and to ensure compliance with IRS audit and regulatory requirements. By bringing T&E policies in line with the recent Purchase Order and Purchasing Card process improvements, we are able to clarify the business reasons, the “whys,” and make the University’s procurement and payment processes more transparent to all participants, bringing greater focus on purchasing efficiency and new cost containment opportunities.

While all of the T&E policies have been revised, there are four major policy enhancements intended to make it easier to manage your University travel and entertainment expense reimbursements, effective July 1, 2008. These policy updates aim to ensure that Penn’s resources are spent prudently, that IRS and sponsored program requirements are met, and that the University is able to track spending to leverage greater savings opportunities with vendors.

Please find a high-level description below, followed by further detail:

1. “Higher level approver”—This new requirement is intended to affirm the legitimacy of an expense by seeking approval from a “one up” colleague before submitting a request for reimbursement.

2. Preferred booking and payment methods—The simplest and cleanest method is to book your travel through the AMEX travel desk where your school or center accounts are billed directly (no other paperwork required). The other option is still your AMEX Corporate Card, but you need to incur the expense personally first and request reimbursement later.

3. Limits on advances—With the availability of preferred payment options, the University is strictly limiting the issuance of travel advances by requiring an explanation, and pre-approval and reconciliation is generally required within 10 days of the ending date of the trip or event.  (Failure to reconcile an advance within 120 days will result in the funds becoming taxable income to the traveler).

4. Timely reimbursement requests—To make the reimbursement process work at both ends, the University recommends that you submit your request within 10 days to meet your card’s billing cycle (sign up for EFT to receive the money directly into your account).  Travel reimbursements must be submitted within six months (182 days) of the ending date of the trip or event in order to meet IRS and sponsored program accounting requirements.

The introduction of a “higher level approver” is based on the simple fact that expenses incurred in connection with Penn sanctioned travel should have the approval of those closest to the funding source who are best informed about the business purpose of the trip or event.  If you are not sure about the approval hierarchy in your school or center, or the definition of the “higher level approver,” please inquire with your senior financial officer.

The University is focusing on those preferred payment options that make business travel less of a financial burden on you, and that allow Penn to gather information and track travel expenditures to negotiate better service and discount arrangements. The Penn Desk at American Express can issue your airline tickets, and bill your school or center account numbers directly—no reimbursement forms required. Additionally, all full-time faculty and staff can and should obtain a University AMEX Corporate Card, allowing you to easily keep business expenses separate from your personal expenses. The last option is your personal credit card; however, the University cannot be responsible for late payments, additional expenses, and any negative impact on your personal credit rating. Please visit www.finance.upenn.edu/comptroller/travel for additional information.

The University is strictly limiting the issuance of travel advances. Travelers are encouraged to use the preferred payment methods instead; exceptions will be made only under special circumstances with new approval requirements. Pre-paid expenses, however, are no longer considered advances and may now be submitted on a T&E reimbursement form prior to your trip or event. In general, all advances should be reconciled within 10 days of completing your activity; advances that remain un-reconciled after 120 days will be reported as personal income, and may be subject to collection and/or disciplinary actions.

The new reimbursement request policy is primarily designed to reduce the amount of time it takes to reimburse you for expenses incurred on the University’s behalf. Two simple recommendations: submit your request forms within 10 days of your trip or event, and enroll for direct deposit to receive your reimbursements directly into your account. Timely submission and reimbursement allow you to pay your credit card bill within the allotted grace periods without putting personal funds “out-of-pocket.” At the same time, in order to comply with IRS and sponsored program accounting requirements, the University is forced to implement a submission deadline of 182 days (six months) after the date of the activity.
The revised policies will be available for review on the Travel web site in May at www.finance.upenn.edu/comptroller/travel.

Additional information on the travel policy revisions will also be available in May as an on-line learning module. Policy questions or clarifications should be directed to the Travel Administrator, Susan Storb, at (215) 898-9662 or storb@upenn.edu.

—Stephen D. Golding, Vice President for
Finance and Treasurer
—Marie Witt, Vice President for
Business Services

 

 

 

Almanac - April 15, 2008, Volume 54, No. 29