Travel Management & Business Expenses

This information outlines the guidelines regarding general travel and business expense reimbursement and answers the most frequently asked questions. It is intended to provide general information and procedures for official Minnesota State University Moorhead business with regard to State of Minnesota rules. If you have questions, please contact the travel desk at 477.2782. Refer to Minnesota State System Travel Management Policies and Minnesota State System Travel Management Procedures for additional information.

The employee is responsible for complying with Minnesota State System travel policy and procedures, the employee's respective bargaining agreement or compensation plan, state laws, federal laws, and IRS guidelines and for accurately completing all required forms for reimbursement of authorized official travel and business expenses.

Minnesota State System board policy 5.19.3 requires all in-state travel and the incurrence of related expenses must receive oral prior approval and all out-of-state/international travel requires written prior approval by an employee who has delegated authority to approve travel. Written authorizations are retained locally for audit purposes. It is a good business practice to complete the Travel Authorization form for all travel; however, Business Services does not require written approval for in-state travel. It is up to each supervisor to determine whether they will request a completed Travel Authorization form for in-state travel.

The Travel Authorization form  is formatted to be filled out electronically. The form must be printed and submitted to your supervisor prior to departure date in order to be routed for approval signatures before travel commences. Out-of-state travel authorizations require signature of chair for acknowledgement and approval signatures of supervisor and dean or appropriate vice president. Out-of-state travel authorizations from employees in units that report directly to the president, not through a vice president, require the supervisor and president's signature. International travel authorizations require signature of chair for acknowledgement and approval signatures of supervisor, dean, vice president and president.

After appropriate signatures are obtained, the Travel Authorization form will be returned to the requester. The requester will attach a copy of the Travel Authorization form to all documentation submitted for payment or reimbursement including purchase orders, purchasing card settlement and employee expense records. Travel expenses will not be reimbursed without written approval prior to travel for all out-of-state and international travel.

Travel and business expense reimbursement is requested on the Employee Expense Report form. The Employee Expense report should be submitted to Business Services only if there are expenses that need to be reimbursed to the employee.

Submit the approved, original Employee Expense Report, (with a copy of the approved Travel Authorization for out or state or international travel) to Business Services for payment. Please include all information including time of departure/arrival and total amount to be reimbursed to the employee.

  • Itemized receipts are required for all expenses except mileage, meals, and parking meters.
  • Canceled checks, photocopied receipts, non-itemized credit card receipts, and credit card statements are not acceptable receipts.
    (See Receipt Policy)

Reimbursements/Advances are included in the employee's paycheck. Because reimbursement/advances follow the payroll cycle, please allow at least 3 weeks for processing. An employee may not assume the expenses of another employee on his/her expense report. Each employee will be reimbursed only for his/her expenses.

In order for reimbursement to be exempt from federal, state, FICA and Medicare tax, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employee travel and business expenses to be submitted for reimbursement within 60 days after the expense is incurred. If not submitted within 60 days, the reimbursement becomes taxable and withholding tax must be taken.

At the close of the fiscal year all travel and business expense reports must be received in Business Services according to established due dates (normally 1st week of July). If not submitted by the deadline, they will be charged to the next fiscal year.

  • Lowest Fare. Inquiries on fares and reservations should be made early enough to take advantage of advance purchase discounts.
  • Travel Insurance. Travel insurance coverage purchased by employees is not a reimbursable expense.
  • Upgrades. Upgrades at the expense of the system are not permitted. Upgrades are allowed at the traveler's personal expense. Upgrades include seat selection for a fee and trip flex. Free service upgrades for all domestic air travel are permissible with the lowest available rates. Travelers shall not use their positions to seek or accept an unwarranted privilege of substantial value which is not regularly available to similarly situated individuals.
  • Travel Discounts. A number of commercial air carriers provide cash payments, discount coupons and free tickets either as compensation to passengers who have been delayed or as rewards for frequent trips with a specific airline. Compensation from sources of this kind is the property of the state; accordingly, employees traveling at state expense must remit these benefits to the state.
  • Checked Baggage Fee. A traveler will be reimbursed for reasonable checked baggage fees to and from the traveler’s flight destination. Reimbursement is limited to one bag unless written approval for additional baggage is submitted with Employee Expense Report.
  • Excess Baggage Fee. An excess baggage fee is a fee for baggage deemed by the airline to be overweight or oversized. A traveler will be reimbursed for excess baggage charges only to the extent the traveler is required to have on hand equipment, books, reports, etc., which exceed the normal weight limitations. Written approval must be submitted with expense report.
  • Lost Baggage. Personal items lost while traveling on authorized business are not a reimbursable expense.
  • Excess Travel Days. If you are traveling for personal reasons outside of the approved travel dates, you are required to submit documentation with your purchasing card statement or employee expense report. The documentation (e.g. Airfare Itinerary) should indicate what the airfare would have been for the approved travel dates.
  • Arriving/Departing from Airport other than local airport (Hector International- Fargo). If you are arriving at or departing from an airport other than the local airport, you are required to submit airfare documentation with your payment request. You will need documentation (e.g. airfare itinerary) that indicates:
    1. What the airfare would have been to/from Hector International
    2. What the additional expenses are including lodging, mileage, parking and meals which are a result of traveling out of the other airport.

    Please print both airfare itineraries at the time you make travel arrangements. You will be reimbursed for lessor of the two amounts. If a MSUM Purchasing Card is used and the actual airfare exceeds the local airfare, the employee will be required to reimburse the University the difference.

    Under Minnesota Statutes M.S. 16A.58, original receipts must accompany claims for reimbursement. Canceled checks, photocopied receipts, non-itemized credit card receipts and credit card statements are not acceptable receipts.
  • May I claim reimbursement for a rental car when used as local transportation after reaching my destination? Yes, but a "justification statement" must be on your Travel Authorization.  You must demonstrate that local transportation is not practical or is expected to be more expensive. If local transportation was more expensive, please include all rental costs in the comparison. This includes rental rate, gas, tax, insurance and parking (if applicable). Personal guests are not allowed to travel in a state-owned, rented, or leased vehicle.

    Minnesota State System Board Procedure 5.19.3 Subpart E, states rental of a vehicle by employees or any other individuals authorized to travel including students is authorized only when the type of trip or location of meetings is such that use of local transportation (taxis, Uber, Lyft, airport limousines and airport shuttles, buses) is not practical or is expected to be more expensive.

    If a rental car is necessary, employees must rent from the state's contract rental car vendor (as of 10/08, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company.) The State has entered into nation-wide contracts with Enterprise that have full insurance coverage built in. Therefore, additional insurance should not be purchased when renting through Enterprise. The cost of any additional coverage will not be reimbursed.

    The use of compact or mid-size/intermediate rental vehicle categories is recommended except in cases where:
    • There are three or more passengers;
    • Excessive baggage for official business requires a large vehicle, e.g. booth displays, slide presentations, sales items; or
    • A large size vehicle is provided at no extra charge above the compact or midsize rate.

    If a rental car is necessary, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company is not available, use of another vendor requires that the employee purchase the liability and physical damage coverage offered by the rental company. Employees will only be reimbursed for the cost of the liability and physical damage coverage. The purchase of any other optional coverage will not be reimbursed.

    For international travel, employees and any other individuals authorized to travel including students should accept all insurance coverage when renting vehicles in a foreign country. Insurance coverage purchased in foreign countries is reimbursable.
  • Corporate Account for Car Rental through Enterprise Rent-A-Car
    • Rentals originating in Minnesota (for business travel in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota):
      • Local Moorhead office: 218-422-3001
      • State of Minnesota Account #Y50460
      • Account Name State of Minnesota
      • The PIN number is the first three letters (MIN)
    • Rentals for Out of State ( for business travel other than states listed above):
      • 1-800-RENT-A-CAR (1-800-736-8222) or
      • National Account (outside MN) #XZ19113
      • Account Name STATE OF MINNESOTA
      • The PIN number is the first three letters (STA) of the account name which is State of Minnesota.
    • Enterprise Rental Rates

Minnesota Statute 15.435, Airline Travel Credit requires any credits or other benefits issued by an airline to a public employee or any other individuals authorized to travel including students who use public funds to pay for airline travel to accrue to the benefit of the public body providing the funding. Employees or any other individuals authorized to travel including students who frequently fly and have airline frequent flyer programs for their personal travel shall obtain a separate airline frequent flyer program number to record and report receipt of credits or other benefits when using state funds.

Purchases made by an employee on behalf of the University can be eligible for reimbursement if approved in advance by the responsible person on the account which the reimbursement will come from. Purchases need to follow Minnesota State System policy and procedures, the employee's respective bargaining agreement or compensation plan, state laws, federal laws, and IRS guidelines. Expense reimbursement must be submitted on a completed Employee Expense Report.

International travel warnings are divided by levels:

  • Travel to level 1 and 2 destinations is allowed without requiring the "Request for Approval of Travel to Country under US Department of State Travel Warning or Alert" form, but with the exception that travelers/group leaders do their due diligence in reading up on US State Department recommendations for their particular destination and making appropriate preparations.
  • Level 3 travel approval requires the "Request for Approval of Travel to Country under US Department of State Travel Warning or Alert" form, including justification of why the destination is academically or professionally necessary (as opposed to choosing a level 1 or 2 destination), and if approved, due diligence in mitigating any risks and making appropriate preparations.
  • Level 4 country travel is not allowed in any case.

In all cases, employees complete a Travel Authorization form and the International Travel Risks and Responsibilities form, and student travel requires a completed a Student Travel Authorization. All of these forms are available on the Business Services web site. 

Feel free to explore the State Department's travel advisory section. It's highly user-friendly and each destination contains a wealth of information about the current status of the country.

Are receipts required for reimbursement of International travel expenses?
Receipts are required for the same expenses as domestic travel. Claims should be converted to U.S. Dollars at the exchange rate in effect at the time the travel occurred. For assistance in currency conversion you may use the website

What are the maximum lodging allowances?
There is no rate schedule, but reimbursement is limited to the single room rate. Employees are asked to use their discretion in selecting reasonably priced accommodations. The lowest government rate available should be secured at a reasonably priced, licensed lodging facility.

Are receipts required to claim lodging reimbursement?
The itemized lodging receipt showing room rate/tax/amount paid in full is required. If registration or lodging receipts are lost, it will be necessary to obtain another itemized receipt from the hotel or motel for lodging expenses. Canceled checks, photocopied receipts, non-itemized credit card receipts and credit card statements are not acceptable receipts. (See Receipt Policy)

What if two employees share accommodations?
The University recommends the use of a MSUM issued Purchasing Card to pay for lodging. If this is not available, one Employee may pay for the lodging and complete an Employee Expense Report with a note indicating the name of other state employee. Another option is to have the lodging facility split the room charge with each employee paying half and submit the Employee Expense Report. Always notate the name of the other state employee on the Employee Expense Report or Purchasing Card statement.

What if employees and students share lodging?
Employees may not share lodging with students when traveling for authorized official university business or activities. Under limited circumstances (e.g. extended outdoor camping during field studies in archaeology, biology or geology) exceptions to this policy may be granted. A written request for an exception shall be submitted for approval by the supervising dean or director at least ten (10) days in advance of the travel. MSUM Student & Employee Travel Lodging policy

What amount of lodging reimbursement will I be allowed to claim if my spouse accompanies me on an overnight trip?
The State of Minnesota allows reimbursement at the single rate. The employee should have the establishment certify the single rate on the receipt. Notate on the receipt that the other individual is not a state employee.

Will I be reimbursed if I stay with friends,relatives, or at a personally owned property?
In order to be reimbursed for lodging, the employee must stay at a licensed lodging facility. Employees cannot be reimbursed for staying at the house of a relative, friend, or at someone's personally owned property. Personally owned property includes property such as RBO (rent by owner) and Airbnb.

What are the maximum meal allowances?
Employees are to claim actual expenses for meals plus reasonable gratuities and cannot exceed the maximum rate set by collective bargaining units. These rates may change each time the contracts are re-negotiated. See Bargaining Units Reimbursement Allowances.

When am I eligible for meal reimbursement?
Meal reimbursement is allowed when the employee is in travel status 35 or more miles from his/her workstation. Meal allowances as of January 1, 2016 are $9 breakfast, $11 lunch, and $16 dinner.

  • The breakfast meal is reimbursed when the trip begins before 6:00 a.m.
  • The lunch meal is reimbursed when the employee is in travel status through the normal lunch period. A noon lunch may be claimed if a staff member is on travel status, even though the employee isn't claiming lodging, when the distance from his/her work station to the field assignment is 35 or more road miles and extends through the normal lunch period. Such reimbursements, however, will be considered "meals without lodging" and be subject to income taxes.
  • The dinner meal is reimbursed when the trip ends after 7:00 p.m.
  • Times of departure and return must be indicated on the Employee Expense Report for all meal reimbursement requests.
  • "Meal bunching" is allowed. Employees who meet the eligibility requirements for two (2) or more consecutive meals shall be reimbursed for the actual costs of the meals up to the combined maximum reimbursement for the eligible meals. For example, if the breakfast maximum allowed is $9.00 and lunch maximum is $11.00 you may claim reimbursement for the actual amount spent up  to $20.00. If you spend $7.00 on breakfast and $10.00 on lunch, you may claim $17.00 as that is the amount you spent with a maximum allowed of $20.00.

If the meal expense is covered in the cost of commercial transportation, registration fees, etc., the employee is not entitled to additional reimbursement except for documented special dietary concerns.

Which miscellaneous expenses are reimbursed?
Reimbursable expenses include, but are not limited to: taxi, Uber, Lyft, parking fees, ferry and bridge tolls.

May I claim reimbursement for memberships/subscriptions?
The preferred method to initiate payment for memberships and subscriptions is with a purchase order or state purchasing card.

Do I need receipts to claim a miscellaneous expense on my travel claim?
Attach receipts for all expenses except meals and parking meters.

What miscellaneous expenses are not reimbursed?

  • Expenses of traveling companions or family members;
  • Expenses related to vacation or personal days while on a trip;
  • Loss or theft of personal cash or property;
  • Entertainment or recreation costs, including movies;
  • "No-show" charges;
  • Optional travel or baggage insurance;
  • Traffic or parking tickets;
  • Incorrect or incomplete expense reports.

Will MSU Moorhead reimburse me for telephone calls to my home while I'm away on official business?
Actual documented personal phone calls will be reimbursed in the following manner: Maximum reimbursement for each trip shall be the result of multiplying number of nights away from home by $3.00.

Itemized receipts are required for all expenses except meals, baggage handling, and parking meters or as required in collective bargaining agreements or compensation plans. Canceled checks, photocopied receipts, non-itemized credit card receipts and credit card statements are not acceptable receipts.

The detailed source document issued to the employee that is marked, by the vendor, indicating that the bill or invoice was paid. It must include:

  • The name and address of the vendor
  • Date(s)
  • Detailed list of items
  • Total amount
  • Date paid
  • Vendor signature (A vendor signature is required when an employee purchases an item, but there is no documentation of payment received.)

For example, a hotel receipt must include:

  • Name of hotel guest (Employee)
  • Name and location of the hotel
  • Dates the employee was lodged
  • Detailed description, and amount, of each item charged, such as lodging, tax, and telephone
  • Total amount and date paid by the employee

If a vendor issues a receipt from a receipt book, the receipt must include the name and address of the vendor, date(s), itemized description of the service or goods, total amount paid by the employee, and signature(s). A vendor can choose to give the employee a separate invoice, which includes the vendor name and address and an itemized description of the service and cost, to use with the book receipt that includes the vendor name, short description, total amount paid, and signature(s).

Travel Authorization Form:

  • Employee
  • Department Chairperson/Director/Immediate Supervisor/Special Accounts Coordinator (PDF, PIF, Grants)
  • Dean/Vice President
  • President (for international travel)
  • Back to Employee

Employee Expense Report (submit report with Travel Authorization form for out-of-state or international travel):

  • Employee
  • Department Chairperson/Director/Immediate Supervisor
  • Dean/Vice President
  • Business Office Attn: Deb Hval

Minnesota State System Policy & Procedure for Special Expenses 5.20.1 states Special expenses are extraordinary expenses incurred in connection with work-related responsibilities or official functions not generally supported with public funds of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities or assigned duties of system employees, which are not reimbursable through the regular expense regulations. Provisions for special expenses are also found in applicable collective bargaining agreements or compensation plans.

Special expenses include, but are not limited to:

  1. Meals exceeding the maximum allowance.
  2. Meals within 35 miles of the workstation.
  3. Conference fees in excess of $1,000.00.
  4. Tuition in excess of $1,000.00
  5. Lodging within 35 miles of the workstation.
  6. Gift purchases of $25.00 or more.
  7. ALL Gift Cards (allowed in very limited circumstances).

Employees requesting reimbursement of special expenses must request approval in advance on a Special Expense form. The completed form should be submitted to the University Comptroller in Business Services. Once approved, the form will be returned to the employee. The employee is responsible for submitting the approved Special Expense form with any documentation. Original itemized receipts are required for all special expenses and must be submitted with the Employee Expense Report.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employee travel and business expenses to be submitted for reimbursement within 60 days after the expense is incurred or the trip ends. If a request for reimbursement is not submitted within 60 days, the reimbursement becomes taxable income to the employee. Consequently, federal, state, FICA and Medicare withholding taxes must be taken from the reimbursement and submitted to the IRS. The withholding taxes can add up to nearly 40% of your total reimbursement request. (See IRS Publication 15, Wages and Other Compensation).

Please keep this in mind when traveling or incurring business expenses. It is always best to submit your employee expense reports as soon as your business trip is completed. Additionally, if an employee does not plan to return to Moorhead after their trip is completed, they should submit their expense reports in the mail so that they can show compliance with the 60 day submission requirement.
Note: Certain expenses are taxable even if submitted within the 60 day timeframe. Examples of taxable expenses are meals without lodging (i.e. one day trips) and home internet service (IFO contract).

May I request a travel advance?
If your anticipated out-of-pocket reimbursable expenses exceed $50.00, you may request a short-term travel advance. The amount of the advance must not include lodging, airfare, or other Expenses that will be billed directly to the University or charged on a University purchasing card.

How can I obtain a travel advance?
Employees seeking an advance will need to submit an approved Travel Authorization form along with an Employee Expense Report to the Business Office a minimum of 3 weeks prior to the start of the travel. Check the box on the form "Advance" and fill the form out with the estimated amounts needed for all of the expenses. The advance will be obtained through the employee bi-weekly paycheck. Only one outstanding advance is allowed at a time.

How do I figure how much money I can receive as an advance for a trip?
Travel advances cannot exceed anticipated actual lodging, meals, and commercial transportation costs paid by the employee.

What is the procedure for re-payment of a travel advance?
After the trip is completed, an Employee Expense Report form with itemized receipts attached must be completed within 5 days and submitted to the Business Office for settlement. If advances are not settled within 28 days, the state will initiate a deduction from the individual's paycheck for the total amount of the advance (please note the Employee Expense Report signature line).

 What if the trip is canceled for which the advance was issued?
If a trip is canceled, the employee must notify the supervisor and the business office travel desk (477.2782) immediately. The travel clerk will initiate deduction procedure from the employee's next paycheck.

Minnesota State System Board Procedure 1C.0.1 Subpart B: An employee may not accept travel or meals or reimbursement related to the employee's work assignment with the college, university or office of the chancellor from a source other than the state, unless it is:

  • Approved in advance in writing by the president or chancellor;
  • For no more than actual expenses incurred; and
  • Not reimbursed by the state.

See also: Minnesota Statutes section 43A.38, Code of Ethics for Employees in the Executive Branch.

What do I need to complete in order to drive a state, leased, rental or personal vehicle on state business? 
State of Minnesota policies require faculty, staff and students driving on state business submit a vehicle use agreement which authorizes the University to obtain a motor vehicle record report and determine your qualification to drive a vehicle on University business. Faculty, staff and students will be allowed to drive on state business only after this process has been completed and they have received approval. A request for authorization is only done once, unless driving information changes, and it is renewed annually. Refer to the Policy on Drivers' License and Record Checks and the Vehicle Fleet Safety Program for additional information. This may take 2-3 weeks for verification.

Does MSU Moorhead have a motor pool?
MSU Moorhead maintains a fleet of vehicles for use by employees for work-related travel. You can schedule a vehicle through Scheduling Services.

What is the rate of reimbursement for using my personal car on state business?
The state bargaining agreements and compensation plans base mileage reimbursement rates on the standard IRS mileage rate that's in place at the time of travel. If a state vehicle is offered but the employee declines and travels in his or her own vehicle, the reimbursement rate is 7¢ less than the current IRS rate. In order to be reimbursed for the current IRS rate, you must provide documentation from Motor Pool indicating a vehicle was not available.

The current IRS mileage rates are listed under the Bargaining Units Reimbursement Allowances.

Allowable mileage shall be paid for the shortest direct route according to official highway department records. The allowable mileage shall be the lesser of:

  • Mileage from the residence to the destination, or
  • Mileage from permanent work location (MSUM) to the destination.

 The state cannot insure the use of a personal vehicle; therefore, the employee is responsible for insurance costs, including any deductibles or subsequent loss of use of the vehicle because of damage.

What are the requirements for using my personal car for out-of-state travel?
MSU Moorhead may authorize out-of-state travel for employees requesting travel who use their personal vehicles under special circumstances. The reimbursement for transportation to and from the trip destination (including any additional expenses that result while en route such as mileage, additional meals, or lodging) is limited to the lowest round trip airfare (based on the number of days the employee would have attended if traveling by air). If the lowest round-trip airfare can only be obtained by the employee arriving early and/or staying an additional night(s), the cost of the additional necessary hotel accommodations and/or meals may be included in computing the amount of the lowest airfare for the purpose of determining the expense reimbursement. An airfare itinerary printed at the time the airfare would have been booked indicating lowest round trip airfare must be listed and attached to the Employee Expense Report. If additional hotel accommodations and/or meals are included in computing the lowest airfare, these additional costs must be itemized and attached to the Employee Expense Report.