What should be done when a travel voucher worksheet requests the full amount of allowed expenses even though the expenditures are significantly less?

I am the financial coordinator in an academic department. A graduate student recently attended a conference within the US. Upon return, she submitted her travel voucher worksheet requesting the full amount of allowed expenses even though she spent significantly less as evidenced by her receipts. The full reimbursement amount was supported by the Principal Investigator (P.I), who is my supervisor. What should I do?

This is a dilemma! However you do have some options. The University Travel Policy (Business and Finance Bulletin G-28) states that reimbursement should be for actual costs only. This policy follows IRS regulations, limiting reimbursements to actual expenditures.

When meeting with the P.I., be prepared to show him/her the policy and explain why you are unable to reimburse the student for the full amount. If you are concerned about talking with the P.I., consider talking to your department MSO or department chair. You can also contact the Travel unit in Accounting, or our office if you need more guidance in understanding and interpreting the policy.

To preclude this type of situation in the future, here are some additional options:

1. Explain to the traveler prior to the trip, the reimbursement policy and the receipt documentation needed. If your department has an email distribution list, perhaps send out the policy information to all faculty and staff.

2. Provide travelers with a "Traveler Worksheet" which gives the traveler an area to record their daily meal expenditures and explains the meals and incidental expenses rule. (The Travel Unit in Accounting has samples of "Traveler Worksheets.")

3. If the traveler still claims the full amount, and certifies or signs that the voucher is an accurate recording of expenses, then the responsibility lies with the traveler and authorizing signature.

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Office of the Controller