Finance & Procurement

Travel, subsistence & expenses

Introduction

The University’s Financial Regulations, together with University Policy UP7, provide general guidance about the types of expenses that are regarded as appropriate for reimbursement from University administered funds. The University will only reimburse staff for reasonable expenditure necessarily incurred in the course of the University’s business.

The following notes are designed to give more detailed guidance about what is and what is not appropriate, and to including some specific examples. The prime reason for the rules is to protect the University from illegitimate expenditure and to ensure that monies are used appropriately and effectively. It is important to note that the rules apply to all funds administered by the University and includes departmental funds as well as funds secured through research and other grants and contracts. Only where such funds are subject to more stringent rules imposed by external bodies will any other rules be considered to override those of the University. 

The University has obtained a dispensation from HM Customs and Revenue (HMRC) for certain expense payments, such that they are not counted as taxable on the claimant. Having rules and policies relating to the reimbursement of expenses means that the University is able to support this dispensation and it is able to justify that it is unnecessary for an individual to include certain of these expenses in their tax return. Details of what is covered by HMRC’s dispensation can be found in Appendix V to the University’s Financial Regulations. Generally travel and other expenses incurred as a direct result of University business are covered by the dispensation. The statutory provisions do not cover journeys from home to work at any time, whether undertaken within University business hours, at night, or at weekends. These expenses are taxable and are paid to the employee through the payroll.

Once approved the reimbursement of expenses is usually made by BACS transfer into the same bank/building society account that an employee’s salary is paid into.  The expenses system is not linked to the payroll, however, so an alternative accounts can be specified if needed.  Reimbursement of expenses to non-employees can be made by BACS or foreign transfers as necessary.

Members of staff should avoid incurring large costs on behalf of the University. The University has agreed prices and rates with many suppliers for a variety of goods and services, including travel and accommodation services, and where there is no such agreement it can enter into negotiations to secure the best deal for the organisation.  However, where it has been necessary for an individual to incur expenditure personally on behalf of the University, there are defined procedures for reclaiming costs, including those for travel, subsistence and business entertaining, as well as general expenses. Purchases of equipment must be made through the purchasing system and not re-claimed via the expenses system except in exceptional circumstances.

The Head of Department is responsible for ensuring that all expense claims submitted to the Finance Office for payment adhere to the rules.  Equally, it is the responsibility of the claimant to ensure that claims submitted to the Head of Department adhere to the rules.  Where the Finance Office receives a claim that does not adhere to the rules, it will conduct enquiries in order to rectify the situation.

The University is fair in its approach to reimbursement of expenses.  It pays for all reasonable expenses that have been incurred as a direct result of the University’s business.  There are various methods of payments, depending on the total amount to be paid, and to ensure that the individual is not out of pocket for large amounts of money.  The rules are such that requirements are not overly onerous, and do not demand any more information than the individual would reasonably expect to obtain themselves, even if they were not seeking reimbursement.

Expense claims

Employees necessarily incurring additional expense in the course of their work in respect of travel, meals or overnight accommodation will be reimbursed approved expenses, subject to appropriate evidence of expenditure being produced.

The Finance Office treats expense claims made by staff as high priority, separating them from other requests for payment as they are received into the office.  It is clearly in an employee’s interest to submit a claim for reimbursement of expenses as soon as possible after the expense was incurred.  The University will not normally accept claims for processing that are over six months after the date that the expense was incurred except where exceptional circumstances can be justified.

Claims should be submitted on-line through web expenses and must clearly state:

  • the purpose of the expenditure, reason for meeting, conference name, etc
  • the stating point and destination when travel is involved
  • the date of expenditure or the dates of travel
  • names of other University personnel involved.

Claims should have all supporting documentation attached and receipts should be cross referenced to line number on the claim form.  Receipts must be the originals and not a photocopy.  In the event that a receipt could not be obtained, or has been lost, then this should be noted on the claim form.  Claims may be rejected when a receipt is not provided where there is a reasonable expectation that a receipt would have been issued.  Claims are checked for appropriateness of the expense, reasonableness, supporting documentation, and authorisation and those that do not conform will be returned to the claimant for correction before being approved for payment.  Where it is not possible to obtain a receipt, alternative proof of the expense incurred may be accepted.

Where it is known prior to an expense being incurred that there will be large expenditure over an extended period, an advance allowance may be made to an individual.  Advances will not normally be given for amounts less than £100.  The most usual reason for an advance is for expenses to be incurred during a period of travel overseas.

The University also operates a Petty Cash system, for reimbursement of certain expenses where the total claim is £25 or less.  This speeds up reimbursement of small claims.  Proper supporting receipts must accompany the claim, and the same authorisation rules apply as for other methods of reimbursement.  See below for more detailed notes.

Travelling expenses

The University will pay for travelling expenses of members of staff for journeys made in the performance of their duties as employees of the University.  Normally this should be booked in advance through the University’s approved travel management company.  Where this is not possible the most economical method of transport should be used taking into account efficient working practices.  Usually this will be public transport, standard class rail travel, economy class air travel or hire/private car but will depend on the destination and the number of people travelling.

Travel other than standard class rail or economy class air is permissible but must be agreed in advance by the Head of Department.  Justification must be given on the claim form and this should be authorised by the HoD.  Examples of where this might be justified include cases of infirmity or travel on long haul flights involving an extended period of travel, for example 10 hours or more flying time.  See University Policy UP7 for further guidance.

Claims for the reimbursement of taxi fares must be justification where other cheaper forms of public transport were available.  Carrying of readily portable equipment is not justification on its own for using a taxi.

A valid receipt or the actual car parking ticket is needed to support claims for car parking charges.  Where parking charges are paid for by mobile phone a copy of the receipt from the provider will need to be attached to the claim as evidence of the expenditure.

The University will not pay for travel from home to an employee’s permanent place of work, except in certain approved and limited circumstances (e.g. ‘call-outs’ outside normal working hours), in which case the payment is made through the payroll system and is subject to deduction of income tax.  “Permanent” and “temporary” places of work are defined at Appendix 1.

The rules apply to all staff regardless of their status or the source of the funds that are paying for either the travel costs or the staff salary costs.

To claim a travel expenses log in to Agresso.

Please see the Agresso website for instructions on how to make a claim.

Travel by private car

Generally if a member of staff travels on University business to a place other than his/her permanent place of work (including a journey to a temporary place of work), and the journey begins and/or ends at home, travelling expenses will be paid on the basis of the shorter of:

  • the actual mileage travelled
  • the mileage that would have been travelled if the journey had commenced or finished at the permanent place of work.

Examples:

  1. Professor X, whose place of permanent work is Bath, lives in Saltford and drives from home to Bristol, returning to Bath the same day.  The total mileage can be claimed
  2. Professor Y, whose place of permanent work is also Bath, lives in Bradford-on-Avon and drives directly from home to Bristol, returning to Bath the same day.  Mileage from Bath to Bristol and back can be claimed.

Staff must have adequate insurance cover that includes business use and carrying passengers and goods if applicable.

Parking fines and other such penalties are the responsibility of the individual driver and cannot be reclaimed from University funds.

Mileage claimed must be the actual mileage recorded to the nearest mile and not rounded up in any other way.  Claims may be checked for accuracy by the Payments Office and reject any where a discrepancy is found.  Mileage rates for use of private cars on University business is covered by our HMRC dispensation and must fall within their published benchmarked rates. 

When claiming the enhanced mileage rate, for carrying equipment, readily portable items do not qualify as equipment and cannot be used to justify claiming the enhanced rate.

To claim a travel expenses log in to Agresso.

Please see the Agresso website for instructions on how to make a claim.

Carpenter House & The Virgil Building

For members of staff whose permanent place of work is either the Claverton Down campus, The Virgil Building or Carpenter House the University will reimburse the public transport cost of travel between the two (including bicycle rates).  The University will not reimburse the cost of parking fees.  If there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. where non-portable equipment needs to be transported, such that using public transport is not practical) this should be discussed and agreed with the Head of Department prior to undertaking the travel.  The Head of Department must endorse this and sign the expense claim form.

It is possible that there will be some employees whose duties and time are split in such a way that both Claverton Down and Manvers Street or Carpenter House are regarded as permanent workplaces.  In such cases, the University will not pay for travel to and from the employee’s home to Manvers Street, Carpenter House or Claverton Down but will pay for travel between the workplaces.

Accompanying persons

Any person travelling who is not directly connected with the University business for which the travel is being undertaken should pay for their costs at source.

Subsistence expenses

All claims for subsistence must be supported by original receipts or vouchers.  The general principles of reasonableness and economy combined with efficient working practices must be applied.  Wherever possible hotels should be booked in advance through the University’s approved travel management company, please contact Purchasing Services for advice on this if needed.

Except in exceptional circumstances, and then only with the prior agreement of the Head of Department, the costs of overnight accommodation in local hotels or guest houses will not be reimbursed from University funds.

The University will, under its dispensation agreed with HMRC, reimburse actual expenditure incurred in the course of university business but it will need to be supported by a valid receipt.  Some discretion will be exercised where it is not normally possible to obtain one, for example, parking meters or use of an Oyster card when travelling.

Obviously the expenses claimed must be reasonable and comply with the financial regulations.  The benchmark meal rates published by the HMRC that we will use as guidelines are:

  • up to £5.00 for breakfast (if leaving home before 6:00am)
  • up to £5.00 for one meal (after travelling/off site for 5 hours)
  • up to £10.00 for two meals (if travelling/off site for 10 hours or more)
  • up to £15.00 for a late evening meal (finishing after 8:00pm).

Claims outside of these limits will need to be justified before they will be approved for reimbursement.  In the event that a receipt could not be obtained, or has been lost, then this should be noted on the claim form.  Claims may be rejected when a receipt is not provided where there is a reasonable expectation that a receipt would have been issued or may consider limiting the claim to the benchmark rates above.

Miscellaneous and incidental charges on hotel bills will only be reimbursed when incurred necessarily on University business.  The following will not normally be reimbursed:

  • personal phone calls
  • certain charges made by hotels for the use of facilities such as pay per view videos, fitness suites, etc
  • laundry
  • newspapers
  • personal items such as toiletries, etc.

The University will not reimburse other personal costs incurred as a consequence of being away from home on business, for example the costs of child care.

Foreign travel

When making a claim for costs incurred in foreign currency, the exchange rate to use should be either the rate charged for conversion into the foreign currency, or the standard rate, current at the time of the expenditure, as set up in the University’s finance system.  If the former is to be used then evidence to support this will need to be attached to the expense claim.  In the case of purchases by credit card, the preferred method is to use the rate charged on the credit card statement and attach a copy of the statement to your claim to evidence this.  (Please note that it is advisable to obscure the credit card number and other personal details from statements).

It is accepted that the cost of meals may vary from the guidelines above, dependant on the countries being visited, so it is important that receipts are provided to evidence claims being submitted.

As claims for foreign travel will be more complex please ensure that you cross reference the receipt with the line number on the expense claim form which will aid the processing of your claim.

Entertaining expenses

Staff are encouraged to use University facilities wherever possible.

Entertaining attended by University staff only (i.e. not involving third parties) cannot be charged to University administered funds, and is not reimbursable.  Nor is it acceptable to charge for part of the cost of entertaining University staff only.  This means that the University will not pay for wine at a function where staff have paid for the food, nor will it pay for food/drinks purchased from a grocery store or similar, so that the function can be held in an office.  This applies whether on or off-campus, and includes:

  • celebratory functions, (e.g. Christmas meals, engagement parties)
  • functions for members of staff who are leaving the University (but note that if the member of staff is leaving due to retirement, then expenditure of a trivial sum per head may be reimbursed.  However, the function must be widely available for staff to attend).

Sampling proposed venues for future functions designed to entertain third parties.

Where a department arranges an “away-day” or “retreat” to discuss departmental business/plans, reasonable expenditure for refreshments is allowed.  When the claim for reimbursement, or an invoice from the supplier of the services is sent to the Finance Office, it must be accompanied by an agenda and a full list of delegates, and, wherever possible, notes of the meetings or reports about sessions.  Similarly, legitimate “working lunches” are acceptable, provided that claims can be supported by agendas and either meeting notes or reports from sessions.

Reasonable amounts of expenditure for hospitality and entertaining of third parties may be charged to University administered funds where necessarily incurred in the course of the University’s business.  Reasonableness must be applied with regard to the numbers of University staff attending such events and as a general rule the staff to client ratio should not exceed 2:1.  Where the ratio is greater than this justification must be given.  Purchases of moderate amounts of alcohol will be reimbursed when part of hospitality to existing or potential business clients.  All claims for reimbursement of such expenses must include a list of names of those present, and an explanation of the purpose of the entertainment/hospitality.  As with other expenses, receipts must be attached to claims.  Reasonable amounts will be allowed for gratuities; the amount should be included on the receipt.

Eye Tests and Glasses

Please check with your faculty/department administrator or safety coordinator before submitting any claim for eye tests or glasses.

The University will normally reimburse an employee for the cost of a sight test. The University will also contribute up to £45, for single vision glasses, or £80, for bifocals/varifocals, where it is confirmed by the optician that they are needed solely for display screen equipment work. The University will not reimburse employees where glasses are also required for other uses including, but not limited to, reading, driving or watching television.

For safety glasses (where required by a risk assessment in a laboratory or workshop environment) the University will contribute up to £45, single vision CR39 lenses, or up to £80 for bifocals/varifocals lenses.

The employee must pay the optician for the sight test and spectacles and then submit a claim, with receipt/invoice, to the University in order to be reimbursed.  For further guidance please also refer to the Health & Safety Department’s Safety Manual, section 4.1.8 – Display Screen Equipment.

To claim expenses log in to Agresso.

Please see the Agresso website for instructions on how to make a claim.

Home and mobile phone call charges

Where home and personal mobile phones are used for University business the cost of these calls will be reimbursed.  A copy of the phone bill/statement will need to be attached to the claim with the relevant calls highlighted showing the cost.

No other costs associated with private home phones, mobile phones, PDAs or broadband costs should be claimed through the expenses system.

General expenses

The basic rule for expenses to be reimbursable is that the costs must have been necessarily incurred in the performance of University business.  In addition to the items specifically referred to in the sections about travelling and subsistence expenses, the following do not constitute business expenditure:

  • purchase of greeting cards including Christmas cards unless they are being sent to business contacts
  • purchase of decorations for offices, including flowers and vases, other ornaments, Christmas decorations, and so on
  • purchase of tea coffee and other refreshments for use by staff.  Note that this type of expense is acceptable where the goods are to be used for business entertaining or during genuine business meetings, etc.

The following University central services units should always be consulted prior to entering into commitments with outside suppliers:

  • purchasing: catalogues available for stationery, diaries & calendars, also for various other consumables
  • photographic Unit
  • print Unit: bulk photocopying services available.  Only in the event that the Print Unit cannot deliver (for reasons of quality, timing or price) should printing be taken outside the University.

Print Unit: bulk photocopying services available.  Only in the event that the Print Unit cannot deliver (for reasons of quality, timing or price) should printing be taken outside the University

Petty Cash

The Finance Office operates an imprest petty cash account for use by the whole of the University. The maintenance of petty cash floats within departments would not normally be expected or allowed.  However in exceptional circumstances it may be allowed in order to deal with minor payments or disbursements, subject to the arrangement being reviewed periodically by the Finance Office and/or the Internal Audit Office.  In such cases, the float will be the responsibility of the member of staff to whom it is entrusted.

Claims for the reimbursement from petty cash are subject to a maximum of £25 per claim.  It is not acceptable to sub-divide a transaction such that a claimant makes more than one claim, each within the £25 limit.  The following types of expenditure are expressly forbidden:

  • any claim over £25 unless prior permission is obtained from the Director of Finance
  • payment of wages, call-out payments, overtime payments, staff expenses or other ad hoc remuneration
  • gifts to members of staff or ex-members of staff
  • gifts, gratuities or donations of any nature to external bodies
  • payments for non-business use of goods/services
  • personal expenditure, loans or advances to employees or students, or for cashing personal cheques.

Claims for reimbursement of petty cash, up to a maximum of £25, should be completed by the claimant, authorised by the appropriate departmental staff (see section about authorisation below), and taken to the Finance Office for processing by the Payments Section prior to collection of cash from the Cashier’s Office.  The person collecting the cash (normally the claimant) is required to sign the form to acknowledge collection.

Ownership of goods purchased

Individual members of staff and students sometimes make purchases of goods on behalf of the University.  At the point of reimbursement the University then owns the goods for which the individual is being reimbursed.  Some examples are books, calculators, and so on.  Departments should ensure that individuals do not keep such items personally.

Receipts

All claims for reimbursements of expenses must be supported by original receipts, vouchers or equivalent evidence of the expense incurred,  photocopies will not be accepted.

Credit card and debit card vouchers or statements are not acceptable forms of support for expense claims.  Therefore claimants are advised that they should always request a proper receipt or voucher.  This is partly to avoid paying expenses where the credit card company or bank has refunded the original expense, but also because a proper receipt gives details of the goods/services purchased.

Purchases on behalf of the University must always be made in accordance with the University ’s purchasing policy, a copy of which can be found on the Purchasing Services web site.

Claims for reimbursement of train journeys, when not purchased from the University’s approved travel management company, must be supported by a valid receipt (or equivalent proof of payment) and not the train tickets.  Claims without a valid receipt will be rejected and returned to the claimant.  Note that credit card or debit card receipts are not acceptable.

Payments in kind

In some circumstances, where a non-cash payment (payment in kind) has been made, the PAYE rules deem an employer to have made a payment of income on which PAYE must be accounted.  The PAYE must be remitted to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) whether or not the employer has recouped that amount from the employee by deduction from cash wages or otherwise.  Strictly speaking the employer should include details of all such “payments” on the return it sends to HMRC.  In reality it may be possible to omit certain low value non-cash payments (e.g. an invited speaker who is not an employee of the University and is not being paid a cash payment is given a bottle of wine costing £5).  However, it should not become a regular occurrence.  Staff are advised to contact the Finance Office prior to agreeing to such arrangements.

Authorisation of claims

All claims for the reimbursement of expenditure, or payments where the claimant receives direct benefit, must be properly authorised before they can be processed for payment.  In general it is the responsibility of each head of department to authorise any expenditure for staff in their department and to ensure all expenditure is incurred within the approved budget and conforms to the financial regulations.  Under the University’s Financial Policy UP2 the head of department can delegate appropriate authority to approve financial transactions up to a transaction limit of £10,000.

Where the head of department has delegated this authority the Finance Office keeps a record of this, together with the types of vouchers that individuals can sign and their limits of authority.  However this delegated authorisation may not be valid as expense claims submitted by certain senior members of staff need to be approved by their line manager as detailed below.

Claims submitted by: Approved by:
Departmental Professors Head of Department
Heads of Academic Departments Dean of Faculty or School
Deans and other HoD’s reporting to DVC  Deputy Vice Chancellor
Pro Vice Chancellors Deputy Vice Chancellor
HoD's reporting to Pro VC Learning & Teaching Pro VC Learning & Teaching
HoD's reporting to Pro VC Research Pro VC Research
Director of Finance Deputy Vice Chancellor
Deputy Vice Chancellor Director of Finance
Vice Chancellor Director of Finance
Other HoD's reporting to Vice Chancellor Director of Finance

This is broadly in line with the Management Structure published on the University’s website.  The workflow authorisation in the on-line expense system has been modified to cater for the above and the paper based claims need to be authorised following these guidelines as well.  If you have any doubts as to who needs to authorise an expense claim please contact the Payments Office for advice.

Completion of expense claim

Claimants, who are employees of the University, should complete a claim on-line through Agresso Web Expenses.  Please refer to the Web Expenses guidance notes for further instruction on this.  Students and non-employees who do not have access to the financial system should complete the paper version of the claim form copies of which can be obtained from the Payments Office.

When making a claim by either method it should incorporate as much detail as possible, including a full explanation of the purpose of the expenditure.  The detail required for travel claims is fairly self-explanatory, but some of the points that are often omitted are:

  • the purpose of the journey, including reason for meeting or conference name, etc
  • travelling by private car - names of passengers
  • the first and last dates of the claim period
  • the purpose of entertaining and the names & organisations of those attending.

Claims should be completed carefully to ensure that different types of expenditure are charged to the appropriate project codes.  Where restricted funds (research and other grants and contracts) are concerned, University Policy UP7 gives clear guidance about what is acceptable.  Before coding to a restricted project funds you should always ascertain whether the charges in question are allowable against that source of funding.

Care should also be taken when selecting the expense type with the on-line system so that the most appropriate account and product codes are charged in the general ledger.

Expense Claim Procedure

(all expense claims in Agresso can be tracked by the claimant to determine their current status)

Step 1 - Employee

  • Check Expenses Policy and supporting guidance for confirmation of what can be claimed.

Step 2 - Employee

  • Enter claim details on Agresso and submit for authorisation.
  • Claims requiring hard copy evidence such as original receipts must be attached to a printed copy of the expense claim and sent to the repective Budget Manager or Faculty Finance Team.

Step 3 - Budget Manager / Faculty Finance Authorisor

  • Check claim for compliance with Expenses Policy, confirm all costs incurred were a ligitmate business expense and authorise in Agresso.
  • Forward hard copies of claims that have supporting evidence / reciepts to the Payments Office, Manvers Street 4.1

Step 4 - Payments Office

  • Check claim for compliance with Expenses Policy.
  • Process payment to the claiment and issue a remittance advice to confirm payment has been made.

Appendix 1

Permanent and temporary workplaces

For simplicity HM Revenue and Customs terminology and definitions have been used:

Permanent place of work – this is a place at which an employee attends regularly for the performance of duties of University employment.  Regular attendance is frequent, follows a pattern or is the place the employee usually attends for the majority of time for which he/she is likely to hold the employment.  The proportion of an employee’s time spent working at a particular workplace is a factor in determining whether it is a permanent workplace.  Attendance of only one or two days a week may establish a permanent workplace if done on regular basis and if the visits are for a continuing purpose (e.g.  lecturing on a course – but see below the other factors that are taken into account) .

Temporary place of work – this is a place to which an employee goes to perform a task of limited duration or for a temporary purpose.  Any period of continuous work that lasts, or is likely to last, more than 24 months is a permanent workplace.  Continuous work is a period throughout which the duties of the employment are performed to a significant extent at that place and this is taken to be the case if the employee spends 40% or more of his/her working time at that place.

It is possible to have more than one permanent workplace during the same period and in the same employment.  The sorts of things that will point to a workplace being a second permanent workplace are:

  • The employee regularly performs a significant part of his/her duties there
  • People would expect to be able to contact the employee at the second location
  • The employee has a desk, office or support services at the second location.

If the employee regularly spends 40% of his/her time at the second location it would be likely that the second location was a permanent workplace.

The situation of having two permanent workplaces will be comparatively rare because where the purpose of each visit to the second workplace is temporary or each visit is self-contained, the second workplace is still regarded as temporary even if visits are regular and frequent.