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Travel Reimbursement: Policy Highlights

The University has just released a new university travel policy that is effective immediately. The biggest change is that the University will now permit meals to be reimbursed either on a formula basis (per diem) or by receipt. Please read below for the details.

Highlights of the remainder of the policy are also below but you should read the new policy so that you are aware of any and all changes with regards to business travel. It is available at:

Meals: Cornell reimburses traveler's meals that are not otherwise provided. Cornell allows the use of either the receipt method or per diem method. One method must apply for an entire trip.

Per Diem:
The university will reimburse using the U.S. General Services Administration's published list of per diem rates set by the federal government and available from a link at The per diem rate is based on the rate in effect on the dates of the trip and the location of the night's lodging. It is updated at stated intervals by the federal government. The meal per diem rate includes meals, beverages, tips, and taxes. For the day of departure and the day of return, the reimbursement rate is limited to 75% of the per diem rate for the location in which the traveler is most likely to incur the meal expense.

If a traveler selects the per diem method but hosts a business meal with others while in travel status, Cornell will reimburse this particular meal based on the receipt. The traveler must reduce the daily per diem for the hosted meal. The per diem adjustments are based on 20% for breakfast, 20% for lunch, and 60% for dinner.

Receipt Method:
The university will provide reimbursement for meals based upon original receipts. Receipts such as credit card slips, cash register receipts, etc. should be provided for each meal for which you are seeking reimbursement, even for meals less than $25.00. If the traveler does not have a receipt for a particular meal, the traveler should provide the date, location, meal, dollar amount, and a brief explanation about whey the receipt was not provided.

Lodging: The University requires receipts for all lodging, whether domestic or foreign. If staying in a private residence, Cornell will reimburse reasonable expenses for a token gift of appreciation. The University does not allow the use of per diems for lodging.

Documentation: Must include information about who, what, when, where, and why and how much. The traveler should describe the business purpose in terms that can be easily understood by an internal or external reviewer. "Research" is not an adequate description - details of the research/colleagues are required.

Airport Parking: You can obtain Cornell's parking discount for official business travel at the Tompkins Regional airport by showing your Cornell ID at the parking booth.

Tips: Included in the meals and incidental per diem rate.

Foreign Travel: If foreign travel exceeds one week, the IRS requires evidence that business activities constituted at least 75% of the total time away from home. The traveler should document the daily business activities.

Telephone Usage and Internet Access: You should use a university-issued calling card, corporate credit card, or phone card whenever possible to avoid excessive charges by hotels for telephone service. If you travel routinely, you should request a university telephone calling card from your unit's telecommunications coordinator.

Cornell will reimburse personal calls that are reasonable (generally not more than an average of 10 minutes per day).

The university expects you to use the most economical or efficient means of accessing the Internet when you are traveling.


New York State Sales Tax and New York City Occupancy Tax:
Travelers on Cornell business should request an exemption from New York Sales Tax and New York City Occupancy Tax. They should provide vendors in New York with Cornell's exemption certificate (ST 119.1) and use their American Express or Diners Club corporate card. Some vendors will not grant an exemption if the traveler uses a personal credit card. Form ST 119.1 is used for both New York sales tax and New York City Occupancy Tax. Contact your business service center office or for a copy of this certificate.

Caution: Exemption certificates must never be used for personal expenses, including persona travel expenses. This is important to remember when combining
a business and personal trip.

Exemptions in Other States and Countries:
Other states and countries generally will not grant a tax exemption to an individual business traveler from New York State.

Payment Methods and Travel Advances: As of December 31, 2003, you may no longer obtain cash or traveler's checks for business travel at the Cashier's Office in Day Hall using your corporate credit card.

Cornell will pay reasonable ATM fees when cash is required for university business travel. You should obtain cash for travel using your corporate Diners Club card at an ATM. Because the American Express program does not include access to cash, these cardholders may request a Diners Club Card for use in ATM machines.

If your trip requires the use of traveler's checks, you should obtain the checks directly from a bank. Cornell will reimburse fees when the traveler's checks are used for university travel.

Financial Services
Contact Information
130 East Seneca Street,
Suite 520
Ithaca, NY 14850
Telephone: (607) 255-6531
Fax: (607) 255-0402