Travel Expenses

All travel expenses must be in accordance with the four mandatory Principles.
 

Expenses Principles Logo
  1. Value for money is achieved.

  2. Expenses should only be used when it is not possible and/or practical for the University to pay for the good or service directly.

  3. Costs incurred are for business purposes only, and the individual does not receive a personal benefit.

  4. Only actual and evidenced costs are reclaimed.

 

The University will only reimburse the costs of travel incurred for a clearly defined and necessary business purpose to an external site for activity that could not otherwise be facilitated at the place of work or online.
 
All expense claims should be evidenced with supporting receipts or proof of purchase AND properly recorded on the expense claim, including a reason for the journey. Authorisers should reject the claim if an appropriate reason is not included.
 

Important Notes

In some cases, funder terms and conditions are more lenient than University policy.  In these cases, the University Policy will take precedence. Where funder terms and conditions are more stringent than University Policy, these must be respected.  

Business class and first class travel should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Before business class or first class travel is booked, the claimant must provide a valid reason for the class of travel chosen and written departmental approval must be provided. 

Departments should look out for patterns with travel expenses to understand if value for money is not being achieved on a regular basis. For example, consistent short notice of travel requirements to enable the regular use of business class flights or taxi journeys.

Vaccinations required for foreign travel should be arranged with the University’s Travel Clinic (Occupational Health) wherever possible.

 

Key Travel

Key Travel   is the University’s preferred travel supplier and in accordance with principle 2, business travel should be pre-booked through them whenever possible and paid for by the University directly. If this is not possible, the cost may be reimbursed via expenses with full supporting evidence, including a VAT receipt/proof of purchase, and reason for travel.

The agreements in place with Key Travel leverage the volume requirements of the University and their financial viability is reviewed on a periodic basis to deliver value for money, whilst ensuring that quality, delivery and sustainability considerations are managed. For further information see the Benefits of Using Key Travel  guide.

In some cases a third party may agree to fund costs, e.g. a conference organiser will pay for a member of the University’s travel and accommodation. In these circumstances, the following approach should be taken:

  1. Ideally arrangements are made directly between the individual and the third party, e.g. the third party makes payments directly to the supplier or the individual submits an expense claim to the third party via their expenses process.
  2. The University makes payments directly, e.g. Key Travel is used to make bookings, and then invoices the third party.
  3. If (1) and (2) are not possible, the individual can submit an expense claim to the University, and the University will invoice the third party.

Please note:

  • The University should recover the costs by invoicing.
  • Written evidence must be obtained in advance that the third party agrees to this arrangement (i.e. will pay the invoice).
  • Individuals should not submit expense claims to both the University and the third party.
     

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Business travel is the essential travel needed to conduct your work, excluding ordinary commuting. Ordinary commuting is the travel that takes place between home and the normal or permanent place of work.

Before travelling, all options should be considered to get the best value for money.

þ Case Study Example - Travel to temporary workplace

Bob travels 20 miles to his usual place of work every day. One day, however, he is asked to attend an early morning meeting 20 miles from home but in the opposite direction. Although this journey is the same distance as his normal commute, it is allowable for Bob to claim for this journey as it is sufficiently different from his ordinary commuting and satisfies the criteria of business travel.

Under Principle 3 - No personal benefit is received as this is a business journey.

Case Study Example - Travel to temporary workplaceCase Study Example - Travel to temporary workplaceCase Study Example - Travel to temporary workplace

University personnel may NOT convert ordinary commuting journeys into allowable business journeys by stopping off at another workplace between the home and normal place of work.

These allowances may NOT be claimed by University staff on behalf of visiting academics.

 

þ

Occasional travel to another location significantly removed from normal place of work, e.g. conference or meeting attendance.

þ Travel within the UK or to another country for University business, e.g. field research, conference etc.
þ Travel to temporary workplace, for example working at another University site significantly further away than the normal place of work.
þ Travel made by visiting academics when undertaking University business.
þ Travel by non-University personnel in return for services provided to the University (clinical trials participants etc.

Any type of travel undertaken for personal benefit is not business travel.

 ý Case Study Example - Ordinary Commuting

Alice is engaged as an employee by the University to carry out six months' work in Oxford. She normally lives in Glasgow and travels to Oxford on Sundays to stay in temporary accommodation during the week, travelling back to Glasgow on Friday evenings. Alice submits an expenses claim for the train fare to and from Oxford.

Under Principle 3 -  Personal benefit is received. Alice’s journey from Glasgow to Oxford is classed as ordinary commuting. As a payment for ordinary commuting is classed as a personal benefit under HMRC regulations and subject to income tax and national insurance, Alice should not be reimbursed for these costs.

Case Study Example - Travel to temporary workplaceCase Study Example - Travel to temporary workplaceCase Study Example - Travel to temporary workplace

ý Case Study Example - Adding non-essential mileage and subsistence to travel claim

Spencer lives in Headington and is a clinical trials volunteer taking part in a new vaccination programme. The terms of his involvement include reimbursement of travel from his home to the Churchill Hospital for monthly monitoring, and attendance with a clinical counsellor once per week in Cowley. This means his journey between his home and clinical counsellor, and his home and the Churchill Hospital may be authorised and reimbursed. However, if Spencer leaves the Churchill Hospital, travels to Summertown to meet a friend for lunch and then travels back home to Headington, any additional mileage for his travel to and from Summertown should NOT be reimbursed, nor the cost of his lunch as these costs are not related to the clinical trial.

Under Principle 3 -  Personal benefit is received. These costs should not be reimbursed. Spencer can only claim for direct mileage from his home to the agreed University location without deviation.

 

 

ý Travelling to and from your normal place of work (ordinary commuting). Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received.
ý Travelling to another place of work within vicinity of normal work place. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received.
ý Calling in at another work location on the way to normal place of work. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received.
ý Adding additional mileage and subsistence onto business travel claim. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received.

Claimants should always use the most economic means of travel by public transport in accordance with Principle 1 – value for money and usually this will be an economy class fare.

Important travel considerations:

  • Travel should be by standard/economy class, even where funding grants allow otherwise;
     
  • Transport should be paid for by the University directly, using the preferred supplier when possible;
     
  • In exceptional circumstances, where Premium Economy/Business Class is the only practical option, this should be pre-agreed with the Head of Department (or their authorised delegate) prior to travel being booked and evidence of this agreement should be retained;
     
  • Some research funders and departments have additional criteria for travel that need to be followed before costs can be reimbursed.

In line with Principle 3, the University will only reimburse costs related to business travel and no personal benefit should be gained. As the use of season tickets and multiple journey tickets etc are indistinguishable between business and personal use, these costs should not be reimbursed. However, the cost of a single journey paid using these cards can be reimbursed with supporting evidence such as an itemised statement from the multi-trip card provider or website printout confirming journey cost.

 

þ Case Study Example - Acceptable purchase of a rail card

Bethany is working on a research project that requires her to attend a monthly project meeting in London plus other London meetings as required. Her project meeting always starts at 2.00pm which allows her to travel during off-peak hours. A standard off-peak return from Oxford to London is £27.40 (£328.80 per year). By using a railcard, Bethany could save £9.30 on each journey – a total saving of at least £111.60 per year. The railcard costs £30. If the department agrees for Bethany to purchase the rail card and cover the tax and National Insurance that will be added, the total cost for the railcard would be £56.40 and the department would ultimately save at least £55.20.

Under Principle 1 – Value for Money is achieved. Although there is a tax implication for the purchase of a railcard, the savings made outweigh the total tax paid.

Important note:  If the department agrees for Bethany to purchase the rail card and claim it through expenses but does not agree to cover the tax and National Insurance, Bethany would be required to pay the tax and national insurance on the value of the railcard (£15.30) through payroll as it is classed by HMRC as a personal benefit. However, Bethany would then be able to use her travel card and receive personal discounts on all future train journeys for business and pleasure!

Examples of what can and should not be claimed:

 

ý Should not be claimed. Oyster card top-up because card ran out of credit prior to business journey. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received.
þ Claim for a specific London underground journey paid with Oyster card because cost of travel was cheaper than standard fare.
 
ý Should not be claimed. Train travel railcard for frequent train journeys for business purposes. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received. However, if a business case is evidenced and the cost is still cheaper after taxation, this may be allowed with departmental approval.
ý Should not be claimed. Oxford Tube multi trip bus ticket to London for frequent attendance at meetings in London. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received. However, if a business case is evidenced and the cost is still cheaper after taxation, this may be allowed with departmental approval.
þ Individual journeys paid with multi-trip card. Cost of travel was cheaper than standard fare.

Case Study Example - Travel to temporary workplaceCase Study Example - Travel to temporary workplaceCase Study Example - Travel to temporary workplace

University air travel should be arranged in line with the value for money principle. This usually means economy class and wherever possible, air travel should be pre-booked through Key Travel and paid for directly through the University.

Business or Club Class travel should always be avoided unless they prove to be a cheaper alternative than economy class, or when all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The Head of Administration or Head of Department deems it appropriate; and
  2. the flight is scheduled to take longer than 4 hours; and
  3. the person flying is required to attend a meeting, deliver a lecture, examine a viva or similar within 4 hours of arrival.

þ  Case Study Example - First class flights at third party expense

Claire is invited to speak at a conference in Bangkok and chair a number of panel discussions relating to her field of research. The conference organisers have agreed to pay for all her travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses relating to her journey, which include first class return flights.

Under Principle 3 – The costs incurred are for business purposes only and will be paid for by the third party and not by the University.

Important note: In the first instance, Claire should ask the third party to arrange travel and hotel arrangements directly. If not, travel should be booked with Key Travel and cross-charged to the third party. If the costs cannot be paid for directly, travel may be claimed through expenses and charged back to the third party. Claire should provide written evidence to her Head of Department that the third party will cover the travel costs BEFORE the travel arrangements are made.

In certain circumstances, an individual may wish to amend their air travel booking to fit with personal requirements. This may be permitted with department approval as long as it is in accordance with principle 3 and no personal benefit is gained.

Additional expenses incurred when extending travel for personal reasons (accommodation, meals etc.) should not be reimbursed.

University travel insurance may not offer suitable cover for personal travel. Travellers should ensure they have adequate personal travel insurance in place for non-University activities. Refer to the University insurance web pages for further details.

Examples of what can and should not be claimed:

 

þ If the claimant has booked/upgraded their travel because they prefer to fly in business or first class and are only reclaiming the cost of an economy fare (therefore paying for the upgrade themselves), under Principle 1, value for money is received. If submitted through expenses, the department should only reimburse to the value of an economy fare. Receipt/proof of purchase and proof of alternative economy class fare is required as evidence.
þ Alternative airports can be used to incorporate personal holiday into travel schedule but departments should only reimburse value of return flight to location required for University business to ensure under Principle 3, that no personal benefit is received. Any additional cost difference should be covered by individual. Receipt/proof of purchase and proof of required business travel costs (prior to personal changes) and explanation that change of location is due to personal travel is required as evidence.
þ Business class travel on medical grounds. Under Principle 1, these costs are necessary. Flights should be booked by Key Travel in the first instance, but may be claimed through expenses if not possible. Evidence (medical certificate etc) should be submitted to support claim.
þ Travel cost of spouse/partner, guest or family member because they are conducting essential University business requirement or have special skill (interpreter etc). Under Principle 3, no personal benefit received. Flights should be booked by Key Travel in the first instance, but may be claimed through expenses if not possible. Departmental approval must be given in writing prior to arranging travel. Evidence of this, with business justification for accompanied travel, must be supplied to support expenses claim.
ý Should not be claimed. Travel cost of spouse/partner to accompany individual at function attendance hosted by third parties. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received. Any expense claims for spouse or partner costs are not allowable. 
ý Should not be claimed. Unnecessary flight upgrades. The class of flight booked should be appropriate to the duration and purpose of travel to ensure value for money.
þ Essential travel costs of spouse/partner where presence is essential to co-host a series of University functions. Under Principle 3, this is for business purposes only. Flights should be booked by Key Travel in the first instance, but may be claimed through expenses if not possible. Departmental approval must be given in writing prior to arranging travel. Evidence of this, with business justification for accompanied travel, must be supplied to support expenses claim.

Taxi, mini cab and Uber expenses may be reimbursed for short and infrequent journeys. The value for money principle should always be considered before using this form of travel, although when traveling abroad or late at night, personal safety is a key consideration.

All taxi related expense claims should be supported by a receipt/proof of purchase, and for journeys over £25, written justification for use should also be provided.

þ  Case Study Example - Exceptional circumstances

Andrew is chairing a panel for a new professorial appointment but also has to catch a flight from Heathrow later the same day. There is very limited turnaround time for Andrew to travel to the airport by public transport and to ensure he catches his flight, he has booked a taxi to take him directly to the airport as soon as his panel meeting ends.

Under Principle 1 - The use of a taxi is necessary and reasonable.

ý  Case Study Example - Unacceptable use of a taxi

Lesley is in Oxford for a research meeting but needs to travel to Paris from Heathrow airport later that day for a partnership meeting the following morning. For convenience, Lesley takes a taxi from Oxford to Heathrow at a cost of £65.

Under Principle 1 - This is not value for money. The use of a taxi is also an unnecessary use of departmental budget.  Lesley should have used public transport.

Examples of what can and should not be claimed:

 

þ Flight arrival to non UK airport without pre-arranged collection transport to venue/hotel. Under Principle 2, the University cannot pay directly and Principle 3, no personal benefit is received. Personal safety is considered. Receipt/proof of purchase and details why a taxi was used must support expense claim
þ Individual has a lot of luggage (bag, pull up stands, computer equipment and printed collateral etc). Under Principle 1,:the cost is necessary and reasonable. Public transport would be difficult. If abroad and University cannot pay directly reimbursement should be allowed. Receipt/proof of purchase and details why a taxi was used must support expense claim. In UK, taxi should be pre-booked directly by the University
ý Should not be claimed. Travel to/from UK airport rather than use public transport for comfort and convenience. Under Principle 1, value for money is not achieved. This is an unnecessary cost and could have been avoided.

At the discretion of departments, the use of Uber cars may be permitted. Prior to booking a car through Uber, it is important that the individual undertakes their own due diligence of the expected business journey to ensure their health and safety. A receipt must be provided to support an expenses claim.

With departmental approval, hired vehicles may be used by University personnel for business purposes. Vehicle hire should be booked and paid for directly through the University or with a University credit card, however in exceptional circumstances, hire costs may be reimbursed through expenses.

To achieve value for money, consideration should be made to the type and size of vehicle required for the job and when using a hired vehicle, the following conditions should be met:

  • Vehicles should only be used for business purposes and business journeys.
  • Vehicles should only be taken home by University personnel if:
    • a business journey starts before 9.00am the following day; or
    • it is not possible to return the vehicle before closing time; or
    • business use of the vehicle extends over more than 1 day.
  • Vehicles are not used for ordinary commuting between home and the normal place of work.

Examples of acceptable and non-acceptable use of a hired vehicle:

 

þ Hire car for business travel to location outside Oxford with 2 passengers as cost of hire car is cheaper than train fare for 3 people. Under Principle 1, value for money is achieved.
þ Hired van to transport sizeable quantity of equipment between University sites or locations. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes.
þ Hire car kept overnight at individual’s house for early morning travel required before 9.00am. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes.
þ Hired car taken from UK across to Europe for field trip carrying research equipment. Under Principle 3, the vehicle used for business purposes. It is important to check with the University Insurance department to ensure the vehicle is adequately covered in Europe.
þ Hired vehicle to transport equipment to an event or exhibition venue. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes.
þ Vehicle hired abroad from non-UK vehicle hire company. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes. Adequate insurance cover is required and not covered by the University.
 
ý Hire car is taken home over the weekend to use for a personal trip. Under Principle 3, the individual receives a personal benefit which is taxable. The individual should hire a car directly and pay for it themselves.
ý Hire car booked for two weeks as individual needs it 3 days per week. Under Principle 1, this is not value for money as the car is being paid for when it is not needed. The individual should book the hire car only for the days required. 

Having the right level of insurance when using a hired vehicle is essential. The University's motor insurance policy does not provide cover for the ownership or hire of motor vehicles whilst abroad.

Please check with the department before travelling and if necessary, refer to the University insurance web pages for further details.

The purchase of fuel for hired vehicles may be reimbursed through expenses with an accompanying receipt.

When necessary and reasonable, private vehicles may be used for business travel and mileage will be reimbursed at HMRC approved rates.

Important Note:

Private vehicles are NOT insured by the University. Before private vehicles can be used for business purposes, individuals should check their own insurance cover extends to business use and if necessary, amend it at their own cost. By submitting an expenses claim form, claimants are declaring that:

  • they have a valid driving licence; 
  • the vehicle is safe, legal and roadworthy;
  • the vehicle has a valid MOT;
  • the vehicle is maintained to the manufacturer’s recommendations; and
  • the vehicle is insured for business use.

Departments should be satisfied that an individual has obtained adequate insurance cover prior to authorising any mileage claim and may request a copy of the insurance certificate as evidence.

1.  Business insurance costs for private vehicles will not be reimbursed by the University.

2.  University credit cards must NOT be used to purchase fuel for private vehicles.

 

Examples of acceptable and unacceptable private vehicle expenses claims:

 

þ Private car journey to place of business significantly removed from normal place of work as journey by public transport is time consuming and arduous, and business insurance is in place. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes only. Expense claim should include: reason for journey, its date, destination, mileage used and names of any passengers.
þ Using a private vehicle to move cumbersome/numerous pieces of equipment from one location to another, and business insurance is in place. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes only. Expense claim should include: reason for journey, its date, destination, mileage used and names of any passengers.
þ Using a private vehicle to give an important University visitor a lift to/from another location for an event or other University activity, and business insurance is in place. Under Principle 3, the vehicle is used for business purposes only. Expense claim should include: reason for journey, its date, destination, mileage used and names of any passengers.
ý Should not be claimed. Use of private vehicle to travel to and from an individual's normal place of work. Under Principle 3, this is ordinary commuting and a personal benefit which is not allowed.
ý Should not be claimed. Private car journey to place of business significantly removed from normal place of work via unnecessary route or location. Under Principle 1, this is not value for money and under Principle 4, only actual costs can be claimed. This is unnecessary mileage use. 

Individuals who use their own private vehicles on University business in accordance with the details specified above will be reimbursed for private vehicle mileage at standard HMRC rates. The allowance set by HMRC is:

Motor car or van: 

Motor cycle or moped:

Bicycles: 

45p per mile for first 10,000 miles in each tax year (then 25p per mile thereafter)

24p per mile for all mileage

20p per mile for all mileage

 

If passengers are carried on University business, an additional 5p per passenger per mile may be claimed for each journey. For example, if a claimant travels by car to a seminar and takes 2 colleagues who will also be attending as passengers, a total rate of 55p per mile may be claimed.

Additional passengers may not be carried in excess of the vehicle’s specified capacity.

Fuel costs cannot be claimed in addition to or instead of mileage for private vehicles.

Wherever possible, fuel for University vehicles should always be paid for by the University; either directly, or by using a University fuel or credit card. Where this is not possible, individuals may reclaim the cost of fuel through the expenses process, ensuring the claim is supported by a receipt.

Running costs for University vehicles such as servicing, parts and maintenance, licensing, etc. are NOT claimable through expenses and must be paid for directly by the department.

All parking costs or road tolls, including the London Congestion Charge, incurred in the course of approved business travel may be claimed through the expenses process. Tickets or receipts should be attached to the claim as evidence.

Note: charges for parking at an individual’s normal place of work, or public car parks used in their journey to their normal place of work (for example the Park & Ride) will NOT be paid by the University.

 ý Case Study Example - Airport parking charges

Instead of taking public transport to the airport, Simon decides to drive himself in his own car. When he arrives at the airport, Simon parks his car in the long term car park and makes his way to the terminal. On his return, Simon submits an expense claim for both the mileage to and from the airport, and the airport car parking charge which together are more expensive than using public transport.

Under Principle 1 – Value for Money is not achieved and this is an unnecessary expense. Simon should have taken public transport, as that would be a more economical journey.

Examples of what travel charges can and should not be claimed:

 

þ Car park charges at external place of business significantly removed from normal place of work. Under Principle 3, these charges are for business purposes only. Dated receipt/proof of parking charge and reason for travel must support expense claim.
þ London congestion charge when using a private/hired vehicle for necessary business activity. Under Principle 3, these charges are for business purposes only. Dated receipt/proof of charge must support expense claim.
ý Should not be claimed. Airport parking charges and mileage costs when public transport was accessible, reasonable and cheaper. Under Principle 1, this is not value for money and an unreasonable cost.
þ Toll charge on M6 while travelling on University business. Under Principle 3, these charges are for business purposes only. Dated receipt/proof of charge must support expense claim.

Wherever possible, business travel insurance should be arranged through the University in line with Principle 1, to receive value for money, and Principle 2, for the University to pay directly. When this is not possible and with departmental approval, travel insurance for overseas business travel may be reclaimed only when University insurance cannot be obtained.

The University will not pay for any fines or penalties incurred by individuals in the course of allowed business travel. This includes:

  • parking fines;
  • speeding or other traffic penalties; or
  • release, clamping and impounding fees, etc.

ý  Case Study Example - Fine incurred during business travel

Rumi is attending a meeting at the Saïd Business School first thing in the morning and another at the Oxford Science park later in the day. She decides to use her own vehicle to travel to the meetings to save time. When leaving the Business School, Rumi drives down Castle Street past the Westgate Shopping Centre on her way out of the city centre. Castle Street is a bus route, and Rumi receives a £60 fine which she claims for in her expenses along with her business mileage.

Under Principle 3 – The fine is not a business expense. The fine was completely avoidable and unnecessary and should not be reimbursed. Rumi should have used the public highway route to avoid a fine.

Costs for travel visas required for individuals undertaking business travel may be reimbursed by the University.

Note: travel visa costs for a spouse, guest or family member who is accompanying the claimant but not involved in University business, should not be reimbursed, unless they have a specified role that has been agreed in advance by the department (translation, medical care, etc.)

All claims should be supported by receipts or invoices.

Examples of what can and cannot be claimed:

 

þ Country visa costs for business travel abroad. Under Principle 1, this is a necessary cost and under Principle 2, the University cannot pay directly. Evidence required is a receipt/invoice supported by reason for travel.
þ Third party agency costs to arrange complex business travel visa. Under Principle 1, this is a necessary cost and under Principle 2, the University cannot pay directly. Evidence required is an agency receipt/invoice supported by reason for travel.
ý Should not be claimed. Visa costs for spouse/partner etc. accompanying claimant while abroad for reasons unrelated to University. Under Principle 3, a personal benefit is received.
þ Visa costs for spouse/partner etc, accompanying claimant with official University role while abroad (translator, etc). Under Principle 1, this is a necessary cost and under Principle 2, the University cannot pay directly. Evidence required is a receipt/invoice, supported by reason for travel and business role undertaken by spouse/partner.

 

Visas for foreign nationals to work in the UK

In some circumstances, the department may pay for or reimburse an individual's costs if they require a visa to work for the University in the UK. Further guidance is available from the Staff Immigration Team.

Contact us


 : Payment Services
       Finance Division
       University of Oxford
       23-38 Hythe Bridge Street
       Oxford OX1 2ET

 payments@admin.ox.ac.uk
 :  01865 (6) 16016
 :  Team contacts  

 
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