Thursday, June 5, 2008

Officials answer travel program queries

Editor’s note: The following are questions and answers provided by Defense Travel System officials.

Q: What receipts are required for travel reimbursements?

A: Joint Federal Travel Regulations require receipts for lodging expenses regardless of amount and for all individual expenditures of $75 or more. This includes but is not limited to any lodging, rental cars, and transportation expenses reserved through the Defense Travel System (DTS), even when paid using the traveler’s Government Travel Charge Card (GTCC). For travel using DTS, these receipts are faxed or scanned, and attached to the traveler’s electronic voucher. For travel paid outside DTS, these receipts are attached to the paper travel voucher and submitted to the office responsible for the travel payment.

Q: What is a valid receipt?

A: A receipt is a written acknowledgement that the vendor has been paid for providing goods or services. To be valid, it must show:

  • The name of the company providing the goods or services

  • When the specific services were rendered or articles purchased

  • The unit price

  • The final amount due and that it was paid

    Q: What is not a valid receipt?

    A: Hotel bills. A final bill provided by hotels as part of an express check out that shows the amount due is not a valid receipt because it does not show that the bill was paid. A valid receipt must show the lodging facility name, specific dates of lodging, the unit price, any additional charges (e.g. hotel taxes, city taxes), and total amount actually paid. Travelers can get an invoice when they check out of the lodging facility, or may have it sent to them later.

  • Rental car contracts. A contract for rental car services signed when renting a car is not a valid receipt because it only shows estimated charges, and does not show the amount actually paid. A valid receipt must show the rental car agency name, specific dates of service, itemized unit costs, any additional charges (e.g., airport concession fees, taxes), and total amount actually paid. The receipt is provided by the rental car company when the traveler returns the rental car, or may be sent to the traveler when using an express return.

  • Itinerary⁄invoice. A Commercial Travel Office (CTO) itinerary⁄invoice showing that air or rail transportation has been booked is not a valid receipt because it only includes anticipated costs, and does not substantiate an actual payment. A valid receipt must show the transportation provider’s name, the date(s) of service, the total cost of service plus taxes and fees, the date, amount, and method of payment. This can be an ‘‘Itinerary⁄receipt” or ‘‘receipt” provided by the CTO (by email or via a website using the traveler’s name and booking number) that shows that the transportation has been ticketed, lists the transportation company, the itemized costs, the total amount paid, and the method of payment. If the CTO does not provide a receipt, the traveler can request one from the ticket counter or kiosk when checking in at the transportation terminal.

    Q: Why aren’t charge card statements and electronic records in DTS valid receipts?

    A: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations require travel expenses to be documented before travel reimbursements can qualify as non-taxable payments. Data available from charge card statements does provide proof of payment, but doesn’t provide the level of detail required, such as itemized costs and dates of service. The itinerary and ticket information available in DTS cannot be used to replace a receipt because that information can be edited by the traveler in the voucher process to make corrections reflecting changes to the travel costs after the ticket was originally issued.

    Q: What do I do if I don’t have a receipt?

    A: If you forget to get a receipt or lose a receipt, you should first contact the service provider to get a replacement receipt. The JFTR⁄JTR does allow travelers to provide a statement when receipts are lost or impractical to obtain. This statement must include an explanation of the circumstances, and contain all of the information that would be included in a valid receipt, such as:

  • Service provider’s name and address

  • Date(s) of service

  • Itemized costs and

  • Total amount paid

    For lodging costs, the statement must also include whether or not another person shared the room (and the sharer’s status as an official traveler or not).