Travel Reminders for Arizona School Districts

by Jim D. Rebenar, Audit Manager

Posted on August 3, 2015

As districts across the state begin the new school year, a quick review of travel guidelines today may help to avoid headaches (and audit findings) in the future. The following are a few items to consider in anticipation of forthcoming travel requests.

 Be familiar with District travel policy. The Uniform System of Financial Records (USFR) requires a district to adopt governing board prescribed policies for reimbursing travel expenditures incurred for school purposes. Though not all policies will mirror each other exactly, there are a number of controls which should be consistently implemented to ensure compliance with the USFR:

  • Travel should be approved in advance and use the most economical means available.
  • For lodging and meal reimbursements, district employees must travel at least 50 miles from their school site and governing board members must travel at least 50 miles from home. Exceptions for student-related employee travel may exist if adopted in the district’s policy.
  • Claims which detail the time and place of travel, and odometer readings or map mileage should be required for reimbursement. The claim must indicate approval by both the employee and supervisor.
  • District policy may or may not require the traveler to submit receipts for meal reimbursements. In either case the district must verify that the amount claimed does not exceed the maximum meal reimbursement amount per the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA).

Be aware of taxable reimbursements. Meal reimbursements for travel with no overnight stay or substantial sleep/rest should be treated as a taxable benefit. Districts should use object code 6290-Other Employee Benefits to record taxable meal reimbursements. These reimbursements should be processed through the payroll department to ensure that social security, Medicare, and federal and state income taxes are properly withheld. Any board members who receive taxable meal reimbursements should be issued a W-2 at the end of the calendar year.

These are just a few topics to consider when processing travel reimbursements. Additional guidance can be found in the ADOA’s Travel Policy, the USFR, and through the FAQs issued by the Office of the Auditor General.