4.4 Lodging Expenses
See Section 3.1 of Statewide Travel Policy for guidelines on payments for employee lodging expenses.
See Section 3.5 of Statewide Travel Policy for guidelines on payments for lodging expenses associated with a seminar/conference held at hotel/motel providing lodging.
Exception: Statewide Travel Policy states that when lodging is shared “the traveler paying for the lodging seeks reimbursement for the full expense”. Our employees who share rooms should prorate the room costs, if practical, to properly reflect each employee’s share of the lodging expense. This allows for a more accurate cost split, especially for employees funded by multiple sources.
When a state employee on travel status is accompanied by someone who is not a state employee on travel status, the employee is entitled to reimbursement at a single-room rate.
Note: Employees who take annual leave while on travel status may not be reimbursed for lodging expenses incurred during the period of leave.
4.4.1 General Provisions
Lodging expenses for hotels/motels outside Georgia may exceed the maximum reasonable rates set by an institution. Employees traveling out-of-state should refer to the federal per diem rates to identify high-cost areas of the United States, and to determine whether higher expenses are “reasonable and customary”. Use the Link to GSA Per Diem Rates tab in SAO’s Statewide Travel Policy website to access per diem rates for Out of State travel.
Note: The rates published by the federal government should only be used as a guide to determine whether an expense is “reasonable and customary.”
4.4.2 Tax Exemptions
The following excerpts from Section 3.3 of the Statewide Travel Policy apply to USG employees:
State and local government officials and employees traveling within the state on official business are exempt from paying the county or municipal excise tax on lodging (“hotel/motel” or “occupancy” tax) [OCGA 48-13-51 (H) (3)], regardless of the payment method being used. (This exemption does not apply to travelers staying at an out-of-state hotel/motel.) Travelers must be able to provide proper identification to document their employment as a state or local government employee.
Additionally, as an employee traveling on official State business, the lodging is eligible for exemption from State of Georgia Sales Tax when the payment method being used is either direct bill to the agency, or a State of Georgia issued credit card. Travelers should make every effort to avoid payment of sales tax when payment method is other than a personal payment method.
Travelers are required to submit a copy of the Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Form. See Section 4.9 for link to form.
If the hotel refuses to accept the form at check-in, the traveler should attempt to resolve the issue with hotel management before checking out at the end of their stay. If the matter is not resolved by check-out time, the traveler should pay the tax. The employee should explain the reason for paying the hotel/motel tax on the travel statement.
Failure of the employee to submit the Hotel Occupancy Tax Exemption Form to the hotel/motel may result in non-reimbursement of the tax to the employee.
Per the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, effective July 1, 2015 hotels in the state of Georgia will charge a $5.00 per room per night hotel tax to travelers. This tax is not exempted for State Employees.
4.4.3 Other Lodging Charges and Fees
Employees may be reimbursed for work-related internet usage charges. These charges should be separately identified on the itemized hotel/motel bill, but should not be listed on the travel expense statement as “lodging.” Rather, these charges should be treated as miscellaneous expenses, included in the “voice/data communications” section of the travel expense statement.
Travelers should not book non-refundable rates or rates that require deposits unless required by conference lodging. It is the employee’s responsibility to understand cancellation rules. Non-refundable rates cannot be changed or cancelled; therefore, the employee is accepting the risk of a non-reimbursable cancellation fee.
If a cancellation fee is charged and all efforts to have fee remove have been exhausted, the employee may include it on the travel statement with thorough explanation. The department head, dean or other responsible official should review the request and determine if reimbursement is appropriate.
Some hotels include a charge for “resort” or other fees. These fees should be reimbursed as an eligible lodging expense.
4.4.4 Georgia’s “Green Hotels” Program
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has developed a program to identify and certify lodging properties that are taking significant steps to reduce their demands on Georgia’s natural resources and acting as good corporate citizens. These certified “Green Hotels” meet a stringent standard for environmental stewardship and operational efficiency. By using less toxic cleaning and maintenance chemicals, these hotels provide healthier conditions for guest and employees.
When traveling on state business and hosting meetings, state employees are encouraged to explore opportunities to support these properties where cost-competitive. The current list of certified properties is available at: http://www.greenseal.org/FindGreenSealProductsandServices/HotelsandLodgingProperties.aspx