4.5 Lodging Expenses
4.5.1 General Provisions
Employees who travel more than fifty (50) miles (and outside the county) from their home office, residence, or headquarters may be reimbursed for lodging expenses associated with overnight travel.
Employees will be reimbursed for the actual lodging expenses, provided the expenses are reasonable. Each institution may establish its own policy regarding the maximum reasonable rates for overnight lodging.
4.5.2 Employee Responsibilities
Employees traveling overnight are responsible for ensuring the most reasonable lodging rates are obtained. To accomplish this, employees should:
- Make reservations in advance, whenever practical;
- Utilize minimum rate accommodations;
- Avoid the “deluxe” hotels and motels; and,
- Obtain corporate/government rates, whenever possible.
4.5.3 Reimbursement of Lodging Expenses for Overnight Travel Outside of Georgia
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.” Lodging expenses associated with travel to high-cost areas should be approved by the department head, dean, or his/her designee prior to the trip.
The federal per diem rates can be found as follows:
- Federal per diem rates for locations within the continental United States: http://www.gsa.gov/perdiem
- Breakdown by meal for federal per diem amounts: http://www.gsa.gov/mie
- Federal per diem rates for Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories and possessions: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/perdiemrates.html
Note: The rates published by the federal government should only be used as a guide to determine whether an expense is “reasonable and customary.”
4.5.4 Lodging Associated with a Meeting or Seminar
Employees who stay at a hotel/motel holding a scheduled meeting or seminar may incur lodging expenses in excess of the rates generally considered reasonable. The higher cost may be justified in order to avoid excessive transportation costs between a lower cost hotel/motel and the location of the meeting.
4.5.5 Authorization for Lodging Within the 50 Mile Radius
On occasion, institutions are required to sponsor conferences, trade shows, and other functions that require personnel to work at the event. In many cases, the persons planning and coordinating the event reside or work less than fifty (50) miles from the scheduled meeting site.
Institutions are authorized to approve overnight travel for such persons who are coordinating institution-sponsored events, provided the affected employees are required to conduct business activities at the site the following day. In addition to lodging, affected employees may be reimbursed for meals and mileage in accordance with the provisions of the Statewide Travel Regulations.
Institutions are required to keep records of all persons authorized for travel status under this provision. Such records must be maintained in a central file and must include the names of all persons approved for travel under this provision, the dates of the event, the purpose of the event, the responsibilities of the individuals approved for travel status, and the written and signed authorization of the department head, dean, and his/her designee. Authorization for such travel must be done in advance of the scheduled event.
It should be noted that this provision only applies to conferences and other institution- sponsored events that occur. This provision does not authorize persons to claim travel reimbursement for activities that are part of their normal responsibilities. In addition, this provision would not apply for persons who are required to attend evening meetings as part of their normal responsibilities.
4.5.6 Shared Lodging
When employees on travel status share a room, reimbursement will be calculated, if practical, on a prorated share of the total cost. 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.
4.5.7 Taxes Associated with Lodging Expenses
Employees should review hotel/motel receipts to ensure that taxes have been applied correctly to their lodging expenses, in accordance with the state tax laws and regulations. Employees should attempt to resolve any problems with the billing prior to checkout.
Lodging Paid Directly by Employees
If lodging is paid directly by the employee by personal credit card, personal check, or cash, 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) pursuant to OCGA 48-13-51. Employees are required to pay any state/local sales and use taxes.
The exemption when paying by personal credit card, check or cash only applies to the hotel/motel tax. This exemption does not apply to employees staying at an out-of-state hotel/motel.
Employees should provide proper identification to document their employment as a state or local government employee when they check in at the hotel/motel. Employees should also submit a copy of the hotel/motel tax-exemption form when they register. See Section 4.11 for a link to the Exemption Form For Local Hotel/Motel Excise Tax.
If the hotel refuses to accept the hotel/motel tax-exemption form at check-in, the employee should attempt to resolve the issue with hotel management before checking out at the end of their stay. Employees should also review hotel/motel receipts prior to leaving the premises to ensure that taxes have been applied correctly to their lodging expenses in accordance with the state tax laws and regulations and resolve any potential problems and overcharges.
If the matter is not resolved by the time the employee checks out, the employee should pay the tax. The employee should explain the payment of the tax as an unusual expense on their travel statement.
Institutions are authorized to reimburse employees for the hotel/motel tax if the employee provides the institution with the following information:
- Employee name;
- Date(s) of lodging;
- Name, address, telephone number of hotel; and,
- Documentation from the hotel/motel of their refusal to omit the tax.
Institutions should forward this information to the SAO by email to: SAO_Reporting@sao.ga.gov, or by regular mail to: 200 Piedmont Avenue, Suite 1604 West Tower, Atlanta, GA 30334.
Lodging Paid Directly by State or Local Government
If lodging is paid directly by the state or local government, such as by direct-bill, state credit card, or government check, the hotel/motel should not collect any taxes associated with the lodging expenses.
4.5.8 Resort and Other Fees
Some hotels include a charge for “resort” or other fees. These are not tax-exempt fees, and should be reimbursed as an eligible lodging expense.
4.5.9 Internet Usage Charges
As noted in Section 4.9.5, 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.
4.5.10 Lodging Expenses Incurred While Taking Leave
Employees who take annual leave while on travel status may not be reimbursed for lodging expenses incurred during the period of leave.
4.5.11 Required Documentation of Lodging Expenses
Daily lodging expenses, including applicable taxes, must be itemized on the employee travel expense statement. Employees requesting reimbursement for lodging expenses are required to submit receipts with their expense statement.
In addition, any expenses that exceed the maximum reasonable rates established by the respective institution should be explained on the travel statement. Individuals responsible for approving travel expenses should review these explanations to determine whether the higher costs are justified and allowable.
4.5.12 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.