Although both governments and private-sector businesses have an obligation to pay your way when you’re out on a business trip for them, they have a lot of leeway when it comes to how they need to pay, how much they need to pay, and what else they can choose to cover. After all, not every organization is created equal, and what may be an expected level of coverage by a major corporation may break the bank of a local supply store.
The Difference A Budget Makes
While one company may only provide enough funds for a cheap motel room, fast food, and enough gas to keep a compact sedan on the road, a bigger company may give its convention attendees and roaming sales representatives a flexible budget which lets them stay in one of the nicest hotels in town, eat at restaurants that demand reservations in advance, and even spend money on entertainment venues, particularly if they’re bringing potential clients along for the ride.
The payment method can be different for different categories, too. A single organization can issue a corporate credit card which may only be used for transportation costs, compensate the employee for housing and entertainment costs, and issue a per diem allowance for food and tips. This sort of information should be clear when you look at your travel expenses form.
Learn Where You Stand
Because the rules can change so drastically from one organization to another, if you find yourself about to go on a business trip for the first time you owe it to yourself to find out what your employer will cover and what’s up to you. Generally speaking, everything that’s directly work-related can be claimed on a travel expenses form, but everything you decide to do because you’re waiting for a meeting to start or because there’s still time to kill before you have to sleep is something you’ll have to put on your own dime.
But because you can’t be sure until you find out, make sure you do. If you have an employee’s manual with an example travel expenses form, make sure you study it carefully and you learn what the upper limits are on prices. If you can’t find everything you want to know, ask your human resources department or whoever manages the employees for more information, and make sure you get it in writing.
A business trip can be a surprisingly fun experience, but make sure you know who will be paying for that fun beforehand. If your trip to the movies doesn’t show up on your travel expenses form, you’ll end up paying for it, and if it shows up anyway you’ll still pay for it and be accused of fraud in the process.