Birkbeck, University of London The Finance Department

Claiming Travel and subsistence

Staff travel and subsistence expense claims are completed on the appropriate form within Business World. Full details of the expense must be entered into the form and all receipts should be scanned and attached to the claim. Receipts should be itemised (showing the items purchased) and should state that a payment has been made. Card terminal receipts alone will not be accepted. Oyster card receipts (journey history) should be attached to travel claims.  Travel should be by the lowest cost available and by public transport where possible. Expenses will not be reimbursed where no additional cost has arisen, for example season ticket holders will not be reimbursed for individual journeys.

Further guidance on processing staff expense claims in Business World can be found within the quick guide.

Contents of this page:

Travelling Expenses
Travelling Abroad
Public Transport
Private Car
Guidelines for Hotel Accommodation & Subsistence

Travelling Expenses

Except as detailed below, staff may claim the costs of necessary business travel. For the purposes of determining the extent to which journeys may be regarded as business journeys the following rules apply:

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Travelling abroad

Travel abroad should normally be invoiced directly to the College.  Staff shall book travel arrangements wherever the most favourable terms are obtainable and having regard to travel agents recommended by the London University Purchasing Consortium (LUPC).

With the exception of cases where the sterling equivalent is easily verifiable (e.g. expenses supported by original foreign currency receipts but also appearing as sterling equivalents on credit card statements), and subject to the Director of Finance having authority to exercise discretion in cases where there are wild fluctuations in exchange rates, all claims for reimbursement of costs met in foreign currencies should be submitted in their original denominations and converted in the Finance Department at the National Westminster Bank exchange rate prevailing on the first day of the week in which the claim is submitted, with the addition of 3% for exchange fluctuations and conversion costs, to produce a sterling equivalent.

Travel and subsistence expenses incurred whilst travelling outside of the UK will be reimbursed in line with the HMRC Worldwide Subsistence rates.

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Public Transport

Travelling within the United Kingdom should normally be by public transport.   Taxi fares will not normally be reimbursed (please note that a booking fee is also charged when a taxi is ordered through Malet Street).  The cheapest public transport route will normally be the amount reimbursed.  Reimbursement will only be made for economy class fares.  Staff are expected to take advantage of any concessionary fares available to them.  If private transport is used, the reason for that use and the number of passengers, together with the names where those passengers are members of College, must be stated on the claim form.  Actual expenditure incurred on standard class rail, bus or coach fares will be reimbursed. Cheap day returns should be used where applicable, and travel cards (Network or Railcards) are also helpful in reducing rail costs in appropriate circumstances. Car parking fees at a station will be reimbursed.  In approved cases, air fares at the cheapest rate (tourist or economy) will be reimbursed.   If first class travel is used, only standard class fares will be reimbursed. 

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Private Car

Staff should check their insurance policies to ensure that they are covered for use of their vehicles for College business.

The cost of fuel for private/company cars used for business purposes should be claimed as follows:

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Subsistence costs are reimbursable where a member of staff is required to stay away overnight and includes the cost of accommodation and breakfast, lunch or dinner as appropriate.  The amounts reimbursed shall not exceed the rates set by the College.

Expenses reimbursed must be ordinary and necessary to accomplish the official business purpose of the trip. Subsistence expenses incurred within the vicinity of an employee’s place of work or residence shall not be reimbursed.

Click here for queries about business entertainment.

Subsistence should always be claimed on the basis of actual expenditure incurred, supported by appropriate documentation.  Exceptionally, where this is impossible, for example on field trips where the group is camping, a subsistence level pre-agreed by the College may be applied.

The cost of accommodation must be approved by an authorised signatory before the booking is made.  The signatory should ensure that the cost of meals claimed is reasonable with the level of accommodation approved.

Itemised receipts are always required to support any subsistence claims.

In order to satisfy HMRC requirements claims for the reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses shall be made on a standard College Claim form.  Staff are reminded that all payment requests must be accompanied by adequate supporting documents which will normally comprise original (photocopies are not accepted) bills or receipts, and must in all circumstances provide sufficient information for Finance Department staff to ascertain whether a request for payment to a named individual should be subject to taxation.

Finance Department staff are instructed to refuse payment requests in excess of £20, including requests for urgent cheque payments, which are not supported by full details of the nature and purpose of the payment requested and firm evidence that the cost has been incurred.

Staff requesting advance payments in respect of expenses to be met in cash must state a reasonable date by which the advance will be accounted for.

Where the expenses incurred are to be recovered from an external funding body, the College's rules will take precedence if they are in conflict with the external funders' rules.

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Guidelines for hotel accommodation and subsistence

The cost of hotel accommodation should be approved by the budget holder prior to booking.  The cost of meals should be reasonable.  Excessive claims will be rejected by the relevant School Manager, Executive Dean or Head of Professional Services Department.

Actual expenditure should be claimed subject to the maximum rates set out below.

Night Subsistence

Bed & Breakfast and evening meal (less £9.95 if no evening meal) : £105.00 (London: £146.68)
Mid-day meal : £9.85
Daily rate for personal incidental expenses £3.50

Day Subsistence

Absence of 7-10 hours: £10 (including VAT)
Absence of over 10 hours: £30 (including VAT)

Employees may claim up to a maximum of £30 (or rate of exchange) for each day on which they purchase meals, snacks, etc. whilst necessarily away from both home and their normal place of work exclusively for work purposes, provided they are absent from each for more than 10 hours, spanning two normal meal times

Please note that these amounts are not allowances, but are the maximum amounts that can be claimed. Receipts must be provided in support of claims for subsistence costs where it would be reasonable to expect a supplier to give them.

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Do credit/debit card receipts count as proof of expenditure?

No, Finance cannot accept credit/debit card receipts as proof of expenditure.  It is a requirement of HMRC that original receipts specifying what has been purchased are available for audit. 

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What can be claimed as expenses?

Value for money should always be sought when purchasing.  For example, it is more cost effective to order stationary through the College via the School Administrator rather than independently through retailers.

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Can I buy something for personal use and reimburse the college?

No.  Please go to the Purchasing Goods and Services page for more information.

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When should I get my expenses approved?

Authorisation to spend College funds (including funds from external funders) should be obtained before they are incurred.


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Date printed: 04/08/2020