Boudewijn van Dongen.

UC | The costs of travelling

24/11/2016

The last time I wrote this column, I was in Barcelona. Today, I’m writing this column at Vienna airport, waiting for my (severely delayed) plane to Paris, then Rennes for a conference. During all these visits it's a recurring discussion among scientists: 'Who pays for all this travelling?'.

At TU/e, we are quite fortunate. Colleagues from universities outside The Netherlands rarely get their full expenses paid for travelling. For example, they only get paid for the hotel and flight, but the meals are not reimbursed, or they get a daily allowance that does not cover the actual costs. For us, the rules are different, and, in the opinion of the University Counsel, not in line with the spirit of time.

Officially, for foreign trips, the reimbursements are arranged by the 'Regeling vergoeding dienstreizen', which states that for each destination there is a fixed amount for each breakfast, lunch and dinner you pay for and for each hour you spent abroad.

Furthermore, actual costs of flights, taxi’s, public transportation are reimbursed, as well as hotel costs up to a maximum for each destination. These rates are set by the government every six months. Strangely enough, according to the rules for the fixed amounts, no proof of actual expenses is required. However, travellers can, voluntarily, agree to a lower amount for reimbursement before any trip.

With the international ambitions of this university, the costs of travelling are going up. Therefore, in practice, most departments interpret the ‘voluntarily’ as ‘mandatory’. They simply deny a travel permit if a lower amount is not agreed to upfront and they require proof of actual expenses with each request for reimbursement.

While the financial departments are mostly flexible if not all receipts are there, occasionally, this leads to discussions and formally, the employee is then entitled to a reimbursement that can far exceed actual expenses. As an example, for all my trips this year, the actual amount I would be entitled to according to the standard rates is over 6.000 euro more than the actual expenses I declared.

The University Council thinks that the rules for travel costs reimbursements should be brought back in line with the procedures around these rules. The TU/e should either explicitly decide that indeed no proof of expenses is required (and then no longer ask for it) or adopt the rules to maximize the reimbursements to costs actually made (and remain flexible in showing proof). In our view, the latter is the more elegant solution.

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