Software Freedom Conservancy Travel and Reimbursable Expense Policy
- Easy Reference Guide
- Reimbursement Procedure
- Project Leadership Committee Review
- Other Reimbursable Expenses
- Additional Days of Travel
- Non-reimbursable Expenses
- Satisfaction of IRS Requirements
- Currency Exchange Rates
- Expense Reporting
- Consequences of Policy Violations
- Policy Changes
Software Freedom Conservancy Travel and Reimbursable Expense Policy
This Travel and Reimbursable Expense Policy ("Policy") applies to all Conservancy Member Projects ("Projects") of Software Freedom Conservancy ("Conservancy") and has been created to memorialize Conservancy's reimbursement policies relating to travel and other business expenses incurred by Conservancy staff, Project Leadership Committee ("PLC") members, and project volunteers while engaged in business on behalf of, or at the behest of Conservancy and/or a Project ("Travelers").
This Policy includes an Easy Reference Guide that can be used as a template for most of the travel covered under this Policy. When in doubt, refer to the more detailed sections below.
Conservancy must maintain effective control of business-related expenses in order to maintain its financial viability and tax exempt status. Conservancy and each Project is also accountable to our donors to ensure that we manage their contributions wisely and maximize our ability to pursue our charitable mission. As such, Conservancy expects Travelers to use good judgment and to claim reimbursement for only those expenses that are necessary and reasonable. Excessive expenses, including but not limited to luxury accommodations and services unnecessary for, or unrelated to the furtherance of Conservancy's charitable mission are not eligible for reimbursement.
Any travel expense that adheres to this Policy is considered In-Policy and does not require special approval, so long as the trip itself has been approved in writing by Conservancy's Executive Director or by a Project's Leadership Committee ("PLC") in a regular and documented PLC vote. Conservancy and/or a PLC can limit allowable travel expenses to an amount less than what would otherwise be considered acceptable according to this Policy. If so, the smaller budget is the maximum allowed expense.
PLC's may, in fact, have their own travel policy that is more restrictive than this one. Please consult the PLC for your Conservancy project before incurring an expenses to ensure you understand what expenses can be reimbursed.
Easy Reference Guide
Travelers should adhere to the following guidelines to stay In-Policy.
- Book 14 days in advance.
Air fares within $100 of the lowest fare (using standard airfare search tools) are In-Policy. Fares > $750 domestically and > $1,500 internationally require Conservancy's pre-approval.
Hotel fares < GSA rates are In-Policy. Visit http://www.gsa.gov/perdiem for US destinations or http://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem.asp for international destinations to determine the rate for your destination.
- Be sure the receipt from your hotel includes the dates of your stay, not just a total.
- Receipts. Keep and submit PDFs of the following, as applicable:
- Your fare search (i.e., a screen shot)
- Your plane/rail ticket (e-confirmation of purchase is sufficient)
- Your hotel/lodging invoice
- Per Diem.
- Use your per-diem to cover meals and incidental expenses.
Your per-diem is based on GSA guidelines. Visit http://www.gsa.gov/perdiem for US destinations or http://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem.asp for international destinations to determine the M&IE rate for your destination.
- Try to be frugal - GSM per-diem rates are rather generous.
- When attending a conference where food is included, Do The Right Thing and claim a lower per-diem.
To receive reimbursement, send hotel and flight/rail receipt, along with a list of Per Diem days and totals to firstname.lastname@example.org. Refer to the Expense Report section below for details.
Note that reimbursements are only processed once per week. While we usually can turn around reimbursements in about two weeks' time, please be advised that Conservancy officially does reimbursements on a NET-30 basis, starting from the date that complete materials are received. If this is an issue, Conservancy is available to prepurchase expensive items like airline tickets on your behalf, so that you don't need to be reimbursed.
If you seek to be reimbursed for Conservancy Project expenses, please send the following, in a self contained email (with attachments as necessary), cc'ing your Project Leadership Committee address (PROJECT@sfconservancy.org) for Project approval:
- a brief paragraph explaining what was accomplished for the project during your travel and/or with the funds being reimbursed. This can be informal; it's just for our records to confirm the travel advanced the not-for-profit mission of both Conservancy and the project.
- A brief report listing the items to be reimbursed.
- Full receipt(s) for everything, unless the travel policy does not require receipts (e.g., for per diem expenses).
If your receipts are in a different currency than your preferred one for reimbursement, include documentation of the rate conversion (e.g., a redacted credit card statement in your preferred currency). Otherwise, Conservancy will use the prevailing rate for the date of the expense for conversion.
Please verify that the receipts that you submit are within the attached travel policy requirements. Note, however, that your Project Leadership Committee may have set a stricter budget than what the general Conservancy policy allows.
- How you'd liked to be reimbursed. The four payment options, in order of Conservancy's preference, are:
PayPal. For this, we need (a) the email address that is registered to the PayPal account that will receive reimbursement and (b) the preferred currency. (Please verify that PayPal supports transactions in your preferred currency before choosing one.) Note that sometimes PayPal fees are assessed. Usually we're taking funds from our PayPal balance, which means no fees appear on our side, but they may appear on yours. In our experience, USA PayPal account holders in the USA are not typically assessed fees; but we do advise you to check PayPal's fee schedule before choosing this method. NOTE: Typically, when choosing PayPal as a payment opting, amounts owed in USD will be paid in USD, regardless of your preferred currency selection.
- Issue you a check in USD from a USA bank, sent to you via post. For this option, I just need your postal address.
- Wire the amount in your local currency to your bank account in your country. For this option, I need as much of the following information as it's possible for you to collect. While some of this information isn't always needed, the more I have, the less likely there will be problems with your wire. I note below in parenthesis which fields are mandatory, which varies based on where you are in the world.
- Preferred Currency (absolutely mandatory)
- SWIFT and/or BIC Code (mandatory for non-USA wires)
- ACH or ABA routing number (mandatory for USA wires)
- Correspondent Bank ACH and Name of that Bank (This is not mandatory, but note that USA banks charge fees during wire transit to direct an international wire. Since Conservancy's payment is coming from the USA, it's best if you ask your own bank what USA correspondent bank they prefer for USA wire transfers. This is the best way to avoid that fee.)
- Account Number (absolutely mandatory)
- Full Name of the Account Holder (absolutely mandatory)
- Full Address of Account Holder
- Bank Name
- Bank Address
- IBAN (mandatory for EU countries and Qatar)
- Tax ID of account holder (mandatory for Colombia and Brazil; In Brazil, this is your 14-digit CNPJ or 11-digit CPF)
- Phone Number of account holder (mandatory for Colombia and Brazil)
- Bank Agency Code (mandatory for Brazil)
- IFSC code (mandatory for India)
- BSB Code (mandatory for Australia)
- Beneficiary INN (mandatory for Russian Federation)
- Patronymic Name of Beneficiary (mandatory for Russian Federation)
- VAT/VO Code of Beneficiary Bank (mandatory for Russian Federation)
- Note that if there is an intermediary bank involved in the USA, you should provide all this information for both the intermediary bank and the final bank. Note in particular that if the intermediary bank is in the USA, an ACH or ABA routing number is absolutely mandatory.
- Issue you a check in your local currency, sent to you via post. For this option, I just need your postal address and what currency you want.
Project Leadership Committees: when you see emails of this nature, please be sure to have your designated Representative review the materials and send an approval message to Conservancy.
Project Leadership Committee Review
Conservancy foresees the need for periodic reasonable exceptions to this Policy. Persons working on behalf of a specific Project seeking an exception to this Policy must petition their PLC to obtain written approval from Conservancy authorizing the exception. Persons working directly on behalf of Conservancy must seeking an exception to the Policy must obtain written approval from Conservancy authorizing the exception.
PLCs are responsible for creating procedures for requesting exceptions, and submitting to Conservancy reimbursement requests associated with their respective Projects. PLCs are also responsible for making available a list of required response times for inquiries, including but not limited to, the following two cases
- a specific number of days to respond to regular reimbursement requests, and
- a specific number of days to respond to pre-authorization requests.
PLCs are also responsible for monitoring the available balance in their Project Fund, and for granting or refusing approval for travel expense requests based on an assessment of the funds available and of any outstanding contracts payable. PLCs are not to approve travel expense requests when their Project does not have sufficient funds to cover the expense. If a PLC has any questions regarding whether their Project has sufficient funds to cover a Traveler's expense request, the PLC should contact Conservancy.
Overall transportation Cost
Domestic transportation costs greater than US$750 requires Conservancy approval prior to booking, even if all other Policy conditions have been met. International transportation costs greater than US$1,650 requires Conservancy approval prior to booking, even if all other Policy conditions have been met.
Tickets for travel by air or rail (excluding commuter train and subway) should be booked at least 14 days in advance; any travel booked less than 14 days in advance requires written pre-authorization by Conservancy. Tickets for travel by air or rail beyond 365 days in advance also require written pre-authorization by Conservancy.
Class of Service
Coach and/or Economy Airfare is the only acceptable class for all flights (domestic and international) unless a PLC provides a special exception and a valid reason (such as a need for business class due to a documented medical reason) to Conservancy for written approval. Travelers may select their airline of choice (e.g., for the purpose of collecting airline miles and rewards), provided that the resulting air fare otherwise meets the requirements of this Policy. Travelers should not book out-of-Policy trips (and thus pay a higher fare) in order to qualify for a mileage upgrade.
Air travel should be booked at least 14 days in advance; any travel booked less than 14 days in advance requires written pre-authorization by Conservancy. Flights beyond 365 days in advance also require written pre-authorization by Conservancy.
Conservancy aims to balance cost savings with convenience and considers flights that are within US$100 of the lowest logical fare to be within Policy. Any flights greater than US$100 over the lowest logical fare require written pre-authorization by Conservancy. PLCs shall use standard air fare search sites for determining the baseline lowest fare. The PLCs and/or the traveler must submit the output (such as a screenshot or printout from the browser) of a online fare search as part of documentation in airfare pricing. Any widely-recognized airfare search site is acceptable, including sites such as Orbitz, Kayak or Hipmunk.
Conservancy asks that Travelers allow for flexibility with respect to departure times during a desired day of travel, as well as longer trips in order to reduce cost. However, Conservancy does consider flights with two or more connections as unreasonable and does not expect Travelers to consider those flight options to be reasonable.
Should a team member travel on an airline that charges for a single piece of checked baggage, such a baggage expense is eligible for reimbursement. Team members are responsible for charges on any baggage beyond a single piece, unless that additional baggage is materials specifically related to the Project's and Conservancy's mission (i.e., bringing t-shirts and other promotional materials to an event).
All air travel not adhering to the above Policies are considered Out-of-Policy and require written pre-authorization by Conservancy's Executive Director.
Cancellation fees and other penalties incurred result of a change of plans are reimbursable at Conservancy's discretion. In general, Conservancy shall reimburse such fees if the Traveler can submit a valid reason for the change of plans. Acceptable reasons include Conservancy and/or the PLC canceling or altering the trip or unexpected delays in flight connections. In instances where these fees are incurred without adequate explanation, Conservancy reserves the right to refuse to reimburse the cost of the fees.
Ground transportation necessary as part of authorized Project trips is considered to be a reasonable expense. Public ground transportation, such as taxis, shuttles, buses and municipal transit, are generally the most cost-effective options and are the standard for eligible ground transportation reimbursements. All car rentals require pre-authorization by the PLC or by Conservancy's Executive Director. When car rentals have been pre-approved, the rental of compact cars is encouraged; mid-size vehicles are authorized when necessary (e.g., when compact-sized vehicles are not available or the number of passengers or volume of baggage makes a compact vehicle impractical).
Rail transportation as a means of travel for an authorized Project trip is considered to be a reasonable expense. All rail transportation must be in economy and/or coach class.
Use of Personal Vehicles
When circumstances require Travelers to utilize their personal vehicles for Project purposes, they can be reimbursed at the current USA IRS rate per mile, plus any related parking expenses and toll fees. Drivers are encouraged to find the lowest cost reasonably parking area nearby their destination.
Travelers are expected to be cost-conscious and prudent when booking lodging for approved trips, and to verify that rates are within the established per-diem rates for the geographic area of travel.
If the cost per-diem of lodging chosen by the Traveler and/or the PLC exceeds the United States General Services Administration Per Diem calculator's "Max lodging" column and/or United States Department of State Foreign Per Diem Rates by Location calculator's "Maximum Lodging Rate column" for the given location (per Traveler), the Traveler and/or the PLC *must* obtain written pre-approval from Conservancy and the PLC before booking the hotel. If written pre-approval is not sought or is not granted, Conservancy will only reimburse up to the amount in the rate table above.
Lodging documentation submitted as part of a reimbursement request must include a copy of the hotel invoice detailing all charges (credit card receipts *alone* are unacceptable). In particular, since Conservancy only reimburses for room charges (plus relevant taxes and fees) for the necessary travel dates, the receipt from the hotel must clearly show the dates of stay, and separately list room charges and any food or service charges. Conservancy will not reimburse Travelers for any costs associated with an upgrade of room accommodations.
In some cases, Conservancy, upon consultation with the PLC, may decide to book lodging on behalf of Travelers. In this case, Conservancy-booked lodging is always considered In-Policy.
Other Reimbursable Expenses
Conservancy will reimburse persons for Project-related expenses that are incurred while traveling on approved Project business and/or approved Conservancy business. Only necessary, ordinary and reasonable expenses are eligible for reimbursement, and only those categories of expenses listed in this document qualify.
Meals and Incidental Expenses
Travelers can submit for a per diem for meals and incidental expenses for every day of a trip devoted to Project- and/or Conservancy-related mission work, including the day(s) of travel itself. Maximum per diem rates for travel within the United States shall be based on the United States General Services Administration Per Diem calculator, using the ZIP code of the travel destination. For example, a Traveler based in Palo Alto, CA heading to a conference in Atlanta, GA (with a layover in Dallas, TX each way) will use the ZIP code of the destination in Atlanta to calculate the maximum per diem for the entire trip, including days of travel.
Maximum per diem rates for locations outside of the United States shall be based on the United States Department of State Foreign Per Diem Rates by Location calculator's "Meals & Incidental Expenses" (M&IE) column, using the name of a listed city closest to the travel destination. For example, a Traveler based in Palo Alto heading to a conference in London, England (with a layover in New York City) has a maximum per diem of the M&IE per diem listed London for the entire trip, including days of travel.
These per diem rates are the maximum daily rate Travelers can claim. If a conference has provided food, or food is provided in some other form, or the costs the Traveler incurs are lower than this rate, then the Traveler should reasonably reduce their per diem claim. In addition, Conservancy generally encourages Travelers to be conservative with per diem submissions, and consider asking for less if the full per diem amounts allowed were not used during travel.
PLCs and/or Conservancy have the authority to set lower per diems than those generated by the calculators above. In those instances, Travelers will only be able to submit for the lower per diems.
For groups of Travelers on an In-Policy trip, each Traveler should pay for his/her own meals, seeing as all participants will have an opportunity to submit for separate per diems after the trip.
For clarification purposes, this Policy does not relate to planned group events that include meals and/or refreshments (e.g., a PLC-organized conference that includes lunch for all attendees). Further, PLCs and/or Conservancy retain the right to allocate a separate budget for anticipated large group meals beyond the individual per diem limits of each Traveler, provided that they are within the PLC's technical objectives and/or Conservancy's mission. Travelers anticipating a need to cover such a large group meal should seek pre-approval from his/her PLC and/or Conservancy for such expenses before the trip.
For any such group meal, Conservancy will require a written paragraph summary of the meeting, indicating what was accomplished for the Project's and Conservancy's mission.
Meals For Organizational Development
Travelers may occasionally have the need to invite third parties, e.g., prospective donors, contributors, community members, etc., to meals in order to further a PLC's technical direction and/or Conservancy's mission. Conservancy recommends that Travelers seek pre-approval from their PLC and/or Conservancy for such meals.
For any such organizational development meal, Conservancy will require a written paragraph summary of the meeting, indicating what was accomplished for the Project's and Conservancy's mission.
Phone Call Charges Part of Per Diem
Charges for personal phone calls (e.g., made from a hotel, or via a mobile phone in international travel) are not reimbursable as an expense separate from the allocated per diem.
Currency Conversion Charges Part of Per Diem
Any fees associated with currency conversion are not reimbursable as a expense separate from the allocated per diem.
Conference Registration Fees
Conservancy will reimburse conference registration fees up to $100 per day for Travelers on approved Project business and/or approved Conservancy business. For example, a $250 registration fee for a 3-day conference is In-Policy; however, a $225 registration fee for a 2-day conference is not.
Travelers seeking reimbursement for registration fees that exceed $100 per day must obtain prior approval from Conservancy's Executive Director.
Internet access/wi-fi fees charged by a hotel are reimbursable, provided that they are listed on the hotel/lodging invoice submitted for reimbursement. Other internet access fees (e.g., airport internet services, personal wi-fi hotspots, internet cafes) are not reimbursable except as incidental expenses to be covered by a Traveler's per-diem.
Additional Days of Travel
Travelers often seek to add extra days before or after an approved trip (e.g., the weekend before a conference). A Traveler may seek approval for the expenses associated with an extended stay prior to booking the trip, provided that the additional days are solely to enable a Traveler to conduct work within the PLC's objectives and Conservancy's charitable mission, or to get a particular airfare that *reduces* the overall cost of the trip. Travelers may seek approval to book travel itineraries that include extra days for personal reasons, so long as the cost of the flight meets the other requirements of this Policy. Other expenses incurred during extra personal days beyond transportation costs are not reimbursable.
Non-reimbursable expenses are identified throughout this policy. The following items are typically non-reimbursable expenses:
- Partner, spouse, and/or companion travel
- First class travel (unless medically necessary)
- Upgrades to air travel, car rentals, or hotel rooms
- Purchase of clothing, luggage, toiletries and other miscellaneous personal items
- Supplemental travel or car rental insurance
- Fines, penalties, or legal fees
- Personal entertainment or recreational expenses beyond the allotted per diem
Travelers are permitted to pay for their own upgrades, or use bonus programs to upgrade Conservancy-reimbursed expenses. However, Travelers must ensure that Conservancy does not receive nor reimburse any charges for any such transaction.
Satisfaction of IRS Requirements
Reimbursed travel expenses are subject to examination by the USA Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Travelers are responsible for retaining documentary evidence that all expenses are strictly for Project- and/or Conservancy-related purposes, not personal in nature, and therefore not includable as taxable income to the Traveler. Receipts are required for all expenses, no matter the amount.
Currency Exchange Rates
Expenses incurred in foreign currencies will be converted to US dollars based on the exchange rate on the date of incursion. The currency exchange rate of record shall be done using The Bank of Canada 10-year currency converter.
Travelers traveling on behalf of a Project must seek approvals and submit expense reports to their PLC. PLCs are to review those expense reports and pass them along to Conservancy's Executive Director for final approval and reimbursement.
Travelers traveling on behalf of Conservancy must seek approvals and submit expense reports to Conservancy's Executive Director. Conservancy staff must seek approvals and submit expense reports to Conservancy's Treasurer or to another Conservancy Board Member designated by Conservancy's Board.
Travelers seeking reimbursement must submit an expense report to the appropriate channel with the following information:
- Name of Traveler
- Brief description of trip and trip's purpose (e.g., "August 2011 trip to XYZ conference for ABC project, served as planning committee member"; "Feb. '12 FOO hackfest in Portland, OR; contributed code")
- A brief paragraph explaining what was accomplished for the project during your travel.
- Number of days traveled (with documentary evidence, e.g., conference itinerary, etc.) and associated per diem
- List of expenses not covered by per diem (e.g., transportation, lodging) with substantiating receipts (or scans of receipts).
In the event that it is impractical to obtain a required receipt and/or if such receipt has been inadvertently destroyed or lost, the Traveler should furnish a written statement to that effect, as well as an explanation of the expenditure involved. When possible, secondary documentation (such a redacted credit card bill) should be provided instead of the lost/destroyed receipt.
Any expense without a substantiated receipt and/or a supporting written statement will not be reimbursed.
Conservancy requests that all expense reports be submitted within two weeks of travel. Expense reports filed more than 90 days after expenses are incurred will not be reimbursed without the approval of Conservancy's Board. Reimbursements are paid by Conservancy on a NET-30 basis, from the date of receipt by Conservancy of the fully complete report and supporting documentation for the travel.
Consequences of Policy Violations
Failure to comply with this policy may result in the denial of, or delay in payment for, reimbursement requests.
The Conservancy reserves the right to change any terms of this Policy from time to time. The Policy of record shall be the Policy most recently distributed by the Conservancy.