7. Travel

See also:

7.1 Business travel: What is allowed

(a) Policy and definition of business travel

The University will only provide for or reimburse the costs of necessary business travel. This is defined as travel primarily for a necessary business purpose between one workplace and another, i.e. travel by an employee in the performance of their duties of employment, or travel by any other claimant to or from the place they are required to attend as part of University business.

The University will not provide for or reimburse the costs of ordinary commuting or private travel.

(b) Ordinary commuting

Ordinary commuting, i.e. travel between home and the normal or permanent place of work, is not normally a tax-allowable expense.

It is usually clear whether or not a place is the claimant's usual or permanent workplace and, therefore, whether a journey to or from that place is ordinary commuting. A place is defined as an employee's permanent workplace if they attend it regularly for the performance of their employment duties.

Example of ordinary commuting

Alice is engaged as an employee by the University to carry out 6 month's work in Oxford. She normally lives in Glasgow and travels to Oxford on Sunday evenings to stay in temporary accommodation during the week, travelling back to Glasgow on Friday evening. Her journeys between Glasgow and Oxford are classed, for tax purposes, as ordinary commuting as are her journeys between her temporary accommodation and specific place of work.

Claimants who are not employees, and who receive no round-sum payments from the University in return for service or services provided, may travel between home and the place they are required to attend on University business without it being considered ‘ordinary commuting’ for tax purposes. As such, departments are permitted to authorize payments of this type submitted as Expenses where the Administrator or Head of Department deems them appropriate.

(c) Temporary places of work

Travel between home and a temporary workplace is tax allowable and not considered by HMRC to be ordinary commuting.

A workplace is temporary if an employee attends only to perform a task of limited duration or for a temporary purpose.

HMRC consider ‘limited duration’ in this context to be a period not exceeding 24 months. ‘Temporary purpose’ is considered to mean a particular reason or self-contained activity which is not in itself a continuation of other tasks.

It should be noted that the temporary workplace should also be in a location significantly removed from the employee's normal place of work for it to be considered under these rules.

Some staff may have more than one permanent workplace. Security staff, for example may be required to work at a number of different, defined locations during the normal course of their employment. Only where there is a specific, temporary assignment that satisfies the criteria defined above will it be possible to allow travel expenses between home and a temporary workplace.

Where staff are attending a temporary workplace and the Administrator or Head of Department deems it appropriate, travel costs may be submitted and authorized via the Expenses process.


Note: Staff are not able to convert ordinary commuting journeys into allowable business journeys by stopping off at another workplace between home and their normal place of work.


Example of allowed expense: Travel to temporary workplace

Bob travels 20 miles to his usual place of work every day. One day, however, he is asked to attend an early morning meeting 20 miles from home but in the opposite direction. Although this journey is the same distance as his normal commute, it is allowable as a journey to a temporary workplace since it is sufficiently different from his ordinary commuting and satisfies the criteria defined above.


Example of disallowed expense: Calling in to another place of work

Clare travels from Kidlington to her usual place of work in Wellington Square every day. On her way she passes Ewert House in Summertown (where she occasionally goes in the normal course of her business). One day she decides to drop off some papers at Ewert House on the way to work. This does not count as an allowable journey to a temporary workplace as the decision was optional and Ewert House on the route of her ordinary commuting journey.


Example of disallowed expense: Substantially similar journey

A requirement to work outside of normal contracted hours does not in itself alter the principles and rules defined above. Thus, if an individual is called out to the office over a weekend or asked either to start work early or stay late, these factors alone do not change an individual's journey between home and work being considered as anything other than ordinary commuting.

(d) Out of hours working

The only exception to this, where payment is allowed at the discretion of the department, is to cover the cost of late night taxi fares. Guidance is given below of the criteria that should be applied by departments when making this decision:

Guidance for payment of late-night taxi fares

  • The employee is required to work later than usual (and until at least 9:00pm); and
  • This occurs irregularly meaning not following a usual or established custom (such as: every Friday night; one night each week; or the second Thursday every month; all being examples where this would be deemed to show a regular pattern); and
  • By the time the employee finishes work either public transport has ceased or it would be unreasonable to expect the employee to use it. ‘Unreasonable’ means that the journey home is rendered significantly different in terms of length or difficulty; and
  • The transport is by taxi or similar means.

In addition to these four conditions, the number of occasions that such transport is provided is no more than 60 in any one year.


(e) Travel costs of spouse, guests or family members

The University will not normally meet the travel or associated costs of a spouse, partner, family member, or guest of a claimant accompanying them on an allowable business trip. These costs are taxable.

Exceptionally, where it is necessary for medical or business reasons, this may be allowed.

Conditions where travel costs of spouse, family or guests are allowed

  • The spouse has a special skill or qualification associated with the employee's job that is needed on the trip (although not necessarily full-time), e.g. as an interpreter at business meetings;
  • The presence of the spouse is essential to host a series of business entertaining functions that the employee is required to arrange as part of their duties (note the distinction between hosting such functions, which is allowed, and attending functions hosted by others, which is not);
  • The health of the employee is so poor that they require constant medical care or attention for the duration of the trip.

Where it is proposed that a spouse, guest or family member accompany a member of staff on a business trip, approval should be sought in advance by reference to the Head of Payroll.