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Per Diem when you depart home Thurs, arrive Fri

Per Diem when you depart home Thurs, arrive Fri

Old Oct 23, 18, 4:22 pm
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Per Diem when you depart home Thurs, arrive Fri

For years I've traveled LAX-JFK, departing Thursday afternoon or evening, arriving home Friday morning. In expense reports, I've submitted full-day per diems Thurs, and breakfast per diems Fri. Always approved without issues. Recently the company reworded their expense guidelines and I found it ambiguous. When I asked a boss what I do in this scenario, the reply was I should submit 75% of the full per diem on Thurs, and nothing on Fri. Also "We don't make the rules, we follow gsa.gov." (I don't work in government, if relevant).

I can't submit taxi or uber tips as an expense, since that's considered part of the per diem, so it seems odd being told I also can't submit a per diem on Friday given I always have a taxi or uber then.

So I reviewed gsa.gov and see it says that on travel days, per diem for "last day of travel" is 75%. But it doesn't define -- which day is the"last day of travel" when you arrive home the day after you depart? I.e in my case, is my last day of travel considered Thurs or Fri?
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Old Oct 23, 18, 4:39 pm
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What I'd look to do in this situation would depend on whether "arrive home Friday morning" means:

a) My flight lands at 11:48pm Thursday, but with time spent exiting the airport and getting home I don't enter my residence until 12:40am Friday.

b) My flight lands at 12:05am Friday.

c) My flight lands at 6:30am Friday.

In situation (a) I could see the company's argument for Thursday being the last day of travel, though I think it's easy to argue that Friday is the last day because merely being at the airport is not being "home".

In situation (b) it's clear that Friday technically is the last day of travel though I could imagine some managers or finances staff thinking I'm gaming the system with a technicality.

In situation (c) there should be no argument about Friday being the last day of travel. If my employer gave me grief about it I would cease flying red-eyes and explain to my project manager that's why I need to leave the job site at noon on Thursday. After all, "I don't make the rules, I just follow company policy."
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Old Oct 23, 18, 4:42 pm
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Friday is the last day of travel.

FYI, you can access airport lounges on arrival and eat a free breakfast that way.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 4:46 pm
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Friday is the last day.
If your controller/firm gives you grief, then as per @darthbimmer leave the client Thursday during business hours or tell your firm to "take this job and shove it" a la Office Space, and that you'll find a better employer.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 6:10 pm
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And another thing-- I don't particularly agree with the policy of "per diem is paid at 75% on the last day of travel." That policy embeds assumptions that are false for many business travelers. In particular, the assumption is that 75% is appropriate because, say, on the last day of travel the traveler eats dinner at home and thus doesn't need compensation for that meal. That makes sense in government travel because rank-and-file civil servants (and many in private sector companies who work on gov't contracts) are not expected to travel far outside of working hours. If they're assigned to staff a project onsite through Thursday, they'll work until 5-6pm Thursday, stay another night at the hotel, and spend Friday work hours traveling home. 75% per diem on Friday makes sense. In the business world it's more or less expected that you fly home Thursday night to have Friday available for desk work. When you get home at 11pm Thursday you should receive 100% of the per diem for that day as you've incurred the costs of a full day of travel.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 9:13 pm
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Originally Posted by darthbimmer View Post
And another thing-- I don't particularly agree with the policy of "per diem is paid at 75% on the last day of travel." That policy embeds assumptions that are false for many business travelers. In particular, the assumption is that 75% is appropriate because, say, on the last day of travel the traveler eats dinner at home and thus doesn't need compensation for that meal. That makes sense in government travel because rank-and-file civil servants (and many in private sector companies who work on gov't contracts) are not expected to travel far outside of working hours. If they're assigned to staff a project onsite through Thursday, they'll work until 5-6pm Thursday, stay another night at the hotel, and spend Friday work hours traveling home. 75% per diem on Friday makes sense. In the business world it's more or less expected that you fly home Thursday night to have Friday available for desk work. When you get home at 11pm Thursday you should receive 100% of the per diem for that day as you've incurred the costs of a full day of travel.
+1,000,000

When I worked at a Big 5, it was 100%. But maybe that has changed too since... but I have no idea now.
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Old Oct 24, 18, 7:01 am
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Originally Posted by darthbimmer View Post
And another thing-- I don't particularly agree with the policy of "per diem is paid at 75% on the last day of travel." That policy embeds assumptions that are false for many business travelers. In particular, the assumption is that 75% is appropriate because, say, on the last day of travel the traveler eats dinner at home and thus doesn't need compensation for that meal. That makes sense in government travel because rank-and-file civil servants (and many in private sector companies who work on gov't contracts) are not expected to travel far outside of working hours. If they're assigned to staff a project onsite through Thursday, they'll work until 5-6pm Thursday, stay another night at the hotel, and spend Friday work hours traveling home. 75% per diem on Friday makes sense. In the business world it's more or less expected that you fly home Thursday night to have Friday available for desk work. When you get home at 11pm Thursday you should receive 100% of the per diem for that day as you've incurred the costs of a full day of travel.
If I remember right, the GSA rules used to split the first and last day into quarters (0000-0600, 0600-1200, 1200-1800, 1800-2400), and you would get proportional amount of the per diem, depending upon when you started and ended your travel. e.g., leaving home at 0900, would get you 75%, leave at 1800 you get 25% for that day. Same on the return, get home at 0300 and get 25%, or get home at 2300 and get 100% for that day.

I assume they went to just a flat 75% for first and last day out of simplicity, and avoid having to deal with tracking/documenting actual times, as well as complications such as when did your travel actually start if you worked part of the day before leaving, or came straight to work when returning, etc.
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Old Oct 24, 18, 8:48 am
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Originally Posted by darthbimmer View Post
That makes sense in government travel because ... (and many in private sector companies who work on gov't contracts) are not expected to travel far outside of working hours. If they're assigned to staff a project onsite through Thursday, they'll work until 5-6pm Thursday, stay another night at the hotel, and spend Friday work hours traveling home.
Lol... I work mostly on gov't contracts and that's sort of true in that it's allowed, but most of the time there's a lot that has to be done back at home that it makes more sense to fly home at the end of the work day at the travel end.

Originally Posted by Maxwell Smart View Post
If I remember right, the GSA rules used to split the first and last day into quarters (0000-0600, 0600-1200, 1200-1800, 1800-2400), and you would get proportional amount of the per diem, depending upon when you started and ended your travel. e.g., leaving home at 0900, would get you 75%, leave at 1800 you get 25% for that day. Same on the return, get home at 0300 and get 25%, or get home at 2300 and get 100% for that day.
I think this changed, or some guideline changed so that you can use one or the other - they used to break mine down and subtract meals depending on when I left on the first day and arrived home on the last, but I'm pretty sure we're doing the 75% on partial days now, too. I think Darthbimmer's first post pretty much sums it up - if I arrive home at 2 am on friday after leaving remote work thursday, I don't get partial friday per diem. If I arrive home at 6 am I probably do (I try to avoid that since I'm west coast based and remote work tends to be east coast, so I'm not quite sure what they do).

It's worth trying to get at least some portion of the per diem applied for incidental expenses on the last day to cover the taxi tip, even if it's just a few hours into the last day.
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Old Oct 24, 18, 8:54 am
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If your company is following GSA Per Diem rates they are correct travel is at 75%. I travel overseas on a govt. contract. To give you my last trip traveling to Jordan. I left on Wed. at 10: AM I charged 75% of Jordan Per Diem. My plane was canceled in VIE to Jordan and had to spend the night. Charged full VIE Per Diem for the day. Next day flew to AMN charged a full day Per Diem for AMN. Coming back we got on the plane at 0200 on Friday and arrived at the home at 1800 hrs. Per Diem was 75% of Jordan rate. Taxi tips come out of Per Diem. Taxi is a chargeable expense.
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Old Oct 24, 18, 9:01 am
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For the OP per diem is for meals and incidental expenses such as tipping baggage handlers. So I can see why they are saying taxi or uber tips go there. The 75% seems to be std. now for first and last day of travel. The other option which is PITA is to submit actual expenses. Given everything I would list Friday as my last day of travel because you are traveling on Friday.

FWIW I just got back from a government trip where I got stuck with part of the bill because my hotel was outside of rates. I was visiting two different sites so I combined them to save time and money. One site was okay with the extra hotel expense because the flight and car were half the cost, the other did not care about the that saving so stuck me with hotel overage.

Last edited by FlyingUnderTheRadar; Oct 24, 18 at 3:09 pm
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Old Oct 24, 18, 12:06 pm
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Originally Posted by chrisl137 View Post
Lol... I work mostly on gov't contracts and that's sort of true in that it's allowed, but most of the time there's a lot that has to be done back at home that it makes more sense to fly home at the end of the work day at the travel end.



I think this changed, or some guideline changed so that you can use one or the other - they used to break mine down and subtract meals depending on when I left on the first day and arrived home on the last, but I'm pretty sure we're doing the 75% on partial days now, too. I think Darthbimmer's first post pretty much sums it up - if I arrive home at 2 am on friday after leaving remote work thursday, I don't get partial friday per diem. If I arrive home at 6 am I probably do (I try to avoid that since I'm west coast based and remote work tends to be east coast, so I'm not quite sure what they do).
I think for the most part civil servants do the same. Assuming I'm perhaps 3-4 hours from home, If I have a day of meetings that finish at 5pm, I'll fly home that night, if it means a late night arrival, so be it. I'm not going to burn taxpayer $ on an extra hotel night just to fly home during business hours the next day. I'm sure some people would stay over because it's allowed, but I'm guessing that most do not.

For west-to-east coast returns (I'm on the east coast) I prefer redeyes, it lets me have an afternoon at home to do errands or whatever rather than lose the whole day flying. At my agency, per diem would be the same at 75% on the home-arrival day, whether I take a redeye and get home at 1100 the next day, or spend that next day flying and get home at 1900.

As to your second point, I'm sure there are agency-specific tweaks on how they handle things.
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Last edited by Maxwell Smart; Oct 25, 18 at 5:37 am
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Old Oct 25, 18, 5:13 am
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Originally Posted by HITconsultant View Post
So I reviewed gsa.gov and see it says that on travel days, per diem for "last day of travel" is 75%. But it doesn't define -- which day is the"last day of travel" when you arrive home the day after you depart? I.e in my case, is my last day of travel considered Thurs or Fri?
We don't base our practices on GSA, but rather common sense. Hard bounds for reimbursable periods of travel are not defined in the policy, as there are already many references to being "reasonable" and exercising "ethics" and "good judgement".

It would be very worrying if approvers had enough free time or distrust to scrutinize a fraudulent $20 breakfast charge, or that a $20 breakfast charge is impactful in the grand picture of things. In the end, an employee trying to abuse something trivial like that is just symptomatic of bigger issues that manifests in many other ways, anyway.

And it works in the reverse direction - if one's supervisor scrutinizes over smaller charges like that, it signals that that supervisor/group is toxic, if not the culture of the company.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 11:07 am
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I've never worked in a situation where the per-diem was an all-up number intended to include airport transportation. That seems illogical, given that the first and last days of a trip have the unusual expense of getting to/from your home airport, plus the transportation in the work city. It's no longer a normal daily expense in the spirit of per diem.

In any case, when I did work for a client who reimbursed individual meals on a flat per-diem rate, we used dayparts. Arriving home Friday morning would be a 25% or 50% per diem. But that was essentially just covering breakfast, as we expensed taxis, parking, mileage, etc. individually.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 2:19 pm
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Originally Posted by pinniped View Post
I've never worked in a situation where the per-diem was an all-up number intended to include airport transportation. That seems illogical, given that the first and last days of a trip have the unusual expense of getting to/from your home airport, plus the transportation in the work city. It's no longer a normal daily expense in the spirit of per diem.
This was my situation as well at a Big 5. 100% allowed for last day (the return travel day), and per diem was for food and incidentals. Transportation to/from always counted as individual expenses outside of per diem.
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