Original Issuance Date:        December 1985
Last Revision Date:                August 6, 2018

1. Policy Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to define and establish systemwide requirements for the procurement and payment of employee household relocations and costs associated with temporary and indefinite work assignments.

2. Responsible UW System Officer

Senior Associate Vice President for Finance
Senior Associate Vice President for Human Resources

3. Scope

This policy applies to all faculty and staff when relocation and related travel costs are funded in full or part by the University or when temporary or indefinite work assignments are made.

4. Background

It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin System to allow institutions to reimburse or directly pay relocation, related travel and temporary lodging expenses for new and presently employed personnel assigned to new locations by transfer or promotion, in accordance with IRS regulations. This policy identifies when and how expenses related to relocation and temporary or indefinite work assignment away from the employee’s headquarter location are reimbursable or directly paid.

5. Definitions

Approving Authority: Chancellor of a UW Institution, Vice Chancellor, President of the UW System, Vice President, or delegated division dean or director who approves expense reimbursements for relocation or temporary work assignments.

Authorization letter: A letter that specifically outlines and approves university funding for relocation expense types and amounts, including employee relocation stipends.

Direct costs: Costs attributed to the relocation of household goods.

Employee:  Any individual who holds a faculty, academic staff, university staff, or limited appointment with any UW System institution.

Employee Relocation Stipend: Lump-sum, tax-reportable payment to employee for relocation costs.

Headquarter location: The official location where the employee’s work is performed on a permanent basis. Typically the campus or institution office.

Tax Home: The city or general vicinity where an employee’s primary place of business or work is located, regardless of the location of the employee’s residence.  Tax home has an effect on the employee’s tax deductions for business travel.

6. Policy Statement

A. Relocation

Relocation expenses for employees may be provided dependent upon availability of funding. The approving authority and the following policy provisions will determine the total amount provided for relocation.

I. Taxable Reimbursement

In accordance with IRS regulations, effective January 1, 2018, the reimbursement or payment of any relocation costs under this policy is considered taxable income and subject to applicable income and employment taxes.

II. Eligibility

At the discretion of each UW System institution, reimbursement of relocation expenses may be authorized for new or presently employed employees assigned to new locations by transfer or promotion. Reimbursement is not authorized for employees appointed as University Staff Temporary (formerly limited term employees (LTEs)).

  1. Reimbursement of expenses is mandatory when the approving authority requires the employee to change residence location because the employee is ordered to relocate or is promoted to a different position within the UW System, and the approving authority determines that the relocation or promotion requires the employee to change residence.
  2. Reimbursement is on a permissive basis at the discretion of the new approving authority for an employee who requests a transfer or demotion and relocates as a result.
  3. Reimbursement of expenses is on a permissive basis, as recommended by the approving authority, for an employee reporting to his or her first place of employment within the UW System or reporting upon reemployment after leaving the UW System.
  4. Reimbursement for an employee’s relocation expenses may be allowed if the distance between the new place of employment and the old residence is at least 35 miles farther than the distance between the former place of employment and the former residence, and the distance between the new and former residence is at least 35 miles. If the approving authority determines that a relocation is a mandatory condition of employment, the minimum distance requirements are not applicable.
  5. No more than two relocations may be reimbursed to an employee in a calendar year.
  6. Unless otherwise authorized by the approving authority, to be eligible for moving reimbursement, the employee must move no later than one year from the effective date of the appointment or the end of probation, whichever is later.
  7. It should be determined whether it is in the best interest of the UW System to provide reimbursement for relocation and travel expenses. The following circumstances should be considered:
    • Are the individual’s skills in critically short supply? If yes, is payment usually available from competing employers?
    • Is the labor market tight for this particular position?
    • Does the individual rank above all other candidates in a combination of training, experience, and personal qualities?
    • Will the best qualified individual for the position be unable to accept the institution’s offer for financial reasons unless relocation expenses are paid?

III. Reimbursement or Payment of Relocation Costs

The University may reimburse or pay relocation costs as noted below.

  • The University may provide an employee relocation stipend for costs associated with a relocation, whether using a commercial moving service or choosing to self-move. An employee relocation stipend is made through the University’s reimbursement process not more than 30 days in advance of the employee’s relocation date.  The University may elect to pay all or some portion of relocation costs through a stipend.

The advance payment of an employee relocation stipend does not require receipts (employees are advised to retain all receipts for personal tax filing purposes) but requires the authorization letter be attached to the reimbursement request.

  • The University may reimburse or pay the direct costs associated with the relocation, including the costs associated with self-moves, such as truck/trailer and containers, or a commercial moving carrier’s service. If self-move is selected, neither the employee nor the employee’s spouse or dependents may be reimbursed for their labor.

At the discretion of the institution, costs associated with the relocation may be reimbursed to the employee or paid directly to the commercial carrier upon pre-audit of all invoices and receipts.  When payment is made directly to the carrier, sales tax, which may be assessed on containers, must be deducted.  The employee must substantiate all costs with an itemized bill of lading and paid receipts for direct costs.

  • The University may reimburse the employee for transportation and en route travel costs of the employee and immediate family, unless an employee relocation stipend was provided and intended to cover these costs.
    • For moves within the continental United States, the amount of reimbursement for transporting the employee and immediate family members from the former residence to the new place of residence may not exceed the cost of one-way mileage for one automobile at the standard mileage reimbursement rate. The maximum allowable mileage reimbursement shall be based on one-way mileage using the most direct route.  Internet mapping services, such as Google Maps, are the standard tools for calculating mileage.
    • For moves to or from outside the continental United States, the cost of one-way airfare for the employee and immediate family members will be paid or reimbursed in lieu of mileage. Airfare must be purchased in accordance with UW System Administrative Policy 410, Purchase & Payment of Business Air Travel.
    • En route travel, such as mileage, per diem, lodging and tolls, will be reimbursed post move as a reimbursement with the business purpose of relocation, if not included in the employee relocation stipend.

IV. Temporary Lodging in Connection with a Household Move

An approving authority may authorize payment of temporary lodging for up to 45 days to an employee. Temporary lodging will be authorized only where circumstances require the employee to establish a temporary residence for reasons such as the temporary need to maintain domiciles in the old and new locations or where permanent housing is temporarily not available upon moving to the new headquarter location. The days for which temporary lodging allowance is provided need not be consecutive. Therefore, it is possible for the 45 days of temporary lodging reimbursement to extend over a period of time greater than 45 days.  All temporary lodging must be reserved and paid for in accordance with UW System Administrative Policy 415, Purchase & Payment of Lodging, at a rate not to exceed the university’s maximum for the location and dates of stay.

The designated headquarters city of an employee must be established and changed at the time the employee begins employment at the new location.

V. Piecemeal Moves

The approving authority may approve reimbursement for piecemeal moves necessary to transport the employee’s household goods from the former residence to the new residence. The total cumulative reimbursed cost of moving household effects on a piecemeal basis may not exceed the amount which would have been charged if the relocation had been accomplished in one trip. To make that determination, an estimate showing the cost to accomplish the move in one trip must be obtained.

VI. Institutional Responsibility

Prior to the move, the approving authority must authorize in writing the payment of an employee relocation stipend, reimbursement or payment of direct relocation costs, or temporary lodging expenses. Written approval is required prior to authorizing reimbursements to the employee.

When approving relocation expenses, the approving authority must review and approve the following information on an authorization letter or equivalent form using university letterhead:

  • Name of relocating employee
  • Reason for the move
  • Position
  • Specific amount of relocation funding for any of the following line items offered:
    • Employee relocation stipend
    • Direct Costs related to commercial move services or self-move rental/supplies for the transportation of household goods
    • Transportation and en route travel costs for the employee and immediate family will be reimbursed post move
    • Temporary Lodging, including the number of days at a rate no greater than the UW lodging maximum for the location and the rationale for providing temporary lodging.

When approval for relocation expenses is granted, the approving authority must provide the relocating employee a copy of the authorization letter or equivalent form.  The authorization letter or equivalent form must be attached to any relocation-related payment or reimbursement.

VII. Responsibility of the Employee

Employees are responsible for completing the following tasks, as applicable, to be eligible for relocation reimbursement:

  • Obtain the “Authorization Letter” from the hiring department. The letter approves the payment of the relocation expenses and also outlines the amount of funding for a stipend, reimbursement or payment of direct costs, transportation and en route travel costs, and temporary lodging. This documentation and any required receipts must be submitted to support payment or reimbursement of these relocation costs.
  • Work with the hiring department on all payment and reimbursement requirements.
  • Discuss the payment of a stipend for moving costs early with the hiring department. This stipend cannot be paid more than 30 days in advance of the move.
  • Use an approved commercial carrier. When moving by commercial carrier, the UW System has contract commercial carriers that employees must utilize for the move. Contracted commercial carriers serve local, domestic and international move needs. Employees that are relocating should contact the commercial carriers far in advance to obtain quotes and schedule a move date.
  • Be advised that for any piecemeal move (a move that requires more than a single trip), the cumulative cost of moving household goods on a piecemeal basis may not exceed the amount that would have been charged if the relocation had been accomplished in one trip. To make that determination, an estimate from the contract commercial carrier showing the cost to accomplish the move in one trip must be obtained.
  • If applicable, airfare or temporary lodging must be reserved through the University’s travel program and using UW contract properties and pricing when available. Review UW System Administrative Policies SYS 410, Purchase and Payment of Business Air Travel, and SYS 415, Purchase and Payment of Lodging, for further guidance.

B. Temporary or Indefinite Work Assignments

Reimbursements of expenses for “temporary” assignments away from the tax home are generally not taxable to the employee as this is considered business travel. If the assignment is “indefinite,” the employee is considered to have moved his/her tax home to the new headquarter location. Reimbursements of expenses for “indefinite” travel are taxable. Rev. Rul. 93-86; Rev. Rul. 99-7.

The Internal Revenue Service looks at all facts to determine whether the travel assignment was intended to be temporary or indefinite. (Rev. Rul. 93-86; Rev. Rul. 99-7). The table below provides a brief summary of temporary and indefinite travel assignments. Examples provided within the IRS regulations can be found with the document titled When “Temporary” Travel Assignments Become “Indefinite.”

Temporary Indefinite
Duration(Note that an assignment changes from temporary to indefinite at the point at which the university knows that the assignment will exceed one year.) Expected to last one year or less Expected to last longer than one year
 

Tax Home

 

Permanent work site

 

New work assignment location

 

Meals and Lodging

 

Excludable from income

 

Taxable

 

Transportation Expenses – Mileage and Parking

 

Excludable from income

 

Taxable

 

Transportation Expenses – Commuting Mileage

 

Taxable

 

Taxable

 

Expenses related to events not located at the permanent work site or the new work assignment, such as conference travel

 

Subject to UWS Travel Policy

 

Subject to UWS Travel Policy

Approving authorities should contact their Human Resources Office to ensure appropriate approvals, accounting and tax related issues are addressed and in place prior to the starting date of the temporary assignment.

Institutions should account for each temporary assignment as a separate contract and use appropriate processing procedures (e.g., requisitions, billing).

UW System employees on assignment to another agency or institution may be eligible to receive supplemental compensation in lieu of reimbursement to employees for meals, lodging, and transportation expenses, which may be paid directly to the employee with required deductions made or transferred for payment to UW System.

Supplemental compensation for periods exceeding a one-year period will become taxable to the recipient at the time the university knows the agreement will exceed one year.

In the event that assignments change from temporary to indefinite, or indefinite to temporary, triggering a change in tax-ability to the employee, the institution’s Office of Human Resources must work with the UW System Service Center to ensure proper coding and tax treatment.

7. Related Documents

8. Policy History

Revision 5: 08/6/2018
Revision 4: 12/10/1998
Revision 3: 6/3/1997
Revision 2: 3/3/1997
Revision 1: 9/15/1995
First Approved: 1/31/1986

9. Scheduled review

January 2020