Business travel

Business travel is part of everyday working life in many companies. The sales department visits new customers in other cities or the staff is represented at trade fairs and conferences. But what actually is a business trip and who bears the associated costs? We answer these and other questions for you here.

At a glance:

  • A business trip includes all work-related travel activities.
  • During a business trip, employees carry out their work away from their actual place of work.
  • The costs for the business trip are usually reimbursed by the employer via the travel expense statement.
  • Regular working hours usually apply on business trips. They fall under the Working Hours Act.
  • In the case of longer trips, it must be defined whether the trip is part of working time or not.

What is a business trip?

A business trip is a trip or journey that employees undertake in order to carry out their work at a place other than their actual place of work. In order to be considered a business trip, the route must be longer than the usual route to work and must go beyond the city, state or national borders. If the journey is shorter, it is referred to as a "business trip".

Since there is no uniform standard for business travel, many companies define in the employment contract what is considered business travel and what is not. Accordingly, the contract also defines which working time regulation applies to the business trip.

What costs are covered by the employer during a business trip?

Employers usually pay the costs of a business trip. In order for the costs to be reimbursed, employees prepare a travel expense report after the business trip. This not only makes it easier for the accounting department to book the business expenses, but also simplifies the declaration of the travel expenses as advertising costs in the tax return.

These costs are settled via the travel expense report:

  • Accommodation costs: The employer pays the costs for a hotel, guesthouse or guest room.
  • Travel costs: Depending on the length of the trip, the employer bears the costs for a flight, train journey or the use of the private car. If the own car is used, employees receive a kilometre allowance as reimbursement via the travel costs.
  • Incidental travel expenses: These may include parking fees or tolls as well as tips or telephone charges.
  • Meal costs: Employers cover the additional costs for meals during a business trip in the form of a daily allowance. The amount of this allowance per day depends on the meals and the destination country of the business trip. For example, the flat rate for breakfast is lower than for lunch.

In principle, when reimbursing the costs of a business trip, it is assumed that employees incur more costs than when working in the regular workplace.

In some companies, the business trip is preceded by a travel expense claim. This lists the costs for accommodation and air or rail tickets. These can be confirmed by the company before the trip begins.

What working time regulations apply during the business trip?

A business trip is generally considered working time because it has a professional purpose. Accordingly, the regulations of the Working Hours Act must also be taken into account on the business trip. This applies both to the duration of the working time of a maximum of eight hours and to the statutory regulations on breaks. Overtime should also remain the exception on a business trip.

Business activities that count as working time include during the business trip:

  • Business lunches with clients
  • On-site appointments with clients
  • professional telephone calls or video meetings
  • Meetings with other teams

Even when travelling on work-related trips lasting several days, employees should make sure that they comply with the legal working time regulations.

Is travelling on business trips part of working time?

It is not clearly defined whether travelling on a business trip also counts as working time. It is generally assumed that the journey is considered working time if it takes place during the employee's regular working hours.

If the journey is made during the employee's free time, it can be excluded from working time. However, employees can also work on a train or plane, which is why the journey can then be counted as working time.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, companies themselves can determine how working time is handled on business trips.

When travelling by car, the regulation is simple. From a legal point of view, the journey is counted as working time, as it is assumed that employees cannot pursue private matters at the wheel.

Clear rules can resolve discrepancies and facilitate accounting

It is not clearly regulated by law what is considered a business trip and what is not. Accordingly, companies should establish clear regulations for business trips for their employees. In this way, they can avoid discrepancies in travel expense claims or tax returns.

These clear regulations can include whether companies recognise the journey by taxi at the destination as a travel expense or whether public transport should be used. Likewise, it can be specified whether flights are reimbursed in economy or business class.

Circula's travel expense software helps you to make travel expense reporting digital and simple. Flat rates for meals or accommodation can be defined in advance and matched with receipts and invoices with just a few clicks. This saves you valuable time in accounting and at the same time speeds up the process for reimbursing travel expenses. An absolute win-win for companies and employees who go on business trips.

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