What is a Travel Allowance?

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What is Travel Allowance?

Do you frequently have to travel for work or business purposes? If so, understanding travel allowance should be your top priority. So, why don't we begin by learning what travelling allowance means, its types, tax implications, calculations, and all the necessary documentation you need?

What is Travel Allowance?

A travelling allowance is provided by employers to employees to help cover expenses incurred during work-related travel. This allowance is given in addition to the employee's regular salary and is specifically designated to offset the costs associated with business trips. The amount of travel allowance can vary depending on the employer's policies, the purpose and duration of the tour and the travel destination.

  1. Employees can claim reimbursement by submitting proof such as air tickets and travel bills. Expenses for rental vehicles used for business purposes can also be claimed.
  2. Any costs incurred for a companion accompanying the employee on a business trip are considered personal expenses and are not eligible for tax-free reimbursement.

Who is Eligible for Travel Allowance?

Employees who travel for business purposes are typically eligible for a travelling allowance. Travel expenses are reimbursed for short-term assignments, defined as assignments lasting up to six months, rather than long-term assignments. 

Typical expenses covered are:

  1. Transportation: Airfare, train tickets, car rentals, mileage (if using a personal vehicle)
  2. Accommodation: Hotel stays
  3. Meals: Per diems (a daily allowance for meals) or actual receipts for meals consumed during business hours

Please note: Personal expenses like entertainment, shopping, or laundry are not covered by travel allowances and are the responsibility of the employee.

Travel Allowance Rules in India

Exemption LimitThe Indian government sets a limit on tax-exempt travel allowances. This limit is subject to change, but currently, there is no annual limit, only a monthly limit of ₹1,600.
Actual ExpensesTravel allowances exceeding documented travel expenses are taxable as income. Employees claiming the full exemption should retain receipts for their travel costs.
Tax Deducted at Source (TDS)If the travel allowance in an employee's salary surpasses the exemption limit, the exceeding amount is subject to TDS at a rate of 5%.

What are the Types of Travel Allowances?

In India, companies offer travel allowances to compensate employees for expenses incurred during business travel. Like other special allowances, travel allowances help employees manage work-related costs. Here's a breakdown of the most common types:

1. Fixed Travel Allowance (FTA):

Simple and Straightforward: Employees receive a pre-determined amount per day of travel, regardless of actual expenses.

  • Pros: Easy to administer for both employer and employee, with no need for receipts or expense reports.
  • Cons: May not reflect actual costs. Employees might benefit on short trips with unspent funds, while longer trips or expensive locations could leave them out-of-pocket.

2. Daily Allowance (Per Diem):

More Flexible: Similar to FTA, but with specific allocations for meals, incidentals (snacks, laundry), and sometimes lodging, based on location and trip duration.

  • Pros: Offers some flexibility compared to FTA, allowing employees to adjust spending within set categories.
  • Cons: Potential out-of-pocket expenses if daily limits for meals or incidentals are exceeded. Requires setting per diem rates for different locations and managing separate expense categories.

3. Travel Reimbursement:

Accurate Expense Coverage: Employees keep receipts for approved travel expenses (transportation, meals, accommodation) and submit them for reimbursement after the trip.

  • Pros: Ensures employees are reimbursed for actual, legitimate business expenses.
  • Cons: Requires detailed expense reports and receipts, creating a burden for both employee and employer. Delays may occur while waiting for reimbursement after submitting reports.

4. Mileage Allowance:

Convenience for Employees: Reimburses employees for using their personal vehicles for business travel, typically based on a government-established rate per kilometre driven.

  • Pros: Saves employees wear and tear on their vehicles and avoids rental car costs.
  • Cons: Requires a clear policy on acceptable use and accurate mileage tracking to prevent abuse. Employees might be responsible for additional taxes depending on the mileage reimbursement rate.

What are the Tax Implications on Travel Allowance?

The tax treatment of travel allowance depends on whether it is a fixed sum or a reimbursement of actual expenses. A fixed travel allowance is taxable and added to the employee's total income. 

How is Travelling Allowance Calculated?

Travel allowance is calculated by considering the trip's duration, distance travelled, and the nature of expenses. Employers often use standard rates set by regulatory authorities or industry norms for daily allowances. Mileage allowances are generally calculated based on the distance travelled at a specified rate per mile or kilometre.

Documents Required for Travel Allowance

To claim a travel allowance, employees need to provide:

  1. Proof of Travel: Travel tickets, boarding passes, and hotel receipts,
  2. Travel Itinerary: Details of the travel duration, destination, and mode of transportation;
  3. Proof of Expenses Incurred: Receipts for expenses like meals, taxis, and other related costs.

Strategies to Maximise Travel Allowance Benefits

Here are some strategies to make the most of your travel allowance:

  1. Plan in advance. Look for cost-effective accommodation and transport options to manage expenses better.
  2. Maintain detailed records and receipts of all expenses to ensure smooth reimbursement.
  3. Utilise expense tracking apps like INDmoney to simplify record-keeping and reporting.
  4. Be well-versed in your company's travel allowance policies to ensure you comply and maximise your benefits.


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