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What does your place count as an expense?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by writerdownsouth, Sep 3, 2013.

  1. writerdownsouth

    writerdownsouth New Member

    Hey everybody. I work at a small newspaper in a rural town in the south. We're owned by a larger company that has papers all over the country. (Although I keep getting emails about shops being shut down, so that's shrinking.)

    Anyway, I have questions about how everybody's places handle expense reports. When I started here my boss told me to put down mileage, food and gas. I turned in my first report and was told to take off the gas and turn it back in. I did, and then was told to take off the food and just do mileage. Ok, whatever. Still better than nothing.

    It took five months to get my first check back. But that's another story.

    This season I have to take some pretty significant road trips for football. I'm talking about 3 + hours two weeks in a row. I asked if the company would pay for a room at a cheap motel... don't know why I asked, because they pretty much laughed at me. So I'll either drive back on these podunk roads or be paying to put myself up in a hotel.

    Is this the norm? Thanks.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I've never heard of a place paying for gas, unless it's for a rental. It's always mileage.

    A lot of places are cutting back whenever they can. I had games where I would drive five hours, cover the game and then drive back that night, but I did that by choice. If it's a night game, and you're three hours from home, they should put you up for at least one night.

    Don't get in a habit of paying for your own hotel. Papers will take advantage of that and take that for granted.
  3. writerdownsouth

    writerdownsouth New Member

    I hadn't heard of gas either. Not at any of the other places I have been. So I'm fine with just mileage. Most of the games I cover are in no further than an hour's drive. These two games are the only exception. And the state championship game, should they reach that...

    Thanks for the advice. They are night games, with 7:30 pm kickoff times. I usually leave a stadium by 10:30 or 11, then file a story by 11:30 or midnight. I can definitely drive back, just prefer not to if I had an option.
  4. reformedhack

    reformedhack Well-Known Member

    Pretty standard everywhere I've been: Mileage only, no gas reimbursement (unless you have a rental car authorized by the bean counters).

    (You didn't ask, but remember that you can deduct the difference in mileage reimbursement from your federal taxes. Currently, IRS allows you to claim 56.5 cents per mile driven for business purposes, minus whatever your company's reimbursement rate is. So if your company pays 30 cents per mile, then you can claim 26.5 cents per mile on your taxes if you itemize your deductions. Keep good records, though, and ask your accountant about specifics. Or use a program like TurboTax.)

    Anyhoo, food and lodging were on a case-by-case basis. For food, if the duration of work-related travel (both ways) plus the duration of the event meant you'd be occupied through a reasonable meal hour, you generally could expense it. (Judiciously ... meaning a burger, not a steak.) For lodging, when it became a safety issue -- if it meant you wouldn't arrive home until after, say, 2 a.m. -- you generally could expense it. (Again, judiciously ... meaning Holiday Inn Express rather than Marriott.)

    Of course, those were the golden days of newspapering. Times are much different now, to be sure.
  5. reformedhack

    reformedhack Well-Known Member

  6. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    Same as above: mileage yes, gas no.

    Our old editor's rule was if you are out for 6+ hours your meals are reimbursed. If returning from such a trip would put you on the road after midnight, get a room if you want and the company pays. And he would consider other events case by case, usually getting a room reimbursed was never an issue. One example was when I covered a multi-day event that was only about 60 miles away. The nature of the tournament style event meant we could have games at 9 p.m. at night and some at 8 a.m. the next day, so it was just better to book a nearby hotel.
    Our new boss is still okay with this policy, but with the tighter budgets, he's asked us to be more mindful, and the return trip after midnight policy doesn't always apply.

    In any case, on any trip, document everything. Anything that the company doesn't pay for can be claimed on your income tax, if you itemize (and of course, have higher deductions than the standard deduction).
  7. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Gas AND mileage? On the same trip? Wow! Never got that.

    Yes, a lot of places are cutting back. At one place a couple of years ago, I stopped asking for mileage when I would go 100 miles to cover stuff at State U. It always turned into "why didn't you just do a phone interview?" Me: "because I got better stuff face-to-face". The arguments just got tiring. After a few rounds of that, I just stopped asking for gas reimbursement, figuring the extra $30-40 I spent was the price to get out of Podunk for a few hours.

    I suspect I'm not alone. More and more places seem to be trying to cut corners wherever they can and travel is usually one of the first things eliminated.
  8. silvercharm

    silvercharm Member

    I hope if they laughed at you about a room, you said, "Well, then I assume you'll be paying me my standard hourly rate for all the travel time." On long roadies, I didn't usually mind not charging for some, or in some cases, all of my drive time if they were willing to pay for room. But screw 'em if they say no.
  9. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    Mileage yes, gas no, food sometimes. But food and other stuff was always on a different form than the mileage, so its possible that's what they were telling you without being so helpful as to actually give you the other form (Or they were confused/assumed you knew). Might be worth asking about just in case they weren't trying to tell you not to expense that stuff
  10. Morris816

    Morris816 Member

    Speaking about my last job: Mileage was reimbursed but it varied. Got a certain amount per mile for trips up to 200 miles (that's round trip) that went out of town, and for anything above, the cost of gas plus an additional 20 bucks. Flat reimbursement per week for in-town driving, which was pretty generous.

    Meals were reimbursed if you traveled more than 90 minutes away from town and it came during meal time. Motels were reimbursed if you traveled more than three hours from town -- and you needed to be mindful of how much you spent.

    Things work a little bit different at the new job I just started. All mileage in and out of town is reimbursed per mile traveled.
  11. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    I've told this before....at my first newspaper, we weren't reimbursed for food. No matter the assignment. Flying to an away game and staying for two or three days? Pay for your own food!

  12. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    There's a lot of things I don't mind spending no to make my quality of life better in a job, but a hotel would NEVER be one. Your safety should never be compromised in the name of covering an event. If you're 3 hours on the road and the drive would have to be at night, you should not be expected to return. A hotel at their expense should be mandatory.
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