323 Relocation

UW-Madison Administrative Policy
Policy # 323

Effective Date: Jan 1, 2018
Last Updated: Jan 1, 2018
Last Reviewed: July 1, 2019
Next Review: Jan 1, 2020

Functional Owner: Controller, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Executive Sponsor: Controller, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Policy Contact: Travelers and departmental staff should contact their respective Divisional Business Office for policy questions. Divisional Business Offices may e-mail uwtravel@bussvc.wisc.edu with questions.

Policy Summary

The purpose of this policy is to define and establish University of Wisconsin-Madison requirements for the procurement and payment of household relocation costs and costs associated with temporary and indefinite work assignments.

Who This Policy Applies To

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.


It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin Madison to allow institutions to reimburse 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 allowable expenses related to relocation and temporary or indefinite work assignment away from the employee’s headquarters’ location.

Policy Detail

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 are considered taxable income and subject to applicable income and employment taxes.

II. Eligibility. At the discretion of each UW 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)).

Reimbursement of expenses or payment of an Employee Relocation Award is mandatory when the appointing authority requires the employee to change residence location because the employee is ordered to relocate or is promoted to a different position within University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the appointing authority determines the relocation or promotion requires the employee to change residence. It should be determined whether it is in the best interest of the University to provide payment or 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?

Other eligibility considerations:

  • Payment or reimbursement is on a permissive basis, at the discretion of the new Appointing Authority, for an employee who requests a transfer or demotion and relocates as a result.
  • Payment or reimbursement is on a permissive basis, at the discretion of the Appointing Authority, for an employee reporting to their first place of employment at the University of Wisconsin- Madison or reporting upon reemployment after leaving the University of Wisconsin- Madison.
  • Payment or reimbursement is on a permissive basis, at the discretion of the Appointing Authority, 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 appointing authority determines a relocation is a mandatory condition of employment, the minimum distance requirements are not applicable.
  • No more than two relocations may be reimbursed to an employee in a calendar year.
  • Unless otherwise authorized by the Appointing Authority, to be eligible for relocation payment or 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.

III.Reimbursement or Payment of Relocation Costs. An Employee may be paid an Employee Relocation Award for costs associated with a relocation. An Employee Relocation Award is a lump sum, one-time, tax reportable payment to an employee in lieu of reimbursing the employee’s expenses or directly paying vendors for the costs associated with the employee’s relocation including travel costs and temporary lodging. The intent is the Employee Relocation Award to be the only payment made by the University related to the employee’s relocation. An Employee Relocation Award is made through the University’s reimbursement process not more than 30 days in advance of the employee’s relocation (move) date. The payment of an Employee Relocation Award does not require receipts; but instead requires the Relocation Authorization Letter (See Section 6, University’s Responsibility below) be attached to the reimbursement request.

OR, 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 van line service. If self-move is selected, neither the employee nor the employee’s spouse or dependents may be reimbursed for their labor.

Allowable costs associated with the relocation may be reimbursed to the employee or, at the discretion of the institution, 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.

A non-inclusive list of indirect costs that will not be paid include expenses related to house-hunting; the moving of goods not considered household goods such as farm equipment, livestock, motorcycles, automobiles, recreational vehicles, and pets; the moving of swing sets, jungle gyms, and other similar outdoor items and third party services for disassembly or assembly of these items; and storage for more than 30 days or any storage that is at the convenience of the employee. Please see the Relocation Expenses Chart.

The University may reimburse the transportation costs of the employee and immediate family. 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. MapQuest and Google Maps are the standard tools for calculating mileage.

For moves to or from the continental United States, the cost of one-way airfare for the employee and immediate family members may be paid or reimbursed in lieu of mileage. Airfare must be purchased in accordance with Policy 311 – Air Travel.

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 calendar days. All temporary lodging must be reserved and paid for in accordance with Policy 312 – 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. If an Employee Relocation Award is not paid 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.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 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.

The Internal Revenue Service looks at all facts to determine whether the travel assignment was intended to be temporary or indefinite. ( 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 in the document titled When “Temporary” Travel Assignments Become “Indefinite.”

Departments/Divisions should contact their Human Resources Offices to ensure appropriate approvals, accounting and tax related issues are addressed and in place prior to the starting date of the temporary assignment.

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

University of Wisconsin-Madison 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 University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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.

Consequences for Noncompliance

Failure to comply with UW-Madison Travel Policy or Procedures may result in disciplinary steps, up to and including dismissal.


  1. Allowable Costs: Costs for which a relocating employee may be reimbursed under this policy.
  2. Appointing Authority: Chancellor of the UW Madison, or formally delegated designee.
  3. Approving Authority: Vice Chancellor, formally delegated division dean or director who approves expense reimbursements for relocation or temporary work assignments.
  4. Authorization Letter: A letter that specifically outlines and approves university funding for relocation expense types and amounts, including Employee Relocation Awards. The Authorization Letter must provide a maximum, not to exceed amount for the cost of the relocation.
  5. Direct Costs: Costs attributed to the relocation of household goods.
  6. Employee: Any individual who holds a faculty, academic staff, university staff, or limited appointment with any UW System institution.
  7. Headquarter Location: The official location where the employee’s work is performed on a permanent basis. Typically the campus or institution office.
  8. Indirect Costs: Costs related to the relocation process excluding transportation and temporary lodging.
  9. Employee Relocation Award: Tax-reportable payment to employee for relocation costs intended to represent the total relocation cost amount paid to the employee.
  10. 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.


Approving Authority:  Prior to the move, the Approving Authority must authorize in writing the payment of an Employee Relocation Award, reimbursement for or direct payment of 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 a Relocation Authorization Letter 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 Award and whether the Employee Relocation Award represents the maximum amount to be paid to the employee for the relocation
    • Direct Cost to be reimbursed related to commercial move services or self-move rental/supplies for the transportation of household goods
    • Transportation for the employee and immediate family
    • Temporary Lodging, including the number of days at a rate no greater than the University 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. The Authorization Letter must be attached to any relocation related request for payment or reimbursement.

Employee/Recipient:  Employees are responsible for completing the following tasks, as applicable, to be eligible for relocation payment or 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. This documentation and any required receipts must be submitted to support payment or reimbursement of relocation costs.
  • Unless an Employee Relocation Award intended to cover all costs of the relocation is paid to the employee, or the employee chooses a self-move, the employee can use an approved commercial carrier for the relocation. UW System has a contract with corporate moving companies for substantially reduced rates. Please see the Employee Relocation Guide. If the employee elects not to use a contract vendor, the employee may select any carrier, but payment/reimbursement is limited to the lowest of three estimates, one of which must be from one of the UW contract carriers. The 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.
  • Employees are advised that any piecemeal move (a move that requires more than a single trip) that the cumulative cost of moving household goods 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 from the contract commercial carrier showing the cost to accomplish the move in one trip must be obtained.
  • Work with the hiring department on all payment and reimbursement requirements.
  • Discuss the payment of an Employee Relocation Award for moving costs early with the hiring department.
  • Unless an Employee Relocation Award intended to cover all costs of the relocation is paid, airfare or temporary lodging must be reserved through the University’s travel program and using UW contract properties and pricing when available. Please see Policy 311 – Airfare and Policy 312 – Lodging.

Link to Related Policies


Policy Number: 330
Date Approved: July 1, 2019
Revision Dates: