By Rabbi Meir Orlian
Mr. Muller was being sent by his company on a business trip for the first time. “I’d like to know the company’s policy for travel-expense allowances, so that I can plan accordingly,” he told his boss.
“I’ll send you a link to the company’s policy,” replied his boss. “I’ll also give you a copy of the company’s travel-expense reimbursement form.”
Mr. Muller noticed that the form required receipts for most expenditures. There was a maximum allowance for food and lodging. For use of a personal car, there was a standard mileage rate. He was a thrifty person by nature, and did not expect to spend the maximum allowance.
Mr. Muller spoke with some of the senior employees who traveled often. He heard from them different approaches regarding travel expenses.
“I fill out the form carefully,” said one worker. “The point of expenses is exactly that. To take any more than I spent is dishonest and stealing from the company. Even an allowance that doesn’t require a receipt–I won’t take if I didn’t actually spend it!”
“I look at it differently,” said another worker. “Most people don’t like to travel. The least the company can do is compensate properly. If there is an allowance, I try to maximize it! Sometimes I even pick up spare receipts from other people to add to the report.”
“I’m somewhere in the middle,” said a third worker. “I won’t list expenses that I didn’t incur, but regarding allowances that don’t require receipts, I’ll take the full allowance.”
Mr. Muller decided to consult Rabbi Dayan. “Am I allowed to declare the full amount of the allowance on the expense form?” asked Mr. Muller. “If I’m thrifty, can I keep the difference between the allowance and the actual expenditure?”
“This depends on the policy and expense form of your company,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Most companies require you to list actual expenses and submit receipts. It is prohibited to falsely list expenses or provide receipts from others. This is considered geneivas da’as (deceit) with monetary ramifications, which is prohibited even from a non-Jew” (C.M. 228:6).
“On the other hand, the employer often compensates for mileage of a personal car at a standard rate, without consideration of the actual gas cost incurred,” added Rabbi Dayan. “You are entitled to the standard mileage allowance even if your car is fuel-efficient and you used cheap gas.”
“What about food expenses?” asked Mr. Muller.
“This also depends on the nature of the report required,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Some companies require an actual listing, with or without receipts, up to a maximum amount. Others provide a flat per-diem rate. Some have an option of a detailed listing with receipts or a lower, flat rate with no need for receipts.
“If there is a flat per-diem allowance and, in addition, the form does not require you to declare the actual food expenses, you can keep the difference,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “In this case, if you are thrifty and eat at a lesser expense, the saving is yours. However, you can save on food expenses only if it will not impinge on your work. For example, if you will be weaker and less effective by not eating properly, you cannot do so” (C.M. 337:19—20).
“What about car rental or taxi fares, if I could suffice with public transportation?” asked Mr. Muller.
“Many businesses do not request this,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Some educational institutions or nonprofit organizations encourage it, and require a reason for rental. The personal habits of the employee can also be a factor. Of course, if by traveling via public transportation you will not be utilizing work time efficiently, you should use the allowance for rental or taxi service” (C.M. 331:1—2; see Asei Lecha Rav 4:63).
From The BHI Hotline: Chanukah Guest
The Gemara (Shabbos 23a) states that a guest who does not have someone kindling Chanukah lights for him at home must give a coin (perutah) to his host to acquire some of the oil (O.C. 677:1). This practice is surprising since Chazal suspend the use of kinyan kesef and mandate that one must lift (hagbahah) or pull (meshichah) movables to acquire them.
Q. How does one acquire some of the host’s oil by giving him money without actually lifting it?
A. We will offer a few answers presented by some authorities.
Biblically, giving money to a merchant effects a kinyan (B.M. 47b). Chazal, however, are concerned that a merchant may have possession of a customer’s merchandise but did not take physical possession of it, and if a fire breaks out where the merchandise is stored, the merchant has no incentive to salvage it. To incentivize the merchant to salvage the merchandise, Chazal instituted that money does not effect a kinyan; either lifting or pulling the merchandise is required in order for a kinyan to take effect. When a customer pays for merchandise he commits only to complete the kinyan, and at that point, if either party reneges, he is subject to a curse (mi she’para) in beis din for not keeping his word.
There are two ways to understand this enactment. One approach assumes that Chazal uprooted the kinyan of money altogether, and in place of the kinyan they instituted the curse. Alternatively, Chazal did not uproot the effectiveness of kinyan kesef but enacted that if one accepts the curse, the kinyan is ineffective. Accordingly, if one did not accept the curse, the biblical kinyan remains effective. (See Ramban, B.M. 49a. See also Divrei Geonim 63:9, 14; Noda BiYehudah, Y.D. 1:69; and Maharsham 1:115.) If Chazal uprooted the kinyan of money entirely, how does a guest acquire the oil?
One resolution is based on the rationale for Chazal’s enactment. As mentioned, Chazal were concerned that if the kinyan was completed upon payment, a merchant would not have any incentive to save the merchandise from a fire. Therefore, when that concern does not apply, the kinyan of money remains in force. In our situation, since the host owns most of the oil, he has an incentive to salvage it and thus the guest can acquire a share by simply giving his host a perutah. On the other hand, one could argue that once Chazal instituted that money does not effect a kinyan, it is never effective, even when the rationale does not apply (Nesivos 198:4; Choshen Aharon 199:3 and Teshuvos Rav Shlomo Eiger, C.M. 10).
Others write that when the situation involves fulfilling a mitzvah, Chazal’s enactment does not apply and money remains an effective kinyan. Therefore, if one pays for wine for Kiddush, he acquires it, even without lifting it (Pri Megadim, A.A. 656:1; Machazeh Avraham, O.C. 149). Others challenge this principle (Rav Akiva Eiger 656; Gra 656:6; Aruch Hashulchan 656:5; see Mishpat Shalom 199 that money does not effect a kinyan for rabbinic mitzvos).
Some authorities write that one does not need to own the oil to partner with the host, and it is sufficient to make a partial kinyan that subjects the parties to the curse, or even assist in some other manner. This approach is based on the opinion (Machazeh Avraham, op. cit.; and Shevet HaLevi 3:80) that maintains that ownership of the oil is not necessary to fulfill the mitzvah (Pnei Meivin, O.C. 223; cf. M.B. 677:3). Even those authorities who require ownership of the oil or candles (Shevus Yitzchak 8: ch. 8) may agree that Chazal did not require anything more than a partial kinyan that subjects the parties to the curse (Halichos Shlomo 13:).
Based on writings of Harav Chaim Kohn, shlita
Q. How can I draft a will that is both halachically and legally valid?
A. Last week we mentioned one approach, based on shtar chatzi zachar. A second approach is based on a conditional gift to the beneficiaries during the decedent’s lifetime.
The Gemara (B.B. 136a) mentions the concept “me’hayom ul’achar misah–[the assets] from today and [the usage] after death.” In this context, a person grants his assets to others effective immediately, but retains usage rights of the assets until the end of his days.
Applying this concept to halachic wills, the assets are granted to the beneficiaries immediately upon making the will, in principle, so that there is no issue of inheritance. However, in practice, the person retains rights to use his property for the duration of his lifetime. [In Israel, civil law requires that the usage be granted just before death.]
The gift is further made on condition that the person may retract if he wishes. Thus, the person can change his will, even though the assets are granted immediately, since the gift is conditional (C.M. 257:6—7).
This article is intended for learning purposes and not to be relied upon halacha l’maaseh. There are also issues of dina d’malchusa to consider in actual cases.
Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shlita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or eâ€‘mail email@example.com. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an eâ€‘mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.