Meals and Entertainment


Depending on the particular circumstances under which the expenses are incurred, charges for meals will be treated as either:

  • Business expenses (these expenses should be charged to Travel); or
  • Entertainment expenses incurred during the course of conducting business, (these expenses should be charged to Meals & Entertainment); or
  • Non-reimbursable personal expenses

It is essential, in order to comply with reporting and audit requirements, that individuals and departments understand these distinctions and record their expenses correctly.

Meals and functions are considered entertainment if they are intended to provide hospitality to non- University individuals, which, although partially social in nature, are deemed necessary and customary in furthering the University’s business interests.

Examples of business entertainment include

  • Receptions for University guests and visitors
  • Alumni reunions or similar alumni functions
  • Entertaining donors or prospective donors
  • Welcoming receptions for parents and students
  • Hosting prospective employers and employees

Meals, which include spouses or other individuals who are not directly involved in conducting University business, are general indications that the occasion is entertainment rather than a business meal or meeting.

Entertainment expenses should be reasonable in relation to the nature of the function and the resulting business benefit. A description (either a list of names or identification of the hosted group) and the total number in attendance at an entertainment function must be included. In addition, it is essential that the expense report clearly documents the business purpose in the “Detailed Entertainment Record” section of the Travel Expense Report.

Since entertainment expenses are rarely, if ever, allowable costs of federally sponsored grants and contracts, it is imperative that they be segregated in the appropriate account code. In doing so they are easily identified on the accounting records and excluded as necessary from any calculation of costs charged to federal grants or contracts.

  • Fully document the business purpose of the entertainment on the Travel Expense Report
  • All original receipts for entertainment expenses must be attached to the reimbursement request, regardless of amount

The University will reimburse employee travelers for the reasonable cost of their own meals incurred during the time they are traveling overnight away from home. The University allows the use of either the receipt method or per diem method. One method must apply for the entire trip. Discretion should be used to keep daily expenditures reasonable. The maximum reimbursement for meals when itemized receipts are maintained will be the federal per diem rates for the destination city. This rate includes taxes and tips. For the day of departure and day of return (also referred to as the first and last days of travel), the reimbursement rate is limited to 75% of the total M&IE (Meals & Incidental Expenses) rate. Original, itemized receipts must be submitted as documentation for each business meal.

If a meal is provided as part of the registration at a conference/workshop/meeting or is otherwise included in the hotel/airline rate, the traveler cannot submit for reimbursement of that meal. If travelers choose to forgo meals included with the fee for a function or as part of their transportation cost, the University will not ordinarily reimburse for the cost of meals eaten elsewhere.

Reimbursement for alcoholic beverages will not be allowed unless one is entertaining a guest of the University and the necessity for some is demonstrated and approved by the area VP or Dean.

Note: If a receipt is lost, the traveler may attach a memo that includes what was purchased and the business purpose if the receipt is under $75. The supervisor must sign the memo acknowledging the lost receipt and authorizing reimbursement. For items beyond this limit, the traveler should obtain a duplicate receipt from the vendor (which may require a timely request on the part of the traveler to the vendor.)

A per diem allowance for meals may be used if pre-approved by the Vice President or the VP’s designee on the TAAF. Per diems may be less, but must never be more than $40 per day. The first and last days of travel are reimbursed at $30 per day. This rate is not affected by the time of day an individual leaves or returns.

When attending conferences and other meetings where meals are included, the agenda or registration should be attached to the travel reimbursement. Any meals provided, included in the hotel rate (for example, continental breakfast), or otherwise provided, should be excluded. The traveler should reduce the per diem as follows: 20 percent for breakfast; 30 percent for lunch; 50 percent for dinner.

In order to qualify for reimbursement of meal expenses, travel must include an overnight stay. Because IRS regulations classify meal reimbursements during day trips as taxable income, the University policy is that there is not reimbursement for meals if an overnight stay is not part of the trip. An exception might involve situations where University business is conducted during a meal and non-University personnel are present.