Policy Notes: Reimbursable Business Expenses

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General Information

  • The University's policy is to reimburse employees and approved non-employees for necessary and reasonable expenses incurred for authorized University business.
  • Reimbursements are to be consistent with federal regulations.
  • Prices paid are to be economical; when the price paid by the individual is more than what would have been paid by the University, the lesser amount will be reimbursed.

Reimbursable expenses include:

  • travel expenses, related to University business, including air fare, lodging, incidental expenses, use of personal auto, car rental, taxi fares and phone charges.
  • miscellaneous purchases in support of University business, such as supplies, books and equipment costing less than $2,500 (purchases exceeding $2,500 should be ordered through University Procurement).
  • payments to human subjects, made by an individual (Direct payment to human subjects from the University can be made by requesting a check through the Other Checks module in iOU.).
  • cost of meals when there is a clear business purpose for the meal.
  • conference registration and training course fees, when related to University business.
  • dues & subscriptions for memberships to professional organizations and publications related to University business.
  • moving & house hunting expenses incurred by a new employee when hired by Stanford.
  • gifts (tangible personal property) related to University business.
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Specific Policy

All Reimbursements

Specific Policy Pertaining to All Reimbursements
Category Policy
Advances, Reconciling (Clearing)
  • If the business need for an outstanding advance ceases to exist, the funds advanced must be returned immediately to Travel and Reimbursements in the form of a check made out to Stanford University. See How To: Return Unused Advance Funds.
  • Advances not cleared by expected clearing date will be cleared, whenever possible, from subsequent reimbursements for the same payee indicated on the advance.
  • If an advance is not cleared within 60 days of the completion date of the trip or activity, the advance will be forced-cleared by Disbursements and the amount of the advance will be tax-reportable to the individual who received the funds, under IRS rules.
Approving Expenses
  • Employees cannot authorize/approve travel or expenses for themselves or for a person to whom they report either directly or indirectly.
Lost Receipts
  • Original receipts are required for expenses of $75 or more.
  • If an original receipt is not submitted as a backup document, a lost receipt memo along with proof of payment, such as a credit card statement, must be included.
  • Tips should not exceed 20% unless there is a mandatory charge for a large group.
When to Make Reimbursement Request
  • Within 10 days of incurring expense, or 10 days after completing travel
  • Per federal regulation, reimbursement requests made after 60 days of incurring the expense (trip, meals, supplies, etc.), will be reported to the IRS as taxable income.
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Business Meals

  • Amounts paid should be “reasonable and necessary.”
  • Reimbursement requests must state business purpose and reason for the meeting.
  • Individual attendees must be listed on reimbursement request or backup documents unless a specific identifiable group is noted.
  • Alcohol must be charged to unallowable expenditure type and unrestricted PTA including a portion of tax and tip.
  • Spouses should be included only when appropriate, and always charged to unallowable expenditure type.

See also Expense Guidance for Business Meals.

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Conference Fees

  • Reimbursement requests for undergraduate and graduate students should include a certification letter signed by a faculty member; for post docs, include either the certification letter or a program showing the post doc as a speaker at the conference. If no certification (or program for post docs) is submitted, the expenses will be considered tax-reportable by the IRS. See Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2 Section 11.
  • Payments cannot include expenses for spouses, such as lodging, meals, or activities at the conference.
  • When meals are included in the conference registration fee or hotel rates, a deduction must be made from the applicable per diem rate. To determine the appropriate deduction amount by travel location, select Meals and Incidental Expense Breakdown from the Domestic Per Diem Rates page of the U.S. General Services Administration web site. (What are Incidental Expenses?)
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Dues and Subscriptions

  • Voluntary contributions are not reimbursable.
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Foreign Receipts

  • Foreign receipts must be converted to U.S. dollars. To convert foreign receipts, go to the Oanda web site.

    In the Oanda web site, enter date of receipt, or date the plane ticket was issued (not necessarily the travel date) to get proper conversion.
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Foreign Visitors, Reimbursement Payments to

  • Foreign visitors must include additional documentation with reimbursement request: copies of the visitor's passport and visa, and a copy of the I-94 Arrival / Departure card that is stapled into the passport upon entering the U.S. and removed upon leaving the US.
  • If the payee is a U.S. citizen but is being reimbursed for expenses paid for a foreign visitor, such as airfare or lodging, the documents listed above must be included with the backup documents.
  • The Fly America Act requires that travel for Stanford that is funded by government contract or grant must be on a U.S. carrier. The Act applies to visitors traveling to Stanford from a foreign country.
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  • Retirement and years of service gifts that comply with University policy are not tax-reportable. (See Administrative Guide Policy 2.2.10 Section 3) Other gifts (not retirement or years of service gifts) that are valued at more than $50 are tax-reportable, and reimbursement requests must include the payee's Employee ID number and home address for tax purposes.
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Human Subjects

  • If individual payments are $100 or more, or, if the recipient will receive payments totaling $600 or more in the calendar year, social security numbers and home addresses for the subjects are required when requesting reimbursement.
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Moving / House Hunting Expenses

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Specific Policy Pertaining to Travel
Category Policy
  • Travelers should book lowest available airfare. Stanford authorizes air travel in coach class for domestic and international flights. Business class is permissible for international flights with a duration of eight hours or more (including connecting domestic legs, provided there are no layovers). See Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2.
  • If airfare is charged to a government contract or grant, flights must be booked on a U.S. carrier per the Fly America Act. Compliance with this Act takes precedence over booking the lowest available fare.
Car Rental
  • Stanford carries blanket car rental insurance policy for travelers. Travelers should not accept any other insurance for car rental within the continental US.
  • Outside of the continental U.S. (including Hawaii and Alaska), traveler should accept insurance.
  • Prorated cost of car rental during personal days must be deducted from reimbursable expenses.
  • Travelers are expected to use lodging that is necessary and reasonable, selecting the lowest standard room rates available.
  • No overnight stay is allowed when traveling 50 miles or less each way from Stanford or from home, whichever is farthest.
  • Laundry is a reimbursable expense only if the business trip exceeds 6 days.
Meals During Business Travel
  • You may claim actual meal expenses or per diem based on city visited.
  • If claiming actual expense reimbursement for meals, receipts for transactions of $75 or more are required.
  • When claiming meal per diem and purchasing a business meal for a guest, only the guest's meal may be claimed.
  • Tips cannot exceed 20 percent unless there is a mandatory charge for a large group.
  • When a meal(s) is provided by a conference, deduct partial per diem. To determine the appropriate deduction amount by travel location, select Meals and Incidental Expense Breakdown from the Domestic Per Diem Rates page of the U.S. General Services Administration web site, or from the Foreign Per Diem Rates page. (What are Incidental Expenses?)
  • No meals or per diem may be claimed for one-day travel unless your destination is greater than 50 miles from your point of origin.
Personal Auto Use
  • Use shuttle instead of personal auto if two travelers are making the same two round trips to airport, or one traveler is making round trip plus parking for short trips.
  • Auto mileage + parking should be comparable to shuttle costs.
  • Mileage from home to airport may be claimed when traveling weekends or outside business hours: otherwise, mileage is the distance from Stanford to the airport.
  • For local travel or errands, keep a log with date, odometer readings and destination.
  • Driving in lieu of flying cannot exceed the cost of airfare plus ground transportation.
Required Documentation for Travel Reimbursement
  • An itinerary receipt for airfare, showing proof of payment, from a travel agency, airline, or online booking tool.
  • Itemized hotel bill for lodging (if claiming actual expenses reimbursement).
  • Receipts for meals and other miscellaneous expenses, i.e. taxis and shuttles, costing $75 or more. If no itemized receipt is submitted for a meal, traveler must indicate amount of alcohol included, or state that there was no alcohol included in the meal.
  • Itemized car rental agreement for a car rental expense. Amount submitted for reimbursement should not include charges for insurance unless in Hawaii or a foreign country.
  • Receipts should include proof of payment. A credit card statement is proof of payment but does not qualify as an itemized receipt.
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Primary Policy Sources

Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2, 5.4.3 and 5.4.4

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