Travel & Entertainment Policy

Policy Statement & Purpose

NOTE - SPU’s Travel and Entertainment Policy is in draft and has not been ratified by the President’s Cabinet. Until ratified, this Policy is available on the Finance wiki to help faculty and staff determine appropriate travel and entertainment expenses. It is a guideline only. Please provide feedback to payables@spu.edu.

All expenditures for travel, entertainment, and related expenses must support and advance SPU’s mission.

This policy establishes minimum requirements for the approval and reimbursement of University-approved travel and entertainment expenses, as defined below. Each community member responsible for making decisions concerning such expenditures should always ask whether an expense represents an appropriate and worthy use of University funds. All travel and entertainment expenditures must be (i) documented as to business purpose, (ii) allocable to an appropriate funding source, and (iii) approved by an appropriate supervisor.

The University is responsible for managing its resources prudently and for reimbursing expenses consistent with legal and regulatory requirements. This policy provides guidance on permissible expenditures of University funds from all sources for University-approved travel and entertainment; and outlines authority and responsibility for approval and reimbursement of such expenditures.


Entities Affected by this Policy

All members of the SPU community, including those authorized faculty, staff, students, and guests who travel, entertain, or extend courtesies on behalf of the University.


Allowable Expenses

Expenses must meet the following minimum requirements for allowability:

  • Allowable under Accountable Plan: An expense reimbursement that satisfies the requirements of Internal Revenue Service regulations by meeting the requirements of a clear business purpose and providing substantiation of the expense and purpose. See IRS Regulations section 1.62-2(c)(2). For accountable plan purposes, purchasing card (P-Card) expenditures are also considered reimbursement-related transactions until the time the monthly statement accounting is received by Finance.

  • Adequate records: For items purchased with a P-Card, adequate records and documentary evidence, such as receipts, are needed for all lodging expenses, all grant related expenditures, and other expenses of $75 or more. Documentary evidence is not required for non-lodging and non-grant related expenses less than $75, transportation expenses for which a receipt is not readily available, or per diem allowances for meals and incidentals reimbursed under an accountable plan and not exceeding the federal rates. For items purchased using an Expense Advance, or personal funds are to be reimbursed, ALL receipts are required for except for transportation expenses for which a receipt is not readily available, or per diem allowances for meals and incidentals reimbursed under an accountable plan and not exceeding the federal rates.

  • Cost Allowability for Sponsored Charges: SPU follows the federal principles outlined in 2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), including the Cost Accounting Standards contained therein, as well as specific terms and conditions of individual sponsored agreements.

  • Transactions must be in compliance with Federal and State laws.


Travel

Airfares
  • The University will reimburse the most economical fare which is generally a coach class ticket aboard a regularly scheduled commercial carrier.

  • Upgraded seats, travel insurance and other nonessential expenses such as in-flight entertainment or Wi-Fi are not reimbursable.

  • The University will not reimburse the equivalent cost of the ticket when personal airline miles or credits are used.

  • The University will not reimburse a ticket cancelled without prior authorization unless related to a documented emergency.

  • Exceptions may be granted to fly business class for either international travel greater than eight hours (non-stop) when budget is available, or for a documented medical reason. Business class airfare requires prior written approval from the President, Chief Academic Officer or Vice President, Business & Finance.

  • If travel is on a sponsored program, the sponsoring agency may have additional restrictions (e.g. commercial air travel funded by a federal grant must use a United States flag air carrier service) and require advance approval. For guidance, contact the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Ground Transportation (taxi, ride share, rental vehicles)
  • Reimbursable ground transportation to or from a destination includes travel between home/office/hotels and airports, between appointments or between hotels and places of temporary duty.

  • Travelers should rent vehicles in the University’s name with the authorized traveler as the named driver.

  • Incidental costs associated with the use of a rental vehicle, including parking fees, tolls and fuel will also be reimbursed

Use of Private Motor Vehicle
  • Travel on University business using privately-owned vehicles is reimbursed based on IRS mileage reimbursement rates. The reimbursement rate includes:

    • all fuel, maintenance, insurance, transportation and operating costs

  • An individual’s daily commute mileage is not reimbursable.

  • Tolls and parking charges may be reimbursed in addition to the mileage allowance. For authorized travel, parking will be covered up to a three day maximum.

  • Repairs to the vehicle and charges for parking and moving violations are not reimbursable.

Hotel/Lodging
  • Only standard room accommodations will be covered.

  • The paid hotel bill is required documentation for coverage or reimbursement of a hotel stay.

Meals while travelling
  • The University will cover the reasonable cost of meals while traveling via per diem or actual itemized receipt.

  • Per Diem: Departments can set their own per diem rate up to the maximum rate set by the Government Service Administration (GSA) of $74 per day: $18 for breakfast, $20 for lunch, $36 for dinner. The maximum rate is $59.25 for first and last days of travel. GSA rates are available at gsa.gov. Departments that have traveling student groups can set their own per diem rate capped at $30 per day.

  • Actual meal expenses: Actual expense should not exceed per diem allowances. If the expense includes payment for individuals in addition to the requestee, a list of attendees and a business purpose must be provided.

Incidental Expenses
  • The university will reimburse an employee up to $5 a day for incidentals such as laundry, internet access fees, and reasonable tips for housekeeping.

Travel of Non-University Personnel
  • Non-University personnel, including guest lecturers, consultants and prospective faculty or staff, may be reimbursed for travel expenses incurred for authorized University business purposes and subject to University travel policies and procedures.

Non-Reimbursable Travel Expenses

Expenses not directly related to the performance of the travel assignment are non-reimbursable, regardless of funding type. Examples include:

  • Books, magazines, newspapers for personal use

  • Child-care, senior care, house or pet sitting

  • Commuting between home and campus

  • Evening wear rentals

  • Costs incurred by a traveler’s failure to cancel transportation or hotel reservations in a timely manner

  • Passports, vaccinations and visas unless required as a specific and necessary condition of the travel assignment

  • Personal entertainment expenses including health club facilities and in-flight movies

  • Spouse or dependent expenses - incremental costs for travel, lodging, meal or other travel expenses for spouses or other dependents will not be reimbursed unless approved by the President when the University requires the spouse to attend an event as a condition of the employee’s work assignment.


Entertainment

Entertainment costs are reimbursable using non-sponsored sources of funds per discretion of Deans and Vice Presidents and when deemed to support University objectives.

The following events are subject to these spending thresholds:

University Funded Events
  • Two events in the following categories each year, with a $30 per-person maximum, per event, including facility costs:

    • Annual holiday parties

    • General appreciation party or event

    • Retreats

  • Social entertainment that is essential for the fulfillment of leadership duties with a $30 per person maximum, per event, including facility costs.

  • Community building events for students as long as expenses remain within an approved Student Life budget.

  • Certain departmental, social, and life events, with a $15 per-person maximum, per event, including facility costs:

    • School-wide or departmental meetings

    • Committee, society and other faculty organization meetings

    • Faculty/staff retirement

Events for which University Funds may not be used:

  • Events that do not have a specific University business purpose should be funded by the participants or management personally, on behalf of the participants. This includes general catch ups between staff members which are not departmental wide events.

  • Events in celebration of other life occurrences - weddings, birthdays, births, promotions, dissertation defenses are unallowable. Funds should be solicited from fellow employees and management to cover the expenses of these occasions.

  • Costs of discretionary activities are usually prohibited on sponsored accounts. Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs for more information.

‘In town’ meals with visitors and employees
  • ‘In town’ meal reimbursement is allowable if there is a legitimate business purpose involving non-University personnel. The inclusion of University employees should be moderated as much as possible.

  • Each employee is to pay for their own meal or beverage if discussing University business, with other University personnel while ‘in town’. If Vice Presidents or Deans must arrange meetings during mealtimes to facilitate a confidential matter or unusual scheduling constraints, it is permissible to seek reimbursement of an in town meal. This should occur infrequently.

  • The standard for reimbursement for dinners hosted by faculty or staff members for University guests is $75 per person including tax and tip. Under the special circumstances of recruiting or fundraising, the maximum reimbursement is $90 per person (including tax and tip). The appropriate Dean or Vice President must approve the expense.

  • Alcoholic beverage costs are prohibited except for purchase for non-University personnel under the special circumstances of fundraising events by senior University Advancement staff or the President. Any queries about the acceptable purchase of alcohol should be addressed to Finance prior to the event occurring.

  • Tax and gratuities on meals are reimbursable for approved business and entertainment services. Tips must not exceed 20%.

Refreshments
  • Alcoholic beverage costs are prohibited except for purchase for non-University personnel under the special circumstances of fundraising events by senior University Advancement staff or the President. Any queries about the acceptable purchase of alcohol should be addressed to Finance prior to the event occurring. No alcohol may be served to individuals under the age of 21.

  • ‘In town’ refreshment reimbursement is allowable if there is a legitimate business purpose involving non-University personnel. The inclusion of University employees should be moderated as much as possible.

  • Each employee is to pay for their own refreshments if discussing University business, with other University personnel while ‘in town’.

Gifts and flowers
  • Gifts to University employees other than those provided through Employee Recognition Programs are unallowable.

Club memberships
  • Club memberships of any type are generally not allowable; exceptions must be approved by the Chief Academic Officer or Vice President, Business & Finance.

  • For approved exceptions, club membership fees are reportable as income to the employee.

Unallowable Business Expenses for Sponsored Charges

The costs listed here are not allowable as a direct cost on a sponsored program unless authorized by the Office of Sponsored Programs:

  • Business or Premium economy class airfare is reimbursable only with advance written approval of the sponsor

  • Alcohol

  • Expenses associated with the recruitment of faculty

  • Passports, vaccinations and visas, when not required as a specific and necessary condition of the travel assignment

  • Meals for in-town conferences

  • Expenses related to discretionary activities (expenses that are not considered essential for the basic operation or mission of the institution).


Consequences of Violating this Policy

Employees who commit the University’s resources without proper authorization are subject to disciplinary action under University policies and procedures, up to and including termination of employment. If a review of expenditures does not substantiate the University business purpose of travel or entertainment, the University also reserves the right to treat the reimbursement as personal income.


Authority and responsibility for approving expenses

Prior to incurring expenses, travel and/or entertainment costs need to be discussed and approved by a department supervisor. All travel and/or entertainment costs must be considered with reference to budget availability.

All travel and/or entertainment costs must be approved in accordance with SPU’s Purchasing Authority Thresholds. In addition, the Vice President Business & Finance must approve expense reimbursement requests and P-Card reclass requests submitted by Vice Presidents. The President reviews and approves expense reimbursement requests and P-Card reclass requests submitted by the Vice President Business & Finance.


Timing of reimbursement requests

Reimbursements to individuals will not be made prior to the completion of travel to ensure the business activity is performed.

In order to prevent reimbursement from being included in taxable wages, IRS rules require an employee to provide adequate accounting to the employer for business expenses. This payment documentation, including card expenditure documentation, must be submitted within 30 days after expenses incurred by the employee or after the monthly P-Card statement is received.

If documentation is received over 90 days past the date the expense is incurred or P-Card statement is received, the reimbursement or P-Card charge will be considered a taxable reimbursement to the individual claiming the reimbursement or holding the P-Card. These expenses are considered out of compliance with the University's accountable plan. Business expenses are substantiated by adequate records or sufficient evidence corroborating an employee's own written and oral statements.

All personal reimbursements should be settled within 30 days of the University's fiscal year (i.e. by July 30). Reimbursements for expenditures occurring in prior fiscal periods will not be honored.


Advances

Travel advances are generally not encouraged as Purchasing Cards are available to staff that travel regularly, and the reimbursement process has been significantly streamlined for those that do not have a corporate card. However, below are the conditions when a travel advance is necessary:

  • Advances are only available for University employees or students.

  • Advances must be $500.00 or more.

  • Advances should be reconciled and any unspent amounts repaid within five working days of return from travel and no later than 30 days from date of return. Unreconciled advances will be charged to the traveler’s departmental budget, and, as required by federal law, the amount will be reported to the IRS as taxable compensation to the traveler.


Documentation of expenses

The business purpose of any expense must be documented.

Adequate records and documentary evidence, such as receipts, are needed for:

  • All lodging expenses

  • All grant related expenditure

  • All other expenses of $75 or more if purchased via P-Card

  • All other expenses if purchased via Expense Advance or personal funds to be reimbursed

Receipts are not required for:

  • Non-lodging or non-grant related expenses less than $75 (unless purchased via Expense Advance or personal funds to be reimbursed)

  • Transportation expenses for which a receipt is not readily available

  • Per diem allowances for meals and incidentals reimbursed under an accountable plan and not exceeding the federal rate

Electronic copies of documentary evidence, such as scanned receipts, are acceptable by the IRS per Revenue Proclamation 97-22; the copies must be identical to the originals and contain all of the information of the original receipt.

Remember, you need to include the names of all attendees at a business event or meal/refreshment.

  • Note, the IRS only requires the total number of attendees if it exceeds ten.

Airfare Reimbursement

The itinerary or e-ticket must include the travelers name, trip dates, price, ticket class, destination, and proof of payment.

Ground transportation

The reimbursement request must include the time, place and business purpose of travel. A point to point map is required for documentation. In accordance with IRS rulings, an individual’s daily commute mileage must not be included in the total for point to point travel.

The University follows the IRS recommended mileage reimbursement rate.

Meal Reimbursement

The reimbursement request must note the business purpose and the list of attendees.


Definitions

 

 

Accountable Plan

An expense reimbursement plan that satisfies the requirements of Internal Revenue Service regulations by meeting the requirements of a business purpose, substantiation of the expense and purpose, and returning amounts in excess of substantiated expenses in the case of advances. See IRS Regulations section 1.62-2(c)

Adequate records

Adequate records and documentary evidence, such as receipts, are needed for all lodging expenses, and other expenses of $75 or more; but are not required for non-lodging expenses less than $75, transportation expenses for which a receipt is not readily available, or per diem allowances for meals and incidentals reimbursed under an accountable plan and not exceeding the federal rates.

Scanned Receipts

Electronic copies of documentary evidence are acceptable by the IRS per Revenue Proclamation 97-22; the copies must be identical to the originals and contain all of the information of the original receipt.

Entertainment

Meals, activities, or events provided for University purposes.

In-town travel

Travel within the City of Seattle and to/from/within its suburban areas.

Non-conventional lodging

A room, apartment, house, or other lodging that is not a hotel or motel.

Per diem

A standard daily allowance for meals and incidental expenses incurred when traveling.

Pre-approval review

Advance notification of travel and entertainment plans before expenditures are authorized.

University-approved travel

Transportation on SPU business in excess of one's normal commute. University-approved travel includes movement on official University business from home or normal place of employment to another destination or transportation on SPU business in excess of one's normal commute. It does not include commuting between one’s home and normal place of employment.

Cost Allowability for Sponsored Charges

SPU follows the federal principles outlined in 2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), including the Cost Accounting Standards contained therein, as well as specific terms and conditions of individual sponsored agreements.