Meals & Incidentals
Each department on campus is responsible for making its own travel
arrangements. All University travel must have supervisory approval
prior to securing airfare, hotel accommodations, car rental, conference
registration, etc. Travel expenditures in excess of $5,000 will
follow the purchase order process described in the previous section
prior to finalizing arrangements. Departments planning travel
arrangements in excess of $5,000 must complete a purchase requisition
form detailing the arrangements and itinerary and forward it to
the PD for approval. The PD provides quick turnaround on travel-related
requests since these arrangements are often time-sensitive (see
PO process section for detailed
In general, the policies for travel expenditures follow other
purchasing policies. This is one area, however, that falls
under greater IRS scrutiny and requirements for expense reimbursements.
Purchases made through the University payment process (where SPU
pays the vendor directly) follow the same policies as other University
expenditures. Expenditures made via a University bankcard or personal
funds and then submitted on an expense reimbursement require specific
documentation and substantiation (see Business
Expense Policy). In addition, the University has set standards
related to business travel. This section will explain the general
policy and University standards. Specific requirements for expense
reimbursement and bankcard reclassifications are addressed in the
Business Expense Policy section,
along with the underlying IRS regulations.
The approval process for University travel really begins as part
of each department’s operational planning for the year. The
University expects the overall planning process to reflect the fact
that professional development and operational travel are part of
a department’s ongoing operations and personnel development.
To support this philosophy, many VP areas have allocated professional
development and operational travel resources out to the departmental
level (versus being centralized at the VP level). To further support
this philosophy, travel policies and procedures grant the dean and
director level more ability to utilize these resources.
While the University expects professional development and operational
travel to be part of each department’s planning process and
therefore have supervisory approval, the payments department will
no longer verify this supervisory approval during the purchase/payment
process. Individual departments can have their own internal approval
requirements and processes, but the payments department will not
be able to verify compliance. (Reimbursement for travel and
entertainment still requires a supervisor’s approval. See
Business Expense Policy.)
All credit card reclasses or reimbursement requests for travel must
include original, itemized receipts for expenditures. If a transaction
is under $50 and a receipt is difficult to obtain, it is allowable
to document the expense and note the lack of receipt. The IRS requires
all expense reimbursements (including purchasing card documentation)
to provide substantiation of the expenses by adequate records that
include the following:
- Business purpose
- Person(s) entertained
- Business relationship of person(s) entertained
- Presence of employee requesting reimbursement
Conference Agendas--For travel that is conference related,
a conference agenda must be submitted as part of the documentation.
Spousal Travel--The University does not reimburse for spousal travel unless it is pre-approved by their VP with a valid business purpose. Spousal travel reimbursement is a targeted hot topic for the IRS.
Administrative approval is required for all reimbursements.
Generally, the employee’s supervisor (including VPs), who
has budget authority, approves the request for reimbursement. Supervisors
approving these expenses attest to the business purpose of the entertainment
or travel, as well as the propriety and reasonableness of the expenses.
The Director of Finance and Controller has been instructed to refer any unusual charges
or amounts in excess of University thresholds to the area vice president
for review and approval or to the vice president for Business and
Planning or the president, if appropriate.
We recommend that travelers arrange to have all airfare charges
placed on one of their departmental purchasing cards. Travelers
should note that the University will not reimburse any airfare purchased
with personal funds until the related travel is completed. We highly
recommend departments continue to utilize the following two travel
- TMA Incorporated
4626 NE 174th Place
Seattle, WA 98155
Contact: Steve Danishek (206) 363-2523
- Northwest Navigant
1201 Third Avenue, Suite 1800
Seattle, WA 98101
Contact: Deborah Muser-Dolen (206) 676-4900
These agencies assure us they will make every effort to book reservations
at the most economical rates available. Internet websites, such
as Expedia, are also okay to use. Airfares should be booked for
the standard coach fare. See the Business
Expense Policy for specific documentation requirements for air
travel purchases on purchasing cards or through the use of personal
Booking Airfare (under $5,000)
- Use one of the two University travel agent offices to book coach
airfare, or use a discount internet website.
- Use a University purchasing card to pay for airfare charges.
- The use of personal funds is discouraged. The University will
not reimburse any airfare purchased with personal funds until
the related travel is completed.
Extending Travel Beyond Business
- The University covers only the round-trip (to and from the destination)
cost of the direct destination.
- The University covers the cost of either the direct destination
flight or the stopover flight—whichever is lower.
- Any additional costs related to a personal extension of a business
trip must be reimbursed to the University at the time the University
pays for the expense or when the ticket is issued.
- Care should be taken to document any departures from the direct
destination routes, including the standard round-trip airfare
without the extension. Written documentation is required.
- The travel agent booking your arrangements will provide this
information upon request.
- Book accommodations directly with the hotel if the travel is
related to a conference. (Hotels often give rate reductions for
- Use one of the two University travel agencies to book accommodations
for travel other than for conferences.
- Use a University purchasing card to pay for charges, or use
a request for payment form to have the PD issue a check.
- Collect itemized receipts for lodging if using a purchasing
card or personal funds.
- Document (at the time of expenditure) the amount, date and
duration, place, and business purpose.
- Please note that our preferred hotel vendor for the Seattle
area is Courtyard Marriott:
Courtyard Marriot (Seattle Downtown/Lake Union)
925 Westlake Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
Telephone (206) 213-0100
Fax (206) 213-0101
Account Manager: Zuned Ali
Travelers who are renting cars for a portion of their business trip
should contact the PD to receive copies of the University’s
insurance card. University liability insurance covers travelers
on business trips while they are driving rental cars. Therefore,
do not accept the rental agency’s additional insurance
coverage. The University standard for rental
cars is the compact class.
Car Rental Guidelines
- Book rental car reservations directly with the rental agency
(or University travel agency) at the same time as other travel
- Check with the payments department for any special corporate
- If booking directly with the rental agency, ask if there are
any specials in the destination town.
- Rental car charges are paid via a University purchasing card
when the car is returned.
- Collect itemized receipts and document the business purpose
of the expense.
- Choose from the compact class, which is the University standard
for rental cars.
- Decline the rental agency’s insurance coverage
because the University’s own liability insurance covers
travelers on business trips while they are driving rental cars.
Obtain an insurance card from SPU's
risk management and insurance specialist before you leave
on your trip.
- Check the rental car for damage when you pick up the car prior
to leaving the lot. This prevents the University from being charged
for preexisting damage.
- Refuel cars prior to returning them to the agency. Many agencies
assess excessive refueling charges to cars that are returned less
Meals and Incidentals
Choose one option:
- Obtain and keep original, itemized receipts. If a transaction
is under $50 and a receipt is difficult to obtain, it is allowable
to document the expense and note the lack of receipt.
- Document (at the time of expenditure) amount, date, place,
business purpose, person(s) entertained, relationship of person(s)
entertained, and presence of yourself.
- Report spending via a request
for reimbursement (use of personal funds) or reclassification
envelope (purchasing card).
- Verify spending levels per person (both local and traveling)
were not exceeded, or provide explanation and VP approval.
- The University does not reimburse for alcohol.
University guidelines for meals are listed below. (Requests in
excess of these guideline amounts must include a justification for
the excess and VP approval.) The University does have an alcohol use policy and does not reimburse for alcohol use.
Per Diem Alternative
Under a per diem allowance method, an employee receives a per diem
allowance in lieu of reimbursement for actual expenses for meals
and incidentals incurred for travel away from home. Incidentals
are defined as items, other than meals and lodging, like snacks,
taxis and tips. The advantage in using the per diem method is that
it eliminates much of the recordkeeping that is usually associated
with away-from-home travel expense. The per diem amount must be
substantiated by recording the names of people included in the per
diem calculation for each calendar day, the locality of travel and
the business purpose of travel. The University per diem rate is
$30 per day, or an employee can use the IRS
per diem rate by locality (select the state and city in which
you will be attending the conference). IRS
international rates are also available. Individual areas that
have traveling student groups can set their own per diem rate as
long as it is no more than $30 per day.
For the per diem option . . .
- Submit any related conference agendas.
- Document (at the time of expenditure) date, place, business
purpose, person(s) entertained, relationship of person(s) entertained,
and presence of yourself.
- Report per diem amount per day.
The University does not reimburse for meals
or incidentals occurred on one-day (no overnight) trips. The
IRS does not view reimbursements for meals on one-day trips as an
allowable expense. In order for any meal expense to be allowable
as a deductible/reimbursable travel expense, it must occur as a
result of a trip lasting substantially longer than an ordinary day’s
work. In other words, meals that an individual may purchase while
traveling between locations without an overnight stay or while at
a local seminar are not reimbursable. The tax code treats any reimbursements
received for this type of meal as taxable income to the individual.
This does not refer to or include reimbursements or expenditures
for meals with a specific, substantiated business purpose. A substantiated
business purpose in this circumstance includes lunches where business
is the main topic or purpose of the meeting. In light of this IRS
position, the University will not reimburse or pay for any meals
as a result of a one-day trip unless there is a clear, substantiated
Standard Mileage Allowance
The University reimburses employees for local business transportation
expenses using the standard mileage allowance. The standard
mileage rate generally changes on January 1 of each
year. Business miles driven between January 1, 2017, and
December 31, 2017, will be reimbursed at 53.5 cents per mile. Adequate accounting for business miles requires the employee to
substantiate the time, place (or use) and business purpose of the
travel. Local transportation includes travel from one job to another,
from one customer to another, and from the individual’s office
in order to perform business tasks. Commuting expenses between
an employee’s residence and a business location are not reimbursable.
The mileage allowance rate is determined by the IRS and is meant
to cover gas, use of the vehicle, wear and tear on the vehicle,
insurance, and maintenance. As a result, these items are not reimbursable.
- Record starting and ending destination and total miles traveled.
- Document (at the time of expenditure) the date and the business
purpose of travel.
Mileage for Temporary Work Locations
Some faculty positions at SPU require persons to do all or most
of their work off of the main campus. SPU remains their primary
place of business, but they spend a majority of their time at a
temporary worksite. The mileage from your home to those worksites
is fully reimbursable. If during the day your trip brings you to
SPU, you will need to use example (A) below to calculate your mileage.
Example A: What if I travel from home to a remote
job site and then to SPU?
The IRS wants to make sure that commute miles are not included,
so they have set up a formula for this situation. Calculate the
mileage from home to site to SPU. Then calculate the mileage from
SPU to site to SPU. The lower mileage calculation is the amount
to be claimed as reimbursable.
Example B: What if I travel from home to a remote
job site then back home?
If your home is your primary place of business then you can report
mileage from home to site to home. If not, you must follow the same
steps as in the above example. Calculate the mileage from home to
site to home and compare the mileage from SPU to site to SPU. Whichever
is smaller is the amount that’s reimbursable.
procedures describe the guidelines for receiving relocation
You need to be aware that certain types of moving expenses, and
the lack of documentation for qualified moving expenses, trigger
tax implications. Please observe the following guidelines to minimize
this potential taxation.
Know that . . .
- The relocation assistance is ultimately your resource to keep,
whether it is tax deductible or not. The monies can be used for
anything you choose to. It is intended to help make your move
less of a financial burden.
- The IRS considers certain expenses as taxable in nature. These
items include food costs, house hunting trips and temporary transitional
housing, to name a few.
- The IRS does consider all other costs for moving your possessions
from one place to another as tax deductible expenses if you are
moving a distance of 50 miles or greater. For a detailed IRS list
and official IRS documentation, visit the IRS
- You need to keep detailed records of your expenses. These must
be original receipts. A credit card statement is not considered
acceptable documentation. You also need to keep documentation
on the mileage driven. Moving
allowance documentation forms are available in the Finance
Office's downloadable forms directory.
- It is important for you to submit your documentation, along
with a reconciliation of your expenses, within a month after you
move. If we do not hear from you, we will need to include 100%
of these monies as taxable income on your payroll check. There
will be taxes withheld on that amount and you will need to then
deduct these expenses on your own personal tax return. The big
disadvantage to this is that your check will be reduced and you
will not receive the benefit of exemption from your Social Security
- If you have any questions or concerns, please call the controller
or the payments lead. They
would be very happy to help you understand your responsibilities.
The sooner the better for this conversation would be preferred.