Employee Expense Reporting and Business Meals

What is my role as Department Head?

Expense reports and business travel and meals are regulated by University and State regulations.  As the Head, you are responsible for approving the expenses and thus ensuring that the nature and amounts of the expenses are reasonable and necessary for the conduct of University business, and are fully compliant with policy.

See all Travel Regulations.

How and when do I approve travel?

  • It is strongly advised that the Department Head discuss in advance the planned travel/cost.  If employees have any question regarding the appropriateness of an expense, this should be discussed before the trip – not after.    Remind employees that the expense report should be submitted within two weeks of the return of the employee from a trip. 
  • Be familiar with allowable and unallowable reporting requirements.   In the case of expense reports – it’s always best to answer the 5 ‘W’s -  who, what, when, where, and why.  Also, original receipts must be attached to support reimbursement of receipts.  The expense must be reasonable and necessary for the conduct of University business.   Available budget for travel is not justification for any unnecessary expense.
  • Once the Department Head reviews and approves the expense report, it is submitted to Financial Services for a review for reasonableness and accuracy.  However, the critical approval is that provided by the Department Head.

Examples of expenses allowed:

See Expense Allowances (Op8.22-3) policy.

  • Reimbursement for actual lodging, meals and incidental expenses of a reasonable nature when essential to the transaction of University business.  Business purpose must be provided on the expense report.   
  • Meals:  When traveling away from home overnight, the actual meal expense, up to $57 per day total, is reimbursed (including tips).  If less than three meals per day are subject to reimbursement, the following maximum is allowed per meal (including tips):  Breakfast $12; Lunch $15; Dinner $30.  In addition, one-day trips have restrictions as to when reimbursed (early departure is 6am; late return is after 7pm). 
  • Local Meals: No employee shall be reimbursed meals in his/her city of domicile.  An exception is when the meal is part of a department required meeting and is approved by the supervisor for being for the benefit of the University and not the employee.

An exception to the above is when the meal is with University guests, consultants, or candidates, and University business is being discussed, or the meal is part of a seminar, conference or required meeting.

  • If an expense is charged to a grant or sponsored contract, the requirement is the stricter of the two:  University policy or the terms of the grant or contract.

When may I have an event catered?

The University’s Fiscal Responsibility Policy defines allowable expenses in situations that generally extend beyond simple travel by one employee.  Food and non-alcoholic beverages may be purchased for:

  • One or more guests, and their hosts, visiting the University on official business.
  • A meeting where University business or a training session is conducted.
  • A reception involving outside guests (e.g., guest lecture, concert), or students where University business is conducted or where activities take place that are part of the University mission, including on-campus student community building and retention activities.
  • A reception to honor a retiring employee or for an event to honor employee service or employee recognition.
  • Breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, receptions and banquets and other official functions given as a necessary adjunct to official meeting or conferences.  Attendance of University employees at such functions shall include only those directly concerned with the purpose and conduct of the meeting or conference.  This can include catering services, meeting rooms and decorations deemed essential to the occasion.
  • Remember to obtain a “Food Service Waiver” from Missouri State Dining Services for any food purchase over $100.

Examples of expenses not allowed:

  • Alcohol,
  • Laundry,
  • Gym/spa expenses,
  • Movies,
  • Personal phones,
  • Spouse expenses,
  • Personal insurance (except extended travel outside the US, or athletic teams on extended trips).

International travel

  • The report must document the current exchange rate when converting expenses from the foreign country to US Dollars.
  • All international travel must be approved by the Provost or the President’s office.

What if we have a group of people traveling for business?

  • A recognized University group, such as an athletic team, debate team, or band, may have one employee responsible for the payment of all travel expenses. (however, the names of all the traveling employees, guests, or students must be documented on the expense report).  Note:  The Financial Services “Team Travel/Meal Money” form is to be completed and submitted for all team travel.  This is to be used when cash is distributed by faculty/employees to a University team or group for payment of meals. 
  • Team travel and meal money is required to be provided to the student for a University trip.  The faculty/employee supervising the trip is responsible for attesting to the amount of money distributed to the students, and to name the specific students and amounts for the day or for each meal that was distributed.  The Team Travel/Meal Money Form is to be used in this case.  Students are required to sign/attest that they have received the specific amounts of money.  A copy of this form is included within this section.

How do I handle our expenses (and the class expenses) for Study Away?

Study away trips associated with a class require the Instructor to prepare an expense report immediately after the trip.  These guidelines are addressed within the Study Away section of this guide.  If a trip – international or domestic – is related to a class or credit – the trip must be reported through the Study Away organization.

How can I pay for Conferences for my faculty and staff?

  • The University can prepay conference fee registration through Procurement Services, or the departmental P-Card. 
  • If prepaid by the employee, reimbursement is only made after the conference is attended. 
  • If the Department Head determines that the benefit of the trip is both personal and business related, the Department Head may agree to reimburse only a portion of the trip. 
  • When submitting an expense report for a conference, it is helpful to provide a copy of the conference Agenda or brochure to substantiate the business purpose.

What methods of transportation are available?

  • It is the University’s policy to permit the employee, with approval of the supervisor, to select the method of transportation that best meets the needs of the University and the employee. 
  • The University has motor pool vehicles (such as vans) available for use.  Receipts and supporting information should be attached to the Travel Expense Report for reimbursement. 
  • The employee may use her personal car within the state, reimbursed at a per-mile reimbursement rate of $.37 per mile (effective 7/1/10). 
  • If the employee receives a car allowance (courtesy vehicle), the employee’s mileage rate becomes $.24 per mile (effective 7/1/10). 
  • In cases of longer distance, the employee should provide written verification of equivalent airfare (versus mileage reimbursement expense.) 
  • Airfare should be reasonable.  The University does not reimburse First Class air travel or Business class.

What policies and resources are available?

On a practical basis – what should I do?

  • Ultimately, the Department Head is accountable for approving expenses as reasonable and essential to University business.  Always review any expense report you sign as approver.  Never allow anyone to sign your name; however it may be helpful to ask your assistant or designate to review expense reports prior to your review and approval. 
  • Assume the expense report will be audited and questions may arise; include more than enough support and explanation for expenses.  If an employee is attending a seminar/conference, they should include a copy of the conference brochure, which supports the days spent away.   
  • Make sure employees submit the expense report quickly (within 2 weeks per policy).  Over time, events can be forgotten, and receipts lost.  
  • Do not assume Financial Services is the “actual approver” of expense reports. Although all efforts are made to review some elements of employee expense reports prior to payment, the primary responsibility is at the Department level, to identify all errors or non-business items submitted on the expense report.

What if I have Questions?

Contact Financial Services:  GeneralAccounting@missouristate.edu