Travel and Expense Reimbursement Policy


Establish policies for the payment or reimbursement of actual University-related travel, entertainment or other business-related expenditures that are necessary in the performance of assigned employee responsibilities. This policy provides for accountable expense reimbursement plan under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidelines, which allows qualified reimbursements to be provided on a nontaxable basis to recipients. Failure to follow IRS guidelines will result in reimbursements becoming taxable to the recipient, and any such reimbursements will be added to the recipient's IRS W-2 Wage and Tax Statement.


Where allowable under IRS guidelines, and approved by an authorized signature authority, Willamette University (the University) will reimburse an employee for, or pay directly via University purchasing card (p-card), actual University-related travel, entertainment, or other business-related expenditures that are necessary in the performance of his or her assigned responsibilities.

It is the responsibility of the employee seeking reimbursement to establish an appropriate business purpose for expenditures. Business purpose should be stated explicitly and clearly, and should relate directly to the employee’s job responsibilities and to the account being charged.

Additional unit or department guidelines may apply, including requirements for pre-approval. All expenditures are subject to appropriate approvals under the University policy for Delegation of Signature Authority (link) and applicable unit or department guidelines - nothing in this policy should be construed as entitling reimbursement or payment for expenditure in absence of required approvals. Employees should avoid incurring an expense that is not reimbursable by consulting the appropriate signature authority prior to committing to an expenditure.

IRS Guidance

The IRS requires that all of the following conditions be met to qualify for tax-free reimbursement of business expenses:

  • Expenses must be reasonable and have a legitimate University-related business connection - that is, an employee must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as an employee of the University.
  • The employee must adequately account to the University for expenses in a reasonable period of time.
  • The employee must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable period of time.

Guiding Principles

  • The IRS does not allow for tax-free reimbursement of lavish or extravagant expenses or expenses that are personal in nature. Employees are expected to use prudent judgment and ensure all expenses submitted for reimbursement are reasonable based on the facts and circumstances. Expenses that are personal in nature, extravagant, or fail to meet IRS requirements do not qualify for payment or reimbursement by the University.

  • Employees should verify that sufficient budget funds are available in advance of any purchase. Reimbursement requests in excess of available budget funds may not be reimbursed.

  • The University-related business purpose of all expenses submitted for reimbursement must be thoroughly documented. Reimbursement requests submitted with insufficient documentation of the University-related business purpose will be returned to the employee requesting reimbursement. If sufficient documentation cannot be provided, the request will not be processed.

  • Reimbursement requests should be submitted within 30 days of when the expense was incurred or the employee returns from travel. Requests submitted beyond 30 days may not be reimbursed. Due to IRS requirements, any expense reimbursement granted beyond 60 days of when the expense was incurred or return from travel will be added to the employee’s taxable income and subject to applicable taxes/withholdings.

  • Unless otherwise noted below, original actual receipts are required for all reimbursements, for all meal expenses charged to federal grant funds, and for p card expenditures over $75.


Expense reimbursement requests must be authorized by an approver who has an appropriate level of delegated signature authority. The approver should be the requestor’s immediate supervisor unless an alternate approver has been designated. If the employee also has a p-card, the approver for expense reimbursement requests should be the same person who approves p-card expense reports. An alternate approver may be designated when issuance of a p-card is requested, must be approved by the appropriate fiscal officer, and may not be a subordinate of the requestor.

The approver is responsible for ensuring budget funds are available and there is sufficient documentation of the University-related business purpose for all expenses submitted.

Reimbursable Expenses

Traveling Away from Home: According to the IRS, an employee is traveling away from home if their duties require them to be away from the general area of their tax home substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work, AND they need to sleep or rest to meet the demands of their work while away from home. Certain categories, as identified below, require that employees meet the IRS definition of traveling in order to be eligible for reimbursement. In general, the mode of transportation used should be the most economical one suitable for the purpose of the trip.

Airline: The University will reimburse coach/economy class airfare tickets. Business or first class tickets will generally not be reimbursed to the extent that the cost exceeds that of a coach/economy class ticket. Baggage fees will be reimbursed for the first bag; excess baggage fees may be reimbursed if the trip is for more than seven days or if required to transport work-related items. An original invoice/travel itinerary is required for reimbursement. Boarding passes for all segments of the trip are required as substantiation for travel purchased via an individual’s personal credit/debit card. Any frequent flier miles, or other travel related incentives earned, accrue to the employee.

Personal Automobile: The University will reimburse an employee for mileage when a personal vehicle is used on official University-related business that is properly authorized, reasonable and appropriately documented. This does not include mileage for their standard commute when traveling between their residence and the University. The mileage rate used for reimbursement employees will be the current rate IRS approved in effect on the date of travel. The University will not reimburse vehicle operating, maintenance or repair costs for personal vehicles.

Standard mileage amounts have been established for the following destinations and should be used when available. If a standard mileage amount is not available, mileage eligible for reimbursement is limited to the lesser of 1) actual mileage from the employee’s main place of work to the destination or 2) actual mileage from the departure point to the destination.





WU Salem Campus

WU Portland Ctr



WU Salem Campus

PDX Int'l Airport



WU Salem Campus




WU Salem Campus




WU Salem Campus




WU Salem Campus




WU Portland Ctr




WU Portland Ctr

PDX Int’l Airport




In the event a private vehicle is used in lieu of commercial transportation (air, bus, rail) for trips in excess of 200 miles round trip, the lesser of the costs between a coach/economy class ticket combined with other related ground transportation and the mileage will be reimbursed, provided document of contemporaneous costs is provided for the comparative mode of transportation. 

An employee’s personal automobile liability insurance is the primary coverage when using a personal vehicle on University-related business. If the liability limits become exhausted following an accident occurring while on University-related business, the University’s policy provides a second layer of coverage.

University-Owned Vehicles (including electric carts): These vehicles are subject to additional rules pertaining to use. Gasoline purchase receipts will be reimbursed, not mileage. Employees must ensure they are on the approved drivers list for the University prior to operating a University-owned vehicle - contact Campus Safety for more information.

Rental Vehicle: Employees may rent a vehicle when: driving is more convenient than airline or rail travel; driving is necessary to transport large or bulky materials; driving is more economical than public transportation modes due to multiple locations to visit in the destination city; or other surface transportation is not practical. The University utilizes state rental car contracts with Enterprise and Hertz; these agencies must be used when available.

Rental Vehicle Insurance Coverage: The University has established approved contracts with rental car companies that include insurance coverage. If an employee rents a vehicle under one of these contracts, no additional insurance is required to be purchased from the rental car company. If it is not possible to rent a vehicle under one of the approved contracts, the employee should purchase additional liability insurance from the rental car company.

Ground Transportation, Parking Fees & Toll Charges:  Travelers should use their best judgment in choosing ground transportation. Taxi fares require a receipt for reimbursement. Tolls and reasonable parking costs are reimbursable with a receipt.

Lodging: The University will reimburse lodging accommodations for employees traveling on University business. Prudent judgment should be used when selecting lodging accommodations. The original copy of the detailed hotel folio is required as substantiation for reimbursement. Room service charges are subject to additional substantiation requirements and guidelines listed in the section Personal Meals while Traveling. Gifts to hosts in lieu of lodging expenses are subject to University policies; see Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses below or Gifts, Awards and Prizes from University Funds Policy.

Meals and Entertainment

Personal Meals while Traveling: 

Personal meals are meal expenses incurred by an individual dining alone while traveling away from home or by an employee who has paid the bill for other employees who are traveling with the individual on business. The University will either reimburse actual expenses or provide a per diem allowance for meal and incidental expenses for employees traveling on University-related business based on the guidance below. All personal meals while traveling will be limited to the amount of the per diem allowance. Alcohol is not reimbursable for personal meals while traveling. Meal charges for family members or other individuals traveling with employees are not reimbursable. Units or departments may specify the method of reimbursement – consult the appropriate signature authority prior to travel.

Actual ExpensesThe University will reimburse reasonable expenses incurred for meals when traveling on University-related business, however the total amount submitted for reimbursement each day normally should not exceed the federal per diem rates for meal and incidental (M&I) expenses (see link below). Alcohol is not reimbursable for personal meals while traveling. If meal expenses include additional expenses of a spouse or person accompanying an employee while traveling, the additional portion should be paid separately by the employee or reimbursed to the University. If two or more employees dine together, the more senior employee is responsible for paying the bill and seeking reimbursement. Both a detail receipt displaying all items ordered and evidence of payment in the form of a credit/debit card sales draft or cash register receipt are required for reimbursement and for all meals charged to federal grants, but receipts are not required for meals paid with a University p-card unless they are charged to a federal grant.

Per Diem Allowance: In lieu of submitting actual receipts for meal and incidental (M&I) expenses while traveling, employees may request daily reimbursement at the approved federal per diem M&I rate for each day while traveling on University-related business. The M&I per diem rates differ by travel location, and are available at If the per diem method is elected, it must be used consistently for the entire trip. The reimbursement allowed for the first and last day of travel is limited to 75% of the daily rate. Employees are required to reduce their daily per diem reimbursement request for meals provided by another source (i.e. meals included at a conference, provided by another individual, etc.) by the component rate(s) provided at Approval by a signature authority prior to travel is required for employees to use the per diem method for M&I expense reimbursements. No receipts are required when requesting reimbursement under the per diem allowance. Units or departments may choose to limit or disallow use of the per diem allowance or establish reduced per diem rates.

Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses:
Business meals are meals during which University business is conducted with third parties. Examples include meetings with prospective donors and search committee meetings with prospective new faculty or staff. When multiple University employees are present, the senior level employee is responsible for paying the bill and seeking reimbursement. Supporting documentation submitted for reimbursement must list all in attendance, their business affiliations, and describe the University-related business discussed. Reasonable purchases of alcohol may be reimbursable for business meals, unless the meal is being charged to a government grant. Alcohol is always an unallowable expense under federal grants. Additional unit or department guidelines may apply, including limitations on the cost of meals and alcohol purchases. Both a detail statement displaying all items ordered and evidence of payment in the form of a credit/debit card sales draft or cash register receipt must be submitted for reimbursement.

Meals During Staff Meetings:
Generally, meetings between University employees should not be scheduled over meals unless need is dictated by the length of the meeting or scheduling requirements. Offsite meal and entertainment expenditures for meetings between University employees are not reimbursable, and alcohol may not be served. Exceptions may be made for retreats or receptions approved by a dean or vice president.

Other University Expenses:
General University expenses, such as office supplies, should be purchased where possible via a University-issued p-card or direct payment through Accounts Payable.

Non-Reimbursable Expenses
As noted above, expenses must be reasonable and have a legitimate University-related business connection - that is, you must have paid or incurred deductible expenses while performing services as an employee of the University.

The following is a general list of non-reimbursable expenses; this list is not all-inclusive:


  • employee meals not covered by Personal Meals While Traveling or Business Meals and Entertainment Expenses
  • baby-sitting fees
  • airline clubs, fitness center charges or memberships, discount retailer memberships, social club or country club memberships
  • lost, damaged or stolen personal items (e.g., clothing, eyeglasses, cell phone, tablet, briefcase, calculator, computer, etc.)
  • Willamette parking permit fees
  • library fines
  • expenses that have been, or will be, reimbursed to the employee by another organization
  • services provided by an independent contractor or another University employee
  • equipment purchases, except those preapproved by an authorized department


  • additional expenses of a spouse or person accompanying an employee while traveling
  • additional expenses related to extending a trip for personal reasons; sightseeing or other personal side trips
  • travel life or accident insurance
  • airline class upgrades
  • kennel costs for pets
  • personal vehicle expenses (e.g., car washes, fuel, maintenance, repairs, etc.)
  • mileage for travel between personal residence and the University
  • traffic or parking violations
  • personal care items (e.g., toiletries or haircuts/styling, etc.)
  • laundry services on trips less than four consecutive business days
  • personal entertainment (e.g., books, magazines, newspapers, hotel room movies, sporting events, etc.)
  • medical expenses (e.g., co-pays, prescription or over-the-counter medications, etc.)

Entertainment and Alcohol:

  • alcohol purchases for consumption by students, unless purchase is for an approved Registered Event
  • meals for spouses and significant others, unless:
    • the event is explicitly intended and justified as a social event, or
    • the presence of a spouse or significant other is intended, and justified in the request for reimbursement, as serving a legitimate University business purpose (e.g., a spouse at a faculty recruitment dinner to inform the candidate and/or candidate’s spouse about the community, housing, employment opportunities, etc.)
  • offsite meal and entertainment expenditures for meetings between University employees

Gifts to Staff, Faculty and/or Students; Gifts to Donors Exceeding Contributions or Sponsorships to Another Organization:

  • Gifts to staff, faculty and/or students, except as allowed under the Gifts, Awards and Prizes from University Funds Policy
  • Gifts exceeding $75 in value, except as allowed under the Gifts, Awards and Prizes from University Funds Policy
  • Contributions or sponsorships, except as allowed under the Gifts, Awards and Prizes from University Funds Policy

Travel Advances

Employees are encouraged to use University p-cards to the extent possible when traveling on University related business. If an advance is necessary and approved as required under unit or department guidelines, employees may request a travel advance to cover anticipated expenses of travel that cannot be paid by other means, up to 30 days prior to an approved trip. Advances should be cleared within 30 days of return by submitting a travel report and all unused funds must be returned to the University. Additional advances will not be granted to employees with past due outstanding advances.

Expense Reimbursement Requests

All employees are required to submit an expense reimbursement request for direct reimbursement of reimbursable expenses and to clear a travel advance. An expense reimbursement request is not required for expenses charged directly to a University p-card. As noted above, reimbursement requests should be submitted within 30 days of when the expense was incurred or return from travel. Due to IRS requirements, any expense reimbursement granted beyond 60 days of when the expense was incurred or return from travel will be added to the employee’s taxable income and subject to applicable taxes/withholdings.

University Purchasing Cards (P-cards)

The provisions of this policy are applicable to reimbursement of expenses made directly to an employee and expenses paid via University p-card.

Submitting Reimbursement Requests Using P-Card Out of Pocket (OOP) Functionality

The P-card system has functionality allowing cardholders to request reimbursement for out of pocket expenses. In order to limit the risk of duplicate requests, cardholders who use OOP functionality should use it for all expense reimbursement requests, and should not submit separate expense reports through accounts payable.

Status: Approved

Effective Date: March 1, 2017

Last Revision Date: February 9, 2021

Last Review Date: February 9, 2021

Next Anticipated Review: 2022

Responsible University Administrator: Controller

Responsible University Office: Finance and Accounting

Willamette University


University Services Building -- Rm 104
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6104 voice
503-370-6633 fax

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