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Expense and Travel Reimbursement Policy

Status:  Adopted July 1, 2003, last revised March, 2015.


This policy describes travel expenses which will be reimbursed by the University.  The policy applies to all funds under University control and is superseded only in those instances where funding agencies apply specific and more restrictive rules and rates.


It is the intent of the University to reimburse travelers for necessary and reasonable expenses incurred for properly authorized University travel within budgetary constraints.  Reimbursement of travel expenses will be fair and equitable to both the traveler and the University, and will be consistent with the policies of the other funding agencies whose funds are used for travel.  It is the policy of the University that all business expense reports be reviewed and approved by the department’s governing Vice President or designee.


1.  Fiscal Responsibility.  University business travelers are expected to use the most economical and direct mode of transportation available, consistent with the authorized purpose of the travel.

2.  Report of Business Expenses.  Reports of business expenses are required for all University travel.  Business expenses are reported using the University’s online Commercial Card reconciliation and/or Expense Reimbursement Request through Business e-Services.  A University-related business purpose for the travel and the University purpose for any included entertainment should be clearly documented on all reports (i.e., a statement must be made on the report, or attached to it, detailing the University related purpose, person(s) attending, and dates).  Receipts and other documentation required to be submitted with the report are explained in the following sections.  Reviewing business expenses for compliance with this policy and approval of all expenditures made are the responsibility of the area Vice President.

3.  Receipts and Documentation.  When submitting a Commercial Card reconciliation and/or Expense Reimbursement Request, the individual should attach all itemized receipts.  Itemized receipts are required for conference registration, airfare, hotel, rental car, gas, and meals as well as miscellaneous expenses, if practical (e.g., taxi, toll, and parking).  For conferences, itemized receipts showing amount paid, dates and destination of the conference are required.  If the employee fails to request documentation at the time of charges, it is the responsibility of the employee to contact the rental car agency, hotel, restaurants or other vendors to request duplicate documentation.  If you are not provided an itemized receipt at the time of your purchase, ask for one.  For internet purchases, attach the confirmation page along with the itemized page of the purchase.  If itemized receipts cannot be obtained, a memo to the file explaining the situation, as well as the business purpose of the expenses, should be included with the reconciliation.  Failure to provide sufficient and timely business explanations for expenses could result in individual liability for federal, state, and county income taxes.  No receipts will be necessary on credit card transactions under $30 (Exception: All grant expenses and cost share transactions require an itemized receipt).  This will not apply to cash advances or reimbursements through Accounts Payable.  Those are only allowed in travel abroad scenarios, and in order to mitigate risk and prove business purpose, itemized receipts are required for ALL cash advances and Accounts Payable transactions.   

4.  Travel Advances.  A travel advance request must be completed through Business e-Services by completing an Expense Request and specifying a “Request Type” of Cash Advance.  All travel advances must be settled promptly upon completion of the trip.  The Director of the Business Office should be notified of any such special circumstances at the time the travel advance is requested.  Please refer to the separate Travel Advance Policy.

5.  Combined Business/Personal Travel.  Whenever a traveler, for his or her convenience, travels by an indirect route or interrupts University travel for personal travel, the additional expenses are the responsibility of the traveler.


6.  Air Fare:  University employees, and their guests, are expected to secure the lowest available airfare offered.  To do this, it is permissible to make reservations as far in advance of the departure date as possible to secure these lower rates.  The University provides reimbursement at the economy fare rate for domestic travel; and at the business class rate for international travel, after the date of travel.  Individuals are allowed one luggage fee per flight as well as internet access when necessary for business purpose.  Early bird seat assignments are not permissible.  The University has a special contract with Travel Leaders for obtaining airfare, lodging and rental cars.  You may contact them at 1-800-525-1570 or for group reservations contact them at 1-800-346-9807.  Any exception to economy fare rates for domestic travel and business class rate for international travel requires approval of the Vice President for Finance and Administration. 

When purchasing airline tickets with your commercial card, the following benefits apply:

     a.  Catastrophic life insurance of $200k per traveler if there is an accident.

     b.  In the case of cancellation of a flight, the airline rules apply.

     c.  In case of a cancellation due to illness, the University does not have additional coverage.  It is available, but the cost should be weighed against the $200 change fee.  Be aware that medical insurance sold by other travel outlets and carriers is very restrictive.  In many cases it requires documentation such as proof of hospitalization or a visit to a physician for reimbursement. (Applies to all ticket purchases.)

*Select this link for a full list of card cardholder benefits.

7.  Automobile Mileage:  Reimbursement for travel by personal automobile is at the University approved rate of 62.5 cents per mile.  This covers all expenses, except toll charges and parking fees, relating to the operation of the car.  If a personal automobile is used for local travel, documentation submitted for reimbursement should include dates traveled, mileage, destination and purpose of travel.  Gasoline for your personal vehicle will not be reimbursed.  Allowed mileage to Indianapolis Airport is 42 miles each way on a week day and actual mileage from home to the airport if you leave/return on the weekend or holiday.  If an employee lives between the University and the airport and the employee does not report to the University prior to leaving/returning, actual mileage during the week day between the employee’s home and the airport is reimbursed. 

8.  Automobile Usage:  For trips that would normally be undertaken by air transportation, reimbursement for travel by personal automobile will be limited to the lesser of mileage or economy class airfare.  Reimbursement for use of a personal automobile may exceed economy airfares under special circumstances.  Examples of such circumstances are:  the need to haul equipment for University purposes or travel together by two or more DePauw employees.  In the latter case, the names of all University employees or faculty members traveling as passengers should be listed on the report, with a notation made for cross-reference if the passengers incurred other transportation expenses (for which they should submit separate reports).

9.  Automobile Rental:   Economy to mid-size automobile rental is allowed; luxury car rental not reimbursable unless approved by the area Vice President prior to rental.  Fuel Service Option (FSO) which can be purchased at the time of rental or refill prior to the return of a rental car is allowed.  However, a Fuel Service Charge that is charged at a much higher rate due to neither option occurring when a rental car is returned will not be allowed.  GPS charges as well as toll passes will be allowed when necessary for business purpose.

10.  Local Vehicle Lease Reservation:  DePauw University currently has a special vehicle leasing program with Enterprise/National Car Rental.  Contact the Purchasing Office at ext. 4907 for more information.

11.  Insurance:  Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) are not covered expenditures for rental vehicles.  DePauw University’s automobile insurance policies cover CDW and PAI as well as the Commercial Card coverage if a card is used for payment.  However, roadside assistance charges are allowable when renting a vehicle.  If using the University Corporate Enterprise/National Car Rental, no additional charges are necessary as this coverage is included.

12.  Gift Cards/Certificates:  IRS regulations stipulate that gift cards and gift certificates are to be treated as cash payments and are therefore reported as income for tax purposes.  Employees should be awarded non-cash gifts of less than $50 in lieu of gift cards or gift certificates.  If gift cards or gift certificates are awarded to employees they must be reported to the Payroll Department.  For all other individuals, a W-9 must be completed and submitted to the Business Office with amount of gift card or gift certificate awarded.  

Federal regulations require that all aid, gifts, checks, stipends, gift cards, etc. issued by the University that are given to enrolled students must be considered a financial aid resource. As a result, in order for DePauw University to demonstrate our compliance so as not to jeopardize federal aid, all funds to students must first be reported to the Financial Aid Office for approval before the student can receive payment. To request approval for awarding funds to students, please complete this form: https://forms.gle/QLkUoGkhwxXFybFv8. Please submit one form for each student request. If your department has more than ten students to award at one time, you may contact the Financial Aid Office directly at financialaid@depauw.edu to submit the request by spreadsheet. Federal regulations may require adjustment to the student’s existing financial aid awards in order to maintain compliance. If you and/or the student are concerned about the impact an award may have on a student’s financial aid, please have the student contact the Financial Aid Office. 

This financial aid approval request does not replace the payment request process through the Business Office. You will need to complete both processes and be sure to attach the email approval from financial aid to your requisition to the Business Office in order to satisfy all requirements.  Please note, you are subject to the Business Office’s processing time when requesting payment.  Once approved by the Financial Aid Office, if gift cards are awarded to a student, the Business Office needs to be notified of student name, student ID#, last 4 digits of the student's social security number and amount of the gift.  

We recommend waiting for approval from the Financial Aid Office before notifying the student that they will be receiving funds.

Please note that stipend requests are subject to budget approval.  If you are unsure if you have budget approval for the request, please check with your budget manager.  Stipend requests made that exceed budget limits may be declined, subject to VP discretion. 

13.  Spouse Accompaniment:  As a general rule, the University does not reimburse for spousal accompaniment unless there is prior approval by the area Vice President and the spouse fulfills a necessary University business purpose that is documented on the report.  If the traveler’s spouse accompanies the traveler for personal purposes, the spouse’s expenses should be excluded from the Expense Reimbursement Request and Commercial Card reconciliation.


14.  Accommodations: The University reimburses travelers for single occupancy accommodations.  The University expects everyone to use moderately priced hotel accommodations.  An exception will be allowed if the hotel is the location of the conference or symposium attended.  Internet access will be allowed when necessary for business purposes.


15. Overnight, Out-of-Town Travel:  The actual cost of meals, including taxes and tips (except where limited by contract or grant), while on University business is reimbursable.  Travelers should select restaurants which are reasonably priced for the locality.  Itemized receipts are required for all meal charges.  “Fast food” may be reimbursed without receipts if cost is reasonable and properly approved.  However, employees should always try to get an itemized receipt.

a)      Breakfast will be allowed whenever the traveler is out of town the night before or when the incurred travel begins earlier than a normal breakfast and a meal was not provided by the transportation company.

b)      Lunch will be reimbursed provided that the trip begins before the lunch hour.

c)      Dinner reimbursements will be made when the traveler is away from home for the evening meal or does not return home until after the normal dinner hour, and a meal was not provided by the transportation company en route.

d)     Purchases of snacks, beverages, etc. unless a substitute for a meal, are not reimbursable.  These are considered normal personal expenses encountered in an individual’s daily activities.

e)     Alcohol purchases are subject to the University's Alcohol and Controlled Substance Policy

16.  One-day Trips (not involving overnight travel):  Business meals which fall within the guidelines of (15) above, and which the budgetary unit wishes to reimburse, but which do not involve overnight travel must be explained on the report as to the University purpose for incurring the expense.

Office Supplies

17.  All office supply items should be purchased using the University’s contracted supplier, of choice.  DePauw has negotiated reduced pricing with this company.  If an order is placed by 3:00 p.m., it should be delivered the next business day.  The University understands that not all office supply items may be available from this vendor or that an emergency occurs.  In these limited cases, it is appropriate to purchase supplies from another vendor.  Large or higher priced office items (i.e. , office furniture, and/or equipment) should be acquired by contacting the Purchasing Office at ext. 4907.  The Purchasing Office seeks to find the best possible value using multiple vendors.

Per Diem

18.   Per Diem Rate: A per diem, based on the U.S. Department of State published rate for the area, is allowed in lieu of usual documentation on foreign travel.  These rates should be obtained from the Business Office prior to traveling.  Per Diem claims in excess of this amount are not allowed unless a grant or contract specifies otherwise.

        Faculty Per Diem: Contact Academic Affairs Division for specific guidelines.

Tax Exempt Status

19.   Exempt Purchases: All purchases should be tax exempt except meals that are consumed (i.e. restaurants), airfare and hotel/lodging.  DePauw’s Indiana tax exempt number is imprinted on the front of the Commercial Card.  This number should be used at all locations within the state of Indiana with the exception of Wal-mart.  Purchases from Wal-mart require a different number.  Please write down this number (713374) and give it to the cashier before check out.

Documentation for tax exemption status/numbers in other states can be obtained from the Business Office. 

Non-Allowable Expenses

20.  Non-Allowable Expenses:  The University’s policy is to reimburse its travelers for all reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while transacting the affairs of the University.  However there are specific types of expenses which are considered to be personal, and are therefore, not reimbursable.  The following list is illustrative, and does not necessarily include all items considered to be personal expenses.

  • Accessories for laptops, PDAs and cell phones (unless there is advance approval from the Vice President)
  • Airline seat upgrade or early bird assignment
  • Automobile repair  
  • Baby-sitter fees
  • Barber/manicurist/shoe shine
  • Dry Cleaning, pressing and laundry (except when on extended travel and with Vice President prior approval) 
  • Collision damage waiver
  • Gasoline charges for travel in personal vehicle (will be reimbursed through mileage)
  • Hotel gym and health facilities charges
  • Hotel room bar charges
  • Loss/theft of personal property
  • Membership fees in airline clubs
  • Movie rentals
  • Newspapers, magazines, brochures or books not for University business
  • Passport/other costs
  • Permanent equipment purchases (not previously approved in the department budget) without prior approval from the supervising Vice President and the Vice President for Finance.
  • Personal entertainment
  • Personal medical costs
  • Personal phone calls except to report changes in schedule, or to speak with family members once a day (for a reasonable period of time)
  • Snacks/ vending machine purchases (unless in lieu of a meal)
  • Traffic violations and toll fines
  • Traveler’s check fees
  • Extravagant charges deemed unnecessary
  • Club organization dues
  • Any other non-allowable items specified in the University Travel Policy


*For a full description of  Cardholder Benefits when using your commercial card, select this link.

** Expenses should be submitted for reimbursement or reconciliation within 60 days of being incurred.  IRS regulations require reimbursements that are requested after the 60 day period to be reported as wages to the employee and included on the individual's form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

***  It is impossible to list every type of business expense that is allowable or unallowable.  If an employee has any doubt about the propriety of an anticipated expense and the application of this policy, they should consult their Vice President and/or Department Budget Supervisor as appropriate in advance of incurring the expense.  Also, each division Vice President and/or Department Budget Supervisor has the authority to impose additional or more restrictive requirements for authorizing or approving travel, entertainment or business expense reimbursements.