MEALS

Policy Steward:  Office of the Corporate Controller

Table of Contents:

  • Per Diem for Meals and Incidentals
  • Meal Receipts
  • Prorating Meal Per Diem
  • Location
  • One-Day Travel Status
  • Business Group Meals and Tips
  • Meals with Other Employees When All Are on Travel Status
  • Further Information

  • Per Diem for Meals and Incidentals

    Meal expenses and any tips related to meals will be reimbursed via the meal and incidentals per diem.  The claim for reimbursement should represent only those meals consumed and paid for by the employee while on business travel.  The meal and incidental expense (M&IE) per diemis established by the General Services Administration (GSA) of the federal government, and differentiates allowances by geographic location. The per diem schedule is available at the GSA site:

    GSA CONUS Per Diem Rates -- www.gsa.gov/perdiem

    CONUS Per Diem Mobile App -- http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/302273

    CONUS Breakdown of M&IE -- http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/101518

    First and last day of travel will be reimbursed at 75% of the per diem no matter what time the traveler departs or returns.  This is the standard for US/GSA rules and applies to both CONUS and OCONUS travel.  If a meal is provided on the first or last day of travel, the entire allocated meal cost will be deducted from the 75% M&IE rate.

    As with any reimbursement request, a lesser amount may be claimed at the traveler's request.  Travelers may indicate an amount to be entered into ERS as a reimbursement reduction if actual costs for meals were less than that due based on per diem, but this is not required.

    Meal Receipts

    Meal receipts are not required and may not be requested by the department to support the claim for full- or partial-day per diem.  This includes any individual meals paid on a purchasing card.  These should be categorized as PCard Meal Expense and will be marked as non-reimbursable.

    NOTE:  Receipts are recommended to be retained by the traveler for purchasing card meals obtained at non-traditional locations, which may be considered goods and services purchases.  This would include convenience stores, airport shops, and certain University venues whose primary classification may not be as a restaurant or eating place.

    Itemized receipts are required for any meals being claimed for reimbursement as a business group meal.

    Prorating Meal Per Diem

    The need for prorating the meal per diem occurs when a traveler has some meals provided by a conference or host or, participates in a business group meal. 

    If meals are provided by a conference, host, or as part of hotel accommodations, then the meal per diem for that trip will be adjusted to correspond with the meals that were provided. See the meals and incidentals breakdown at GSA.  In the event that all meals for a day are provided by a conference, a business group meal, or another source, no meal per diem can be claimed for that day. If the traveler has dietary restrictions for health or religious reasons that cannot be accommodated by the host or conference (traveler must take initiative to notify of such in advance), this must be documented and meal per diem may be claimed. However, the incidental per diem amount per day may still be claimed at the traveler's discretion. The incidental rate does not vary between domestic locations.

    Location

    Travel throughout the day could put the traveler in several places with differing per diems. Traveler is eligible for the meal per diem in effect for the location of the last work activity rather than the location where he or she spends that night, per GSA guidelines. 

    One-Day Travel Status

    Reimbursement for meal expenses when no overnight travel is involved requires that the meal reimbursement be reported to the IRS as taxable income to the employee unless a business purpose is stated for the meal and a list of attendees is supplied. Meal per diem reimbursement will be based on destination and will be at 75% of the full per diem for one-day travel. Even if a traveler leaves one day and returns after midnight of the next day, one-day travel status applies unless the traveler has incurred overnight lodging.

    Business Group Meals

    FN10 provides full detail on University-sponsored events, under which business group meals while on travel fall. Business group meals are those taken with guests, colleagues, or donors during which focused business discussions take place. The cost incurred for business group meals must be prudent, reasonable, and in the best interest of the University. Business meals with vague, unfocused purposes are not eligible for reimbursement. Expenses for partners of University employees in attendance at business group meals or meetings are not approved from general funds and are only permitted on unrestricted donor funds if there is a University business purpose for the partner's presence. The documentation supporting a business group meal must include the names of those attending and the purpose of the meal. Itemized receipts are required for all business group meals.

    Alcohol Restrictions

    For business group meals, alcohol may only be charged to unrestricted donor funds with appropriate approval, and generally only at events involving guests and donors. Alcoholic beverages may only be purchased on unrestricted donor funds or restricted funds which specifically permit the purchase of alcoholic beverages. See policy FN10 for more details regarding business group meals, including restrictions on the purchase of alcoholic beverages.

    Per-Person Maximum and Employee-Only Business Group Meals

    The cost per person for a business group meal charged to general funds may not exceed the established full day meals & incidental expense per diem for that location per GSA Per Diem Rates. Amounts that exceed this per diem limit and any alcohol purchased must be approved by the senior officer of the unit as an exception, and may only be reimbursed from an unrestricted donor fund. Events involving only employees and/or students are not permitted to provide alcoholic beverages purchased from University funds, with certain limited exceptions. Business group meals attended by University employees only and paid from general funds must be x-coded. See FN10 for more detail.

    Hosting Obligations

    The employee hosting the business group meal must complete a business group meal form listing those in attendance, the specific business purpose, and the date, cost, and location of the meal. This data is submitted electronically when utilizing ERS. An itemized receipt is required for business group meals to verify the cost per person, and to ensure any alcohol purchased is properly charged to an unrestricted donor fund.

    When in travel status, the traveler who attends a business group meal must adjust the meal per diem request to correspond with the meals provided. Only the employee who paid for the group meal is eligible to be reimbursed for the cost of the group meal.

    Meals with Other Employees When All Are on Travel Status

    When several employees are on travel status and dine together, the fact that they are dining together does not constitute a business group meal and should not be paid as a business group meal (all attending should pay their share). Since each employee is on travel status, each would have a per diem available and will be reimbursed accordingly. The purpose of the meal in this case is not to conduct business, and is not a business group meal.

    FURTHER INFORMATION:

    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Corporate Controller.


    Effective Date: July 1, 2015
    Date Approved: July 1, 2015
    Date Published: July 1, 2015

    Most Recent Changes:

    Revision History (and effective dates):

    | top of this policy | GURU policy menu | GURU policy search | GURU home | GURU Tech Support | Privacy and Legal Statement | Penn State website |