Penn State - Travel Policy
Table of Contents:
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 incidentals per diem is established by the General Services Administration of the federal government, and differentiates allowances by geographic location. The per diem schedule is regularly updated and is available at GURU's Individual Per Diem Lookup Planning Tool. As with any reimbursement request, a lesser amount may be claimed at the traveler's request.
Meal receipts are not required to support the claim for full- or partial-day per diem. Itemized receipts are required from the employee hosting the business group meal.
The need for prorating the meal per diem occurs when a traveler has some meals provided by a conference or host, participates in a business group meal, or is on travel status for only a partial day, which is frequently the case for first and last day of travel status. Prorating the meal per diem will be based on a 24-hour day, and the meal allocation corresponds to the hours of the day a person is on travel status.
|Time of Travel Status||Percent of Meal Per Diem|
|Breakfast||Travel status from 12:01 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.||20 percent of meal per diem for the location|
|Lunch||Travel status from 10:01 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.||30 percent of meal per diem for the location|
|Dinner||Travel status from 4:01 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.||50 percent of meal per diem for the location|
These times represent a guide for travelers but the meal per diem should be representative of meals actually purchased while on business travel.
If meals are provided by a conference or host, then the meal per diem for that trip will be adjusted to correspond with the meals that were provided. 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.
Travel throughout the day could put the traveler in several places with differing per diems. The traveler is eligible for the meal per diem in effect for the location where he or she spends that night. For the final travel day, the per diem in effect will be that of the prior night's stay.
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.
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.
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 meal per diem for that location. 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.
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.
When several employees are on travel status and dine together, the fact that they are dining together does not constitute a business group meal. 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.
For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Corporate Controller.
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Revision History (and effective dates):