University of Minnesota  FAQ

Business Expenses


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Governing Policy


Please use the contact section in the governing policy.

  1. Is it allowable to spend University funds on food/events related to the Community Fund Drive?

    Yes, it is acceptable to use University funds to cover some of those expenses. We support units having Community Fund Drive kick-off events or events that inform/encourage faculty and staff to participate. Food orders should be reasonable and amounts spent on food must be within cost limits in accordance with the limits in the Business Expense policy.

  2. Delivery of catering (food) of $500. What is a reasonable tip?

    Any mandatory fees added to the bill should be taken into account before deciding on the amount of the tip. In addition, the situation should be considered. While it might be reasonable to tip 20% if catering involves setup, serving, and cleanup, it would not be reasonable to tip 20% on a $500 order if it is just brought to the lobby.

  3. Can I request reimbursement for professional dues?

    Yes.  Dues for professional associations that are required for an employee’s job or are customary for a faculty member’s academic discipline will be reimbursed. Other dues that provide value to the University mission can potentially be reimbursed. Check with your supervisor for approval and budget availability.

  4. Can I request reimbursement for professional services paid out of pocket (IRS rules)?

    Professional services must not be paid out of pocket. These expenses must be arranged for and paid according to the Administrative Policy: Purchasing a Professional Service.

  5. Are food expenses incurred in connection with regularly scheduled staff meetings (coffee/rolls) or regular luncheon meetings allowed by the University?

    Food expenses for regularly scheduled meetings and events are not allowable. Food may be provided if occasional or infrequent (quarterly or semi-annually). If the meeting or event is occasional or infrequent, and the business purpose of the meeting is legitimate and clear, then the food expense is allowable. The best way to make the purpose clear is to have a formal agenda and document the meeting or event in accordance with the procedures. Keep in mind that business meals may be subject to a higher level of public and regulatory scrutiny than other types of expenses.

  6. A faculty member, department, or college has been asked to pay admission or be a sponsor for a fundraising event being held by an external entity (for example, purchase a table of 8 admissions). Is this expense allowable for the University?

    Generally, this is allowable if the nature of the event closely matches the mission or area of study for the department or college, or supports an entity that is closely aligned with the University, and when University faculty or staff attend the event. University faculty and staff must be given first priority for use of paid admissions to such events. Spouses, partners, and guests who attend with University faculty or staff should pay for their own admission and expenses.

  7. What type of employee recognition programs are permitted at the University?

    The University sponsors a number of formal recognition programs for University employees. Examples include the President's Award for Outstanding Service and the Civil Service Staff Award.

    In addition, the University encourages colleges and departments to recognize their employees for contributions to the University in a less formal manner. Employee recognition is core to employee satisfaction, retention, and ultimately customer satisfaction with the University. University Employee Recognition Awards provides a summary of tax treatment of awards and recognition activities that could be implemented by a college or department to recognize the workforce for a job well done.

    Federal tax law stipulates that the value of certain prizes and awards made to an employee are generally included in an employee's gross income. The law provides certain exceptions to this general rule. The recognition activities described in University Employee Recognition Awards are organized into two categories, nontaxable and taxable, based upon the law and regulations.

    Departments offering taxable awards will assume responsibility for ensuring accurate income tax reporting to their employees and will assume the risk of fines and penalties for any failure to report taxable income.

  8. I have a student employee that I would like to recognize for their contribution? Is this allowable?

    Yes, as long as they are being recognized as an employee and not a student for purposes of this policy.

  9. Should I calculate the per attendee cost based on the number of planned attendees or the number that actually attend?

    Despite actual attendance, total expenses must be calculated based on planned number of attendees and must be well documented in advance. 

  10. One of my employees typically takes the bus to work and does not own a car. They attended a conference downtown and took a cab each day from their home to downtown, which was $41 each way for a total over the three days of $246. Are these charges reimbursable?

    Under this scenario, the maximum amount reimbursable per day would be equal to what would be reimbursed for mileage and parking if they were to drive. 

  11. I am hosting an event with Residents and Fellows attending. Are they treated as employees, students, or external parties?

    Residents and Fellows for purposes of this policy are treated as students.

  12. A supplier is meeting with a department for a quarterly review and would like to provide lunch. Is this acceptable?

    No, the supplier is not allowed to provide lunch since it is in violation of State Statute 15.43, Acceptance of advantage by state employee; penalty.

  13. A reimbursement request for a desk and printer for a home office has been submitted for approval. Are these expense allowable?

    Both items can also be used for personal use and are not allowable.

  14. Can my department host a holiday party and use University funds?

    No, social parties are not allowed using University funds. Social parties, include but are not limited to holiday parties, wedding showers, baby showers, etc.