Division of Administration and FinanceUniversity of CincinnatiDivision of Administration and Finance

Division of Administration and Finance

Frequently Asked Questions About Financial Policies

Alcohol Purchases

Q.  Can I order an alcoholic beverage with a business meal or an overnight travel meal? 

A.  Yes, but you may only be reimbursed for alcohol purchases that are appropriately pre-approved, are reasonable and can be charged to discretionary funds. 

With appropriate approval, alcohol purchases may be charged to a Purchasing Card. 

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Capital Assets

Q.  Even though the unit cost or market value of some computers, copiers and printers is under $5,000 and not required to be tracked in the UC Asset Management System (UCAMS), is it recommended we track them in the UCAMS anyway?

A.  Yes.  As of this printing, it is not mandatory to track these non-capital assets in the UCAMS, but Asset Management highly recommends tracking all computers, copiers and printers in the UCAMS because of information security concerns.  Any of these assets could hold sensitive information and if lost or stolen, valuable identification information would immediately be available in the UCAMS for the Police and/or UC Information Security.  For more information regarding the steps necessary to help safeguard sensitive information contact UC Information Security at infosec@uc.edu.

Q. The Capital Asset Policy requires our organizational unit to notify Asset Management of any asset ownership (title) changes.  How would we know if the ownership (title) of an asset changes?

A. Ownership of an asset is determined by the agency funding the acquisition. If an asset is purchased on a grant or contract the sponsor’s regulations will determine where title resides. In situations where UC has title to assets, a change in title is rare.  In situations where the funding agency has title, there is an opportunity for the title to change from the funding agency to UC.  This change in title would occur at the end of a grant or contract. As a standard practice, the Office of Sponsored Research Services (SRS) will contact a funding agency and request a change in title during project close-out. Typically a sponsor will offer one of the following options: 1) relinquish title to UC; 2) request UC return equipment; 3) reassign the equipment to a different grant or contract and retain title. SRS will share the sponsor’s title determination letter with the organizational unit and the organizational unit will notify Asset Management of the final determination/disposition of the equipment to facilitate changes to UCAMS.

Q. What is the role of Sponsored Research Services (SRS) at the time of transferring assets that have been acquired, fabricated or furnished by a sponsor under a grant or contract at UC to another institution?

A. SRS’ role is to verify who has title to equipment (UC or sponsor).  If sponsor titled equipment is physically transferred to a new institution SRS must document the transfer of accountability also.  SRS will formally request the funding agency to transfer accountability for an asset in a letter or sponsor specific forms signed by the Principal Investigator and an SRS Authorized Official. 

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Employee Recruiting

Q.  Is there a maximum number of “search committee members” allowed to take a job candidate out to eat?

A. There is no specified maximum number of search committee members stated within the Employee Recruiting Expenses policy; however the policy states, “Employee recruiting expenditures must be reasonable, prudent and commensurate with the position.” 

Q.  Does travel by a spouse/family member as part of employee recruiting extend to a domestic partner? 

A.  Yes.

Q.  Will the university pay for the meal for a job candidate’s spouse/domestic partner during the interview process?

A.  The meal expense for a candidate’s spouse/domestic partner would be allowed, however the per diem limit would still apply. 

Q.  Who needs to approve entertainment expenses?

A.  The Employee Recruiting Expenses policy references meal and entertainment expenses associated with recruitment of certain high-level positions (e.g. department chairs, eminent scholars, deans or vice presidents). Meal and entertainment expenses associated with high-level recruitment, in excess of the current federal per person per day rate, must be pre-approved by the president, a senior vice president, vice president or dean. Meal and entertainment expenses associated with recruiting must not exceed $200 per person per day. 

Q.  The federal per diem is too low for meal expenditures for travel and for recruitment purposes. Why was the federal per diem chosen and is there any flexibility in the use of the per diem?

A.  The federal per diem rates are updated regularly and are widely used as a baseline for reimbursement and allowable expenditures by profit and not-for-profit entities. To answer valid concerns about rate amounts, the per diem does not need to be pro-rated. If the per diem is claimed, itemized receipts for travel meals are not required in the university-wide policy. However, individual units may have more restrictive policies.

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Employee Reward, Recognition, and Acknowledgement

Q.  If we give a restaurant certificate for a student worker to recognize extraordinary work, a) Is it taxable as long as it is under $100 and b) Are there any limits as to how many times in a fiscal year a student can receive a gift certificate?

A.  A certificate for a restaurant is considered a cash equivalent, so it should be reported to Payroll and is limited to one time per year. A report should be submitted to Payroll with the following information:  Employee name + ID, award date, amount and whether they are bimonthly or monthly. Use the form for Reporting Rewards and Bonuses to Payroll.

Q.  Policy 3.3.1 (Employee Reward, Recognition, and Acknowledgement) permits a monetary donation to a charitable organization as an acknowledgement for certain employee life events.  What is the proper payment method for making such a donation?  Can a Purchasing Card be used? 

A.  Use of the Purchasing Card to make a monetary donation to a charitable organization is prohibited, under any circumstance.  Any monetary donation made to a charitable organization should be completed via a Purchase Order or an A114 (Request for Payment).

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Entertainment Expenses

Q.  What is “entertainment”? 

A.  Entertainment is an activity, event or meal with the purpose of fundraising, promotion of the university or entertainment of university guests by “designated university officials.” 

Q.  Who needs to approve entertainment expenses?

A. The Entertainment Expenses policy states that meal and entertainment expenses in excess of $75 per person per event or with a total estimated cost in excess of $5,000 must be pre-approved by a senior vice president, vice president, dean or their designee.

Q.  Will the university pay for expenses to host a function at one’s home?

A. Typically, any meal/entertainment provided at a residence is considered more of a social function rather than university business and may not be paid for by the university.

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Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Return for Multiple PIs

Q.  Am I correct in assuming the percentages for assigned credit and the budget do not have to correlate?  It would seem that one might assign 30% of the “scientific credit” to a co-investigator even when 50% of the actual costs might be associated with their salary and lab costs. 

A.  Your assumption is correct; there is no correlation between scientific credit assigned on the electronic proposal routing form (e-PRF) and budget established in the SAP grants module.  

Q.  When awards are made and budgets are cut, it is sometimes necessary to redefine roles to such an extent that assigned credit might be reduced or withdrawn.  How do we notify Sponsored Research Services (SRS) of such changes in assigned credit or is this even a concern?

A.  If roles need to be redefined due to a reduced scope of work or a transfer of key personnel, please provide the newly assigned credit to SRS grants division by email. If a budget is cut and there is no change in the scope of the project it is highly unlikely there would be a change in the scientific credit as articulated in the original e-PRF. As mentioned in the response above there is no correlation between scientific credit and budget.

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Meal Expenses

Q.  Can I order an alcoholic beverage with a business meal or an overnight travel meal? 

A.  Yes, but you may only be reimbursed for alcohol purchases that are appropriately pre-approved, are reasonable and can be charged to discretionary funds.  In addition, alcohol purchases cannot be charged to a Purchasing Card.

Q.  How much should I tip for a meal?

A.  Gratuities are authorized up to 20% (excludes sales tax). A 20% gratuity should only be given for exceptional service, however.

Q.  Will the university pay for expenses to host a function at one’s home?

A.  Typically, any meal/entertainment provided at a residence is considered more of a social function rather than university business and may not be paid for by the university.

Q.  Will the university pay for the meal for a job candidate’s spouse/domestic partner during the interview process?

A.  The meal expense for a candidate’s spouse/domestic partner would be allowed, however the per diem limit would still apply.

Q.  Why does the policy on business meals require a non-university individual’s presence? 

A.  If the business discussion, as required for a business meal, involves only university employees, such discussion can be scheduled throughout the business day and would not need to take place as part of a business meal. Scheduling for a non-university individual, whose presence is required for the business discussion, may be more limited.

Q.  Will meal expenses while on same day travel be paid for or reimbursed? 

A.  No. Tax laws do not allow for meal expenses to be paid for or reimbursed when there is no overnight stay. Because of the tax implications, there are no exceptions to this.

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Payments to Individuals for Services

Q.  The policy states that when retaining an individual through a payrolling or temp agency the services should be “interim.”  What is considered “interim”?

A.  Although the policy does not provide a precise time limitation, interim would typically imply up to 6 months but would not exceed one year.  

Q.  How do I know what payrolling or temporary agency to use? 

A.  UC’s Central Purchasing must be involved and will provide guidance.

Q.  Will old versions of the Personal Services Contract, the Contractor Questionnaire or the Limited Services Engagement Form that were completed prior to the effective date of the policy need to be redone on the revised forms? 

A.  Older versions of the forms will be accepted for a 3-month grace period, particularly if they were completed prior to the January 1, 2009 effective date of the policy. The revised forms, which can be found under “Forms” on the Financial Policies website, should be used after January 1, 2009 and must be used following the grace period.

Q.  Why is date of birth included on the Personal Services Contract and the Limited Services Engagement Form? 

A.  Date of birth is a state of Ohio reporting requirement for employees that has been extended to contractors.

Q.  Are digital signatures accepted on a Personal Services Contract (PSC) or a Limited Services Engagement Form (LSEF)? 

A.  Yes, assuming the person signing has the capability to provide a digital signature that appears on the form when it is printed, it is acceptable. In addition, signatures can be signed by hand on the document then faxed or scanned & emailed as an attachment. An email from the contractor that simply acknowledges the PSC or LSEF (e.g., “I’m OK with this”) is not considered a signature.

Q.  The policy states that a Personal Services Contract cannot exceed $20,000 over the duration of one year.   Is that a calendar year or a fiscal year? 

A.  It is a rolling year that starts when the services begin. For example, if an independent contractor began providing services on April 10, the year would run from April 10-April 9 of the following year for that contractor.

Q.  The policy allows for up to 5 consecutive contracts under a Personal Services Contract with the same independent contractor.   Will that be retroactive? 

A.  No, the counter will begin in 2009.

Q.  The policy states that under a Personal Services Contract, the services should not be performed until the contract is “fully executed by both parties.”  What does that mean? 

A.  It means that the Personal Services Contract must be signed by both the independent contractor and the university’s Contracting Officer/Designee before services are provided. Of course, the university’s Contracting Officer/Designee will be checking for the needed approval of the organizational unit and if required, the VP/designee approval.

Q.  The policy requires payment to an individual under a Personal Services Contract or the Limited Services Engagement Form.  What if the worker wants us to make our payments to a company name, rather than in their personal name? 

A.  The organizational unit should initiate a purchase order, rather than using a Personal Services Contract or Limited Services Engagement Form. Contact Central Purchasing for guidance on submitting purchase orders.

Q.  The Personal Services Contract and the Limited Services Engagement Form ask for the contractor’s Social Security Number (SSN). What if the worker doesn’t want to provide their Social Security Number, or claims they do not have one? 

A. The university will be required to withhold federal income tax from each payment, under one of several provisions in the federal tax law. An exception applies if the worker is a nonresident alien for tax purposes and the work will be performed entirely outside of the United States. In this case, the originating organizational unit should enter “NRA – work done outside US” near the SSN field on the Personal Services Contract or Limited Services Engagement Form.

Q.  When the A-114 requesting payment to an independent contractor is submitted, the policy requires a copy of the Personal Services Contract or the Limited Services Engagement Form along with an invoice or timesheet from the contractor indicating the work has been done.  Is there a particular form that must be used as an invoice or timesheet? 

A.  No, there is no particular form for an invoice or timesheet. The documentation needed is some written acknowledgement by the contractor that the work has been done. It may be a simple typed sheet that the contractor provides. A guest speaker or performer may even provide a signature next to their name on a program or brochure.  

Q.  What should be submitted as documentation of work done for a study participant? 

A.  The organizational unit conducting the study should make available to the study participant a simple, written document on the department letterhead indicating the name and date of the study, the name of the participant, a statement verifying participation (e.g., “I verify that I participated in this study on this date.”) and  the participant’s signature.  

If the study is one that, due to the extraordinary sensitive nature of the research, requires protecting the anonymity of the participant, then the organizational unit conducting the study should compensate the participant through petty cash and track participants by a code or number. A participant’s or organizational unit’s hesitance to disclose participants’ Social Security Numbers (SSN) is not a valid reason for claiming anonymity must be protected. The responsible organizational unit must track payments for such participants throughout the year and, in January, report the name, address, and SSN of any participants receiving more that $600 in a calendar year to Tax Compliance and Accounts Payable so that UC can include them in year-end 1099 reporting as required by federal law. 

Q.  Can periodic payments be made to an independent contractor under a Personal Services Contract? 

A.  Yes, but each payment will be for a portion of the work previously completed.  

Q.  A world-renown performing artist, speaker or celebrity expects payment on the day of services yet the policy does not allow a request for payment prior to the completion of the services.  Is there any way around this? 

A.  A contract negotiated through the Office of General Counsel and in lieu of the Personal Services Contract may include language allowing for payment to be available at the time the services are completed. A copy of the contract would need to accompany the A-114 request for payment. This situation should be used in limited circumstances only.

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Professional Memberships, Certification, Dues and Subscriptions

Q.  Under Policy 2.1.4 (Professional Memberships, Certification, Dues and Subscriptions), the university will not pay for individual memberships to internal organizations such as the Faculty Club. What about a departmental membership at the Faculty Club for use by multiple people within the department? 

A.  A departmental membership to the Faculty Club is allowable.

Q.  Under Policy 2.1.4 (Professional Memberships, Certification, Dues and Subscriptions), are departmental subscriptions to publications kept in a reception/waiting area permitted? 

A.  Yes. The publications should be appropriate for a business office. 

Q.  Recordkeeping under the Professional Memberships, Certification, Dues and Subscription policy would be onerous. Sometimes the registration fee for a conference includes registration, membership, and subscription fees for professional journals. Must these be unbundled?

A.  No. The focus of the policy is not on how the fees are noted in UC Flex, although units may wish to track these expenditures as discrete items. The focus of the policy is allowable expenditures and IRS implications for taxable fringe benefits.

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Purchasing Card Violations

Q.  Is payment for parking in a UC facility an allowable expense? If so, should it be reimbursed on an A113 or A114?  Can it be charged on a Purchasing Card?

A. Payment/reimbursement for parking in a UC facility is an allowable expense on a sporadic basis as long as there is a business purpose related to the parking charge and the organizational unit head approves the expense. Payment/reimbursement for monthly UC parking fees is not an allowable expense.  Allowable UC parking expenses are typically reimbursed on an A113 (Travel Expense Report) and not an A114 as they are considered part of incidental travel under the Travel Expenses policy.  Allowable UC parking expenses may be charged to a Purchasing Card.

Q. Should allowable registration fees (including events on campus) be reimbursed on an A113 or an A114?  Can registration fees be charged to a Purchasing Card?

A. The preferred method of payment for allowable registration fees is the Purchasing Card.

Registration fees may also be prepaid by submitting an A114 along with completed registration materials to Accounts Payable.  Be sure to include an approved travel authorization if the travel will be overnight.

A registration fee charged to a personal credit card may be reimbursed after the travel on an A113.  An original, itemized receipt must accompany the A113 along with an approved travel authorization if the travel was overnight.

Q.  Are Purchasing Card warning letters issued by the number of violation occurrences or by billing cycle?  For example, if I have four P-Card violations in one billing cycle, does that count as one warning or four?

A. From Purchasing’s standpoint, one warning per billing cycle (or bank card statement) is sufficient although that warning may include multiple violations if necessary. If an organizational unit feels that multiple warnings letters for one billing cycle are warranted, the org unit may enforce stricter policies and Purchasing will support that determination.

Q. If a Cardholder violates a P-Card policy or procedure but has the violating charge reversed, should a warning letter still be issued?

A. Yes, a warning letter should be issued for the violation. It is the Cardholder’s responsibility to be aware of Purchasing Card policies and procedures.  Reversing the charge does not eliminate the need for a warning letter to be issued.

Q.  If a Cardholder violates some other financial policy (e.g., the TRAVEL EXPENSES policy) when using a P-Card, should a warning letter be issued?

For example, an employee pays for a meal and tips in excess of 20% on the P-Card. (Tipping in excess of 20% is a violation of the Travel Expenses and Meal Expenses policies.) If the employee returns from the trip and reimburses the university the difference between what was tipped and the 20% maximum allowable tip, does a warning letter still need to be issued?

A. Yes. If any financial policy is violated when using a Purchasing Card then it is also a violation of the Purchasing Card Violations Policy and a warning letter should be issued.  As stated in the previous question, the warning letter should be issued even if the Cardholder corrects the violation by reimbursing the university.

Q. Is paying sales tax considered a violation of the Purchasing Card Violations policy? Does the Cardholder need to reimburse UC for the tax paid?

A. As stated on all Purchasing Cards, the university is exempt from sales tax, however, the exemption only applies to “Ohio state sales tax.”  Paying Ohio state sales tax on a Purchasing Card is a P-Card violation. The tax should be credited back by the merchant or reimbursed by the Cardholder to the university.

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Sick and Vacation Payout Schedule

Q.  The Sick and Vacation Payout Schedule Policy does not say how much sick and vacation time I will be paid if I separate from the university. How do I know what will be paid to me at separation?

A.  The point of this policy is to define WHEN the sick and vacation will be paid out to a separated employee—the key sentence is

“Employees will receive their allowable compensation for unused accrued sick leave and vacation in the pay period following issuance of their final regular paycheck.”

Sick and vacation accrual and payout varies by employee group. 

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Timekeeping for Hourly Paid Employees

Q.  What form is used to allow a phone other than the organizational unit phone to be used for KRONOS Teletime?

A.  The form can be found on the Payroll Resources page under KRONOS . It must be submitted to Payroll Operations for approval. 

Q.  Exceptions to the official timekeeping system, KRONOS, are limited and unusual. How limited and unusual?

A.  Extremely unusual.   For example, a situation where someone is working in a remote location of Alaska with no telephones and no cell phone towers may qualify as an exception.  In addition, exceptions will be limited to organizational units with a good record of timekeeping and a fully trained back-up timekeeper.

Q.  Are there features of KRONOS that might make compliance with the policy easier?

A.  Yes.  Timekeepers are encouraged to learn about the features of KRONOS, such as setting up schedules, which can be helpful.  Resources are available, including a user group that meets every other month. Find more information on the Payroll Resources website.  

Q.  If my hourly-paid employee comes in 15 minutes early, I don’t understand why that employee can’t just clock in at that time and then clock out 15 minutes early at the end of the day.

A.  The Timekeeping for Hourly-Paid Employees policy serves several purposes:

  • Compliance
  • Consistent treatment of employees throughout the university
  • System integrity
  • Accurate reporting of time

UC would like to ensure that hourly-paid employees are treated consistently throughout the university.  When organizational units administer timekeeping differently, the issue of the fair and consistent treatment of employees can be raised.  When an employee has a schedule but is allowed to clock in and/or out with disregard to that schedule, the integrity of the timekeeping system could be compromised.

In addition, many employees are needed at their work station until the normal end of their schedule so the described situation would cause a work coverage issue.  If however, the supervisor deems that the employee is not needed at their work station until the normal end of their schedule on a given day, and with their supervisor’s approval, the situation described is allowed. 

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Travel Expenses

Documentation/Approvals

Q.  What are the requirements for travel authorization?

A.  Overnight travel must be approved by the traveler’s supervisor prior to the trip using the Travel Authorization Form.  Submission and approval in writing of business travel plans prior to the travel provide documentation that the employee’s travel is authorized and on behalf of the employer.

Q.  Can anyone approve their own overnight travel? 

A.  There is no self-approval for overnight travel nor do any of the financial policies allow for self-approval. For overnight travel, the required approval is one’s supervisor.

Q.  If a student is traveling overnight who should sign their Travel Authorization Form (TAF)?

A.  If the student is also an employee (paid via university payroll) and the travel is associated with the work the student is doing as part of the employment, then the pre-approving signature for the student’s travel should be the student’s supervisor (and not the dean). If the purpose for the student’s travel is academic, then the authorization (TAF) should be approved by the head of the organizational unit paying for the travel.

Q.  Does a non-UC person traveling on UC business need to sign a travel authorization?

A. No. The UC person coordinating the travel for the non-UC person should sign both the travel authorization and the expense report for submission. They should be approved by the supervisor of the person submitting.

Q.  If I have to reimburse a visiting artist for something involving his travel, do I use a Travel Expense Report (A-113) or an A-114?  If so, do I have to get his signature?

A.  If we are only reimbursing travel, an A-113 should be used. If there is travel plus a stipend/fee, then the A-114 would be used.

Q.  Are Social Security numbers required on A-114’s for reimbursement of travel expenses of non-UC employees?

A.  If only travel is being reimbursed on the A-113, no. If any type of a stipend is being paid to the traveler, an A-114 should be used for both the travel and the stipend, and the Social Security number should be indicated.

Q.  If a traveler flies to another state but returns within the same day, is that considered "same day travel?" 

A.  Yes, since there is no overnight stay. While the situation described would not require a Travel Authorization Form, payment or reimbursement for such a trip would require appropriate approvals. 

Q.  The Travel Expenses policy states that travel expenses must be submitted within 30 calendar days of the conclusion of the trip to get reimbursements. Some faculty members attend a conference in early summer and then immediately leave for someplace else. They are not required to be in Cincinnati for the summer, so it may be fall when they return to campus. Is it appropriate to deny them reimbursements if they are late in submitting the travel expenses and why does it require approval at a higher level?

A.  The 30-day parameter is standard practice used by government agencies, business and institutions of higher education. It allows for sufficient time to submit travel expense reports in most circumstances. The exception process, which requires review and approval at a higher level, should discourage late submissions.

Q.  Travel documentation and reporting are too onerous at the decentralized level. Shouldn’t Finance or Accounts Payable review all the documentation and catch all the errors? 

A.  The Travel Expenses and Meal Expenses policies allow for the use of the per diem without itemized receipts for travel meals, which reduce documentation requirements. Oversight of these expenditures historically and appropriately belong at the decentral level.

Q.  Is payment for parking in a UC facility an allowable expense? If so, should it be reimbursed on an A113 or A114?  Can it be charged on a Purchasing Card? 

A.  Payment/reimbursement for parking in a UC facility is an allowable expense on a sporadic basis as long as there is a business purpose related to the parking charge and the organizational unit head approves the expense. Payment/reimbursement for monthly UC parking fees is not an allowable expense.  Allowable UC parking expenses are typically reimbursed on an A113 (Travel Expense Report) and not an A114 as they are considered part of incidental travel under the Travel Expenses policy.  Allowable UC parking expenses may be charged to a Purchasing Card.

Q.  Should allowable registration fees (including events on campus) be reimbursed on an A113 or an A114?  Can registration fees be charged to a Purchasing Card? 

A.  Allowable registration fees are typically reimbursed on an A113 (Travel Expense Report) and not an A114 as they are considered part of travel.  Allowable registration fees may also be charged to a P-Card, including via PayPal; however, Cardholders will  continue to be prohibited from creating an account with PayPal.  Allowable registration fees may also be prepaid by Accounts Payable through a Funds Reservation for fees in the amount of $50 or more.

Q.  When using the currency rate converter, the default for conversions is an interbank rate.  A pull-down list provides for a “percentage add-on rate” to the interbank rate to approximate the spread charged by a financial institution.  What rate should be used?  Also, what date should be used? 

A.  For cash expenditures:

  • Use the date of departure from the foreign country
  • Use the interbank rate

For credit card transactions:

  • Use the date of purchase
  • Use the interbank rate
  • If documentation of the credit card charge by the financial institution is provided (e.g., one's credit card statement), the corresponding "percentage add-on rate" can be selected from the pull-down list in lieu of the interbank rate. 

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Lodging

Q.  Do university policies require the use of the federal per diem for lodging?

A.  No, the university may pay for or reimburse expenses for lodging at reasonable, standard business, rates with original itemized receipt.

Q.  If I am attending a conference and the hotel rooms with a conference rate are all booked, what should I do?

A.  Lodging expenses will be paid for or reimbursed by the university when reasonable and documented (see pages 3 and 6 of the policy). The per diem lodging rates may be used as a guideline. For documentation in this situation, a written indication that all conference rate rooms were booked, along with rationale for choosing the hotel selected, should be included with the lodging receipt.

Q.  When submitting a Travel Expense Report (A113) that includes lodging in a private residence, what information should be included?

A.  In addition to denoting, by date, the allowable amount (see Variant Expense Table for current allowable amounts) on the A113, the traveler should provide a separate statement that includes:

  • Dates of lodging
  • Location of private residence (i.e., name and address)
  • Name of lodger
  • Explanation of lodging (e.g., stayed with a friend)

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Per Diem/Travel Meals

Q.  Will meal expenses while on same day travel be paid for or reimbursed? 

A.  No. Tax laws do not allow for meal expenses to be paid for or reimbursed when there is no overnight stay. Because of the tax implications, there are no exceptions to this.

Q.  Can I order an alcoholic beverage with a business meal or an overnight travel meal? 

A.  Yes, but you may only be reimbursed for alcohol purchases that are appropriately pre-approved, are reasonable and can be charged to discretionary funds.  In addition, alcohol purchases cannot be charged to a Purchasing Card. 

Q.  When using the per diem for meal expenditures, the policies state there is no need to pro-rate.  What does that mean? 

A.  The policies do not require the per diem for meals to be pro-rated such as 25% for breakfast, 25% for lunch and 50% for dinner.  An employee may, for example, elect to purchase breakfast and lunch “on their own” and use the total per diem amount for dinner.

Q.  On the federal per diem Website, it states travelers are entitled to only 75% of meal per diem on the first and last day of travel.  Is UC following this federal guideline of using the 75% of meal per diem on the first and last day of travel? 

A.  No; if an employee is traveling, they will be allowed the full per diem on all days they are on travel status.
Note: some organizational units may have more restrictive policies, however. 

Q.  If the per diem allowance is used for meal expenses, do you need itemized receipts? 

A.  If meal expenses are incurred as part of overnight travel, and the traveler claims the per diem for meals as reimbursement, no receipts are required. Should the overnight traveler use the P-Card to pay for meal expenses, receipts are required. If meal expenditures are incurred as part of a business meal, employee recruiting expense or entertainment expense, proper documentation and original receipts are required regardless of the payment method.
Note
: Some units may have more restrictive policies requiring original itemized receipts.

Q.  The per diem table does not list the city to which I am traveling. What rate do I use? 

A.  The federal per diem tables list counties for the primary destination cities in each state. To identify the county in which your destination is located visit the National Association of Counties (NACO). If the county is not in the per diem table, then a standard destination rate of $46.00 for meals and incidentals should be used. 

Q.  What are the per diem rates for meals when traveling to Hawaii or Alaska on university business? 

A.  The tables that provide per diem rates for Hawaii or Alaska look different than the tables that provide per diem rates for states in the continental U.S. For Hawaii and Alaska tables, the amount indicated in the column labeled "Local Meals" is the per diem amount to be used for meals and incidentals, such as porter tips, etc. when traveling on university business. The "Local Meals" column is comparable to the "M&IE" column on the tables for continental U.S.

To access tables for Hawaii and Alaska per diem rates, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to http://www.gsa.gov/perdiem
  2. Click on the box to the right of the map labeled "OCONUS PER DIEM RATES (ALASKA AND HAWAII, U.S. TERRTORIES & POSSESSIONS)."
  3. Click on "Per Diem Rates" in the left hand column.
  4. Click on "Per Diem Rates" in the left hand column.
  5. In the right half of the screen (OUTSIDE CONUS) select Hawaii or Alaska in the "COUNTRY/STATE:" dropdown box. Make sure the date in the "PUBLISHED:" dropdown box corresponds with your travel dates. Click on "EXECUTE."
  6. Find your travel city or use "OTHER" if your travel city is not listed. The amount listed in the "Local Meals" column  is the per diem amount for meals and incidentals while on university business.

Q.  Should the federal per diem meal allowance be based on the city (airport) into which the traveler flew, or the city in which their lodging took place?

A.  The per diem should be based on the city in which the meals are purchased/consumed. If the traveler is in multiple cities in the same day, the highest per diem rate applies.

Q.  The federal per diem is too low for meal expenditures for travel and for recruitment purposes. Why was the federal per diem chosen and is there any flexibility in the use of the per diem?

A.  The federal per diem rates are updated regularly and are widely used as a baseline for reimbursement and allowable expenditures by profit and not-for-profit entities. To answer valid concerns about rate amounts, the per diem does not need to be pro-rated. If the per diem is claimed, itemized receipts for travel meals are not required in the university-wide policy. However, individual units may have more restrictive policies.

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Transportation

Q.  Is ground transportation part of the per diem?

A.  Ground transportation, such as taxi fare, tolls, metro passes, subways, are not part of the per diem. Such expenses are reimbursed separately.  The traveler should obtain receipts for ground transportation if at all possible.  If a receipt is not provided, the traveler should retain any ticket stub.  If absolutely no receipt or stub is available for ground transportation, the traveler should indicate the expense on the Travel Expense report and in parentheses indicate “no receipt available.”  If the amount is reasonable and the Travel Expense Report is approved by the traveler’s supervisor, the ground transportation expenditure will be reimbursed.

Q.  Is there a university document that shows proof of insurance coverage for a vehicle rental agency? 

A.  When renting a vehicle on domestic travel the traveler should not purchase additional insurance and can use the university's letter to prove coverage. When renting a vehicle on international travel, the traveler should purchase the additional coverage. 

Q.  Is GPS on a rental vehicle reimbursable?

A.  Yes, if it is part of the standard cost of the lowest rate or intermediate size vehicle for an individual (full size or van for a group).  If it is an additional charge, it is not reimbursed.

Q.  How is mileage calculated for travel when using one's personal vehicle?

A.  As part of policy revision effective 05/01/09, mileage for travel will be calculated from the point of departure to the destination point. The policy remains unchanged in the mileage between one's home and one's primary work site will not be reimbursed by the university. Note: organizational units may have more restrictive policies.

An example of how the revision works:

Mileage from home to primary work site:

12 miles

Mileage from home to the airport:

38 miles

Mileage from primary work site to airport:

16 miles

When traveling for university business to the airport from my home, my reimbursable mileage, for this portion of the travel, is 38 miles (not 38 miles - 12 miles).

When traveling for university business to the airport from my primary work site, my reimbursable mileage, for this portion of the travel, is 16 miles.

Another example of how the revision works:

Mileage from home to primary work site:

9 miles

Mileage from home to Columbus:

100 miles

Mileage from primary work site to Columbus:

112 miles

When traveling for university business to Columbus from my home, the reimbursable mileage, for this portion of the travel, is 100 miles (not 100 miles - 9 miles).

When traveling for university business to Columbus from my primary work site, the reimbursable mileage, for this portion of the travel, is 112 miles.

Another example of how the revision works:

Mileage from home to primary work site (Clifton) :

4 miles

Mileage from Clifton campus to RWC:

13 miles

Mileage from RWC to home:

8 miles

During the work day, I drive from my primary work site in Clifton to RWC and back to Clifton. Reimbursable mileage: 26 miles (13 miles each way).

During the work day, I drive from my primary work site in Clifton to RWC, and then drive home for the day. Reimbursable mileage: 21 miles (13 miles + 8 miles).

I drive to RWC (not my primary work site) from home and remain there all day. I drive home from RWC. Reimbursable mileage: 16 miles (8 miles each way).

I drive to RWC (not my primary work site) from home, and then drive to my primary work site in Clifton. Reimbursable mileage: 21 miles (8 miles + 13 miles).

Q.  Can student employees who transport university guests to/from the airport, hotel, or university functions be reimbursed for mileage?

A.  Yes, Use a Travel Expense Report and include some type of mileage log (or printout from an internet mapping tool).  Since this is incidental or same day travel for the students, no Travel Authorization Form is needed. 

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Miscellaneous

Q.  If a traveler does not have a medical condition that warrants flying first or business class, is there any way to upgrade from coach/economy fare for a lengthy flight?

A.  The university will not pay for or reimburse for first class or business fare unless warranted by a medical condition, recommended by the traveler's physician, documented and approved by the University Health Services and pre-approved by the traveler's supervisor. with a policy revision effective 05/01/09, however, a traveler may use frequent flyer miles to upgrade an overseas flight.

Q.  Many airlines are now charging for baggage. Are there any restrictions on what will be considered allowable charges? 

A.  There are no restrictions in the university’s travel policy for baggage charges. Assuming the traveler has a receipt, the university will pay for or reimburse for baggage charges.  A traveler should be aware of the airline’s costs and restrictions for baggage, however.  Airline baggage information can be found at http://www.expedia.com/daily/flights/airline-fees.asp.

Q.  Does travel by a spouse/family member as part of employee recruiting extend to a domestic partner? 

A.  Yes.

Q.  Are internet charges at a hotel reimbursable?  What about phone charges?

A.  Internet charges at a hotel are reimbursed if the expenditure is itemized on the hotel receipt.  Phone charges for business calls (e.g. to the office) are reimbursed if the expenditure is itemized on the hotel receipt.

Q.  Is payment for parking in a UC facility an allowable expense? If so, should it be reimbursed on an A113 or A114? Can it be charged on a Purchasing Card? 

A.  Payment/reimbursement for parking in a UC facility is an allowable expense on a sporadic basis as long as there is a business purpose related to the parking charge and the organizational unit head approves the expense. Payment/reimbursement for monthly UC parking fees is not an allowable expense.  Allowable UC parking expenses are typically reimbursed on an A113 (Travel Expense Report) and not an A114 as they are considered part of incidental travel under the Travel Expenses policy.  Allowable UC parking expenses may be charged to a Purchasing Card.

Q.  Should allowable registration fees (including events on campus) be reimbursed on an A113 or an A114?  Can registration fees be charged to a Purchasing Card? 

A.  The preferred method of payment for allowable registration fees is the Purchasing Card.

Registration fees may also be prepaid by submitting an A114 along with completed registration materials to Accounts Payable. Be sure to include an approved Travel Authorization form if the travel will be overnight.

A registration fee paid with personal funds may be reimbursed either before or after the travel on an A113. An original, itemized receipt must accompany the A113 along with an approved Travel Authorization form if the travel was overnight.

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Wireless Communication Stipend

Selecting a Provider

Q.  Does the university provide me with a wireless communication device and/or plan or do I procure my own device and associated plan?

A.  You must procure a personally-owned device and associated plan. The policy only allows for university-owned devices to be provided to individuals in very limited circumstances (see University-Owned Wireless Communication Devices below).

Q.   In procuring a personally-owned device, can I select any carrier or plan?

A.  Yes.  You may select any wireless carrier; however, to qualify for the stipend, the service must meet the requirements of the job responsibilities as determined by your supervisor or organizational unit head.  

Separately, please be mindful that when selecting your device the university reserves the right to require any mobile device accessing the university’s infrastructure to be subject to future mobile device security policies and guidelines as established by the university’s Information Security office and IT governance structure. In the future the university will take reasonable steps to provide advance notification to the community about mobile security changes and implement security solutions that function with a broad set of devices, however be aware that we cannot guarantee your device will function given the numerous types of devices available and their uniquely-associated operating systems. This applies to both university and personally-owned devices.

Q. I do use my personal device for business and may qualify for the stipend.   What do I need to do?

A.  If you intend to apply for a stipend, you will want to ensure that the device/plan will meet the business usage requirements and the security requirements of the policy.

To apply for a stipend, discuss with your department head or supervisor your university business needs and what percentage of total use of the wireless communication device is for UC business.  Then work with the department business office to complete the request form in GETit.  Once the GETit request is approved, the employee must electronically accept the terms of the stipend agreement. Once the agreement is accepted by the employee, the process for a personnel change request (PCR) begins.

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Taxable Wireless Communication Stipend

Q.   Who is eligible for a taxable wireless communication stipend?

A.  Any UC faculty or staff paid via university payroll is eligible to apply.  To be approved, the employee must have an official business need for the service and must have the approval of his/her department head.

Q.   Does everyone get a taxable wireless communication stipend?

A.  No. This is not an entitlement. You should only receive a stipend if your organizational unit requires that you carry a wireless communication device where other less expensive means of communication are not adequate, and then only an amount necessary to cover your business calls. You should only receive the stipend if you are able meet one or more of the following eligibility requirements and have been approved for the stipend by your supervisor: 

  • The employee’s job requires that they work regularly in the field and need to be immediately accessible.
  • The employee’s job requires that they need to be immediately accessible outside of normal business hours.
  • The employee is responsible for critical infrastructure and needs to be immediately accessible at all times.
  • The employee travels and needs to be accessible or have access to information technology systems while traveling.
  • Access via voice and/or access to information technology systems via a mobile communications device would, in the judgment of the supervisor, render the employee more productive and/or the service the employee provides more effective, and the cost of mobile communications service is therefore warranted.

Q.   What is the process for getting the taxable stipend? 

A.  Discuss with your department head or supervisor your university business needs and what percentage of total use of the wireless communication device is for UC business.  Then work with the department business office to complete the request form in GETit.  Once the GETit request is approved, the employee must electronically accept the terms of the stipend agreement. Once the agreement is accepted by the employee, the process for a personnel change request (PCR) begins.

Q.  When first applying for the monthly stipend, it’s possible that my service will not begin on the first day of the month. What start month should I use when applying for the monthly stipend in GETit?

A.  The start month for the stipend is the month in which the stipend will begin even if service for that month begins on a day other than the first of the month.  The stipend amount paid in that start month will be the full monthly amount and will not be pro-rated.   It is common industry practice not to pro-rate non-regulated services such as cell phone, broadband, etc.  Depending on the carrier’s activation, deactivation, and billing methods, determining an amount of stipend compensation in a start month can be complex, and could result in the employee paying more out of pocket than needed. Therefore, the entire amount of the stipend will be paid, and not pro-rated in the start month.

Q.   What happens after being approved for the taxable stipend?

A.  Once the PCR is approved, the stipend will be added to your pay on your next regular pay day, subject to payroll deadlines (Monthly Payroll Deadlines; Bi-Weekly Payroll Deadlines).  You will continue to receive the monthly stipend until it expires at the end of each fiscal year. You must then renew the stipend via the renewal process in GETit.  This provides the employee and department the opportunity to review the continued need (business purpose) for the stipend and update any stipend amounts.

Q.   What does renewed annually mean?

A.  Annual means based on the university’s fiscal year. The wireless communication device stipend will be paid monthly from the time received by UC Payroll through the end of the fiscal year.  At that time, all stipends will be deactivated until a renewal agreement is processed via GETit. This process provides the employee and the department the opportunity to review the continued need (business purpose) for the stipend and update any stipend amounts.   

Stipends are approved and reactivated each fiscal year beginning July 1.

Q.   What is the dollar amount of the taxable stipend?

A.  Discuss with your department head or supervisor your university business needs and what percentage of total use of the wireless communication device is for UC business. The annual maximum stipend amount is established by the Office of the Controller and approved by the Vice President of Finance. See the Variant Expense Rate Table for allowable stipend amounts. The stipend amount has been calculated to fund only the employee’s projected business related use.

Q.   Why is the wireless communication stipend taxable?

A.  The stipend amount is taxable income because you will not be required to provide detailed documentation of your business calls or reimburse the university for any personal calls you make.

Q.  Am I compensated for the taxes incurred by receiving the stipend for business use?

A.  The stipend amount added to an employee’s paycheck is increased by 25% to defray the deduction for payroll taxes.

Q.  Is this taxable stipend considered an increase in my base pay? Will the taxable stipend be included in my income for calculating my retirement or other benefits?

A.  No. This is not an increase in base pay, rather it is a monthly stipend which must be verified and renewed at least annually. Although the stipend will be paid to you as additional salary, it will not be included in your compensation for purposes of determining university retirement coverage or other benefits.

Q.  What if my actual business usage exceeds the amount of the monthly stipend I receive?

A.  If you have an extraordinary business use of the wireless communication device that exceeds the amount of the monthly stipend for a month or two, you may request an additional stipend for the period in question through GETit. You will need to provide your department with a copy of your wireless communication device statement noting the calls and the business purpose for each call.  In addition, the Policy Exception Form should be completed and approved by the president, senior vice president or vice president.

Q.  Can I use my wireless communication device for personal calls when receiving the taxable stipend from the university?

A.  Yes. Because you own the phone, you do not have to document personal calls. However, the amount of your stipend will be calculated based on the level of service you need for university business use.

Q.   Can I purchase additional minutes for personal use if I pay for the minutes myself?

A.  Yes.  You own the phone and the plan.  You only need to ensure that your plan provides the service required for your university business use.

Q.   Can my plan be a family plan and still qualify for the taxable stipend?

A.  Yes.  But the stipend will only cover the costs associated with university business.

Q.   What about a data package on a Windows Mobile, BlackBerry or other PDA/phone combinations?

A.  If your job requires that you have access to e-mail, calendaring, custom text messaging, document creation and editing, or other PDA functions, your department may approve a stipend for the use of a BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, or other device that is required to perform your job. Separate data stipends may be provided for employees who use these devices.

Q.   If I use my personal wireless communication device for university business and I am not receiving the monthly taxable stipend, can I be reimbursed for those calls?

A.  Yes. You may request a one time stipend for that month through GETit. You will need to provide your organizational unit with a copy of your wireless communication device statement noting the calls and the business purpose for each call.  In addition, the Policy Exception Form should be completed and approved by the president, senior vice president or vice president.

Q.   Where do I get help to determine the right plan for international travel? How do I receive a stipend for international travel?

A.  Once you receive your invoice, which includes your international calling costs you may request an additional international stipend for the period in question through GETit. You will need to provide your department with a copy of your wireless communication statement noting the international business expenses.

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Other Electronic Communication Devices

Q.   Does the policy cover data-only contracts for PDAs, 911 only calls, pagers, or other devices where no outgoing calls can be made?

A.  Communications devices that do not have a cell phone calling capability such as “push-to-talk” devices, walkie-talkies, pagers, and similar devices are excluded from the stipend policy.  PDAs with data-only capability are also excluded from the policy.

Q.  How about accessories such as a Bluetooth, batteries, etc.?

A.  Such accessories are personal expenses for which you are responsible to pay.

Q.   Does the policy cover wireless broadband cards and Internet service used in laptops or home broadband Internet services such as ZoomTown and Road Runner?

A.  No, these cards and Internet services will be included in a separate financial policy related to payment for employee home and off-campus Internet access.

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University-Owned Wireless Communication Devices

Q.  Does the university provide me with a wireless communication device and/or plan or do I procure my own device and associated plan?

A.  In most cases, you must procure a personnaly-owned device and associated plan. The policy only allows for university-owned devices to be provided to individuals in very limited circumstances.

Q.   Under what circumstances will the university purchase and own a wireless communication device and its associated plan?

A.  With the approval of the president, a senior vice president or a vice president on the Policy Exceptions Form, the university may purchase a wireless communication device with its associated plan in certain limited circumstances—e.g., phones or devices that rotate among personnel, devices used to support a mobile data application, test devices for central IT or research personnel who use wireless communication devices as data collection devices for research purposes. They should generally not be assigned to a specific individual nor taken home on a regular basis.

In cases where an exception is approved, the unit may procure the wireless communication device and associated plan from any provider that meets the security requirements of the policy.  

For university-owned wireless communication devices, the department and employee(s) are required to meet IRS substantiation requirements. At a minimum, the employee(s) using the device must keep a record of each call and its business purpose.

Business officers in the organizational unit should review the monthly bills of university-owned wireless communication devices to ensure that no personal calls were made on the device. Inadvertent or emergency personal calls must be reimbursed to the university at the rate of $10 plus costs.

Q.   What is the recommended method of payment for a university-owned wireless device? What about payment for an associated plan for a university-owned wireless device?

A.   Once a policy exception for a university-owned wireless communication device is approved by the president, a senior vice president or a vice president, the unit may procure the wireless communication device. The recommended method of payment for the device is a Purchasing Card or a Purchase Order. If personal funds were expended to make the purchase, reimbursement can be made through an A114. In all cases, the signed Policy Exception Form should be attached to the documentation.

Any charges associated with a monthly plan for the device should be paid on a Purchasing Card or Purchase Order. Monthly invoices for the device plan should not be submitted on an A114.

Q.   Can a university-owned wireless communication device be used for personal calls?

A.   Due to the taxation implications and the excessive administrative processes associated with tax compliance, personal calls are highly discouraged.  Inadvertent or emergency personal calls must be reimbursed to the university at the rate of $10 plus costs.

Q.   For university-owned wireless communication devices, who is responsible for substantiating the use as required by the IRS?

A.   It is the shared responsibility of the organizational unit and the employees using the university-owned device to provide the documentation requested by the IRS which substantiates UC business use of the university-provided communication device.

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Departmental Responsibilities & Administrative Questions

Q.   If I am a supervisor, how do I know the correct stipend amount for an employee?

A.   The stipend amount must be based on the number of plan minutes needed by the employee for business purposes. The stipends are established by the Office of the Controller and approved by the Vice President of Finance. See the Variant Expense Rate Table for allowable stipend amounts.  In selecting the stipend amount, supervisors must consider business usage only and not added personal usage.

Q.   I’m an organizational unit administrator.  What is my responsibility after the acceptance form is electronically approved?

A.   The workflow process is saved in an on-line database, however the department administrator may choose to print and keep a copy of the acceptance form in the individual’s personnel file in the event the university modifies its acceptance form at a later date.

Q.   I’m a department head.  How can I determine how much this is costing my unit?

A.  This expense can be tracked through general ledger account 535604.

Q.   I’m a department head and I cannot afford these stipends. What are my options?

A.   The university-wide policy only allows for the payments of the stipend; it does not require it.  As with the other financial policies, organizational units may institute more restrictive policies.

Q.   Are there any restrictions on the type of funds permitted to pay for a wireless communication stipend?

A.   If not using general funds, check with your business office for any restrictions or guidelines.

Q.   Can a wireless communication stipend or university-owned wireless communication device be charged as a direct cost to a grant or contract?

A.  Contact your grants administrator regarding this.

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Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Guidelines

Q.   Has the IRS published any guidelines that outline their position on wireless communication device taxation?

A.  Yes. The IRS Website includes additional information on employer-provided wireless communication devices.

Q.   Why does the university want me to own my wireless device?

A.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that the business and personal use of university-owned wireless communication devices must be documented in a very detailed manner. In addition to identifying all personal calls on the employee’s monthly wireless communication device statement, the employee must note the purpose of each business call. In the absence of such documentation, the IRS can treat all undocumented calls as personal and the value of those calls as wages, even if the calls were mostly business calls. Receiving a taxable stipend to purchase a personally-owned wireless communication device and service plan eliminates the requirement for you to track your business and personal calls.

Q.   Why is a wireless communication device treated differently than the phone on my desk?

A.   Because a wireless communication device is portable and may be taken off the employer’s business premises Congress established the detailed business substantiation rules applicable to this equipment and similar devices. The business use rules that apply to equipment intended to stay in your office, such as a desk phone, are less restrictive.

Q.   This seems ridiculous. Why are you putting us through this?

A.   While the documentation requirements may seem unreasonable to us and the average taxpayer, the IRS takes them very seriously in its audits of business and governmental employers.

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