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Travel, Meals & Entertainment Expenses Related to Sponsored Research Awards

One category of costs that should receive special attention are entertainment and meals expenses. In general, entertainment expenses are not allowable on sponsored research awards. The allowability of entertainment expenses on non-federal sponsored research awards depends upon the guidelines of the specific sponsor. Entertainment has been loosely defined by OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Circular A-21 as "Costs incurred for amusement, social activities, entertainment, and any items relating thereto, such as meals, lodging, rentals, transportation, and gratuities, are unallowable." The following guidelines should be used in determining the allowability and categorizing of expenses for meals, lodging and social activities on sponsored research awards:

Alcoholic Beverages are not allowable on sponsored research awards unless specifically authorized in the approved budget and consistent with the purpose of the award. The instances where alcohol is approved in the budget are extremely rare. Unless allowed by the sponsor, Alcohol purchased during meals, travel, conferences or meetings should be deducted from the amount to be charged to a sponsored research award, a department GL Account should be charged for the Alcohol in this instance. When Alcohol is allowed on a sponsored research award by the sponsor, the designated Expenditure Type for this type of expense should be charged.

Reasonable and actual out-of-pocket expenses incurred while traveling to a scheduled meeting are allowable when the travel will provide direct benefit to the award. Allowable expenses related to travel include meals for the individual. Guest meals are not allowable and should be not be charged to the sponsored research award. Travel expenses should be charged to the appropriate travel Expenditure Type.

Meals for subjects and patients under study are allowable when included in the approved budget. Meals for research subjects should be charged to the appropriate Expenditure Type.

Certain meals that are an integral and necessary part of a conference (i.e. working meal where business is transacted) and are associated with a sponsored research award that has been designated as a Conference Grant by the sponsor is allowable. Meals that are provided to key participants during an all day scheduled meeting with an agenda are allowable. A conference is generally defined as "A symposium, seminar, workshop, or any other organized and formal meeting lasting 1 or more days where persons assemble to exchange information or clarify a defined subject. Meals for guests not attending the conference are unallowable. Allowable expenses for "working" meals associated with an all day conference should be charged to the appropriate Expenditure Type.

Costs associated with recruitment of personnel generally are allowable, but you should confirm with your OSP Grant Manager for that particular sponsored research award. These allowable recruitment costs include help wanted advertising costs, travel costs to pre-employment interviews incurred by applicants, and travel costs of employees while engaged in recruiting personnel. Guest (other than the applicant and Principal Investigator) expenses are unallowable.


Sponsored research awards may be used to cover the costs associated with travel and entertainment, i.e. transportation, meals, and lodging. However, there are a number of factors that enter into approval of sponsored research awards to cover travel and entertainment expenses, here are those factors:

  • The awarded proposal must have explicitly stated an amount and justification for the travel, this will translate into a budget category for travel when the sponsored research PTA Account is established
  • The expenses incurred related to travel and entertainment must be fully documented and explicitly stated in the Dartmouth College Travel Policy
  • The expenses incurred related to travel and entertainment on a federally sponsored research award must conform to federal regulations.

Sponsors may have more explicit policies covering reimbursement of these expenses. The Department Grant Administrator and Principal Investigator are advised to study the sponsor's travel policy as well as the full Dartmouth College Travel Policy, if for further clarification of these policies you can contact your OSP Grant Manager.

In addition to insuring the allowability of expenses on sponsored research awards, it is very important that those persons responsible for departmental accounts insure that expenses are properly classified into the correct Expenditure Types. Important audit information is derived from all accounts (both GL Accounts and PTA Accounts).

Meals provided to participants of an all day conference or working meeting should include the following documentation:

  • List names of the attendees
  • Include a statement that specifies the nature of the business conducted during the meal, why the meal was a necessary part of the conference and explain how it directly benefited the sponsored research award
  • Attach a copy of the conference agenda

Examples of Entertainment and Meals Situations

The following are examples of common situations that arise on sponsored research awards. These examples are intended as a guideline for determining the classification and allowability of expenses. We realize that the guidelines are subject to interpretation on a case-by-case basis. Please call OSP for questions regarding a specific case.

  1. The institution invites a renowned scientist to deliver a paper directly related to a sponsored research award. The Department of Pathology provides coffee and cookies during a break before a related question and answer session. The cost of the refreshments are not entertainment and should be allowable on a sponsored research award, so long as they are reasonable. They are associated with a meeting where the predominant purpose is the delivery of information regarding a related sponsored research award.
  2. After the meeting, the dean of the Medical School holds a reception for the scientist where beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres are served. These costs are considered entertainment and generally unallowable on a sponsored research award.
  3. Instead, the dean takes the scientist and his department chair out for dinner. Alcohol is served. This is also considered entertainment, and is not generally allowable on a sponsored research award.
  4. The College puts this scientist up at a local inn after the talk. The costs of subsistence would be allowable on a sponsored research award where the principal purpose of the meeting like this, was dissemination of technical information.
  5. The President, Provost, and Vice-Presidents hold a retreat off campus to discuss a 3-year financial plan. There is a continental breakfast, and lunch served. The participants go to a local restaurant for dinner. Since the primary purpose of the meeting is a technical discussion, and there is an agenda (the 3-year plan), the costs of travel, housing, breakfast, and lunch would not be considered entertainment. It would probably be hard to argue that the primary purpose carried over to dinner, however. In fact, it probably makes sense to exclude on this basis all meals where alcohol is served, except where on travel & meals are being reimbursed as part of travel reimbursement policy.
  6. The Physics Department receives a sponsored research award to hold a symposium for leading scientists to discuss a new particle. In its sponsored research proposal, the Department listed the activities it planned to conduct, and the sponsored research proposal specifically provided for a working dinner the night before. This would be allowable on the sponsored research award since there was such a specific provision.
  7. From time to time, the Chemistry Department Chairman holds lunches for the members of her Department at the faculty club to discuss academic and research issues. Unless the primary purpose of the lunch is dissemination of technical information, as evidenced by a formal agenda, the sponsor would probably contend that the primary purpose was the meal, not the discussion (which could presumably have been held without the expenses); so the cost of lunch would be considered entertainment and generally not be allowed on a sponsored research award.
  8. The provost travels to Cleveland to recruit a department chair. The reasonable cost of travel and subsistence (less alcohol, of course) would not be considered entertainment. Presumably this would include the costs of lunch or dinner with the recruit, assuming that it was inappropriate to meet at the recruit's place of business. Similarly, the reasonable cost of the recruit's travel to your institution would not be considered entertainment.
  9. The President holds a reception in honor of the Medical School's 100th anniversary. This is entertainment. Presumably the exclusion would also run to any glossy publications that were produced on or after the affair.


The College will provide cash advances in limited amounts for faculty and other employees traveling on authorized business to cover reasonable miscellaneous costs such as taxi fares, tips, and other expenses. Cash advances must not be used to cover personal expenses or any activity that is the sole responsibility of the traveler. The size of the advance must be a reasonable estimate of the amount of cash necessary to conduct College business.

Each cash advance is the personal obligation of the traveler until it has been discharged by processing a properly completed Travel and Entertainment Expense Voucher. Thus, the traveler is responsible for any lost or stolen cash advances. Employees are responsible for the proper record keeping of expenses incurred while traveling and for settling any unused advance owed to the College. Travel advances must be accounted for on a Travel and Entertainment Expense Voucher within 10 working days after returning from the trip.

Advances will generally not be provided earlier than 3 working days before the planned departure date of the trip. Requests for large amounts of traveler's checks should be received by the Cashier's Office at least 24 hours before they are needed. Persons receiving cash or traveler's checks must sign for them in the presence of a Cashier and are responsible for the funds in the event of theft or loss.


Travelers requesting advances can obtain only $250 in cash. Traveler's checks will be issued for any portion of the advance over this $250 cash limit. The College provides American Express traveler's checks free of charge for use in the conduct of business travel; the College does not sell traveler's checks for personal use.

Unsigned traveler's checks are as negotiable as cash and should be signed by the traveler as soon they are received. Instructions for contacting American Express for prompt replacement of lost traveler's checks are included with issued traveler's checks or are available from the Cashier's Office. Only signed traveler's checks will be replaced, the loss of unsigned traveler's checks is the personal responsibility of the traveler.


  • Sufficient information to establish the business purpose of the travel, entertainment, or other expenditure
  • An adequate record of each expenditure, which would include the amount, date, and place
  • Substantiation of expenditures with original receipts -- at a minimum, receipts must be provided for all lodging and entertainment expenses (regardless of amount) and for all other expenses of $75 or more to comply with IRS regulations; however, departments may elect to require receipts for all expenditures over $25;
  • The return of any unused monies from cash advances.


Because travel vouchers are subject to audit by government agencies and other sponsors, thorough documentation and accounting for expenses is essential. If the expenses to be reimbursed are related to business travel or entertainment, the employee should complete a Travel and Entertainment Expense Voucher. If the reimbursement request is not related to business travel or entertainment, the employee should complete a Request for Payment.

Required documentation and receipts

Travelers are required to submit original receipts to substantiate their travel expenses. Original documentation is necessary to verify expenditures and eliminate the possibility of duplicate payments. When reviewing travel vouchers, the Controller's Office will expect that, at a minimum, any single expenditure of $75 or more will be accompanied by an original receipt. In addition, all entertainment and lodging expenses must be supported by receipts, regardless of amount. If, in rare cases, original receipts are not available, an explanation must be submitted with the travel voucher prior to processing. Travel vouchers that are not properly completed and approved will be returned unprocessed to the employee with an explanation of the deficiency.

Bills or cash register tapes that support credit card charges are considered original receipts and must be submitted with the Travel and Entertainment Expense Voucher or Request for Payment. Photocopies of credit card charge slips or billing statements are not sufficient documentation, nor are tear-off stubs for meals. If no other form of receipt can be obtained, the original credit card slip will be accepted. In the case of airfare not charged directly to a departmental account through the College Travel Office, travelers must submit the passenger copy of their ticket. Travel itineraries do not constitute receipts for reimbursement purposes.

Completing the Travel & Entertainment Expense Voucher

All requests for reimbursement to individuals for out-of-pocket expenses for either entertainment or meals, if allowable, should be requested on the Travel and Entertainment Voucher form. Incomplete forms and vague explanations will result in delays in processing. The following information should be completed on the form

Business Purpose of Travel or Entertainment in terms of the criteria listed in this manual:

  • For College or Non-College employee travel to a meeting, please include the destination and name or purpose of the conference in the "Business Purpose of Travel" line
  • For meals provided to patients or subjects under study, please attach a statement that fully explains the necessity of the meals in relation to the project goals, the amount of the expense should be listed in the "Misc. expenses" line of the travel voucher
  • For meals provided during all day conferences, please list all of the names of the attendees, include a statement that specifies the nature of the business conducted during the meal, why the meal was a necessary part of the conference and how did it directly benefit the sponsored research award, please put the explanation in the "Additional Comments" Section and write "see attached" to reference any additional attached information, also attach a copy of the agenda
  • For meals associated with recruitment, please specify the name of the applicant and the title of the open position

*Itemizing Expenses* Expenses should be entered on the applicable lines of the voucher which best describe the type of expenses incurred. Except for segregating unallowable items and omitting non-reimbursable expenses, charges on itemized hotel or other bills such as meals, telephone, parking, etc. need not be broken out and reported separately, although this is preferred. Amounts reported under "Miscellaneous Expenses" on the voucher must be itemized and supported by original receipts where required. Authorized persons approving vouchers are primarily responsible for enforcing these travel and expense reimbursement policies and, in so doing, must be satisfied that the vouchers have been properly completed and that the expenses are appropriate, reasonable, and sufficiently described and documented.

Expenses that have been directly paid to a vendor by the College (i.e., airfare booked through the College Travel Office, conference registration fees, etc.) should be reported on the face of the travel voucher and carried over to the column titled, "Total Expenses CHARGED DIRECTLY to the College." These expenses, of course, are not eligible for reimbursement; however, documenting them on the travel voucher allows for a comprehensive report of all costs associated with a particular business trip.

*Signature Authority* Travel and Entertainment Expense Vouchers must be signed by the traveler and approved by his/her immediate supervisor or more senior officer in the department who has the authority to permit travel on College business and approve charges to the particular account(s). No employee is authorized to approve his or her own, a peer's or a superior's travel voucher or any travel charged to an account for which he/she is not authorized to approve expenditures.

*Use of Correct Expenditure Types* Once all travel or entertainment expenditures have been itemized on the voucher, employees must carefully account for their reimbursable expenses by allocating appropriate amounts to the GL Account or PTA Account. Further segregation into specific Expenditure Types help distinguish different types of travel and entertainment expenses.


Last Updated: 1/4/12