The university pays directly or reimburses individuals for expenses that are necessary and appropriate to conduct university business. Expenditures must be consistent with the university’s purchasing policies and guidelines as well as the guiding principles and IRS regulations with regard to Business and Travel Expense policies.

Those who are making purchases on behalf of the university must use the appropriate purchasing and payment method. For example, some business expenses should be paid via a non-PO (purchase order) payment request, which is a direct payment from Stanford to the payee. Other expenses may be procured directly with a university purchasing card (PCard) or personal funds and then reimbursed with appropriate documentation. For purchases in support of university business, such as supplies, books and equipment costing less than $5,000, the university PCard or a purchase through the iProcurement system are the preferred purchasing methods.

The Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is the preferred payment method for travel expenses. Alternatively, personal funds may be used and a request for reimbursement can be submitted after the trip. The same policies and guidelines must be followed.

It is the responsibility of the individual making the purchase or incurring expenses, those who assist others with incurring expenses and those involved in the preparation and approval of reimbursement requests or financial transactions to exercise good stewardship of university funds and to adhere to university policies. The individual incurring the expense and the appropriate administrator must ensure that all costs are in compliance with university travel and business expense policies prior to purchasing. These roles and responsibilities are outlined in Financial Transaction Approval and Reimbursements and Expense Requests.

The university pays reasonable and necessary travel expenses within limits and guidelines when they are incurred in the course of university-related business travel.  

In order to be able to effectively support university travelers, Stanford requires the use of a centralized travel booking program when faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students are booking air fare, hotels, or rental cars for university-sponsored travel. The centralized booking program, Stanford Travel, automatically registers travel reservations in the university’s Travel Registry, which connects to Stanford’s provider of medical, personal, travel and security assistance. This provides the university with the ability to locate and support its travelers in the event of an emergency. More policy details are available in the Business and Travel Expense policy overview.

Specific reimbursement guidelines are available for the following travel expense categories:

Other Common Reimbursable Expenses

The following are other common reimbursable expenses, and their associated policies and resources. 

Expense Type Policy
Business Meals The university will pay for business meals, which is defined as a meal at which faculty, staff, students and/or guests are present for the purpose of conducting university business. Specific policy, guidance and limits, is available on the Business Meal Policy page.
Clothing Reimbursement is allowed for clothing that is required for an employee to conduct specific university business, such as commencement regalia; if the employee is required to wear the clothing as a condition of employment; and if the clothes are not suitable for any other use and not appropriate for everyday wear.
Conference and Training Fees
  • A conference program or agenda that includes the schedule of events is a required attachment to the expense report as supporting documentation. A conference website alone is not sufficient documentation because the site may be updated or removed over time.
  • Reimbursements cannot include expenses for spouses, such as lodging, meals or activities at the conference.
  • Meals included in the conference registration fee or hotel rates must be indicated on the expense report and must be deducted from the meal reimbursement portion of the expense.
  • The university provides tuition and training assistance programs, such as the Staff Training Assistance Program (STAP), which is administered by University HR. See more on the Cardinal at Work website.
Cell Phones and Internet Service The use of mobile equipment (e.g., cell phones, PDAs, PCs and similar devices) by Stanford employees in the course of their work is common. Stanford may provide cell phones, related devices and/or data or internet services to employees in order to improve communication, productivity and work efficiency; facilitate telecommuting and working between multiple campus locations; and to otherwise enhance the contributions of employees. Administrative Guide Policy 8.1.3 outlines the policy and process for these expenses in further detail and UIT maintains the process for selecting approved mobile equipment. Employees must obtain approval from their school or unit before purchase.
Dues and Subscription The university will pay for memberships to professional organizations and publications related to university business. The business purpose must include the length and duration of the membership.
Employee Gifts
  • Gifts for regular employees (50% full time equivalent, FTE, or more) to mark work-related achievements must be occasional and are expected to reward an employee for an immediate, short-term task, or accomplishment and must comply with university policy.
  • Length-of-service or retirement gifts may not be made within the employee’s first five years of service. 
  • Length-of-service gifts may not be made more frequently than every five years and should include the number of years of service in the business purpose.
  • Other gifts (not retirement or years of service gifts) that are valued at more than $50 are tax-reportable, and expense reports must include the payee's Employee ID number and home address for tax purposes
  • Gifts cannot be in lieu of extra earnings, i.e., overtime pay or retroactive pay. Gifts should not be given for assuming additional duties while another employee is on leave or for a vacant position. In these instances, managers should consider the bonus & incentive program and have a conversation with the school or unit human resources manager to determine the appropriate option.
Employee Morale
  • The university pays or reimburses for occasional employee morale activities, local retreat and team-building events. For example, costs of employee service and retirement awards, recognition, flowers (for bereavement, serious illness or family crises), retirement party food and recreational activities. 
  • Employee morale cannot be charged to Federal sponsored awards.
  • Non-SU employees cannot be charged to employee morale expenses.
Human Subjects

Human subjects are people who participate in research studies. Specific guidelines dictate how human subjects can be compensated. More detail is available on the Human Subjects overview page.

International/Foreign Travel Expenses Stanford will pay actual costs for Stanford travelers to acquire passports, visas, tourist cards, necessary photographs, birth certificates, required inoculations, immunizations, health cards and fees for the conversion of funds to foreign currencies. For more details, refer to Topic Overview: International Travel for more information.
Laundry Service Laundry service is a reimbursable expense only if the business trip exceeds six days.
Moving/House Hunting Expenses As outlined in university policy, some expenses are subject to tax reporting and will be submitted to Payroll.


A list of common non-reimbursable expenses is outlined on the Business and Travel Expense Policies fundamentals page. If a purchase or expense is identified as non-compliant, Stanford may consider the acquisition effort null and void and decline to pay or reimburse the expense.


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