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.
This article provides helpful guidance on recent updates and common questions that the Business Expense Team receives about expense reimbursement policies and processes. For common questions related to travel, visit Stanford Travel Updates and Hot Topics.
For general help with business expense and reimbursement questions, contact the Financial Support Center.
For questions about purchasing and contracts, visit Purchasing and Contracts Updates and Hot Topics. The page provides guidance on recent updates and common questions that the Purchasing and Contracts Team receives about purchasing policies and processes.
Purchasing Card (PCard) and Travel Card (TCard) cardholders who contact JPMorgan Chase to activate or ask questions about their card must provide different identifying information starting September 1, 2023.
When contacting JPMorgan Chase, the cardholder must provide the last four digits of their Stanford employee ID, rather than the last four digits of their Social Security Number (SSN), and their date of birth to verify their identity.
This change helps cardholders reduce the use of their SSNs for identification.
The employee ID number, also called the University ID, is listed on the employee ID card, on the electronic employee ID in the Stanford Mobile app, and available on Axess in the My Axess Profile section.
In an ongoing effort to improve and streamline the Stanford Purchasing Card (PCard) experience, and ensure compliance with purchasing practices and policies, several enhancements to the Purchasing Card module within Oracle Financials launched on July 17. They include:
- Updated Business Purpose to ensure all components of a Business Purpose are included
- Updated Receipt missing? and Are you sending backup documents? to modify how verifiers respond to these questions
- Updated Was correct sales tax paid? to include additional tax locations and appropriate instructions
- New drop-down menu in Does this purchase include a personal expense? to provide more details and instructions
- New Populate Approvers button adds approvers automatically
Additionally, to continually improve and support purchasing practices and policies that are compliant, responsible and appropriate, the suspension process for improper use will be updated in November.
Learn more about these changes in the Fingate Announcement PCard Module Enhancements and Suspension Process Changes.
The visitor travel policy letter template, which explains the university’s travel booking and reimbursement policies for Stanford visitors, has been updated and clarified to align with current travel policy as of June 30, 2023.
The updated template includes expanded instructions and information for travel arrangers who work with visitors, including links to related resources and tax considerations for visitor travel reimbursements and payments.
The letter template is designed to be downloaded, customized as needed by the department, and shared with visitors to help them to book and be reimbursed for travel. The letter has been updated to align with business and travel expense policies that are currently published on Fingate. The updated sections cover:
- Which travel receipts visitors need to provide (Documentation Guidelines section)
- Type of transportation to choose, based on the distance traveled (Types of Transportation section)
- Class of airfare and route that is reimbursable (Airfare section)
- Policy for booking transportation to and from airports and rental cars (Ground Transportation section)
- Reimbursement policy for travel meals (Meals section)
- Tipping for meals and ground transportation (Tips and Gratuities section)
With few exceptions, expenses submitted more than 60 days after they were incurred will be reported as additional income to the individual, in accordance with Internal Revenue Service guidelines.
To prevent expenses from being treated as taxable income, a transaction must be prepared and submitted into the Expense Requests system in Oracle Financials with all appropriate receipts or backup documentation within 60 days after the end of travel (for travel expenses), the expense posted date (for non travel expenses), or expected clearing date (for advances).
When that timeline is not met, preparers are required to provide a reason and now also a written explanation on the Expense Request Review page.
This change helps Business Expense auditors understand the reason for the delay and allows them to review for an exception on late submissions at the time of audit. The goal of this process is to, where appropriate, reduce the number of 60-day tax letters sent to Payees.
The Review page in ERS was updated with this change in late May, and instructions are updated in How to Create Expense Report for SU Payees and How to Create Expense Report for non-SU Payees (Visitor Reimbursement).
Previously, the Business Expense team was called the Travel and Reimbursement team (T&R). References to “Travel & Reimbursement (T&R)” have been replaced with the name “Business Expense” in most sections of Oracle Financials. These terms refer to the same team within FMS. This central team, a part of Financial Management Services, is responsible for administering policies and reviewing and processing transactions for business and travel expenses.
Car service is not typically the most economical option for ground transportation, but there are special situations that may require the use of a car service, such as for a traveler who is traveling from a remote residence to the airport. To keep pace with rising transportation costs, the maximum reimbursement for car service will increase on June 1 to $300 (round trip) and $150 (one way). For reference, the previous car service maximums will also be listed on the Ground Transportation Policy page through September 1.
In response to campus requests, Cambridge, Massachusetts has been added as an exception city to the Lodging Policy page. Lodging in Cambridge that is booked April 12, 2023 or later will be reimbursed up to $330 per night, the same rate as nearby Boston.
- Business meal maximums increased by either $5 to $10 per person depending on the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, reception or refreshments, or reception and dinner combined).
- Travel meal daily maximums increased $15 for both domestic and international travel. When deducting a provided travel meal from a daily maximum, the recommended deduction increased $5 for each type of meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
For reference, the older meal maximums will also remain on these policy pages until early August.
Clarified definitions and guidance on purchasing airfare were added to the Airfare policy page:
- Recommended: Economy airfare, sometimes called coach. Look for fares that allow changes, and include certain flight components such as early boarding, a pre-assigned seat, and a carry-on and checked bag.
- Not recommended: Basic Economy airfare, which is the lowest airfare in economy class. Basic Economy fares are highly restrictive, may not allow changes, and typically don’t include the flight components of Economy airfare. For these reasons, the university does not recommend purchasing this class of fare, and Basic Economy fares are not displayed in the Stanford Travel booking channels.
- Permissible under certain circumstances: Higher fare classes, such as Business Class, are permissible under one of the following scenarios:
- International flights with a duration of eight hours or more (including connecting domestic legs, excluding layover time).
- A lower fare option is not available
- A medical waiver is requested and approved before booking travel
See complete details, as well as how to appropriately document and allocate these expenses, on the Airfare Policy page.
Clarified guidance for purchasing professional services and cloud services was recently added to the Topic Overview: Purchase Services page. The updated guidance includes:
- Professional Services: Should generally be procured through a contract. The updated professional services guidance also includes when certain professional services may be paid with a PCard either upon contract approval or without a contract.
- Cloud Services: All cloud computing accounts used for any Stanford-related activities—including development, student work, testing, learning and building production-ready solutions—should be part of Cardinal Cloud. Visit the University IT Cardinal Cloud page to learn how to join existing accounts to Cardinal Cloud.
Additionally, guidance related to purchasing hardware, such as computers, laptops, printers, and mobile devices was also updated on Topic Overview: Purchase Goods page.
Based on above clarified guidance, the non-permissible PCard expenses list was consolidated and updated with links to other UIT and Fingate webpages for more information on purchasing these items.
Consult Business and Travel Expense Policies for a list of impermissible expenses that may not be purchased or reimbursed unless specifically noted.
To better reflect current lodging costs, hotel and lodging rate maximums have been updated for most domestic locations for 2023 on Fingate’s Lodging Policy page.
The maximum reimbursement for domestic lodging increased from $220 to $250 per night. International lodging rates will continue to follow the federal per diem schedule.
Nightly lodging maximums also increased for most domestic exception cities (only available when using the actual reimbursement method), with several new additions:
- The San Francisco lodging maximum of $385 has been expanded to now include adjacent San Mateo County
- Austin, Texas and Honolulu, Hawaii have been added as exception cities, with lodging maximums of $330
These updated rates are effective for travel booked April 12, 2023 or later. For reference, the previous lodging maximum rates will also remain on the Lodging Policy page for several months.
Tips for meals should not exceed 20% and effective immediately, should be based on the subtotal that excludes fees only (such as for food delivery). Tax may now be included in the tip calculation, which is more consistent with pre-calculated tips offered by restaurants. The total cost of a meal, including any tips, must still not exceed the meal maximums listed on Fingate.
Also, to clarify and consolidate the current tipping policies for meals and ground transportation, the guidance has been moved to a new “Tips and Gratuities” section in the Business and Travel Expense Policies page. The Business Meals Policy page, the Travel Meals Policy page, and the Ground Transportation Policy page now reference the Business and Travel Expense Policies page for information on tipping.
Learn more on the Business and Travel Expense Policies page.
Because countries are no longer requiring COVID-19 tests and quarantining, airline travel has returned to pre-pandemic processes. In response, the Business Expense team is enforcing the standard travel periods for Stanford-sponsored travel published on Fingate.
Effective for travel on or after March 15, 2023, Stanford travelers may only arrive one day prior to a business event for domestic or international travel. Learn more about the travel period on the Airfare Policy page and the Lodging Policy page.
Non-Stanford travelers and visitors may use their personal funds for travel expenses and request for reimbursement after the trip. When personal funds are used, they are required by the IRS accountable plan rules to be reimbursed for actual travel expenditures up to the daily maximum, regardless of the funding source. In these situations, a visitor must submit receipts for expenses of $75 or more to receive reimbursement. Previously, guidance stated that receipts of any amount were required, but this has been updated to be consistent with the policy for Stanford travelers. Although individual schools, units or departments may still require all receipts. See complete guidance on reimbursement methods in Business and Travel Expense Policies.