Reimbursement of Entertainment Expenses
To provide guidelines for reimbursement of expenses incurred by University or affiliated corporation employees for business-related meals, alcoholic beverage service, and related events.
Employees of the University of Kansas and of the following affiliated corporations: Kansas Athletics, Inc. (KAI), the KU Memorial Unions (Unions), the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc. (KUMCRI), University of Kansas Center for Technology Commercialization dba KU Innovation and Collaboration (KUCTC dba KUIC) and the KU Center for Research, Inc. (KUCR).
It is essential for the University to maintain a sound and defensible reimbursement policy for business expenses related to entertainment. The University is committed to maintaining integrity and fiscal responsibility in the approval and accounting of benefits provided to employees, including meals or entertainment expenses that are funded by the University or by one of the University’s affiliated corporations for business purposes. The affiliated corporations (corporations) covered by this policy include Kansas Athletics, Inc. (KAI), KU Memorial Unions (Unions), the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc. (KUMCRI), University of Kansas Center for Technology Commercialization dba KU Innovation and Collaboration (KUCTC dba KUIC) and the KU Center for Research, Inc. (KUCR). Such expenses paid for the benefit of employees require consideration of state ethics requirements, federal tax laws, reasonableness of cost, and appropriateness of expenditure. For purposes of this policy, University resources include funds on deposit with the State, the Kansas University Endowment Association (KU Endowment), KUMCRI, KUCR or other affiliated corporations, although not all University funds reimburse in the same manner. The Lawrence and Medical Center campuses have policies that dictate which funds can be used for specific expenses.
Definition of business purpose:
A business purpose is defined as one that supports or advances the goals, objectives, and mission of the University; and adequately describes the expense as a necessary, reasonable, and appropriate business expense for the university.
Meal expenses while entertaining others that are to be paid directly to a vendor or through reimbursement to employees, whether incurred on or off campus, will be allowed only for substantiated University business purposes. (Note related policies listed below in this document for purposes of payment of employee travel expenses.)
Reimbursement for entertainment meal expenses will be limited as described below. The meal expense limit encompasses food, alcohol, gratuity, and sales tax expenses associated with each meal, and is outlined in the table below. The calculated expense limit for the current fiscal year will be posted on the KU policy website.
Entertainment Reimbursement Table: Meals
|Borough of Manhattan and D.C.||$48.75||$48.75||$97.50|
Listing of High Cost and Special High Cost Areas Available here.
In order for an employee to obtain reimbursement for the meal expenses of a non-employee guest such as a visiting scholar or a candidate for a University position, there must be an established business purpose for the guest’s participation in the activity. When seeking reimbursement, the employee hosting the guest must provide a clearly stated and established business purpose including why the guest's attendance was necessary.
Individual Meal Expenses for Spouses and Family Members
In order to avoid even the appearance of an impropriety, business meals for spouses and other family members of employees are normally not reimbursed. A spouse or family member’s meal may be reimbursable if a bona fide business purpose is established when the spouse’s or family member’s presence serves an unquestionable University business interest and when the spouse or family member actually spends a substantial amount of time assisting in accomplishing the employer’s purpose. According to IRS regulations, mere performance of social functions does not sufficiently meet these requirements. The presence of the spouse must be essential, and not just beneficial, to the employee’s ability to carry out a business purpose for the University.
Examples of scenarios in which an employee spouse could be serving a university business purpose:
- Spouse of the chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor, or a dean when meeting alumni or engaging in fund-raising events.
- The spouse of an employee who is hosting a visiting lecturer who travels to the University to make a presentation at which the visiting lecturer’s spouse is present.
- Meals associated with recruitment of a prospective faculty member whose spouse is in attendance.
- University events held at the employee’s home when the spouse participates as a host.
Group Meal Expenses Associated with Employee and Graduate Student Recruitment
When hosting candidates, search committees are charged with portraying the University of Kansas in the best light while demonstrating fiscal accountability and appropriate stewardship of University resources. Meal expenses involving members of the search committee are reimbursable from KU Endowment and other authorized funds. Candidates’ meal expenses incurred while traveling or while on their own time (e.g., breakfast in the hotel before interviews) will be reimbursed with other related travel expenses included in a Contractual Services Agreement. Reimbursement of meal expenses will not be authorized for spouses or for faculty and staff who are not directly involved in the search or recruitment process. Reimbursement for employee and graduate student recruitment meals generally will be limited to three members of faculty, staff or student body plus the candidate.
School or departmental events:
Regular: University schools and departments host many events that have a clear business purpose: e.g., receptions for new faculty and students at the beginning of the academic year, staff appreciation and recognition, team building, donor and alumni recognition events. Regular events that do not need pre-approval are:
- Events associated with graduation, department conferences or workshops
- Holiday or beginning of the academic year events
- New faculty receptions
- Recruitment or fundraising events
- Staff development or morale. For reasons of employee training and/or morale and team building, it can be beneficial for divisions/departments to provide food and beverages for staff at retreats, celebrations or team building events.
- Retirement events held on campus
Spouses at regular events:
A department or school must obtain advance approval from the appropriate dean, vice provost/chancellor, or provost/EVC or for KAI, the Athletic Director, if spouses are to be invited to regular events for which University resources are to be expended. The following events do not need approval:
- Holiday or other recognition events if all department faculty and staff are invited.
- New faculty/administrator receptions, especially when the faculty member/administrator and spouse are moving from out of town and the purpose is to provide a social network for the faculty member and spouse.
- Events designed as recruitment or fundraising events that are specifically targeted toward employee spouses.
- A department dinner to recognize a distinguished professor who is new to the department.
University-wide events: Events that are held for the entire University such as opening convocation and graduation are planned centrally, seek approval directly through the chancellor’s office.
Distinguished Professor Recognition Dinners
Dinners held in conjunction with the recognition of new distinguished professors are hosted and organized by the provost at Lawrence or the EVC at KUMC. These events generally will be limited to one or two per semester and may be held on campus or off campus. These recognition dinners are considered to be in furtherance of official University business and reflect the University’s underlying mission of cultivating distinctive scholarship.
The distinguished professor who is being honored may invite up to 10 guests. Other participants from the individual unit involved may be invited to bring their spouses to the recognition dinner.
University funds (including KU Endowment, KAI, Unions, KUMCRI, and KUCR funds) generally may not be used for expenses associated with alcoholic beverage service unless the alcohol is purchased from and served by a licensed caterer (KU Memorial Unions for service on the Lawrence campus or an external licensed caterer or a restaurant for service elsewhere). An exception may be made for off-campus events at Departmental or School representatives’ homes at which only beer and wine are served. Use of this exception for off-campus events does not need further approval, but more than two of these a year are considered excessive and will trigger additional scrutiny.
This policy does not apply to the employees of the Kansas University Endowment Association (KU Endowment) and of the Kansas University Alumni Association (KUAA).
Meal or alcohol reimbursements from University funds will not be approved if the procedures described here are not followed.
Chief Business and Financial Planning Officer
University Resources: include funds on deposit with the State of Kansas, KU Endowment, KUMC RI, KUCR, or other affiliated corporations.
04/08/2021: Updated links in the Related Policy section.
08/07/2019: Added new links to Related Policy and Forms sections.
06/27/2018: Updated KUMC links.
07/11/2016: Updated to remove gendered pronouns.
04/18/2016: Removed FY 2015 from Meals table. Rates listed are in place until updated.
12/09/2015: Fixed broken links to High Cost Areas and KUMC policies.
10/06/2014: Published in the Policy Library. Prior to receiving final approval from the Chancellor, this policy was reviewed by deans, Business and Financial Planning, KUMC Vice Chancellor for Administration, KU-L Vice Provost for Administration and Finance, and General Counsel as well as leaders of KU’s affiliated corporations.