Travel, Meals, and Entertainment Expenditures

I. Scope

This policy applies to all George Mason University employees, students, and all other organizations and individuals that travel at university expense (“Travelers”) or who incur meal or entertainment expenditures in the course of university business. Compliance with this policy and all related procedures is the responsibility of the person incurring expenses on behalf of the university and those who certify compliance with these requirements by verifying funding availability and approving expenditures.

 

II. Policy Statement

As an Agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, George Mason University has a public obligation to ensure that all expenditures are reasonable, necessary, and that they support the mission of the university.  Expenditures must be reviewed for compliance with this policy and the procedures on the Fiscal Services webpage.

Records of expenditures may be disclosed pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, and individuals are expected to exercise prudent judgment when incurring business expenses.

Actual receipts for all expenses, except for meals and incidental expenses (reimbursed on a per diem basis) and transportation costs below $75 per instance are required to be submitted.

Reimbursement requests and all supporting documentation must be submitted through the Mason Finance Gateway within 60 days of trip or event completion. Reimbursements submitted more than 60 days after trip or event completion are subject to taxation.

The University will not reimburse expenses that have been or will be paid by other payers. The University will not reimburse any expenses that were charged directly to P-Card. The reimbursement received by an individual from all sources must not exceed the total expenses incurred by that individual.

 

III. Responsibilities

Travelers are responsible for performing their travel duties in conformity with the provisions of this policy and must submit legitimate and complete documentation to support their travel reimbursement claims.  Travelers are responsible for reviewing and approving documentation if prepared by a delegate.

Employees, students, and all other organizations and individuals who incur meals and/or entertainment expenses in the course of university business are responsible for performing their official duties in conformity with the provisions of this policy, and must submit legitimate and complete documentation to support all purchases.

Principal Investigators (PIs) and Unit Administrators are responsible for reviewing award budgets and travel restrictions when sponsored research funds are charged to ensure that travel, meals and entertainment expenses charged to sponsored funding are allowable. Review the Travel and Fly America Act section under Sponsored Expenditures located on the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) website at https://osp.gmu.edu/sponsored-expenditures/.

Supervisors are responsible for reviewing and monitoring all travel, meals and entertainment expenses that they approve. Such approval will ensure compliance with this policy and certify that the expenses were necessary, appropriate, and incurred while on official university business.

Org Approvers (fiscal officers within a unit) are responsible for reviewing and monitoring all expenses that they approve. Such approval will ensure compliance with this policy and certify that the expenses were necessary, appropriate, and incurred while on official university business.

The Office of Research Integrity and Assurance (ORIA) is responsible for reviewing and approving international travel in advance of traveling to a comprehensively embargoed country (e.g., Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and the Crimea region of Ukraine) OR to a militarily embargoed country for a Traveler who works with data controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). A list of currently embargoed countries is available at https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/embargoed_countries/.

The University Travel Advisory Committee (UTAC) is responsible for reviewing and approving international travel in advance of traveling to countries or areas under U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories Level 3 and 4, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Level 3 warnings, or countries under comprehensive economic sanctions.

The International Tax Office is responsible for reviewing and approving travel in advance when the Traveler is a non-immigrant visa holder.

The Purchasing and Accounts Payable Department is responsible for administering the provisions of this policy and providing guidance on travel, meals and entertainment expenses.

The Controller is responsible for reviewing and providing approval/denial of any exception to the provisions of this policy. Exceptions will only be considered if submitted in advance of the travel.

 

IV. Travel Transactions

Domestic Travel

A domestic trip where costs are not expected to exceed $1,000 must be approved verbally in advance by the Traveler’s Supervisor.

A domestic trip where costs are expected to exceed $1,000 must be approved electronically in advance by the Traveler’s Supervisor and the associated Org Approver. A Mason employee Traveler or their delegate must complete a Pre-Approval in the Mason Finance Gateway and receive approval prior to travel.

Local Travel

Non-commuting travel expenses may be reimbursed when a Traveler must travel in the local area on official business. Normal commuting mileage and expenses are not reimbursable; only the net additional mileage or expenses may be claimed.

An employee generally will not be reimbursed for lodging within 25 miles of his/her work place, office, or official station. If extenuating circumstances and budget permit, an employee may request an exception and obtain advance approval for lodging in the local area. A Pre-Approval, approved by the employee’s Supervisor and Org Approver, may be submitted to the Controller for consideration. To request an exception the Travel Office must be contacted at least 14 days prior to reserving local area lodging for an employee.

Local area lodging paid for guests of the university (e.g., employment candidates) are considered travel expenses. Contracts with local area hotels are listed on the Travel Office webpage at the Fiscal Services website and should be billed directly to Mason. Guests who obtain their own lodging will be reimbursed up to the allowable lodging rate reflect in the Mason Finance Gateway.

International Travel

All international travel must be approved electronically in advance by the Traveler’s Supervisor and the associated Org Approver. The Traveler or delegate must complete a Pre-Approval and receive approval prior to travel.

The Office of Research Integrity and Assurance (ORIA) must approve, in advance, when international travel is:

  • To a comprehensively embargoed country (e.g., Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, the Crimea region of Ukraine and Syria).
  • To a militarily embargoed country (list of these countries available at: http://pmddtc.state.gov/embargoed_countries/  ) for a Traveler who works with data controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

The University Travel Advisory Committee (UTAC) must approve, in advance, when international travel is:

  • To countries or areas under U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories Level 3 and 4, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Level 3 warnings or countries under comprehensive economic sanctions.

Mason provides International Emergency Insurance for employees travelling on university business overseas. To obtain insurance coverage documents please complete the International Emergency Insurance Registration Form and submit to the Office of Risk Management at least two weeks prior to your trip.

Group Travel

Occasionally, employees may supervise a group of students on a university-sponsored activity that requires travel outside of the local area. In these situations, the employee must contact the Travel Office for guidance. Group travel may qualify for a Travel Advance to reduce out of pocket expenses for students. Travel involving Mason employees only does not qualify as group travel and individual Travelers will be responsible for their own business travel expenses.

Personal Travel with Business Travel

Occasionally a Traveler may take a trip that includes both personal and business travel or the trip may originate/culminate at a location other than the base location, due to personal reasons. When personal and business travel is combined, the Traveler may only be reimbursed for expenses equal to or less than the cost incurred if originating/culminating at the Traveler’s base location (excluding personal travel). In addition, when the cost of the additional personal travel exceeds the business travel expense, Travelers may not use any form of Mason payment (Mason P-Card or Travel Agency billing). The Traveler is required to add an annotation in the “comments” section of the Pre-Approval and Expense Report that the trip includes both personal and business travel. Specific dates of personal travel must be noted. Specific instructions are available in the Personal Travel with Business Travel Guide.

 Special Accommodations

Mason complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Office of Compliance, Diversity and Ethics must certify Travelers requiring special accommodations due to physical or other disabilities prior to making trip arrangements.

 

V. Non-Travel Transactions

Meals and Entertainment Expenditures

The Commonwealth of Virginia prohibits expenditures for employee personal expenses, including meals, snacks, entertainment, and refreshments. There are limited circumstances in which it is considered appropriate to provide food and beverages to personnel who are not in travel status as described in the Food and Beverage Procedures (https://fiscal.gmu.edu/food-beverage-overview/). Participant Funded events, where the food/beverage costs are paid solely from participant fees (i.e., registration fee) are not subject to the policy.

Food/Beverage may not be provided at regularly scheduled or routine meetings (i.e., monthly staff meeting, quarterly unit meeting) or as a way to boost morale or promote goodwill among employees. Alcohol and Flowers are prohibited.

For business purposes there are three basic types of food purchases that occur at Mason:

  1. Catering is the activity of providing food and drink for a group of people, typically with services such as setup, staffing, and cleanup included. Catering must be billed directly to the university and is not a reimbursable expense.
  2. Business meals are defined as a meal involving substantive and bona fide business discussion provided at a commercial dining establishment open to the general public, or at a university location as long as no service other than delivery/pickup is provided. A business meal may occur in travel or non-travel status.
  3. Supplies/Food and Drink is the purchase of food, drink and supplies that does not include any vendor-provided services.

Entertainment Expenditures

In very limited circumstances, it may be considered appropriate to incur entertainment expenses during a business meeting that involves substantive and bona fide business discussions with an outside party, or parties, in attendance.

 

VI. Grants and Contracts

This Policy, and accompanying procedures, applies to travel, meals, and entertainment conducted in support of grants and contracts sponsored by outside agencies unless the underlying grant or contract specifically provides different reimbursement policies or rates. Pre-Approvals and Expense Reports applying this exception must provide a statement to this effect signed by the Principal Investigator and the Associate VP for Research Operations.

 

VII. Dates

A. Effective Date:

This policy will become effective upon the date of approval by the Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance and the Provost and Executive Vice President.

B. Date of Most Recent Review:

December 15, 2020

 

VIII. Timetable for Review

This policy shall be reviewed and revised, if necessary, annually to become effective at the beginning of the University’s fiscal year, unless otherwise noted.

Approved:

__/S_____________________
Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance

__/S______________________
Provost and Executive Vice President

Date approved: October 11, 2004

Revisions approved: May 24, 2007
and August 13, 2008

Revised: May 23, 2012

Revised: February 11, 2013

Revision approved: June 24, 2014

Revision approved: March 12, 2018

Revision approved: March 10, 2021