Meals and Incidentals

Requesting Per Diem on Travel

As detailed in the The George Washington University Travel, Entertainment, and Business Expense Reimbursement Manual, GW allows for the use of per diem only on meals for international travel. The U.S. Department of State rates for international meal per diem are built into Concur, but can also be found here.

Reimbursement of Actual Expenses

In all other cases, expenses are reimbursed on a cost-reimbursable basis and must be accompanied by a receipt. The GW Travel, Entertainment and Business Expense Reimbursement policy lists both allowable and unallowable expenses. This policy should be reviewed before traveling along with the sponsor's specific travel guidelines.

The following are some key points to remember:

  • All receipts $75 and above need to be itemized and include date of purchase, vendor name, unit price of the purchased items, and total amount with proper explanation.
  • Expenses that include other individuals besides the traveler (e.g., meals), require an explanation of who the other individuals were and a justification for including them in the expense for reimbursement.
  • Alcohol is generally prohibited from reimbursement. It can only be reimbursed if its usage is part of the design and scope of work as approved by the sponsor. Appendix B of the reimbursement policy linked above gives a listing of other unallowable expenses.

After the trip has been taken, expenses should be submitted using iBuy+ Expense Reporting.

Non-Travel Related Business Meals

Business meals can be charged to sponsored project, to the extent they are allowable under GW policies and sponsor guidelines.

Allowable Non-Travel Business Meals

The following conditions must be met in order for the meal to be considered allowable:

  1. The meeting includes a majority of outside/external participants, AND
  2. The meal is served at a formal meeting being conducted in a business atmosphere where the provision of the meal serves to maintain the continuity of the meeting, AND
  3. The activity at which the meal is being served is significant and integral to the goals of the project.

Documentation that supports meals as an allowable expense may include:

  • Meeting invitation that describes meeting purpose
  • Meeting agenda
  • Attendee roster
  • Description of the activity associated with the meal in the proposal narrative and/or budget justification

Unallowable Non-Travel Business Meals

  1. Meal expenses incurred for ad hoc meetings, such as working lunches and dinner, and routine lab gatherings are normally considered entertainment by sponsors and are not allowable.
  2. A PI who is not on travel and has lunch or dinner with a colleague and discusses research is not allowable – sponsors do not typically expect to pay for project-related discussions the PI chooses to conduct during mealtime.

Note: specific sponsors may have varying terms and conditions that differ from OMB Uniform Guidance. Always refer to the award’s terms and conditions for specific treatment of costs.