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Accountable Advances

An accountable advance is a cash payment to an individual to cover future expenditures after all other University payment options have been examined.

Generally, accountable advances should only be approved for the purposes of travel or subject payments; but in rare situations where no other payment options are available, an accountable advance is available for non-travel expenditures.

Accountable advances are issued only under the approval of a Principal, Dean, Director or Chair and must be recorded against a University employee number. See Obtaining and Accountable Advance below.

This section includes:

An Accountable Advance – Things to Consider

Accountable Advances – When They Are Appropriate / Inappropriate

Accountability

Obtaining an Accountable Advance

Settlement of an Accountable Advance

Other References

Contact Information

 

In addition to this section, please read Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses prior to requesting an accountable advance, which covers policies and guidelines in this area.

 

An Accountable Advance – Things to Consider

Since it is the least economical method of financing university expenditures, an accountable advance should only be requested after all other available options have been considered. Consider the following:

  • University cash is disbursed before goods and or services are obtained;
  • Additional administrative burden; essentially preparing and processing documents for one activity twice:
    • the preparation, approval and submission of the advance request form;
    • the preparation, approval and submission of the advance settlement form after the expenditures are incurred.

For security reasons, it is recommended that accountable advance cheques be converted to traveller’s cheques. This recommendation, and the security concerns with respect to traveller’s cheques, generally makes this option less convenient than using a credit card.

Credit cards are a viable alternative to an accountable advance:

  • University Travel and Hospitality Card. Available to all full-time appointed academic and administrative staff. The turnaround time for issuance of cards is approximately 2 to 3 weeks from the time the application is received by the Procurement Services Department.
  • Personal credit cards. Unless there are factors which delay the submission of a reimbursement claim, reimbursement can be obtained before payment is due to the credit card company.

There are a variety of other options for expenditures (excluding travel expenses) that are available through the University:

Accountable Advances – When They Are Appropriate / Inappropriate

 

APPROPRIATE USES

When Cash is Required

When travelling on University business it may not always be possible to use credit cards, particularly in remote locations. In these cases, an accountable advance may be the only viable option. In addition, when cash is required to reimburse research participants (i.e. subject payments), an accountable advance may be requested.

 

INAPPROPRIATE USES

Advance Travel Arrangements
When travel arrangements are made in advance in order to obtain advantageous rates, an expense reimbursement claim should be completed. An accountable advance cannot be used for the purchase of airline tickets. See the sub-section Personal Credit Card in the Travel Policy and Guidelines section of this guide.

Purchases to be made through the Procurement Services Department for equipment and supplies in excess of $5,000
When an individual will be conducting university business away from the University and it is expected that expenditures in the field will be required in excess of this amount, the advice of Procurement Services should be sought. Procurement Services will be able to advise on what steps might be taken to ensure an advantageous price and exemptions from tax or duties where appropriate.

In this case, and where emergency field expenditures are required, an explanation should be included with the accountable advance settlement

Most Payments to Individuals
Except for the reimbursement of expenses, payments to an individual (for services performed) who is:

  • a Canadian resident under the Income Tax Act even if the service is rendered outside Canada, or
  • a non-Canadian resident who renders the service in Canada

are processed through the Payroll Department in order to ensure that the complexities of the Income Tax Act are appropriately applied and to meet legislative requirements to report, deduct and remit amounts in respect to the payment.

Where difficulties in following these directives are anticipated, please call the Manager, Payroll Services at 416-978-2814 for advice before payment is made.

Alternative uses than those for which the advance was requested
An accountable advance should not be used for expenses other than those for which it was requested. If not required for the stated purpose, the advance should be returned to Accounts Payable as soon as possible with an Accountable Advance Settlement form, and an explanation as to why the advance was not used for the designated purpose.

As well, if the purpose of the accountable advance (i.e. travel) is significantly delayed (i.e. by three weeks or more), the accountable advance should be returned to the University.

For assistance, please contact Accounts Payable at

 

Accountability

The Importance of Prompt Settlement
The University’s accounts are subject to an annual external audit. In addition, research awards are increasingly subject to independent audit. Advances not settled within a reasonable timeframe may lead to the perception that the University is not sufficiently sensitive to the need for proper accountability.  All accountable advances are to be settled within three weeks after travel or activity has been completed as noted in the initial request.

Administrative Efficiency
Delays increase the risk of misplacing related expenditure documents or of being unable to efficiently supply additional information if required.

Accurate financial reporting
If expenditures are incurred or if there are unspent funds to be returned to the University it is important that settlement be processed in the fiscal period (i.e. reporting period) in which the expenses are incurred.

University annual financial reporting
The University’s fiscal year ends on April 30 and, therefore, it is important to settle all advances for activities completed prior to April 30.

Reporting to research sponsors
When an advance is to be settled to a grant, careful attention must be paid to the fiscal period for the grant. The major granting councils’ year-end is March 31st.

When to Settle an Accountable Advance
An accountable advance should be settled as soon possible, the latest within three working weeks following completion of travel or other activity for which the expenses were incurred.

 

Obtaining an Accountable Advance

Timing of request:
The request should be submitted no more than 3 weeks prior to the time the funds are required. Once the form has been completed (see below) processing turnaround is approximately 5 business days.

Approvals required:
The request should be approved by the head of the unit to which the individual is affiliated:

  • For academic units: Principal, Dean, Director, and Chair
  • For administrative units: Director, Manager.

This responsibility cannot be delegated. If the requester is the head of the unit, there must be “one-up” approval.

Who may obtain an Accountable Advance:
The advance must be recorded against a university employee number. This means that an advance may be issued as follows:

  • to a full-time appointed employee under his/her employee number,
  • to a casual employee under his/her employee number, or
  • to a non-employee under the employee number of a full-time appointed employee who accepts responsibility for settlement of the advance.

Note: An accountable advance is a payment in trust to an individual for future expenditures. Cash advances should be issued only where there is means to hold the individual accountable and ensure that:

  • the funds will be spent only for the purposes expressly approved,
  • the requirements for accountability will be met, and
  • funds not required for the specified purpose will be returned promptly to the University.

Accordingly, advances should generally only be issued to full-time University employees.

Form:
An Accountable Advance form is used to request an accountable advance.  All requests must include an expense breakdown of how the funds are anticipated to be spent.

Submitting the Completed Accountable Advance Form
Forward the completed form with original signatures to:

Accounts Payable
Financial Services Department
215 Huron Street, 2nd Floor
Toronto, ON M5S 1A2

Retain a second copy as the Departmental copy.

Outstanding Accountable Advances
At month-end, an accountable advance statement is systematically produced for individuals showing accountable advances expected to be settled in the following month. The settlement date on the report is based on information provided in the request. The report has the following information:

  • Account number (of the payee) and payee’s name
  • Departmental address
  • The original accountable advance document number (request number)
  • Settlement date
  • The amount of the accountable advance
  • The document number for the original payment of the advance
  • Funding source charged with the accountable advance (e.g. Fund Center and Fund)

If for any reason settlement cannot be completed within one month from the statement date, advise Accounts Payable. Otherwise, the settlement must be submitted using the procedures below for Settlement of an Accountable Advance.

The department is ultimately responsible for the repayment of the accountable advance, therefore it is recommended that departments track any outstanding accountable advances relating to their staff.

Settlement of an Accountable Advance

Once the purpose of the accountable advance (e.g. travel) has been completed, complete the Expense Report / Accountable Advance Settlement form. Also available is the Instructions for Completing the Expense Report / Accountable Advance Settlement form.

Accountable advance settlements are to be settled within 3 weeks of return of travel or activity completion as noted in the original request.

Forward the completed and approved Expense Report / Accountable Advance Settlement form to:

Accounts Payable
Financial Services Department
215 Huron Street, 2nd Floor
Toronto, ON M5S 1A2

If the approved expenses claimed exceed the advance, a cheque will be issued to the claimant for the amount of the expenses, less the advance.

If the advance exceeds the total expense claim on the Expense Report / Accountable Advance Settlement form, the claimant must include a cheque for the difference payable to the University of Toronto, submitting the cheque with the Expense Report / Accountable Advance Settlement form to Accounts Payable. DO NOT SEND CASH!

 

Other References

Courses / Workshops offered by the FAST team that relate to this topic include:

  • Managing Travel Expenses, and
  • ERDD (Expense Reimbursement Direct Deposit) Workshop.

Please check with the FAST team Workshops for the most current schedule.

 

Contact Information

If you require additional clarification please email .

 

Last revision January 2016