Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses – Policies and Guidelines
Policy for Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses
Guidelines for Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses
- Overriding Guidelines
- Methods of Payment (Personal Credit Card, University Travel and Hospitality Card, Accountable Advance)
- Air and Rail Travel
- Airport Transportation and Parking
- Vehicle Rental
- Use of Personally Owned Vehicle
- Group Travel
- Allowable Miscellaneous Business Related Items
- Professional Expense Reimbursement Allowance (PERA)
- Summary of Non-reimbursable Items
- Non-reimbursable Items, unless necessary for authorized travel
- Other Matters
How to Claim an Expense Reimbursement
- Complete Expense Claim Form
- Attach Original Receipts
- Obtain Approval
- Enter transaction into FIS
- Receive Payment
Records Management and the U of T File Plan
Policy for Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses
The objective is to define and allow for reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred by University of Toronto travellers for university business travel and other reimbursable expenses on a fair basis, providing the greatest possible flexibility. This policy is designed to rely on the goodwill and discretion of the employee and supervisor, while at the same time allowing the University to meet its stewardship obligations as a public institution.
This policy applies to all University of Toronto faculty, staff, students and others (excluding external service providers, e.g. consultants) who incur university travel and related expenses and to all university travel and other reimbursable expenses incurred regardless of their funding source. When granting agency guidelines or the terms of a specific award are stricter or impose greater restrictions, those guidelines will override University guidelines.
The University of Toronto will reimburse out-of-pocket, university business travel and related expenses that are legitimate, reasonable and appropriate for the business activity undertaken, and that meet the terms and conditions imposed by the funding source used to pay for them. The expense must have been personally incurred by the claimant, i.e. the claimant does not request reimbursement on behalf of another individual.
The guiding principle is that the individual should neither gain nor lose personal funds as a result of travel assignments. Original receipts from suppliers must support all expense reimbursement claim items, except for per diem claims where applicable. Where original receipts are not available due to shared funding arrangements, a copy of the reimbursement cheque from the other funding source should accompany the request for reimbursement from the University.
The mode of travel considered reasonable is that which provides adequate standards of comfort, convenience, safety and efficiency, and is the most economical option under the circumstances.
All expense claims should be submitted for reimbursement on a timely basis, and it would be unreasonable to expect reimbursement after more than one year after the related expenses have been incurred.
For guidance on individual travel expenses, see Guidelines for Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses below.
Approvals and Responsibilities
All expense reimbursement claims from University funds, whether operating, restricted, capital or ancillary funds, require approval on a one up basis by the person to whom a claimant reports. It is both the claimant’s and the approver’s responsibility to ensure that the expenses have been incurred for legitimate university business purposes; are reasonable in the context of the university business activity; and are in accordance with this policy, with applicable granting agency guidelines, or with the terms of the specific award, whichever imposes greater restrictions. As an Ontario Broader Public Sector (BPS) organization, U of T is also guided by the BPS expenses directive.
It is the claimant’s responsibility to incur reasonable expenses and to claim for reimbursement only actual out-of-pocket expenses for legitimate university business as supported by original receipts, and to provide the approver with all necessary documentation to assess the claim.
2. Signatures (Hand-written) or Electronic Approval
Depending on the payment method used, the authorization for the transaction requires either a hard copy signature(s), a digital signature(s) or an electronic signature(s).
- The completed paper Personal Expense Reimbursement form, with claimant signature and declaration, can be submitted with original receipts attached,
- The claimant can sign and make the declaration (that they have read the University’s regulations on reimbursements and confirm their compliance) on the envelope containing the receipts.
- Non-employee claimants (e.g. students and visitors) can include an email approval or electronic signature if providing an original signature is not possible/feasible.
- Print and sign the ERDD web form when using the ERDD on the web process.
- Electronic approval or a hand-written signature by the approver is acceptable
- Original receipts should be included with the expense reimbursement claim.
3. Faculty and Staff
It is recommended that faculty or staff planning travel should request authorization from the person to whom they report before committing any funds for the trip or for other reimbursable expenses. It is the traveller’s responsibility (along with the eventual approver) to ensure that any contemplated travel (or other expense) is necessary, appropriate, allowable and that there is an eligible source of funding.
- For a staff member, this would normally mean obtaining written approval prior to booking travel.
- For a principal investigator, travel may be an integral part of the research and obtaining approval from the chair prior to each trip would be impractical. Also, the principal investigator is aware of the terms and conditions of the funding, and is often in the best position to determine if the travel is necessary, allowable and that there is a source of funding.
If the faculty or staff member has any doubt, obtain approval for the travel or other reimbursable expense in advance.
The University is not obligated to reimburse an employee for travel (or other costs) that has not been previously approved. This could be the case if the purpose of the travel was not considered business related, there is no funding to cover the expense (e.g. the grant has ended or overdrawn), or a grant expenditure is ineligible.
The situation where a chair has not approved a principal investigator’s travel expenses would be similar to the consequences when a grant expenditure is ineligible or when a grant is overdrawn. The department would look to see if there are other eligible sources of funding and reimburse from those sources, if they exist. For example:
- from another grant or contract, or
- from the principal investigator’s share of University overhead costs or start-up costs
If no other eligible sources of funding exists, then the principal investigator would not be reimbursed.
4. Visitors and Students
Visitors and students are eligible for travel. This policy applies to visitors and students in the same way as for faculty and staff. For example, the requirement to provide original receipts and prompt submission of reimbursement requests are equally applicable to visitors and students.
Guidelines for Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses
The purpose of these guidelines is to assist approvers and claimants to determine the reasonableness and appropriateness of travel expenses by describing the standards for a number of commonly incurred travel and other reimbursable expenses.
In instances not covered by these guidelines or in unusual circumstances, the traveller and the approver should apply judgement to ensure that the expense is reasonable and prudent in the circumstances. If the approver is unsure, they should first follow divisional procedures and, if necessary, consult with the Controller and Director of Financial Services at 978-8503.
These guidelines represent the minimum requirements. In some situations, faculties / divisions / departments will institute guidelines which are more stringent than those in this guideline. In these situations, it is the faculty / divisional / departmental guideline that will apply.
- There must be an approved source of funding for expenses and these must conform in all respects to terms and conditions associated with the funding,
- Expenses charged to sponsored grants should follow these guidelines unless the granting agency guidelines (or the terms of a specific award) impose greater restrictions. Links to the various sponsoring agencies can be found here.
- Terms and conditions of research awards are contained in funding agency guideline publications or the Funded Research Digest (FReD) issued by the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation.
- Terms and conditions of other Restricted Funds, e.g. departmental trust funds, are contained in the administrative document/summary sheet prepared for each such fund.
Methods of Payment
It is not intended that a faculty member, staff member, visitor or student use personal funds to finance University travel costs prior to obtaining reimbursement from the University.
There are four payment methods that travellers may choose to suit what works best for their destination: 1) personal credit card, 2) University Travel and Hospitality Card, or 3) Accountable Advance.
Please note that the Purchasing Card must NOT be used to pay travel suppliers.
1. Personal Credit Card
Personal credit cards can be used to pay for travel-related expenses. Reimbursement of eligible costs can be requested as soon as these costs have been incurred, via an expense reimbursement form. Generally, incurrence of costs would happen during the period of travel and, therefore, the expense reimbursement would be submitted upon completion of the trip; however, there are situations when payment for travel-related expenses is required prior to the travel. Some examples include conference fees, airline tickets, and third-party booking sites for accommodation (e.g. Expedia). For more information on these specific expenses, see the sections on Allowable Miscellaneous Business Related Items – Conference Registration Fees, Air and Rail Travel, and Accommodation respectively.
2. University Travel and Hospitality Card:
The preferred method of payment for full-time employees who travel regularly is the use of the University Travel and Hospitality Card. The card is available to full-time employees upon approval of the Principal, Dean, Director or Chair (or higher). Refer to the Travel and Hospitality Card page on the Procurement Services website to apply for (including application form and completion instructions), make changes to, or cancel a Travel and Hospitality Card.
The Travel and Hospitality Card is to be used only for hospitality and travel-related services. The Purchasing Card can be used for the purchase of goods and services — see the Purchasing Card Administrative Regulations section for more information.
The University prefers employees use the Travel and Hospitality Card wherever possible as it minimizes the requirement to carry cash. This has safety implications for the individual traveller and cash flow implications for the University. The Travel and Hospitality Card is the most cost effective method of financing University travel.
The University has a travel and hospitality card agreement with Scotiabank Visa. This card provides employees with a wide variety of travel benefits including flight and baggage delay, car rental theft and damage, and hotel/motel burglary compensation and other benefits offered by the University Travel and Hospitality card provider. The Travel and Hospitality Card should only be used for U of T business purposes.
The Scotiabank Visa card is issued in the name of the employee, who takes personal responsibility for the payment of charges incurred with the card. The card allows 60 days from the statement date to settle an account thereby providing ample time to process an expense reimbursement claim and submit payment to Scotiabank before delinquency charges are levied. Note: The University is not responsible for delinquency charges and will not reimburse for these charges.
An expense reimbursement form should be completed by the employee and submitted for approval once the costs of travel have been incurred or the travel has been completed, which ever comes first. Original receipts must be included and attached to the Visa statement. (see How to Claim an Expense Reimbursement).
In rare circumstances, it may be necessary for the payment to Scotiabank Visa to be made directly by a University department on behalf of the employee. In these cases the standard reimbursement rules apply with respect to approvals (i.e. employee certification and one-up approval) and only those items covered in the GTFM can be approved and charged to U of T accounts. Furthermore, if the department processes the payment on behalf of the employee and for any reason the payment does not reach Scotiabank in time (problems with the cheque, delay in mail delivery, etc.), payment of any resulting late payment penalties is STILL the responsibility of the cardholder. Late payments are calculated based on when the payment has been received and processed by Scotiabank, not when the documents are posted in FIS. It may take up to 15 business days for a cheque payment to be processed, therefore the onus is on the cardholder to ensure the bank receives payment before late payment penalties are applied. The University department will NOT reimburse for these costs.
3. Accountable Advance
For travellers without a Travel and Hospitality Card, and for those destinations where credit cards are not readily accepted, accountable advances are available. Use of this payment option should be extremely limited as it is the least economical method of payment for the University. It requires the University to disburse cash earlier than with the Travel and Hospitality Card, or a personal credit card.
See Accountable Advances which discusses alternatives to an accountable advance, when an accountable advance is appropriate/inappropriate, the accountability issues surrounding this form of payment and provides links to related forms for obtaining and settling an accountable advance.
Air and Rail Travel
Travellers should request the lowest available fare at time of booking. Please note that the lowest available fare often is lower than the economy rate, but the traveller should take into consideration that such low fares may have restrictions such as being non-transferable or non-refundable. For train travel, refer to the approved suppliers for train travel on the Procurement Services website.
Because significant savings can be realized by making reservations in advance, all employees should plan their travel at least 14 days prior to departure.
The purchase of airline tickets can be reimbursed as soon as the cost has been incurred, i.e. there is no need to wait until the travel has been completed. Airline flights will be processed as an expense reimbursement and not as part of an accountable advance.
As with a regular return flight, a flight pass (i.e. multiple flight segments purchased at reduced rates) is reimbursable as soon as the cost has been incurred. The purchase of flight passes must be approved in advance and should be considered only when there is a high degree of certainty that travel will be completed.
No reimbursements can be claimed for air tickets purchased with frequent flyer points, as the University will only reimburse for out of pocket expenses.
2. Personal Travel Combined with Business Travel
When personal travel is combined with business travel, the employee will be reimbursed for only the business portion of the trip at the lowest available fare.
Where the allocation of business versus personal travel is not clearly evident, e.g. a multi-destination airline ticket where one or more of the destinations is for personal travel, an airfare quote for the “business portion only”, taken at the same time as the actual airline booking, should be provided to the approver. The airfare quote for the business portion of the trip will be the reimbursable amount, if this amount is lower.
A staff member plans to attend a conference in Calgary and, at the end of the conference, fly to Vancouver for some personal time off. When booking the travel arrangements, the staff member will:
(1) obtain a quote for the Toronto-Calgary-Toronto flight. This is the “business” portion of the trip;
(2) book the travel arrangements for the Toronto-Calgary-Vancouver-Toronto flight segments.
When submitting the request for reimbursement, the original invoice for the cost of the airfare booked (see item (2)) should be submitted along with the quote for the “business” portion obtained (see item (1) above). The quote for the “business” portion would be the reimbursable amount unless the actual amount paid for entire trip (see 1) was less.
It is the responsibility of the approver to ensure that the quote and the actual invoice are comparable and represent the same booking conditions, i.e. both amounts were obtained on the same day, etc.
It is strongly recommended that travel arrangements where personal travel is combined with business travel are brought to the attention of the approver prior to booking the travel.
3. Class of Service
Air – For domestic and international flights, the standard class of service is the least expensive economy class fare. All other business class and premium economy travel may be permitted (e.g., flights in excess of 6 hours, or for medical reasons) if pre-authorized by the principal, dean, director or senior executive to whom the traveller reports (see 5. Approvals section below).
Rail – The standard class of service is the least expensive economy class fare. However, to destinations where the travel time exceeds 4 hours (e.g. Ottawa or Montreal) a business class fare is permissible. The rationale is that the cost of business class rail service in these cases would generally be less expensive than travel by air when considering the inclusion of meals in business class rail fares, potential savings in travel to the airport, and fare differentials.
4. Receipt Requirement
Original receipts are required to support air/rail travel. In addition, while a boarding pass is not required, other acceptable documentation must be provided in a claim as proof of air/rail travel.
An original receipt must indicate the method of payment and the amount paid by the traveller (e.g. itinerary/receipt or ticket confirmation from the airline/railway). If proof of payment is not indicated on the original receipt, additional proof of payment is required, e.g. copy of credit card statement.
It is the responsibility of the claimant to provide the necessary proof of air/rail travel. Acceptable documentation to support an air/rail travel claim includes at least one of the following:
- A boarding pass (paper or a printed copy of the image of the electronic boarding pass that clearly indicates the flight/train information), or
- hotel bill at the travel destination, or
- taxi/transit receipts to/from the destination airport/train station, or
- meal receipts from the travel destination, or
- certificate of conference attendance.
For all air/rail travel (including segments/credits taken on flight/rail passes) the related proof that the travel occurred should be attached to the original expense reimbursement form, or clearly referenced to that form.
As stated in the Approvals and Responsibilities section above, it is recommended that one-up approval be obtained prior to any air travel since it is the traveller’s responsibility (along with the eventual approver) to ensure that any contemplated travel is necessary, appropriate, allowable and that there is an eligible source of funding.
Business Class or Premium Economy air travel is not encouraged, but in circumstances where it is deemed appropriate, approval from the principal, dean, director, chair or senior executive to whom the traveller reports must be obtained in advance of booking the flight. The approval documentation regarding the request for approval should be retained in the department.
In assessing a request for approval of Business Class or Premium Economy air travel, the approver should consider whether a member of the general public would agree that the higher rate is justified. Examples of circumstances that may justify travelling in Business Class or Premium Economy could include:
- physical constraints on a long flight segment (in excess of 6 hours), or
- medical reasons which preclude travelling in economy.
The lack of availability of economy seats due to late travel arrangements which could reasonably have been avoided through better planning would generally not be viewed as adequate justification for Business Class or Premium Economy travel. Where approval is granted, the approver is responsible for justifying the higher rate / class of service.
It is also recommended that requests for long flight segments (i.e. greater than 6 hours in duration) be submitted in writing to the head of the unit (principal, dean, director, chair or senior executive) who will provide written approval prior to booking travel. This is a requirement when the source of funding is not from a research grant. Where funding is from a research grant, the sponsor’s appropriate travel expense approval policy must be followed.
For group travel, the travel agency invoice will generally be made out to the faculty or staff member responsible for authorizing/arranging the travel. If this person is not among the travellers, he or she would approve the invoice. If this person is one of the travellers, the invoice should be approved for payment by the individual to whom this person reports. Prior approval of the owner of the CFC or Fund is implied by the above approval.
6. Air Travel – Other
- Frequent Flyer Programs – Employees may enrol in frequent flyer programs, but must not specify particular airlines for the purpose of accumulating points unless they are also the least expensive available fares. No reimbursements can be claimed for air tickets purchased with personal frequent flyer points.
- Insurance – Flight cancellation insurance is an allowable expense. Additional insurance (e.g. health insurance, which is already provided by the University) is not reimbursable.
- Seat reservation charges – Seat reservation charges are allowable.
- Reconfirming Flight Reservations – Reconfirming reservations and all flight times before leaving for the airport is recommended.
7. Flight Travel Restrictions
- No more than twenty-five percent (25%) of employees from the same department may travel together on the same flight.
- No more than twenty-five percent (25%) of the President, Vice Presidents and the Chief Financial Officer may travel together on the same flight.
Airport Transportation and Parking
The standard is the least expensive means of transportation for the most convenient, direct, timely route to and from the airport.
2. Receipt Requirement
The original receipt required is the supplier receipt, not just a credit card receipt.
When it is the least expensive mode of travel, the employee may claim kilometrage for use of a personal automobile to and from the airport and the related parking cost. See the Use of Personally Owned Vehicle section for more information.
Faculty and staff have access to Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) rates at a number of hotel chains and locations across Canada and Internationally. For more information, see CAUBO’s National Contract for Hotels section on the Procurement Services website.
2. Standard for Accommodation
The standard for accommodation is a single room with a private bath in a business class hotel. Use of luxury accommodation will not be reimbursed.
3. Receipt Requirements
As is generally the case with any reimbursable expense, the claimant must provide the approver with sufficient documentation to assess that the items for which the claim has been submitted are:
- legitimate, reasonable and appropriate for the business activity undertaken,
- were personally incurred and paid for by the individual requesting reimbursement, and
- the travel and hospitality being claimed were actually received by the claimant.
For accommodation, the claimant’s receipts should provide “proof of stay” as well as “proof of payment” (i.e. method of payment, name of payer and amount paid). Depending on the booking /payment method and the timing of when the payment is made (i.e. before the stay versus after the stay), the type of documentation available may differ but should still meet the documentation requirements noted above.
The following are some examples of different accommodation bookings and the types of supporting documentation that would be appropriate for an expense reimbursement claim:
Example 1: Book directly with a hotel
An original detailed “check out” statement of guest charges from the hotel showing the travel dates (proof of stay), the method of payment, name of the payer and the amount paid (proof of payment). If the proof of payment is not provided on the hotel stay receipt, then additional proof of payment documentation is required, e.g. copy of credit card statement.
Example 2: Book through third-party booking site (e.g. Expedia)
Bookings made through third-party booking sites are generally paid for in advance. The order confirmation from the third-party booking site will typically include the travel dates, the method of payment, name of the payer and the amount paid (i.e. proof of payment). If the proof of payment is not provided on the order confirmation, additional proof of payment documentation is required, e.g. copy of credit card statement. In addition, a statement of guest charges or hotel bill obtained from the host establishment at the end of, or after, the stay must be provided confirming the dates stayed in the establishment (even if no additional charges were incurred).
Example 3: AirBnB Rental
Bookings through AirBnB are generally paid for in advance. Proof of payment must indicate the check-in and check-out dates, details and location of the host establishment, and total charges including taxes and method of payment (e.g. credit card) and the payer (i.e. proof of payment). If the proof of payment is not provided on the billing provided by AirBnB, additional proof of payment documentation is required, e.g. copy of credit card statement. In addition, proof of stay documentation would be required and could consist of an email/message confirmation from the AirBnB host substantiating that the claimant did stay at their establishment/residence during the claim period.
4. Partner Accompanies Traveller
If a partner accompanies the traveller, the amount to be claimed by the traveller should only be the most economical room rate for a single occupant — any excess room charges to accommodate the partner are not allowable.
5. Long-Term Accommodation
If a staff member is required to spend more than one continuous month in a single location, appropriate arrangements for suitable rental or board and lodging accommodation at weekly or monthly rates should be made in advance of the start of the travel period.
6. Accommodation with Friends and Relatives (Gratuitous Accommodation)
Where lodging is provided gratuitously, a gift or payment in appreciation may be made up to the level set by the University. The current gratuitous lodging allowance is located here.
Rental cars should be used only when less expensive transportation is not available. Vehicle rental would be a reasonable method of transportation for round trip journeys up to 500 km. A rented vehicle should not normally be used for round trip journeys in excess of this distance. If a trip of greater distance is made, the maximum claimable expense is equivalent to economy air travel rate by the most direct route or rail fare with standard lower berth or roomette, whichever is less.
The Travel and Hospitality Card should be used where possible. Faculty and staff have access to Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) rates at a number of car rental companies. For more information refer to the Car Rental page on the Procurement Services website.
2. Standard for Vehicle Rental
The standard is a mid-size car. For group travel where a vehicle rental is the most economical means of travel, rent one vehicle for each four travellers. Request the lowest available rate at the time of booking.
3. Receipt Requirements
The original receipt required is the customer copy of the rental agreement, account statement, invoice and receipts for gasoline purchases.
4. Insurance – Vehicle Rental
- Domestic – The University receives free collision damage waiver (CDW) in North America when payment for vehicle rental is made with the Travel and Hospitality Card, therefore when renting vehicles using the Travel and Hospitality Card, decline this coverage. See travel insurance coverage on the Travel and Hospitality Card page for more information
Note: when the Travel and Hospitality Card is not used, the purchase of CDW is an allowable expense.
- International – When a vehicle is rented outside North America, both CDW and Liability insurance should be purchased. All other insurance should be declined.
5. Vehicle Rental – Other
- Promotional Rates – When picking up the vehicle, check that the lowest fare is offered.
- One-Way Rentals – Often contract rates do not apply on one-way rental and costly drop charges are imposed.
- Gasoline Refill – Gasoline is an eligible expense. Ensure that you fill up the gas tank before returning the car to avoid a costly gasoline surcharge.
- Business Purpose – The traveller is to provide specific information regarding the vehicle rental (i.e. person or organization visited and purpose of the trip) to support the expense.
Use of Personally Owned Vehicle
1. Use of Personally Owned Vehicle – General
It is recommended that a personally owned vehicle be used only for short journeys where this constitutes the most economical means of transportation or where no suitable public transportation is available.
The standard is that a personally owned vehicle may be used for trips up to 500 km in round trip length. For longer trips a traveller may elect to use his or her own vehicle, but reimbursement for kilometrage will be limited to the equivalent least expensive mode of transportation to and from that destination.
3. Rate of Reimbursement
All kilometrage travelled in a personal vehicle when conducting business (subject to the 500 km limit mentioned above) will be reimbursed on a cents per kilometre basis. The rates are reviewed and adjusted from time to time. The current rates can be found here.
4. Use of Personally Owned Vehicle – Other
- Transportation between campuses, which is not part of the employment contract or arrangement, may be claimed for reimbursement. No reimbursement can be made for travel to and from an employee’s residence and normal place of business.
- An individual claiming for use of a personally owned vehicle must have a current valid driver’s license and carry insurance on the vehicle that meets the minimum requirements of the respective province. Individuals using a personal automobile should have insurance coverage (public liability and property damage) of at least $500,000.
- It is expected that persons travelling to the same event will limit the use of a personal vehicle to one automobile, to the extent possible.
- All car expenses are covered by the kilometrage rate including maintenance, repair, towing and fuel cost. Additional charges for parking, bridge, ferry and highway tolls while on University business are eligible expenses.
- The person or organization visited, and the purpose of the trip, must be provided with the expense claim for a personally owned vehicle.
1. Meals – General
Actual costs, or a per diem allowance, may be claimed for meals on a University of Toronto business related trip. The business purpose should be indicated on the expense claim. Only reasonable food and alcohol consumption is reimbursable.
Employees will be reimbursed for business related meals when dining with other employees on a business trip, conference, reward, recognition or other appropriate business purpose. In such cases, the most senior university employee attending should pay for the meal. The names of the individuals, or the group, in attendance must be indicated on the claim.
2. Standard for Meals
The standard for meals is a restaurant in a business class hotel or other of equivalent quality.
3. Receipt Requirements
Original restaurant receipts are required for reimbursement of actual expenses (i.e. detailed restaurant bill). Please note that the credit card receipt may be used to substantiate the restaurant gratuity.
4. Per Diem Allowance
A per diem allowance may be claimed in lieu of actual costs. Per diem reimbursement is advantageous in circumstances where an individual’s actual expenses are difficult to separate from those of a group sharing costs (i.e. group meals) or when the record keeping involved in actual reimbursement would be unusually burdensome. Receipts are not required to support the per diem allowance. The per diem should be claimed only when meal costs are incurred and only while on University business, or during travel for University business. It should be noted that the per diem dinner rate could be used to claim dinner, while restaurant bills can be submitted for breakfast and lunch on the same day.
Click here for current per diem rates. These rates are reviewed and adjusted from time to time by the University.
5. Meals included in another reimbursable item
The meal per diem allowance is not available where meals are included as part of another reimbursable item. Examples include:
- transportation charge – a traveller who begins or ends travel midway through the day should not claim the full daily allowance. Similarly, if the staff member travels via train in business class (e.g. VIA 1) which includes a meal, a per diem meal allowance may not be claimed for this portion of the trip.
- conference fees
1. Hospitality – General
Reasonable costs of meals or hospitality, when providing for a specific business purpose, are reimbursable. Such hospitality might include social, athletic, and cultural events. There must be clear documentation as to the business purpose of the hospitality (e.g. taking out a guest lecturer for a meal, or interviewing a potential faculty member), noting the names of the individuals, or the group, involved. With respect to the reimbursement of alcohol, Faculties or Divisions are free to enact more restrictive rules around the provision and reimbursement of alcohol.
2. Business Entertainment of Non-University Employees
Business entertainment of non-University employees should be limited to the cost of meals and beverages furnished in a hotel dining room or restaurant of an equivalent quality. If alcohol is provided, moderate consumption and price point is the standard. Entertainment of a different variety, i.e. golf, tennis, athletic events, theatre productions, etc. require the prior approval of the department head.
Any University of Toronto employee hosting a business lunch, dinner or other entertainment event should limit the number of University employees and other participants attending to only those who can be expected to contribute directly to the accomplishment of the business purpose. Any on-campus hosted event that includes the provision of alcohol must follow the University’s Alcohol Policy. The Alcohol Policy can be viewed at http://www.food-beverage.utoronto.ca/beverage-services/university-alcohol-policy.
3. Entertainment of University Employees
Normally the cost of entertaining fellow University employees is not reimbursable, except in unusual/special circumstances. Such circumstances would include time limitation (extended work day), the nature and sensitivity of matters to be discussed, employee promotion or job performance (job well done), and employee retirement. A full explanation of the business purpose must be given on the expense report and one-up authorization should be received prior to the special circumstance. Alcohol may be provided at special social events such as holiday lunches, holiday parties, retirement parties and other social events and require prior approval of department head. Moderate consumption and price point should be the standard followed. For regular in-house meetings between University employees, no alcohol is permitted.
4. Home Entertainment of Business Guests
Upon approval of the department head, an employee may entertain business guests in ones’ home if it serves a specific business purpose. If alcohol is provided the University Alcohol Policy should be reviewed as a guideline.
5. Hospitality Expense Reporting
Hospitality expenses (i.e. meals and entertainment) must be paid by the most senior university person in attendance when other University of Toronto employees are present.
For situations where a group will be travelling together, it may be advantageous to work with the travel agency. A main feature of group arrangements is that the travel agency issues a single invoice. In these cases, the University will make a direct payment to the agency.
The travel agency invoice will generally be made out to the faculty or staff responsible for funding the expense. If this person is not among the travellers, he or she would approve the invoice for payment by signing the invoice and entering his/her title. If this person is one of the travellers, the invoice should be approved for payment by the person to whom this person reports.
Since payment is made on the basis of an invoice rather than on the basis of a personal expense reimbursement claim (to which the original portion of the airline ticket has been attached) the travel agency is requested to enter directly on each airline ticket issued “Billed to the University of Toronto”.
Refer to the reference guide Invoice Create (Non-Purchase Order Related) for instructions on how to process such invoices in FIS.
For those individuals who are visitors and need the ticket for their return airfare, the ticket stub should indicate that it has been reimbursed by the University.
Allowable Miscellaneous Business Related Items
The general principle is that an expense incurred on behalf of University of Toronto business is permissible and reimbursable.
1. Bus (Intercity) and Taxi Fares
Original receipts should accompany the expense report, including the business purpose of the travel.
2. Conference Registration Fees
Receipts should accompany the expense report, and would include the registration form / notice plus an original proof of payment (i.e. credit card voucher or statement of account, customer copy of a money order or bank draft).
Many payments for conference registration fees are completed on-line using a credit card. In these cases, the receipt would be the printout of the confirmation of registration provided by the website after payment which would indicate the amount of payment, the method of payment and any balance owing. If this information is not provided, it would be reasonable to require proof of payment e.g. in the form of a credit card receipt. Please note that a copy of a card statement with personal charges blacked out would be adequate. The University Purchasing Card may be used to register for a conference, provided prior approval was obtained.
Gratuities in reasonable amounts are reimbursable if services have been provided in addition to those considered normal. Such services include baggage handling (where excessive baggage is involved) and errand services for business related purposes.
4. Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
Laundry and dry cleaning services are allowable for reimbursement if the duration of the trip is in excess of 14 days, and the costs are reasonable with respect to the duration and purpose of the trip.
5. Telephone, Facsimile and Photocopy Charges
Employees travelling on extended business trips may telephone their home at reasonable intervals at the University’s expense. Justification for unreasonably high expenses must be provided on the expense report.
Original receipts should accompany the expense report.
7. Cell Phones
Reasonable measures should be taken to reduce or minimize any business-related cell/smart phone roaming and tethering charges when travelling on University business. If these charges are considered excessive, they may not be allowable expenses.
8. Excess Baggage
Most airlines are now charging for checked luggage. Charges for checked baggage are reimbursable when the University traveler is transporting University materials or when the extended period of travel necessitates excess personal baggage. In the event there is a charge for checking luggage, the University will reimburse the University traveler for a maximum of two (2) pieces of his/her checked luggage. Excess baggage charges (more than two (2) pieces, or oversized/overweight) is only reimbursable if justified by the traveler that it is required for conducting business of the University.
9. Internet Service Costs Used Solely or Primarily for Business Purposes
Internet service costs are more commonly being treated similar to home phone costs in that the majority of homes today have internet services for non-work related requirements. For costs to be eligible the department would need to determine that there was a University of Toronto business requirement for the internet use and that it was used solely or primarily for those business purposes.
10. Dependant care and related expenses
There are situations in which additional costs related to dependant care are incurred when an employee must attend a conference or other necessary University business travel. Examples include, but are not limited to, when a breastfeeding mother must travel with her child to a conference, or a parent/primary caregiver must pay additional child care costs or incur the cost of airfare for a child when travelling for business. This policy applies to the cost of care for child or adult dependants.
Dependant care claims will be considered when:
- the employee is required to be absent from their residence on authorized University business travel;
- the usual caregivers are unavailable or not scheduled to provide care; and
- expenses that are incurred as a result of travelling on business are additional to expenses the employee would incur when not travelling.
Actual costs or a per diem allowance may be claimed for allowable dependant care expenses with a declaration on the travel claim that the claimant had responsibility for the care of the dependant, the time period that the services were rendered, the caregiver’s name and telephone number, and confirmation that only one parent/primary caregiver has submitted a claim for dependant care. In addition:
- Actual costs – original receipts for services provided by an individual or company in the business of providing dependant care services are required;
- Per diem – a fixed allowance covering dependant care costs may be claimed, without receipts, in lieu of a claim for actual costs, up to a daily maximum of $35 Canadian, per household.
Other eligible costs incurred for the provision of dependant care may be considered (e.g. dependant’s airfare), when appropriately justified and documented as part of a travel claim. The guiding principle is that employees should neither gain nor lose personal funds as a result of additional dependant care costs when on University business. Pre-approval of additional dependant care expenses is required, and such approval would consider the existence of funding to cover these expenses (i.e. eligible grant or operating funds). If no eligible sources of funding are identified by the claimant, then these expenses will not be reimbursed. In addition, the approver is responsible for ensuring these costs are reasonable and appropriate.
11. Safety-related expenses
Safety-related expenses for field work, such as protective gear, immunizations, etc. are an allowable expense.
12. Carbon offset costs
Carbon offset costs related to air travel or other transportation is an eligible expenditure effective April 1, 2022. While the purchase of carbon offsets from a vendor’s carbon reduction program are eligible expenses (e.g., a program offered by an airline when purchasing a ticket), the University of Toronto has its own internal carbon offset program. A fee is retroactively assessed to any University funded air travel and collected funds are put towards internal projects that reduce University emissions. This program does not currently apply to research funded travel. While purchasing a carbon offset from a vendor is an eligible expense, it does not exempt the flight from the University program and a fee will still apply. To learn more about the program refer to the website.
Professional Expense Reimbursement Allowance (PERA)
For information on this program, see the Professional Expense Reimbursement Allowance page of this guide.
Summary of Non-reimbursable items:
- Passport costs,
- Costs relating to the NEXUS border clearing program,
- Parking, speeding and other traffic fines under any circumstances,
- Partner travel expenses on domestic or international trips, unless a specific business purpose is served. When accompanied by a partner the eligible expense is the most economical rate charged by the establishment for a single occupant,
- Personal travel insurance,
- Service charges (including annual fees) on personal credit cards and late payment charges (e.g. interest) on both personal credit cards and Corporate Travel and Hospitality Card,
- Difference between the lowest price economy fares and business / executive class fares, unless specifically approved in accordance with this policy,
- Personal entertainment expenses including (but not limited to) movies, hotel exercise facilities, cultural and sporting events, magazines, books, sightseeing trips, etc.,
- Travel stopovers, except those necessary for University business or are unavoidable,
- Meal per diems where meals have been included in another reimbursable item (e.g. conference fees, transportation, accommodation),
- The University will not reimburse employees for airfare if the flight was booked using personal airline rewards,
- Meals (whether the actual cost or per diem rate) of University employees while in attendance at a course, seminar or meeting on one of the three University campuses. For example, no reimbursement would be permissible for meals if an employee from the UTM campus were to attend a course on the St. George campus. Reasonable transportation expenses in accordance with this policy would be reimbursable,
- Items lost or stolen in transit.
- Club membership fees paid for personal recreation or socializing purposes, such as fitness clubs, golf clubs or social clubs (i.e. Faculty Club, etc.)
Also refer to the sections above for the eligibility of specific expenses, and the overriding principles that may result in certain expenses being ineligible.
Non-reimbursable Items, unless necessary for authorized travel:
- Traveller medical insurance. Certain granting agencies specifically disallow traveller medical insurance.
For these travel expenses to be eligible for reimbursement, justification must be provided with the employee expense reimbursement request as to why these costs were necessary for the trip.
1. Purchases which fall under the Procurement Policy
Where a claimant has made a purchase which is required under the University’s Procurement Policy to be processed through Procurement Services, and the price paid exceeds that which would have resulted under compliance with that policy, reimbursement of the excess amount may be disallowed. An explanation must accompany the claim.
2. Payments to Individuals for Services
- a Canadian resident under the Income Tax Act, even if the services is rendered outside Canada, and
- a non-Canadian resident who renders service in Canada
are required to be processed through the Payroll Department in order to ensure compliance with Canada Revenue Agency requirements for reporting and withholding taxes. These payments should not be made by faculty or staff. If you anticipate having to make payments to individuals outside Canada, please contact the Manager, Payroll Services at 416-978-2814 prior to proceeding with any payment. For more information on payments to individuals, please refer to the Taxation page for additional resources.
3. Foreign Exchange
In translating expenses paid in foreign currencies, the rate to be used should be as follows:
- For cash payments, the rate paid when the foreign currency was purchased,
- For credit card purchases, the rate used by the bank to convert the purchase to Canadian dollars,
- In the absence of a rate, the rate defaulted by FIS can be used.
Where proof of payment is not available, the Department should assess the reasonability of the rate by comparing it to the prevailing rate at the time the expenses were incurred. For rates that are not available in FIS, refer to the Bank of Canada nominal rates in effect for the specific day / period (see Bank of Canada currency converter)
4. Incomplete Receipts / Proof of Payment
The receipt/proof of payment must be original and clearly identify the item(s) or service(s) purchased. Where the receipt does not provide this information, the claimant should do so (e.g. titles of publications, types of supplies). If you are missing a receipt, refer to the section Attach original receipts below for the required process.
5. Partial Reimbursement
If the claimant is requesting reimbursement from the University for a portion of the costs incurred and the remainder from another organization, make copies of the original receipts and attach them to the reimbursement claim with a written explanation of the requirement that the original receipts are required by the other organization, and a declaration that the amount being claimed from the University has not and will not be claimed from any another organization. A copy of the reimbursement cheque from the other funding source should accompany the request for reimbursement from the University.
How to Claim an Expense Reimbursement
A. Complete expense claim form
Submit your expense reimbursement claim as soon as you have completed your trip, at the latest within three working weeks following completion of travel or other activity for which expenses were incurred. Timely reporting is very important to ensure that charges are recorded against departmental accounts and research grants in the correct accounting period and while a grant is still open and eligible for charges, and to avoid personal interest charges on credit cards (which are not eligible expenses).
If you have received an accountable advance, delays in submitting the expense reimbursement claim reconciling the advance with actual expenses could delay or prevent your receiving accountable advances in future. All employees who are six (6) or more weeks late in submitting expense reports are considered delinquent and are not eligible for future accountable advances.
Print out the Expense Report / Accountable Advance Settlement Form ( Excel; PDF), complete the required information and sign the form. Click here for detailed instructions on completing the form. Claimants with a valid personnel number and staff appointment status in HRIS are encouraged to use the ERDD on the Web process. For information on using the new ERDD on the Web process, refer to the relevant ERDD on the Web reference guide.
If you have any questions about completing your expense reimbursement form, please contact your business officer, divisional financial office, or Accounts Payable, Financial Services Department at 416-978-6593.
B. Include original receipts
- The principle is that original receipts, including digitally imaged receipts, issued by suppliers must support requests for reimbursement. For on-line purchases using a personal credit card, the receipt would be the invoice (or confirmation of purchase, registration, etc.), provided by the website after payment.
- Please note that receipts are very important for income tax purposes. The Canada Revenue Agency considers all amounts paid to individuals without receipts to be income to the individual and, therefore, taxable.
- See the section Guidelines for Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses above for the appropriate receipts for various types of expenses. If you are missing a receipt, please document this in writing, have the person to whom you report sign the document to approve its inclusion on the expense report, and include the signed document with the expense reimbursement in place of the missing receipt. The form Reimbursable Expenses For Which There Is No Original Receipt (i.e. Missing Receipts form) (Excel ; PDF) is available to facilitate this.
- Receipts are not required for per diems or claims for kilometrage.
- Minor expenses (generally under $10.00) that are difficult to receipt may be approved at the discretion of the individual approving the claim. Public transit fares, incurred for university business, and gratuities would be examples of such items.
- Organize receipts/proof of payment in the order of presentation of the item on the claim form.
- In the case of a large number of receipts, review of the claim can be completed more efficiently if the receipts are numbered and the numbers are entered on the claim form.
- Consider digitally imaging your receipts. Where receipts cannot be imaged, use staples (do not use paper clips) and if there are too many documents, place the receipts in an envelope and securely staple the envelope to the claim form.
If unable to comply in all respects with these requirements regarding expense reimbursement, include a written and signed explanation to the claim form report and draw this to the attention of the person responsible for approving the claim.
C. Obtain approval
Once you have completed the form (whether on paper, or printed from the web using the ERDD on the web process), signed it and attached the original receipts, have the expense reimbursement / accountable advance settlement approved by the person to whom you report. This responsibility must not be delegated. The approval of the person you report to indicates that the expenses are legitimate university business expenses and that they are appropriate and reasonable for the activity undertaken.
One-up approvers will review all employee expense reports for compliance with these policies and guidelines and will not reimburse an employee for expenditures that deviate from these policies without written approval of the department head.
Each faculty / department can (and often does) initiate procedures that are more stringent than the above “one-up” requirement. This could be the case in a large department where it may not make sense for the one-up approver to be the final approver when this individual may not have control over the departmental budget. These guidelines represent the MINIMUM requirements – faculties and departments are encouraged to initiate more stringent procedures where deemed necessary.
2. Approval of Claim – Visitors and Students
The claims of visitors and students are approved by the faculty or staff member responsible for authorizing the expense.
3. Alternate approval
If the person who is authorized to approve a claim is not available, the claim must be approved by the person to whom that person reports. In this situation, that means the approver must be the “two-up” (e.g. the provost, if the normal one-up is the dean, or the dean if the normal one-up is the chair). However, if there is an individual who is placed in an “acting” role and therefore taking over all the responsibilities of the approver (e.g. the assistant dean becomes the “acting dean”, or a professor becomes the “acting chair” of a department) then the individual in the “acting” role would be authorized to approve the claim since they are, in effect, taking over the responsibilities of that position.
It should be noted that when the “one-up” approver is available, they cannot delegate this authority to someone else.
4. Responsibilities of Approver
- Obtain assurance that expenses claimed are eligible and that receipts / proof of payment comply with requirements set out in the above portion of this section. The business purpose must be clearly documented such that the purpose could be reasonably understood by an outside party.
- The review should include an assessment of compliance with specific restrictions or limits, and should also include consideration of the necessity of the expense(s) and whether the most cost effective option(s) was selected under the circumstances.
- Review and, if in agreement, approve the claimant’s written explanation with respect to any items which do not comply with the requirements. Otherwise, return the claim to the claimant for adjustment.
- Obtain assurance that the claimant is the signing authority for the account(s) being charged or has the approval of the account signing authority.
- Obtain assurance that there are sufficient funds to cover the expenses.
- Reminder: The account(s) will be charged with the total claim less the applicable rebate of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
- When satisfied that the claim meets University requirements, signify approval by signing the claim form in the designated area.
D. Enter Transaction into FIS
1. Expense Reimbursement
- When the reimbursement has been authorized, the business officer will add the necessary coding and will enter the reimbursement (directly, or indirectly via the web) into the University’s financial information system.
- To process the expense reimbursement document in FIS, see the various applicable Expense Reimbursement Reference Guides for further assistance
- NOTE: If the claim includes the settlement of an accountable advance, it should NOT be entered into FIS by the department. Instead, it should be forwarded to Accounts Payable, Financial Services Department as per the next section.
- The system-assigned document number should be written on the envelope, screenprint or paper form.
- File the claim locally in the department.
2. Accountable Advance Settlement
- If an accountable advance was received in order to finance the expenses, the claim constitutes a settlement of the advance. All approved claims that are accountable advance settlements must be forwarded to Accounts Payable, Financial Services Department for review, entry into FIS and reimbursement. It is recommended that departments have procedures to track accountable advances to ensure advances are settled / repaid on a timely basis.
- If the advance exceeds the total claim, the claimant must include a cheque for the difference, made payable to the University of Toronto. DO NOT SEND CASH!
- In all cases of Accountable Advance Settlement, forward the approved accountable advance settlement, including all required attachments, to:
Accounts Payable Financial Services Department 215 Huron Street, 2nd Floor Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A2
- Refer to Accountable Advances for detailed information on applicability and use of accountable advances
E. Receive Payment
Within a short period of time after the reimbursement has been entered into the system, you will either:
- receive payment credited via direct deposit to the bank account on record in your employee file, or
- receive a cheque, delivered to the address on record in your employee file.
Records Management and the U of T File Plan
Please note that financial documents must be retained according to the U of T File Plan: Finance.
Documents relevant to this section would include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Departments – expense reimbursement documents, including the form which summarizes all expenses claimed, as well as the supporting expense receipts.
- Financial Services – accountable advance documents, including the initial authorized request, the settlement form which summarizes all expenses claimed less the accountable advance, as well as supporting expense receipts.
Generally, the above documents should be kept in your “Active” (office) files in the fiscal year in which the document was created (i.e. the “current” fiscal year). The document should then be placed in “semi-active” storage (a secure on-site storage area or an off-site storage facility, to be determined by the individual unit) for an additional six (6) fiscal years. Thereafter, the documents should be destroyed.
For example, personal expense reimbursement reports (and supporting receipts) entered into FIS in August 2008 would be retained in the office’s active files for the current fiscal year (2008/09). Once the annual audit is completed (in this case June 2009), the personal expense reimbursement forms (and supporting receipts) for fiscal year 2008/09 would be moved to semi-active storage through to the end of the 2014/15 fiscal year. These records should be destroyed after the 2014/15 annual audit (June 2015).
If you have any questions regarding the U of T file plan, please contact University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services.
Last revision effective October 9, 2023