3024.9 Expense Report Review and Approval Procedure (for Approvers and Auditors)

Procedure #3024.9; Rev.: 0 (Effective Nov. 16, 2023)
Related Policy: UW-3024 Expense Reimbursement Policy
Functional Owner: Accounting Services, Business Services
Contact: Expense Reimbursement Program Manager – Allie Watters, expensereimbursement@bussvc.wisc.edu, (608) 263-3525


  1. Procedure statement
  2. Who is affected by this procedure
  3. Procedure
  4. Contact roles and responsibilities
  5. Definitions
  6. Appendix
  7. Related references
  8. Revisions

I. Procedure statement

All payments made to employees and non-employees for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses are initiated in e-Reimbursement, the Expenses module of the Shared Financial System (SFS). Expense reports are reviewed by an approver and an auditor prior to payment. Approval routing is based on the Department ID referenced in the funding allocation for each expense line. When an expense report is ready for approval, approvers and auditors will receive an email notification prompting them to take action. Approvers and auditors must review expense reports for policy compliance, appropriateness of expenses, accuracy of accounting, and necessary supporting documentation.

This document details the required procedures for reviewing and approving an expense report in the Shared Financial System.

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II. Who is affected by this procedure

Employees who approve or audit expense reports.

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III. Procedure

To get started, sign into the Shared Financial System (SFS), click the Expense WorkCenter tile, then click the link for Approve Transactions in the Approve Transactions and Reassign menu along the left side of the window. This will populate a list of expense reports, cash advances, and travel authorizations requiring your approval.

  1. Overview Screen: After clicking Approve Transactions, the Overview screen of the approval queue will appear. In Overview format, the queue may contain expense reports as well as cash advances, and less commonly, travel authorizations. The tabs along the top of the page allow you to narrow your queue visibility to see only Expense Reports, Travel Authorizations, or Cash Advances. You may search for pending transactions by clicking the arrow next to Search Pending Transactions near the top of the page; searching by Transaction ID (10-digit expense report number) often proves helpful, but other columns may be selected for search terms as well, such as Name (employee/non-employee claimant name). You may also change the sort order of reports in your queue by clicking the arrow next to Change Sort Order. You may then sort your queue by any selected field (e.g. Total, Date Submitted) in ascending or descending order.
    1. Review columns in the Transactions to Approve table (click image below to enlarge):
      Screenshot showing the Overview and Transactions to Approve section in the Expenses WorkCenter (in e-Reimbursement within the Shared Financial System). Column headers for transactions to approve: Select, Urgency, Transaction Type, Total, Unit, Name, Employee ID, Description, Transaction ID, Date Submitted, Status, Role.

      1. Select: The checkboxes in this column can be used to Send Back or Hold multiple transactions as long as they do not contain an alert icon in the Alert column.
        1. Send Back: If sending back multiple reports at this screen, the same comments will be included with each transaction that is sent back to the Traveler for modification and resubmission. Note: Expand the Comments section at the bottom of the list of expense reports to enter a comment.
        2. Hold: Placing a transaction on hold will make it inaccessible to other approvers/auditors and System Administrators. The only way to remove the hold status is to approve or deny the report or send it back to the Traveler. Be aware of these limitations should you choose to put a report on hold.
      2. Urgency: The Urgency column provides a visual guideline to help you prioritize your approval queue based on the number of days from submission. The categories are defined as follows: green circle (low priority): 0 – 7 Days; yellow triangle (medium priority): 8 – 29 Days; red square (high priority): 30 – 999 Days.
      3. Alert: The Expenses module is programmed to highlight certain alerts to approvers and auditors, e.g. accountable plan violation, lodging limit exceeded, Foundation billing utilization. A yellow triangle with an exclamation point in this column indicates that this report is flagged for having at least one alert.
      4. Transaction Type: Approvers/auditors will see expense reports, travel authorizations and cash advances in their approval queues.
      5. Total: This amount represents the total dollar amount of the report, regardless of the payment mechanism used for each expense line.
      6. Unit: This column displays the form of currency used to enter the expenses.
      7. Name: This column displays the name of the individual claiming reimbursement/payment. Verify that this is the appropriate individual to be reimbursed for the expenses claimed.
      8. Employee ID: This column displays the employee or non-employee ID of the individual claiming reimbursement/payment.
      9. Bus Unit: Business Unit/Institution of the claimant
      10. Description: This column displays the report name entered by the claimant/alternate.
      11. Transaction ID: This column displays a unique 10-digit number that identifies the transaction.
      12. Date Submitted: This column displays the date the claimant/alternate submitted the report.
      13. Status: This column displays the status of the report, which will be Approvals in Process in most cases.
      14. Role: If an approver/auditor is assigned to multiple approval roles, it is important to verify which level of approval the transaction is pending.
  2. Navigate to an individual transaction and review the report:
    1. Click on the Description or Transaction ID link of the report you would like to review.
    2. The content within the displayed Expense Summary section should provide details necessary to determine the appropriateness of the expense lines in an expense report. Review the Business Purpose (See Appendix), Description, Reference, and Dates for accuracy; field should be checked in reference to attachments and supporting documentation at the header level of the expense report. Next, verify that the Justification and Supporting Details section contains a valid and complete UW-Madison business purpose. The UW Summary Report link is available near the top of the expense report and can be used to quickly review the accounting distribution for the expense report.
    3. To review individual expense lines in full detail and to be able to make changes to expense lines, select the Expense Details link in the upper right corner of the expense report. This will take you to the Expense Details page, where each expense line should be reviewed for:
      1. Policy Compliance: It is helpful to refer to the specific policy that pertains to the expense line being reviewed.
      2. Documentation Requirements: Review documentation in accordance with documentation requirements outlined in Policy UW-3024, Expense Reimbursement.
      3. Expense Type and Reference/Billing Type: In the Expense Module, account codes are automatically determined by selecting the appropriate Expense Type and Billing Type. The Expense Type selected also drives the required field completion in the Expense Details panel.
        1. If the Expense Type is incorrect, approvers and auditors can click on the Expense Type field and select the correct Expense Type from the list.
        2. If a single Expense Type needs to be divided into multiple expense types (e.g. Lodging > Lodging, Internet Fee and Parking), see How to Use the Receipt Split Function in the Expense Module.
        3. Note Billing Type is coded based on the Reference selection in the header section of the expense report and cannot be changed at the line-item level. Approvers and auditors can correct the Billing Type for the expense report as a whole by returning to the Expense Summary page and selecting the correct Reference for the expense report.
      4. Payment Type: The payment type determines who will receive payment for the expenses claimed.
        1. US Bank Corporate Card: The My Corporate Card is an individual-liability VISA credit card issued by U.S. Bank to UW-Madison employees for University business use only. For employees who have an open My Corporate Card account, reimbursable expenses are paid directly to US Bank by the University, on behalf of the cardholder when an expense report is submitted and approved.
        2. Personal Funds: When this option is selected, the employee will be reimbursed via the payment mechanism on file. If direct deposit has been set up by the employee, the payment will be delivered via ACH. If not, a paper check will be mailed to the employee. Non-employee payments are issued via a mailed check or via a wire payment (for nonemployees with addresses outside of the U.S. and Canada).
        3. Prepaid Purchasing Card: Expenses paid on the Purchasing Card. The traveler will not be reimbursed for these expenses. It is not required to include expense lines for prepaid items.
      5. Funding: Verify that the funding string has budget and funds available for the expenses listed. Confirm expenses are allocable to and allowable on the funding string.
        1. To change the funding on an individual expense line, click on the Accounting Details to expand the funding string for the expense line. Change the funding as appropriate. To use multiple funding sources, click the Plus (+) sign button at the far right of the funding string, enter the additional funding string, and modify the distribution of the expense across the lines.
      6. Additional Required Details (varies by Expense Type): Individual expense types may require verification of additional information, such as Number of Nights, Number of Attendees, Attendees Lists, Currency Exchange Rate, etc.
      7. Tax Compliance: Each expense line should be reviewed for tax compliance. The University of Wisconsin–Madison is exempt from payment of Wisconsin sales and use tax on items purchased within Wisconsin. Additionally, Universities of Wisconsin has tax exempt reciprocity agreements with some other states. if an e-Reimbursement approver or auditor notes an expense line with sales and use tax paid in error, the following steps should be  taken, depending on the dollar amount paid in error:
        1. $25.00 or less: If the amount of sales tax paid in error is $25 or less, the approver or auditor may note the non-compliant amount, but approve the amount for reimbursement, citing the following immateriality clause: “Sales tax paid in error for this transaction does not meet the materiality threshold of $25 for the University of Wisconsin-Madison; as such, immaterial sales tax will be reimbursed.”
        2. Greater than $25:
          1. Includes a documented attempt to obtain exemption: If the amount of sales tax paid in error is greater than $25 and the claimant has documented an attempt to either obtain exemption or obtain a refund (without success), the approver/auditor may approve the amount for reimbursement.
          2. Does not include a documented attempt to obtain exemption: If the amount of sales tax paid in error is greater than $25, but the claimant did not document an attempt to either obtain exemption or obtain a refund, the approver/auditor must reduce the reimbursable amount to the pre-tax total.
    4. Marking an expense line non-reimbursable: Generally, expenses that do not comply with UW–Madison policies will not be reimbursed. Additionally, Policy UW-3026, Non-Payable/Non-Reimbursable Expenses, outlines expenses that are not payable or reimbursable by the University. Expense lines in e-Reimbursement may be marked non-reimbursable by unchecking the box underneath Approve in the upper-right section of an expense line on the Expense Details page. After unchecking the box, a drop-down selection menu will appear, and a reason for not approving the expense for reimbursement must be selected. Reasons in the drop-down list include: Already Paid/Duplicate, No Receipt, Out of Policy, and Personal Expense.
    5. Once line-item review is completed, you must switch back to the Summary and Approve screen to review final summary items and to take action on the expense report. Select the Summary and Approve link in the upper right corner of the expense report.
      1. Note the Expense Report Totals section. The amounts listed indicate the payments to be made to the following:
        1. Employee Expenses: Total of all expense lines, regardless of payment type
        2. Non-Reimbursable Expenses: Total of all expenses marked as non-reimbursable
        3. Prepaid Expenses: Total of all expenses with a payment type of University Prepaid
        4. Amount Due to Employee: Total of all reimbursable expenses with a payment type of Personal Funds
        5. Amount Due to Supplier: Total of all reimbursable expenses with payment type of Corporate Card
      2. Note the Approval History (timeline): This graphic displays the names and roles of all approvers/auditors required to review the report prior to payment/reimbursement. A green check mark indicates that an approval step is complete. If the approver is listed as “Pooled”, multiple individuals are able to approve at this level, but only one is required. If auditor is listed as “Multiple”, all auditors must approve for the report to advance to payment.
      3. Note the Approval History (table): This table shows the history of the report after it was submitted, including a date/time stamp and comment bubbles containing approver/auditor remarks. Be sure to review any comment bubbles listed.
      4. If ready to approve the report, click Approve. On the confirmation pop-up page, click “OK”. If approving as Prepay Auditor, note the report cannot be changed, modified, or returned once this final approval step is complete. If a report has been approved at final audit in error and the report should not be paid, email expensereimbursement@bussvc.wisc.edu to close the report.
      5. If you are not ready to approve the expense report, other actions that may be taken include:
        1. Send Back: Click the Send Back button to save changes and send it back to the submitter. This button sends the report back to the submitter for edits, revisions, and additions. A comment must be entered in the Comments box prior to sending back the report; this comment should outline the reasons for the send-back and the steps the submitter needs to take prior to resubmitting the report.
        2. Hold: Click Hold to put an expense report on hold; this prevents any other individual from acting on the report other than the approver/auditor who placed the report on hold.
        3. Deny: To eliminate an expense report that will not be paid, click the Deny button. Once an expense report is denied, the expense report cannot be resubmitted.
        4. Save Changes: Click the Save Changes button. This saves any changes made to the expense report and routes you back to your approval queue.
      6. After clicking on one of the action buttons above, you will be routed back to your approval queue to select a new report to work on.

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IV. Contact roles and responsibilities

  • Traveler/Claimant/Recipient: the person receiving reimbursement. Note: Employees are responsible for submitting their own expense report and following all applicable UW travel policies. An employee may assign an alternate to create and modify an expense report on their behalf, but the employee is ultimately responsible for submitting their own expense reports.
  • Alternate: responsible for creating and submitting expense reports on behalf of others. Employees who seek reimbursement can assign an alternate to create and modify expense reports for them, but the employee must submit their own. Expense reports for non-employees or recently terminated employees are created and submitted by alternates.
  • Approver: Upon submission, expense reports are first reviewed by an approver. Approvers are responsible for reviewing supporting documentation, reviewing expense reports for policy compliance, and reviewing funding being charged.
  • Auditor: Expense reports are reviewed by an auditor after the approver and prior to final payment. Auditors are responsible for reviewing expense reports for policy compliance.

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V. Definitions

  • e-Reimbursement: the Expenses module of the Shared Financial System (SFS), used to create, submit, and approve expense report/reimbursement claims.
  • Purchasing Card: University-liability credit card that can be used for travel and non-travel expenses.
  • Corporate Card: individual-liability credit card that can be used for travel and non-travel expenses.
  • Expense report: contains a categorized and itemized list of expenses that were made on behalf of University of Wisconsin–Madison. This report helps the employer or finance team determine what money was spent, what was purchased, and how much of the expenditure is approved for reimbursement.
  • Business Purpose: When using University funds or requesting a reimbursement from University funds, documentation of a clear business purpose is required so an approver, auditor, site manager, and/or post-payment auditor may reasonably conclude and agree the expenditure is an appropriate business expense. The business purpose, which is defined as one that supports or advances the goals, objectives and mission of the University, adequately describes the expense as a necessary, reasonable, and appropriate business expense for the University. All expenses must support a University business purpose.
  • Non-employee: an individual who does not have an active appointment at the University. Non-employees can be reimbursed for business-related expenses through e-Reimbursement. Generally, non-employees are subject to the same policy requirements as employees.

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VI. Appendix

  1. Business purposes
    1. Business – Expenses for routine business travel not better classified in another category.
    2. Conference – Expenses incurred to attend or host a conference.
    3. Fundraising – Expenses incurred for University fundraising.
    4. Job candidate hosting – Expenses incurred for hosting job candidates.
    5. Local travel – Expenses incurred when traveling within the headquarter city or surrounding area. Expenses can be accumulated and filed weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
    6. Non-Travel – Expenses incurred for low-dollar purchases made in compliance with UW purchasing policies.
    7. Professional development – Expenses incurred by employees for education or job/professional training.
    8. Recruiting – Expenses incurred for recruiting employees and students to the University.
    9. Relocation – Relocation stipends for employee relocation.
    10. Research – Expenses incurred for research or research-related activities including fieldwork or faculty presentation of papers.
    11. Student travel – Expenses incurred by students for business or educational travel. Does not include study abroad or International Education programs. Employee expenses to accompany students on student travel.
    12. Study abroad – Expenses incurred by travelers (faculty or students) for study abroad or other international education programs.
    13. Team travel – Expenses incurred for sport team travel.

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VII. References

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VIII. Revisions

Procedure Number 3024.9
Date Approved Nov. 16, 2023
Revision Dates N/A

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