320 Expense Reimbursement Policy

UW-Madison Administrative Policy
Policy # 320

Effective Date: May 8, 2017
Last Updated: July 1, 2020
Last Reviewed: July 1, 2020
Next Review: December 31, 2020

Functional Owner: Controller, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Executive Sponsor: Associate Vice Chancellor, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Policy Contact: Expense Reimbursement Program Manager, Division of Business Services, Graig Brooks graig.brooks@wisc.edu

Policy Summary

Claimants have 90 days to submit their expense reports.  e-Reimbursement must be used to seek reimbursement for travel-related expenses.  Employees can be reimbursed for certain non-travel-related expenses provided the purchases comply with all other UW-Madison purchasing and accounting policies.  e-Reimbursement must be used to reimburse non-employees for travel-related expenses.  e-Reimbursement cannot be used to pay vendors directly.

Who This Policy Applies To

Faculty, staff, students, and non-employees traveling or using funds and/or resources administered by the University.


The University has a managed travel program.  The expense reimbursement policy is designed to ensure reimbursement payments comply with IRS regulations, state law and University travel and purchasing policies.

Policy Detail

I. Accountable Plan.  For travel reimbursements and payments to be considered non-taxable income, the University’s travel policies and operational standards must comply with the IRS Accountable Plan Rules. To be considered an “Accountable Plan,” an employer’s business expense reimbursement arrangement must meet the following conditions:

  • Reimbursements and advances provided to travelers under the plan must be for business related expenses only.
  • Advance payments must be reconciled within 30 days of the end of the business trip.
  • To be eligible for reimbursement:
    • Travel related expenses must be submitted with the required supporting documentation within 90 days from the end of the business trip.
    • Non-travel related expenses must be submitted with the required supporting documentation within 90 days of the date the expense was incurred.
    • Tuition Reimbursement must be submitted with the required supporting documentation within 90 days from the course end date.
    • All reimbursement requests must be resubmitted within 90 days of being sent back for revision.

For extenuating circumstances, Deans, Divisional Dean’s Office Directors, or Divisional Business Office Leadership have the authority to grant exceptions for employees to allow for expense reimbursement, under the Accountable Plan, when the above requirements are not met. Extenuating circumstances for employees may be defined as a serious illness or other unforeseen emergency out of the control of the employee. Employee negligence is not considered an extenuating circumstance. All exceptions to the Accountable Plan granted for employees must meet the following requirements:

  • Completion of an Accountable Plan Exception Request Form detailing the reason why the 90-day timeframe was not met and the Dean’s, Divisional Dean’s Office Director’s or Divisional Business Office Leadership’s approval.
  • The completed Accountable Plan Exception Request Form must be electronically attached to the expense report at the time the report is submitted.

No exceptions will be granted for non-employees for either travel or non-travel related expense reports submitted in excess of the 90 day requirements of the Accountable Plan. Instead, non-employee reimbursement requests submitted in excess of the 90 day requirements of the Accountable Plan must be submitted to Accounts Payable using a Payment to Individual Report (PIR) and charged to Account Code 2620 (Services-Professional).

Expense reimbursements not in compliance with the above accountable plan requirements will be reported as taxable income for the individual reimbursed.

II. Documentation Requirements. All required supporting documentation must be attached electronically to the expense reimbursement. Electronic receipts must be clear and legible.  Efforts should be made to scrub any sensitive information from receipts in order to comply with HIPAA and campus privacy policy.

Receipts are always required for:

  • Airfare
  • Currency processing/foreign transaction fees
  • Fleet vehicle rentals
  • Gasoline for vehicle rentals
  • Hosted meals/events
  • Internet for business use while in travel status
  • Lodging
  • Long-distance train or bus fares
  • Vehicle Rentals
  • All non-travel expenses

Receipts are required when the expense exceeds $25 for:

  • Local transportation (taxi, limo, bus, rail, etc.)
  • Parking
  • Tolls

Receipts are required when the expense exceeds $30 for:

  • Baggage and seat fees

Receipts are never required for individual meals.

In addition to receipts, it may be necessary to retain other supporting documentation to support a reimbursement claim.  The expense report and its attached documentation must provide enough information for an approver, auditor or post-payment auditor to review the validity of the expenses without any follow-up.  Examples of supplemental documentation that would be required include:

  • A conference brochure or agenda which shows the dates of the conference, which meals were provided and which hotel(s) is/are listed as the “conference hotel(s)”
  • Email correspondence or other documentation to support the circumstances surrounding an airfare cancel/change fee, if available


III. Claiming Own Expenses. Employees may not claim travel-related expenses for other travelers.  Exceptions:

  • Shared transportation expenses
  • Undergraduate student travel where it would be inappropriate to request students to pay for their own travel expenses. Meals reimbursed under this exception are reimbursed as Business Meals, not individual meal per diems.

Expenses reimbursed under these exceptions must list the name(s) of other traveler(s) for which the employee is claiming expenses.

IV. 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 expense reimbursements must include a University business purpose.

V. Training. Approvers and auditors are required to take expense reimbursement training prior to reviewing expense reports.  Expense Reimbursement Approver/Auditor – Beginner Level training can be found on the Office of Talent Management’s website under Business Services Topics.

Consequences for Noncompliance

Failure to comply with UW-Madison Expense Reimbursement policy may result in disciplinary steps, up to and including dismissal.

Supporting Tools



  1. e-Reimbursement: the web-based expense reimbursement submission and review tool.
  2. Non-employee: an individual who does not have an active appointment at the University. Non-employees can be reimbursed for travel-related expenses through e-Reimbursement.
  3. Expense Reports – blanket term for Expense Reimbursements, Travel Authorizations and Cash Advances.
  4. Expense Reimbursement – an Expense Report seeking reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.


  1. Alternate – responsible for creating and submitting Expense Reports on behalf of other individuals.
  2. Division Coordinator – responsible for submitting Non-Employee Profile Setup Forms and Non-Employee Profile Change Requests. Responsible for maintaining the divisional list of approvers and auditors.
  3. Employeesemployees with current appointments are responsible for adding and removing their own alternates. Employees are responsible for ensuring their own Expense Reports are submitted on time and in compliance with University policy.
  4. Approver: aka- Required Departmental Approver – upon submission, expense reimbursements are first reviewed by an Approver. Approvers are responsible for reviewing supporting documentation, for reviewing expense reimbursements for policy compliance, and for reviewing the funding being charged.
  5. Auditor: aka – Required Final Approverall expense reimbursements are reviewed by an Auditor after the Approver. Auditors are responsible for reviewing expense reports for policy compliance.

Link to Related Policies

310 University Travel Policy
311 Air Travel Policy
312 Lodging Policy
313 Meals & Incidental Expenses Policy
314 Vehicle Use/Rental Policy
315 Ground Transportation Policy
316 Registration Fees Policy
317 International Travel Policy


Policy Number: 320
Date Approved: May 8, 2017
Revision Dates:


  • Changed the receipt requirement for Airfare baggage fees from $25 to $20.  Updated various links.


  • Expanded 90-Day rule to include send backs and resubmissions
  • Added parking to receipt requirement (previous oversight)
  • Codified exceptions to “Claiming Own Expenses”