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Business Expenses

This page provides Columbia GSAPP Faculty and Staff with policies, resources, and reimbursement mechanisms relating to business expenses incurred while conducting University business.
1.0 Concur Expense

Concur is the University’s new travel and business expense management system that has replaced the paper-based reimbursement (TBER) process.

Get started by learning about Concur Travel and Expense, roles and responsibilities, obtaining system access, logging in, and setting up your profile in Concur.

1.1 Getting Started

About Concur

The Concur Request, Travel, and Expense system integrates trip and advance requests, travel bookings, and expense reports in one application.

With Concur Travel, travelers can book domestic and international flights and make reservations for rental cars, hotels, and rail, with purchase information flowing directly into Concur Expense.

Concur Expense streamlines the preparation of expense reports. Concur imports Corporate Card charges and Concur Travel expenses so they are available to add to your expense reports.

The Concur Mobile app helps you manage receipts, expenses, and travel from your mobile device.

1.2 Roles and Responsibilities

Payees and Delegates

Payee

A Payee is the person who has incurred travel or business expenses in the course of conducting University business. If a Payee has access to Concur Expense, they can prepare and submit expense reports for reimbursement.

Preparer Delegate

If a Payee has access to Concur Expense, the Payee can designate a colleague as a Preparer Delegate in their Concur Profile. The Delegate can prepare a Request or Expense report on behalf of the Payee, but not submit it into workflow. Only the Payee can submit into the workflow.

1.3 Concur Workflow
View The Concur Approval Workflow job aid to understand the Concur Approval Workflow for Expense Reports and PreTrip Requests.
1.4 Get Access to Concur

The following employee groups have been given default access to Concur Expense:

  • Officers of Instruction
  • Officers of Research
  • Officers of Libraries
  • Officers of Administration

Administrative Support Staff have also been given default access to Expense.

Student Employees and Student Non-Employees by default have not been given access to Expense, but can be opted-in by a School / department DAF (Student Employees) or Accounts Payable (Student Non-Employees)

Affiliates have not been given default access to Concur; only CU employees have default access.

1.5 Take the Concur Travel and Expense Training

Take the Concur Travel and Expense training in ELM, Columbia’s Enterprise Learning Management system as outlined below.

Introductory Training for All Users

This web-based training is for all users of Concur, both travel and expense. You can access the training here. Depending on which modules of this training are pertinent to you, this should take about 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Please note that you should submit the associated Training Acknowledgement to attest to training completion.

Approver Training for Supervisors/Managers

This web-based training is only for users who have been assigned a Supervisor/Manager role. You can access the training here. This training should take about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Please note that the Introductory Training (for all users) should be taken prior to the Approver Training.

The Approver Training includes a Knowledge Assessment for which a 90% or higher grade must be achieved before the Concur approval role is assigned to you.

If you have questions, please contact Ashley Hoefly at the GSAPP Finance Office.

1.7 Profile Set Up

There are a variety of job aids and training guides available for you to learn how to log in and set up a profile, as well as how to assign delegates, in Concur. Click on any of the links below to access the corresponding guidance:

1.8 ChartStrings/ ChartFields

When setting up your profile, you will be asked to insert ChartFields under the Request/Expense Information section.

The GSAPP Finance Office will provide you with the ChartFields that are applicable to you.

Please contact Ashley Hoefly at the GSAPP Finance Office if you have questions related to your ChartFields.

1.9 Create an Expense Report in Concur

To create a new expense report in Concur for a business expense, please follow the steps for Creating a CU Business Expense Report as outlined in the job aid Creating a New Expense Report job aid.

View the Concur Travel and Expense Training for examples of how to add various Travel and Business Expense Items to your Expense Report.

1.10 Report Header Guidance

Guidance for users completing the Report Header in the Create New Report screen in Concur:

Type of Report

Select from the drop-down menu: CU Business Expenses to reimburse Faculty and Staff for business expenses when incurred not during travel

School, Division, Sub-Division and Admin Department

This section should default from your Concur Profile, but you can edit if necessary

Report Name

Use the following report naming convention: event/trip name and dates

Example: Meeting with Donor 5/1/20

Report Purpose

Select the overall purpose from the drop-down menu

Detailed Business Purpose

Provide a detailed explanation of the business purpose:

Example: Dinner with donor to discuss alumni event ideas on May 1, 2020.

Suggestion: Answer these questions where applicable to help you come up with a detailed business purpose: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

1.11 Manage Notifications
Use the Training Guide: Managing Concur Notification Emails, which summarizes the Travel and Expense related notification and reminder emails you may receive from Concur and World Travel Inc. (WTI) and provides details regarding those that you have the ability to enable and/or disable.
1.12 Additional Training Resources

Throughout the University’s Travel and Expense site, you will find job aids, training guides, and video trainings within the context of the area they are related to. These training materials are also provided here. For a complete overview, please review the Concur Travel and Expense Training in ELM, Columbia’s Enterprise Learning Management system.

For a full, searchable library of all training materials related to Travel and Expense and Concur (job aids, videos, training guides, etc.), visit the Columbia Finance Training Library, which has been filtered for these materials.

1.13 Concur Tips

Choosing an Initial Reviewer

If you do not have a Supervisor in Concur, you will be required to choose an Initial Reviewer for the report to proceed to the next workflow step. Once you click on “Accepts & Continue” and “Submit Report,” the “Edit Approval Flow” window will appear requesting you to identify an approver (Initial Reviewer). Lookup and select Kristina Camaj (kc3121) for submitting business expenses (non-travel) if you are prompted to select an Initial Reviewer.

Adding Receipts

Receipts must be added individually to the expense report. Each receipt/order is considered a separate expense and should not be combined.

Create New Attendees

Users are required to list the name of each attendee for meetings and events of fewer than 10 attendees or the attendee count for events of 11 or more attendees, and their relationship to the University. Some expense types will require the name of each person regardless of the count, i.e. Gifts.

Create attendees for events with 11 or more attendees:

  • Click the Attendees link next to Allocate
  • Click Add
  • Click Attendees tab next to Recent Attendees
  • Click on the Create New Attendee link to add attendees
  • Select Group Event - 10+ Attendees as the Attendee Type from drop down
  • Enter the Event Name
  • Click Create Attendee
  • Close the window X
  • Update the Attendee Count
  • Click Save

Create attendees for events with 10 or fewer attendees:

  • Click the Attendees link next to Allocate
  • Click Add
  • Click Attendees tab next to Recent Attendees
  • Click on the Create New Attendee link to add an attendee
  • Select the most appropriate Attendee Type from drop down menu
  • Enter the First Name, Last Name, and Institution/Company if the attendee is an Outside Party
  • Click Create Attendee
  • Close the window X
  • Click Save

Segregating Alcohol

Remember to segregate alcohol under the Itemizations tab when entering a meal expense.

2.0 Business Expense Reimbursement Policies
2.1 Overview
GSAPP will reimburse employees for legitimate and reasonable expenditures made while conducting University business. The majority of these types of expenses should be purchased through University approved purchasing paths, and not purchased directly by the employee.
2.2 Roles and Responsibilities

The individual incurring the business expense (the Payee) must be familiar with GSAPP and University policies to ensure compliance and prudent spending of University funds.

It is the responsibility of the payee requesting reimbursement to familiarize themselves with University and GSAPP policies, federal and state law, and regulations on sponsored projects (if applicable), to ensure compliance and prudent spending of University funds. Refer to the Columbia University Travel & Expense website for complete information regarding these policies and guidelines.

The Payee is also responsible for obtaining all proper documentation for each expense. Typically, this documentation will be a receipt that identifies the expense and reflects proof of payment of the expense. Specific information regarding acceptable form of expense documentation is noted throughout this policy. The Payee is also responsible for documenting the business purpose or justification for each expense. This helps to document why the expense is eligible for reimbursement and should not be considered as taxable income.

Employees whose expenses will be charged to a sponsored project must also be familiar with the particular expense restrictions of that project. For information on your sponsored project please contact Yesenia Ozoria-Urena, Associate Director in the GSAPP Finance Office.

The Payee should request reimbursement within 10 business days of the expense and must request reimbursement no later than 120 days after the date of the expenditure. Expense reimbursements requested more than one year from the date of expenditure will not be reimbursed.

The Payee is responsible for completing the Expense Report in Concur in accordance with University policy and procedure. If an individual other than the Payee prepares the Expense Report (a Preparer Delegate), the Payee is responsible for providing the preparer with the appropriate information to complete the Expense Report and reviewing it for accuracy of all information.

2.3 Key Compliance Matters

The IRS and Federal regulations require certain standards to be met when documenting, recording and submitting reimbursable expenses. These include:

  • Submitting expenses for reimbursement within a reasonable time limit.
  • Documenting the specific business purpose of an expense.
  • Providing receipts and proof of payment.
  • Segregating unallowable or excessive expenses.
2.4 Reimbursement Time Submission Limit

The IRS requires business expense reimbursements to be reported within a reasonable period of time. The determination of a reasonable period of time will depend upon the facts and circumstances, but is generally held to be no later than 120 days after the date of the expense.

In addition, in order to adhere to generally accepted accounting principles, the Payee should be mindful of the University’s June 30th fiscal year end, as all expenses for that year should be reported prior to year-end to ensure that the expense is appropriately captured in the financial statements and in the department’s budget for the appropriate fiscal period. Expense Reports should be submitted to the department as frequently as is necessary (bi- monthly, monthly).

Expense Reports should be submitted no later than 120 days after the date of the expense. Reimbursements submitted more than 120 days after the date of the expense require Payee justification and Financial Approval in Concur. Acceptable justification reasons in order to avoid imputed income include but are not restricted to the inability to submit a report due to medical reasons. The Executive Director of AP will review and determine if imputed income applies.

Please note that supporting documentation must be provided in order to describe the circumstances leading to the late submission in order to evaluate whether this is a taxable event. If the circumstances described would not have prevented the Payee from submitting within the proper time frame, they are considered taxable income to the Payee.

Expense Reports must be submitted within one year (365 days) of the trip end date for travel expenses. For business expenses unrelated to travel, Expense Reports must be submitted within 1 year of the transaction date. Failure to submit within 365 days will result in non-reimbursement of expenses.

Please refer to the University’s Travel Policy for submission limits.

2.5 Business Purpose

All expenses must be for a valid business purpose that is necessary and reasonable in order to conduct University business. A business purpose must be documented for all expenditures for which an individual is requesting reimbursement.

Business purpose must be specific enough that a third-party reviewer can understand it. “Dinner with donor to discuss alumni event ideas” is an appropriately documented business purpose. “Dinner with donor” is not. The business purpose of an expense may be obvious to the Payee, but not to a third-party reviewer.

2.6 Receipts

The employee is expected to obtain receipts for all expenses for which they will be requesting reimbursement. A receipt may take many forms (i.e., cash register receipt, copy of an order form, web receipt or confirmation).

A receipt must identify:

  • the date of purchase
  • the vendor name
  • itemized list and unit price of the purchased items
  • the total amount

If the Payee is unable to obtain a receipt that contains all the required information, documentation should be submitted to demonstrate as many of the required items as possible. A copy of the Payees’ credit or debit card statement identifying the date, location and amount of the expense, or a rental agreement, may be submitted along with a description of the purchase, identifying the amount of any expenses to be segregated (i.e., alcohol).

GSAPP requires receipts for all expense types regardless of amount. Missing receipts require Payee Justification and Financial Approval in Concur.

A Missing Receipt Affidavit must also be completed for certain expense types regardless of amount: air, lodging, rental car expenses, and other expense types equal to or over $50. For instructions on how to complete the Missing Receipt Affidavit, please click here.

2.7 Proof of Payment

The payee is expected to obtain proof of payment for all expenses. Proof of payment may take many forms but must demonstrate that payment was tendered and must identify the means by which payment was tendered by the Payee. This information is usually included on the receipt. Examples of this may include notation of:

  • “Cash Tendered”
  • “Paid”
  • A zero balance due
  • Debit/Credit card payment (card type, last four digits of card and/or signature)

If no proof of payment is available in this form, a debit or credit card statement may be provided. Please black out any private or unrelated information.

2.8 Segregated Costs

The Federal Government will not reimburse certain expenses, termed “unallowables” and has set forth guidelines prohibiting these costs from being charged to Federal grants and contracts, either directly or indirectly. Please contact Yesenia Ozoria-Urena in the GSAPP Finance Office if you have questions related to charging a sponsored project.

“Unallowables” include expenditures for alcohol, entertainment, flowers or gifts or excessive costs, such as first or business class travel and lodging or meals over the designated University thresholds. To make sure that the University does not inadvertently charge any of these expenses to grants and contracts, “unallowable” expenses should be segregated to the appropriate account.

The terms “unallowable” or “segregated” do not mean that the expenses are not reimbursable, rather that they must be charged to the appropriate account.

2.9 Meals

GSAPP policy is to not reimburse for individual meal expenses or provide per diems during travel. However, GSAPP may reimburse reasonable and necessary meal expenses for business meetings involving only University personnel and students during which focused business discussions take place, for peer groups for research collaboration, or administrative meetings during which focused business discussions take place.

The frequency of such meetings and the related expenses must be reasonable and appropriate to the purpose of the discussion and the nature of the business conducted. Such meetings include:

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings which are necessary to conduct University business.
  • Formally organized meetings which are necessary to carry out the business of official committees appointed by the University, School or Department.
  • Meetings of an organized work group of employees or students that require the work of the group to progress through normal meal time.

Except under rare circumstances, these meals to be reimbursed or meals to be paid via invoice directly to the vendor should not exceed the following thresholds, excluding tips and tax:

  • Up to $25 for breakfast
  • Up to $35 for lunch
  • Up to $75 for dinner

Senior Business Officer approval is required when business meal expenses exceed the individual pre-tip, pre-tax meal thresholds ($25 for breakfast, $35 for lunch, $75 for dinner) and the amount over the threshold must be segregated.

The cost of alcoholic beverages consumed during a meal may be reimbursed. However, the cost may not be charged to a sponsored project and must be charged to the appropriate account. In addition, reimbursements for business meals that meet the following criteria require segregation:

  • Reimbursement for business meals that require attendance by an employee’s spouse, significant other, and/or dependent require Payee justification and Financial Approval in Concur.

Documentation Required

The itemized restaurant or cash register receipts for business meals must be obtained and uploaded images of them submitted with the payee’s Expense Report. The receipt must include:

  • the date and location
  • the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) indicated by the payee
  • the meal items purchased (identify alcohol)
  • the total amount of the meal
  • proof of payment

The cost of alcoholic beverages may not be charged to a sponsored research account and must be appropriately segregated.

A list of attendees (or a number, if there are more than 10 names), the relationship to the University for each, and the business purpose of the meal must also be clearly documented and submitted with the Payee’s Expense Report in Concur.

2.10 Relocation & Moving Expenses

As of January 1, 2018, relocation expenses paid by the University will be treated as taxable income to the employee. In situations where GSAPP agrees to pay the relocation costs for an individual, please contact the GSAPP Finance Office for guidance on the process.

Reimbursements of Relocation Expenses

All expenses must comply with the University’s Travel and Business Expense Policies, and the newly hired employee should be informed of this prior to incurring expenses. There are three primary ways a department can pay for relocation expenses for a new hire:

Travel and Business Expense Reimbursement

  • For expense reimbursements after the date of hire, Payees’ should complete an Expense Report in Concur and submit receipts for reimbursement.

  • Accounts Payable will review these charges on a monthly basis, and report to Payroll the relocation expense to be entered as imputed income on the individual’s paycheck. This imputed income will typically appear beginning in the check two months following the expense reimbursement (for example, if the payment is reimbursed in May, the imputed income will appear in July).

Guest Reimbursements (Prior to the date of hire)

  • Guests will need to be setup via ARC Vendor Management process
  • Once setup is complete, a list of those parties designated as guests will be available in Concur.
  • The guests should complete a “non-profile payee expense webform” which can be submitted to the department for processing.
  • The department will complete the expense report in concur and submit for Financial Approval.
  • The ChartString used for these expenses must include the relocation natural account, 66040.
  • Accounts Payable will review these charges on a monthly basis, and report to Payroll the relocation expense to be entered as imputed income on the individual’s paycheck. This imputed income will typically appear beginning in the check the month following the employee’s hire date.

Direct Payment to the Vendor

  • A department may choose to create a Voucher in order to pay the vendor directly on the employee’s behalf. Please contact the GSAPP Finance Office directly for assistance.
  • The ChartString used for these expenses must include the relocation natural account, 66040.
  • Accounts Payable will review these charges on a monthly basis, and report to Payroll the relocation expense to be entered as imputed income on the individual’s paycheck. This imputed income will typically appear beginning in the check two months following the expense reimbursement (for example, if the payment is reimbursed in May, the imputed income will appear in July).

Documentation Required

The receipts/invoices must be provided and meet the requirements as documented in the Travel and Business Expense policies. In general, the receipts should demonstrate:

  • the date
  • the item or service purchased
  • the total amount of the purchase
  • proof of payment
  • the recipient’s name and home address (if taxable) to be reported to Payroll for reporting on the employee’s annual Form W-2

Dean’s Office approval must be provided to authorize the relocation allowance or moving expenses. The employee should be aware of any tax implications. Documentation of agreement must be kept at the department level. A moving expense worksheet is available to organize and document moving expenses.

Generally, the imputed income and tax withholding for these types of reimbursements are spread out over several pay periods, based on the total amount of the reimbursement. The following guidelines are in place for including the imputed income and associated tax withholding, but note that imputed income cannot be spread out over pay periods in two different calendar years.

Expense Amount Number of Pay Periods for Imputed Income / Withholding
Below $5,000 1 pay period
$5,000 - $9,999 2 pay periods
$10,000 – $14,999 4 pay periods
$15,000 - $19,999 6 pay periods
$20,000 and above 8 pay periods
2.11 Group Conference and Venue Bookings
Reservation for non-travel Conference and Venue related booking expenses should be directly billed to the GSAPP. Contact your Program Office or Department for assistance. Personal credit cards should not be used for these bookings.
2.12 Subscriptions, Memberships, and Dues

The University may allow for the payment and reimbursement of dues and fees if they are appropriate for the individual’s position and duties and if the membership, credential or subscription benefits the University. GSAPP prefers to pay these vendors directly if possible. Contact your Program Office or Department for assistance.

Reimbursement of related expenses will require that business purpose is clearly documented. If the professional dues are for Department or Group accreditation the employee’s University address should be used whenever possible. If the professional dues are for an individual, the employee’s University address should be used but we recognize that this may not be possible in all situations.

When subscriptions, memberships and dues include an optional contribution or donation, the University does not reimburse for this expense.

The University does not reimburse for memberships in:

  • airline clubs
  • country clubs
  • civic clubs
  • gyms

Documentation Required

Uploads of the invoice, receipt, or web confirmation must be obtained and submitted with the employee’s Expense Report in Concur. This must include:

  • the date
  • the type of subscription, membership, dues
  • business purpose
  • the total amount
  • proof of payment
2.13 Purchase of Supplies/Equipment Not during Travel

The University requires that employees use the proper designated purchasing path to purchase supplies and equipment. GSAPP’s policy is to be direct billed for supplies and equipment. The University has relationships with frequently used vendors that provide the GSAPP with educational discounts. Contact your Program Office or Department before purchasing supplies or equipment to ensure:

  • The supplies/equipment are an approved expense by your Program Office/Department.
  • The appropriate procurement mechanism is used.

An employee may occasionally have to incur expenses for purchases of supplies or equipment when CU purchasing mechanisms are not available. The employee will be reimbursed for these expenditures under $500. Expenditures in excess of $500 will not be reimbursed unless the Payee provides justification and obtains Financial Approval from Janet Reyes, Senior Associate Dean of Administration and Faculty Affairs. Expenditures in excess of $2,500 that ordinarily require a Purchase Order will not be reimbursed without approval from Purchasing.

Although the University is exempt from sales tax, if taxes are paid on purchases, the employee will be reimbursed. As a reminder, tax exemption certificates are available for Columbia University purchases and can be requested from the GSAPP Finance Office.

2.14 Contributions or Donations

The University will not reimburse employees for contributions or donations made to another organization.

Columbia University is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt institution, categorized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c )( 3) organization. The IRS does permit contributions from one 501(c )(3) to another 501(c )(3), but not to other types of legal entities. Any contribution to a 501(c )(3) organization, however, must be related to the mission of Columbia University. The approver must evaluate whether the organization that is receiving money from Columbia is fair and appropriate. Contributions may not be given to religious or political organizations.

When processing payments for contributions or donations, the receiving organization must demonstrate possession of a 501(c )(3) certificate and have written approval by the President, the Provost, a Dean or Vice President, or Associate Dean/Senior Financial Officer.

2.15 Payments for Services
In order to ensure compliance with IRS guidelines, the University will not reimburse an employee for a payment made to an individual (including students) who provided service to the University. These payments are required to be processed through University Payroll, or in the case of a consultant, through a Purchase Order. For more information on Purchase Orders please see section 2.0 of our Payments & Purchasing website.
2.16 Local Transportation

When traveling for business purposes, a personal vehicle may be used in order to save time, transport equipment, or reduce costs when several people are traveling together or travel to locations within reasonable driving distance.

Travel by Private Vehicle

When traveling for business purposes, a personal vehicle may be used in order to save time, transport equipment, reduce costs when several people are traveling together, or travel to locations within reasonable driving distance.

If a personal vehicle is used primarily for the convenience of the traveler and the approved travel is to a location more than 500 miles beyond the point of origin, reimbursement will not exceed the lesser of the following:

  1. the cost of per- mile reimbursement plus tolls; or,
  2. the round-trip airfare between the nearest commercial airport serving the origin and destination cities, plus transfer costs to and from the airport.

For the business-related use of a personal vehicle, the traveler will be reimbursed at a rate based on the Federal IRS approved highway mileage guides. Mileage reimbursement covers gas/fuel, maintenance/repairs, insurance, transportation, and operating costs, so these will not be reimbursed separately. The traveler will not be reimbursed for the cost of vehicle purchase or lease.

In addition to the mileage allowance, tolls and necessary parking charges may be reimbursed.

The University does not assume liability for damage to personal automobiles used on University business and does not assume liability for deductibles or any other uninsured loss to the vehicle. Expenses for vehicle repairs are not reimbursable. Under no circumstances will the University reimburse parking fines and moving violations on personal vehicle.

Personal Vehicle Mileage Rate for Travel

  • $.545/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2018
  • $.580/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2019
  • $.575/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2020

Documentation Required

Travelers should keep a record (e.g., spreadsheet, notebook or ledger; AAA triptic or printout of route) of their use of their private vehicle for business travel. The written record should include:

  • the dates and points (City, State) of departure and arrival
  • business purpose of the trip
  • total mileage
  • calculation of reimbursement (total mileage * mileage rate)

Other Forms of Ground Transportation

For local business transportation, employees will be reimbursed for bus, subway, or other mass transportation, shuttle, taxi fares, or private car service plus reasonable tips. Travelers may use other services such as Lyft and Uber so long as the total cost of such services is comparable to other ground transportation options. Payees need to be aware that there is no guarantee of safety when using such services.

You can connect your Uber and Lyft apps to your Concur profile. By connecting your ride apps, your trip receipts will automatically be sent to Concur Expense and Expense Items will be automatically generated. Use the Connecting Uber and Lyft Apps to Concur job aid for help connecting your apps.

Documentation Required

Employees should attempt to obtain a receipt from the driver or transportation company. The receipts for fares must include:

  • the dates and points of origin and destination
  • passengers’ names
  • the total amount of the fare
  • proof of payment

If it is not possible to obtain a receipt for ground transportation, the employee should list the trip in a spreadsheet, notebook or ledger. The employee should record the date of the trip, the points of origin and destination, the business purpose of the trip and the fare paid.

Commuting or Parking Costs

Commuting or parking costs from home to place of work/business are taxable to a University employee. The University does not reimburse for these costs.

2.17 Non-reimbursable Expenses

Non-reimbursable expenses include (but are not limited to):

  • Baby-sitting
  • Barbers and hairdressers
  • Clothing or toiletry items
  • Internet charges at home
  • Loss or theft of cash advance money
  • Loss or theft of personal funds or property
  • Briefcases
  • Magazines, newspapers, personal reading materials
  • “No show” charges for car service
  • Online auction sites
  • Personal entertainment
  • Pet care
  • Recreational expenses
  • Saunas, massages, spa visits
  • Shoe shines
  • Souvenirs or personal gifts
  • Snacks
  • Tips in excess of 20 percent