403.1 Non Travel Meals, Refreshments and Hospitality Expenses

This policy sets forth basic University standards for payment of non-travel business meals, refreshments, and other hospitality expenses with university funds. Non-travel business would include hosting official guests, training sessions, conferences, or other university-sponsored events to conduct official Portland State University business.

This policy does not cover employee meals on one-day trips; see Travel-Meal & Incidental Expenses It does not include refreshments for employee recognition.

This policy does not apply to athletic training table meals and special student group meals which are covered under Account Code 20300 “Student Meals”. See Travel-Student/Team Travel policy for more information.

For more information pertaining to travel principals, please see the procedures manual

HOSTED MEALS: PSU or an employee of the university, in the normal conduct of a program/activity, may serve as host for official guests by paying for their meals when a clear benefit to the university is documented and institutional approval processes are followed.

Employee family member(s) meals are not normally reimbursable; however, sometimes a job candidate or official guest is accompanied by family member(s). Only in these cases is an employee family member(s) meal an allowable cost. The number of employees with accompanying family member(s) should be reasonable for the occasion.

Hosted meals can be purchased directly by an employee or a department PCard user. If purchased directly by an employee, reimbursement by the institution upon submission of an itemized receipt. Whether the PCard was used or expenses were initially paid by the employee, every effort should be made to provide an itemized receipt; however, if this is not possible, a non-itemized receipt will be accepted upon submission of a written statement specifying the expense details and signed by the employee. Hosted group meals or refreshments are generally arranged in advance by the event organizer for an entire group with the vendor paid directly by the institution. For more information pertaining to completing a personal reimbursement request, please see the procedures manual.

LIGHT REFRESHMENTS - NON-EMPLOYEES: University funds can pay for refreshments served at volunteer appreciation, student and other focus groups, conference, workshop, student recruitment, and similar official events which involve non-employees.

EMPLOYEE MEALS AND REFRESHMENTS: University funds can pay for employee meals and refreshments when the employee is hosting an official guest.

When only PSU employees are at a function, the meal or refreshments can be paid when the activity is a training or workshop, departmental staff retreat, or when the activity meets the definition of an employee working meal with a documented agenda.

A meal may be provided for employees on the work site during an overtime period for the convenience of the university and must be paid as required to comply with the union contract and BOLI laws.

University funds cannot be used to pay for employee meals or refreshments for regularly scheduled departmental meetings. University funds can pay for refreshments served to institutional employees at business functions when the function lasts at least two hours.

OTHER HOSPITALITY AND ENTERTAINMENT COSTS: Costs for entertainment, including amusement, diversion, and social activities and any costs directly associated with such (meals, tickets to shows, sports events, transportation, lodging) cannot be paid with university funds and are unallowable per OMB Circular A-21 - Cost Principles for Educational Institutions.  There are five exceptions:

  • the event is part of a formal university-sponsored conference where the cost is recovered from participant fees
  • the activity is part of a self-support instructional program where the participant is charged a fee to cover the cost
  • the event is funded by student incidental fees, authorized by the institution’s student association, and is for the benefit of student group events. (This exception does not include meals for student groups.)
  • the event or activity is approved in a specific grant or contract
  • the activity is part of athletic travel and cost is allowed per appropriate athletic association guidelines

HOSPITALITY ALLOWABILITY: All expenses that do not meet this policy are considered unallowable and must be paid with personal funds or directly by the university’s affiliated foundation (if allowed by its policy).

  • OFFICIAL GUESTS: Hosting expenses of official guests of the institution can be paid with university funds. These include candidates and accompanying family member(s) to fill employee positions, visiting scholars/scientists/artists, seminar speakers, advisory board members, prospective students, prospective student athletes within appropriate athletic association guidelines, and other guests whose visit provide a clear benefit to the institution.
  • BUSINESS-RELATED GROUP FUNCTIONS:  Business-related group functions can be paid with university funds.  These include conferences, workshops, departmental staff retreats, training sessions, employee working meals, student recruitment and orientation, non-employee and student recognition events, official graduation recognition, and volunteer appreciation. See Hosting Matix for time restrictions.

UNALLOWABLE HOSTING EXPENSES WITH UNIVERSITY FUNDS: Below is a list of activities when meals, refreshments or other hospitality/entertainment costs cannot be paid with university funds (this list is not all inclusive):

  • Alumni, fundraising and other social (non-business) activities
  • Department social activities such as celebrating holidays, birthdays, etc.
  • Employee meals or refreshments except as defined above
  • Regularly scheduled departmental meetings
  • For-credit class refreshments or meals, except as indicated in section above
  • Items for faculty, staff or student personal use, such as break time coffee, tea, soda, snacks


  • Alcoholic beverages. Exception: Alcoholic beverages may be purchased when served at group functions that are part of a university-sponsored conference where the full cost of such beverages is recovered through charges to the participants or sponsoring group. The institution is responsible for ensuring compliance with all laws and Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulations, including obtaining a one-day license for serving beer and wine. The caterer must be approved as a university vendor for insurance purposes and IRS reporting. For additional information pertaining to the University Alcohol purchase please see the Alcohol policy. 
  • Flowers, house plants or flower arrangements for offices or as donations/memorials/gifts. (Plants for public lobby or reception areas are allowed.)  Fore more information, please see Accounts Payable policy
  • Charitable donations to/for any individual or organization
  • Items for faculty, staff or student personal use, such as break time coffee, tea, soda, snacks

ALLOWABLE AMOUNTS AND APPROPRIATE ACCOUNT CODESExpenses can be approved or reimbursed in accordance with the policy above when it is determined the costs are:

  • Necessary,
  • Appropriate to the occasion,
  • Reasonable in amount, and
  • Serve a bona fide university purpose.

ALLOWABLE AMOUNT:  Hosting official guests or hosted events occurring in state and out of state will be held to a reasonable standard rate of,$17.75/breakfast, $17.75/lunch, $35.50/dinner. Rates are per person and include gratuity of between 15% - 20%..

ALLOWABLE GRATUITIES: Reimbursement for a tip/gratuity between 15% - 20% of the charge is allowable when hosting groups or guests. This range does not apply when the establishment adds a service charge for larger groups in lieu of gratuity. In that case, the amount of the service charge is not within the control of the customer. Tips or fees for alcoholic beverage service are not reimbursable. These costs must be separated and included with the alcoholic beverage purchase.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION: The receipt must separately itemize meals, gratuities, alcoholic beverages and any charges for room use. A "tear tag" showing only the total charge is inadequate for reimbursement. Every effort should be made to provide an itemized receipt; however, if this is not possible, a non-itemized receipt will be accepted upon submission of a written statement specifying the expense details and signed by the employee.

Payment request must include:

  • Who - names of the individuals attending
  • What - what is being paid
  • When - date(s)
  • Where - location of the event
  • Why - purpose of the event

The above information is required whether paying a vendor directly, requesting a personal reimbursement, or processing an internal transaction from university catering or other food services. An announcement or agenda may be substituted for individual names when paying expenses of a large group gathering.

An employee can request payment for food and supplies when official guests are hosted at their home. The reimbursement request must include an itemized sales slip of the items purchased.

ACCOUNT CODES: It is important that the correct account code is used. Some activities are allowable per OMB Circular A-21 - Cost Principles for Educational Institutions for federal reimbursement or inclusion in the university facilities and administrative rate calculation and some activities are unallowable. Account codes identify these activities. For more help on account codes, please click here. 

Hosted meals and refreshments may be hosting, public relations, or conference costs depending upon the purpose of the activity. Please see the procedures manual for more information.