1.3.1 Expense Guidelines


The university, as a tax supported institution, limits the disbursement of its public fund resources to official university purposes. All monies flowing into the university, with the exception of those identifiable as assets of the Agency Fund, constitute "public funds" and are subject to university policy regardless of fund group.

The term "university purposes" signifies that the expenditure is essential for the furtherance of an officially authorized university program. Expenditures that do not meet this criterion constitute "personal items" for which the disbursement of public funds is prohibited. Therefore, university accounts cannot be charged directly or through a reimbursement mechanism for such items. Administrative unit heads are responsible for reviewing each expenditure request to determine that the expense item is essential to the basic operation of the unit and that it is the best alternative available on a cost-to- benefit basis. Additionally, unit heads must also assure that expense items not allowed on some granting agency awards, (e.g., exclusion of alcohol on Federal and other governmental awards) are not charged to these accounts.

All expense reimbursement requests must bear the signed authorization of the appropriate dean, director, vice president or designee. No employee is permitted to authorize an expense reimbursement to himself/herself without an appropriate countersignature of a supervisor. In the case of the president, a quarterly audit and report to the Board of Governors of his expenses meets this requirement; therefore, no other countersignature is required. General and specific guidelines follow:

A. Entertainment of Official Guest including Candidates for Employment:

Entertainment of an official guest(s) of the university at university expense is permitted only when such activity is essential to the conduct of university business and at an appropriate location. Only employees with the rank of dean or vice president are permitted to use their private homes and only after written approval is received from the appropriate vice president or the president.

  • Reimbursement requests for entertainment expenses of an individual or of a small group (approximate 10) must include the names, official positions, and affiliations of all participants. At least one of the participants must not be an employee or student of the university. Requests to pay expenses for entertainment of larger groups (not normally paid via the reimbursement process) must include a description/purpose of the program and list categories of attendees e.g. donors, community groups etc. Part of the group must be non-employees/students. For entertainment of employees, in certain circumstances, see APPM section, Expense Reimbursement for Entertainment of Employees.
  • The official university-related purpose of the entertainment must be clearly stated.
  • Unreasonable amounts will not be approved. However, it is recognized that the per meal cost of entertaining distinguished guests for dinner at fine restaurants may exceed the normal total daily meal allowance per person permitted by APPM section 7, Travel Expense Policies and Procedures. Exceeding this amount could be considered reasonable based on the status of the guest and the restaurant selected.
  • On rare occasions, there is a university business need to include a spouse or other family member of an employee in a reimbursement request. For instance, when the spouse of an employment candidate is in attendance, inclusion of the employee's spouse would be appropriate. Entertainment expenditures for a spouse or other family member must have prior approval of the respective vice president or the dean for Schools/Colleges.

B. Examples of Non-Reimbursable Items:

  • Personal Items - Meals (except those allowed on official travel or business), Professional individual membership dues, club memberships (i.e. social, golf athletic, etc..) parking fees (except on official travel or business), domicile expenses, personal telephone calls, personal grooming materials and services, clothing rentals/purchases, ( except clothing covered by labor contracts or required/provided by Departments) transportation between residence and work place, and other expenses freely incurred to fulfill personal needs which are neither imposed nor required for satisfactory job performance. Personal tributes and parties are not the financial obligation of the university. All personal tributes and celebrations such as holiday cards, trees and decorations, retirement and recognition parties, departmental picnics, floral tributes, decorations and plants, must be paid for from personal funds. (See C.1, C.5, C.6, C.11, C.13, and C.14 for possible exceptions.)
  • Awards, Prizes and Gifts (including gift certificates) to employees are prohibited except those approved in accordance with University Policy 06-1 University Awards (formerly Executive Order 85-7), and miscellaneous non-cash awards (including gift certificates) costing less than $25.00.

It should be noted that, for tax purposes, all prizes, awards and gifts given for services rendered represent reportable/taxable income and must be included on the employee's W-2 form. However, non-cash awards with values totaling less than $50.00 per calendar year to an employee will be considered deminimus and are excluded from the W-2 reporting process.

Under certain IRS regulations, non-cash awards for established programs that recognize employees for either years of service or safety achievement are exempt from reportable/taxable income (W-2 process) up to some specified dollar limit per year.

Cash awards (i.e., Bonus Awards, Awards for Excellence in Teaching, etc.) must be paid directly through the Payroll system.

Non-cash awards, prizes and gifts (including gifts certificates) given to employees must be Identified to the employees receiving them so that Disbursements can pass the information to Payroll for inclusion in the employee's W-2 form as taxable income. Within five days of issuance of paperwork to purchase the awards, the awarding unit must submit to Disbursements a memo listing the name and social security number of each awardee. The reference number of the specific document (Purchase Requisition, SPA, IRB, LPO, etc.) processed and the vendor for whom the awards were purchased must also be identified in the memo.

  • Office Refreshment - coffee, tea, donuts, etc., which are made available at various offices for employees are considered a personal expense. The University funds may be used for reimbursement of refreshments for visitors. Coffee- makers, refrigerators, etc., in individual offices are considered a personal expense and are not reimbursable.
  • Bottled Water - Bottled water for consumption in the office by employees and/or visitors is considered a personal expense and must not be charged to university accounts (See C3 for possible exceptions).
  • Parking Tickets and Traffic Tickets - Parking tickets and Traffic tickets are considered the personal expense of the driver, irrespective of whether the driver is on University business or not, or if the driver is using a University vehicle or not.
  • Staff Meeting Luncheons - Luncheons for staff meetings are considered a personal expense and are non-reimbursable except as allowed by APPM section, Expense Reimbursement for Entertainment of Employees.
  • Political Fund Raising - payments/reimbursements for political fund raising activities are not allowed.
  • Tuition - Tuition payment/reimbursement for a Wayne State University employee at another institution of higher education is not allowed unless there is a requirement by the Department to take such a class related to a grant or special university program and the class is not offered at Wayne State.

C. Special Miscellaneous Items and Exceptions:

Each of the following special disbursement items require specific approvals as indicated and are to be handled on a case-by-case basis:

  • Under certain circumstances, vice presidents can and will approve expenditures for personal tributes and parties. For those occasions, the approval is to be obtained in advance and should include a maximum dollar outlay. Records of these expenditures will be maintained by the office of the respective vice president, and a detailed report will be submitted to the vice president for finance and business operations at the end of each calendar quarter. The vice president for finance and business operations will prepare a consolidated summary report to be submitted to the president for each Fiscal Year.
  • Departmental Lounges/Lunchrooms - When there is a lounge or lunchroom that will serve the entire department or more than one department, a refrigerator, microwave oven, or coffee maker may be purchased with the dean/director's approval.
  • Bottled Water - In general the purchase of bottled water for consumption is prohibited. Exceptions will be made for two reasons with appropriate certification and/or approval. The exceptions with the required approval/certification are as follows:
  • Health Reasons - Tap water is not suitable for consumption. This exception requires:

A certification from the Environmental Health and Safety Department, signed by the director, that the tap water in the requesting department's work area has been tested and found to be unsuitable for personal consumption with specific reasons being given; and

A certification from FP&M that it would be cost prohibitive to correct the conditions cited by Environmental Health and Safety Department.

  • Potable tap water (fountain) is not accessible to staff in proximity to their work area. This exception requires:

A request to the chief of staff with specific details explaining why the tap water is not accessible. Also, the request should provide explanation as to why the condition cannot be corrected at a reasonable cost. Any cost estimate submitted for installing water fountains and necessary hook up to water lines must be prepared and/or approved by FP&M.

Approval by the chief of staff.

The above certifications/approvals must be submitted to Purchasing and/or Disbursement prior to issuance of a Purchase Order and/or payment to a bottled water vendor. (Note: Because of the special approval requirements; the LPO process can not be used to pay for bottled water).

  • Staff Retreats - Prior to incurring any expense for staff retreats, one must have the approval of the respective vice president and must be considered as essential for the furtherance of an established university program. Staff retreats are often held off-campus and usually no more than twice per year.
  • Committee Luncheons - Luncheons or other refreshments for university committee members (where there are no university guests) are considered a personal expense except for official university committees as defined in Executive Order 85-8, University Committees. For these specified committees, prior approval of the appropriate vice president is required. Standing approvals may be obtained for ongoing committees.
  • Refreshments are allowable for University QUEST meetings or training sessions sponsored by the chief of staff; training sessions sponsored by the Human Resources training department; university-wide recognition programs; and divisional/departmental employee recognition receptions if approved by the respective vice president or the dean for Schools/Colleges.
  • University-Sponsored Programs - The cost of buying a ticket(s) to a university-sponsored social/tribute/fundraising/community-awareness type program (i.e. University Holiday luncheon, luncheon speaker events sponsored by various colleges/departments etc.) is considered a personal expense item and not a liability of the university or reimbursable by the university except for those occasions and employees specifically designated by the president. Vice presidents can request special approval from the president for exception to this policy. 

Currently there are three programs that have the standing approval of the president and, thus, will only require the approval (for designated employees) of the dean/director. They are as follows:

Anthony Wayne Charter Night - for employees and their spouse/guest.

President's Preview Night - for employees and their spouse/guest.

Corporate Leadership Awards - for employees and their spouse/guest only and outside guests that have a business and/or development relationship with the university.

  • Banquets and Receptions - Receptions or banquets sponsored by a university group or department which are to be paid for with university funds are to be approved in advance by the respective vice president or the dean for Schools/Colleges and must be for the purpose of entertaining outside guests. The affair must be for a clearly designated university purpose or program. When the affair is to be held at a location other than a university facility, the department must obtain and process a contract as outlined in APPM section 2.3.4, Contracts for Specialized Services with Organizations.
  • Programs for Student Awards and Honors - Programs honoring students sponsored by a university group or department must be approved in advance by the respective dean of the school or college. Such programs should be paid for with Non- General Fund monies, if possible.
  • Externally-Sponsored Social/tribute/Fund-raising Organization or Event - Any disbursement for the purchase of a ticket(s) to attend an externally sponsored social/tribute/fund-raising event must have the prior approval of the respective vice president and must be considered as essential for the furtherance of an established university program. Such approval must include the names of each university employee and/or spouse/guest that will be attending on behalf of the university. Any related personal expenses in attending such an affair is to be borne by the employee.   Refer to University Policy 16-1 University Donations and Sponsorships to External Organizations for additional rules regarding external sponsorships. 
  • Club Memberships - Expenditures for club memberships must have the prior approval of the President and must be considered as essential for the furtherance of an established university program.
  • Contributions Charged to University Accounts - Any support or contribution to an organization external to the university must have the prior approval of the respective Vice President and must be considered as essential for the furtherance of an established university program.
  • Community Development and Fund-Raising Related Disbursements - Gifts, floral tributes, holiday cards, etc. being given or sent to significant donors, potential donors or other important individuals/ organizations in the community or which are related to fund-raising programs must have the prior approval of the respective vice president or the dean for Schools/Colleges and must be considered as essential for the furtherance of an established university program or project. Any holiday cards being purchased should be sent in the name of the School/College/ Division (or Department). They can include the name of the vice president, dean, chair and/or director.
  • Professional Individual Membership Dues - Must have the prior approval of the respective vice president or the dean for School/College/Division and must be considered essential for the furtherance of an established university business program and/or required for the exercising of the duties of the employee. Each such professional organization should be directed to have the university address as the official mailing address. Wherever possible, an institutional membership with multiple representatives (to receive publications) should be investigated as an alternative to individual memberships.
  • Rental/Lease of Classrooms/Other Facilities - Must be in accordance with the Contract Award Policy as outlined in APPM section 2.3.4, Contracts for Specialized Services with Organizations and Executive Order 85-1, Contract Signatories.
  • Property, Liability and Other Insurance Premiums - Must have the prior approval of the risk manager (refer to APPM section 10.2, Risk Management).
  • Legal Services - Must have the prior approval of the vice president and the general counsel before engaging a lawyer or law firm.

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When any of the above require specific approvals (i.e., president, vice president or dean), a designee is not acceptable unless specifically indicated.

Even when the required approval is obtained for one of the special exceptions, the specific expense(s) incurred for the event/affair must be reasonable and essential to the program and the business purpose properly documented, i.e., elaborate decorations or flowers for individual tables are not acceptable.

Most expenditures covered in this APPM 1.3.1, Expense Guidelines are either reimbursed to employees or paid to a vendor via the SPA. Procedures for completing the SPA (form 10-102A) are in APPM Section 1.3.2, Special Payment Authorization. When services provided are internal to the university, then an IRB form 10-108A should be completed pursuant to APPM Section 1.4, Internal Billing.