Miscellaneous Expenditures

What is de minimis?

Per IRS. . . In determining whether a benefit is de minimis, you should always consider its frequency and its value. An essential element of a de minimis benefit is that it is occasional or unusual in frequency. It also must not be a form of disguised compensation.

Whether an item or service is de minimis depends on all the facts and circumstances. In addition, if a benefit is too large to be considered de minimis, the entire value of the benefit is taxable to the employee, not just the excess over a designated de minimis amount. The IRS has ruled previously in a particular case that items with a value exceeding $100 could not be considered de minimis, even under unusual circumstances.

What kinds of expenses are not allowed to be purchased with E&G funds?

The following expenses are generally not allowed to be purchased with E&G funds. If your department has access to Foundation funds, you may be able to use those indexes instead through a direct payment request, with approval from your budget authority.

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Meals and refreshments at regularly scheduled unit meetings
  • Unit/staff luncheons (with some exceptions—please refer to Can I host a group)
  • Holiday parties and other staff celebrations
  • Retirement party expenses
  • Personal Items

What is considered a "personal item"?

The following list of personal items cannot be charged against State or Federal funds:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Business license fees
  • Dues, memberships or professional certifications belonging to an individual, unless required in a position description
  • Coffee room supplies: coffee, tea, creamer, sugar, etc.
  • Cards: greeting, holiday, birthday, thank you, etc.
  • CDs, cassettes, books that are not text books or reference material, etc.
  • Candy, gums, mints, etc.
  • Flowers
  • Gifts, gift certificates, gift wrap, gift wrap supplies
  • Personal accident insurance on rental vehicles rented in the United States, U.S. territories or Canada
  • Personal use items such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, cold or allergy medications, Kleenex, deodorant, shampoo, etc.
  • Prescription glasses or goggles
  • Replacement or retrieval expenses for lost keys

Meals/Refreshments at Unit Functions

Can I be reimbursed for unit luncheons?

Generally, no. Employees should personally contribute to the cost of the meal rather than using university (E&G) funds. University funds cannot be used to pay for employee meals or refreshments for regularly scheduled unit meetings or departmental social activities. Refer to the fiscal policy for Meals, Refreshments and Events (Non Travel) for more information and contact your Business Center for assistance.

Meals, refreshments and/or affiliated supplies (i.e. paper plates, cups, etc.) at unit functions can be paid with university funds when there is a clear business purpose and adequate documentation showing that the activity meets one of the following criteria:

  • Employee meal provided at worksite during an overtime period (two or more hours beyond the end of employee’s work shift) or when duties prevent the employee from taking a meal break.
  • Employee working meal provided on university premises with required attendance and business conducted during the meal period.
  • Unit staff retreat or employee working meal provided away from the normal work location must be infrequent and have little value.

My department has an all hands team-building meeting twice a year. Can the department pay for it?

As long as there is a clear business purpose for the meeting and the cost per attendee is de minimis, this would usually meet the IRS frequency requirements and is allowed.

Our department wants to order pizza for a staff meeting. Can the department pay for it?

No. Regularly scheduled unit meetings generally do not meet the frequency requirement established by IRS guidelines, therefore meals and refreshments at these types of meetings are not allowed. Full text should include Who (attendees), What (business purpose/benefit to OSU), When (timeframe), Where (location of meeting) and Why (justification for providing the lunch). All of this information needs to be included in the text and any documentation attached to the invoice. See the "Can I be reimbursed for unit luncheons" FAQ for more details.

Can the office pay for a cake to celebrate the birth of a co-worker's baby?

No, that is considered personal and does not further the mission of the university.

Can the office pay for a cake when a co-worker is retiring?

No, that is considered personal and does not further the mission of the university.

How do I pay for retirement parties and gifts?

Expenses for retirement parties must be paid or directly reimbursed by the OSU Foundation. You will need prior approval from your unit’s budget authority to access Foundation Funds. Please refer to the OSU Foundation Distribution Policy (Article 9: Employee Awards) for details about how Foundation funds may be spent.

Send invoices and receipts to your Business Center for processing.

Our Dean wants to send holiday cards for all of the alumni and donors, can our department reimburse the expense?

Not through the university. When the main purpose would be to solicit donations, the expense must be directly paid by the Foundation. It cannot be paid on a pass-through index.

Can we pay for food for student clubs or other groups?

Yes, under certain conditions. Food can be direct-billed or personally reimbursed for student clubs and other groups. See the "Can I host a group" FAQ for more details.


Can I host an official guest?

Yes, when there is a clear benefit to OSU and authorization by appropriate program personnel or budget authority (provide documentation of these requirements when requesting payment of related expenses). Official guests include candidates for open position, prospective students and other individuals invited to OSU for a specific purpose.

Please refer to the fiscal policy for Meals, Refreshments and Events (Non Travel) for more details and contact your Business Center with questions.

Can I host a group?

Yes, within policy guidelines. “Hosted groups” are when meals or refreshments are arranged in advance for an entire group of persons, for university activities involving conferences, departmental retreats, commencement events, community or public relations events and student activities.

Refer to the fiscal policy for Meals, Refreshments and Events (Non Travel) for more information.

What are the allowable expenses when hosting guests?

Please refer to fiscal policy for Meals, Refreshments and Events (Non Travel) for allowable expenses when hosting an official guest.

Our department took a job candidate to dinner. Why was only a portion of the meal allowed?

Approved OSU travel per diem rates, will be used as a guideline to ensure that authorized meal and refreshment costs, including gratuity and tax, are reasonable for the occasion.

I’m hosting a guest speaker or other official guest. What forms do I need to fill out? How do I reimburse the speaker for expenses or get reimbursed myself?

Travel expenses only:

  • Request a vendor set up from your Business Center. You can then fill out a TRES reimbursement request on behalf of the guest. The speaker’s expense reimbursement is processed like any other travel reimbursement and the standard employee reimbursement policies apply. (For details, see the Travel and Reimbursements FAQs)

Paid Honorarium (speaker fee):

  • If you will be paying an honorarium, be sure to start this process well in advance of the speaker’s arrival, as it may take some time to get everything set up. If travel expenses will be paid along with an honorarium, these expenses should be included with the honorarium and not reimbursed separately. Direct billing is allowed for airfare, lodging and meals for speakers. Also, be aware that if the speaker has a contract that they require OSU to sign, then this will have to be routed through Contract Services. Contact your Business Center for assistance.
  • Paid Honorarium, less than $5,000:
    • Fill out a Vendor Payment Request. The guest speaker and department budget authority must sign the form and then submit it to the Business Center for processing.
  • Paid Honorarium, more than $5,000
    • Personal Services Contract (PSC) is required.
    • Contact your Business Center with the details. They will assist you in working with Contract Services, which will issue a contract to be signed by speaker, the departmental approver and an OSU Contracts Officer.
    • The PSC must be completed and signed prior to the speaker’s arrival.
    • To be reimbursed for expenses you incur when hosting a speaker, complete a Personal Reimbursement Request and forward to your Business Center.

What is a “reasonable cost” for group meals?

Meal and refreshment costs should be appropriate for the occasion. Approved OSU travel per diem rates will be used to check for the reasonableness standard (the allowable gratuity is included in the per diem rate).

  • Some units set specific thresholds for reimbursement, so check with your Business Center if you are unsure of your unit’s rules.
  • Meal expenses significantly exceeding the OSU per diem rates require documentation explaining the reason for the excess and the approval of the department head.

How much gratuity can I be reimbursed for when hosting group meals?

Reimbursement for a reasonable gratuity/tip (e.g. 15-20%) is allowable when hosting groups or guests.

Tips or fees for alcoholic beverage service are not reimbursable from E&G funds. These costs need to be separated and included with the alcoholic beverage purchase. (See the "Getting Reimbursed for Alcoholic Beverages" FAQ for more information)

What Corvallis-area restaurants are available for direct billing when hosting an OSU-related event?

OSU does not have a policy allowing restaurants to send the university invoices for meals. Some restaurants have informal relationships with OSU units and departments where they are willing to send that department a bill. Because these arrangements are informal, please contact the restaurant directly about this possibility.

Note that, if the restaurant is willing to send a bill, you should request separate invoices for food and any alcohol. (Alcohol cannot be purchased with E&G funds. See the "Getting Reimbursed for Alcoholic Beverages" FAQ for more information)

How do I get reimbursed for a hosted group event that was not direct-billed to a restaurant or caterer?

If you pay the vendor directly, please complete a Personal Reimbursement Request form and work with your Business Center to process it within 60 days of the event. Include the following details about the hosted event:

  • Who:  Names of the individuals hosted and the individuals doing the hosting. Also, describe the title/relationship to the university for each attendee to help understand the business purpose.
  • What:  What was the nature of the hosted event? Was it lunch, dinner, breakfast, entertainment or something else?
  • When: The dates and times of hosted events.
  • Where: Location or locations that the hosting took place.
  • Why:  Purpose and reason for hosting. Must describe what the benefit gained to OSU was from conducting the hosting.
  • Note: Names are not required when hosting large informal group gatherings; however, the announcement or agenda of the group gathering indicating the university purpose is to be attached to the reimbursement or invoice payment request.

Required Receipts:

  • Itemized to show meals, gratuities, any charges for room use and alcoholic beverages (which must be separated out and sent as direct pay requests to OSUF). A "tear tag" showing only the total charge is inadequate for reimbursement.

Average Amount:

  • The calculated average cost per person for refreshments or meals must be included with the reimbursement request. The average is determined by dividing the total cost (meal/refreshments including tip and delivery charge) by the number of attendees.

How do I get reimbursed for alcoholic beverages consumed during a hosted group meal?

Expenses for alcoholic beverages must be separately identified and billed directly to the OSU Foundation, if the hosting unit has access to Foundation funds. (Refer to the OSU Foundation Distribution Policy for more information.) It is best to ask the restaurant or caterer to provide separate bills for food and alcohol.

Contact your Business Center for assistance when alcoholic beverages are served at banquets or group activities that you are hosting as part of a workshop or conference, where the full cost of such beverages is recovered through charges to the participants or sponsoring group.

Note that the hosting institution is responsible for compliance with all laws and Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulations, including obtaining a one-day license for serving beer and wine.


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