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Reimbursement Guidelines

Overview

Any Columbia University employee (faculty, student) or visitor can be reimbursed when a valid business or research related expense exists. All expenses must be necessary and reasonable in order to conduct University business and must provide a clear benefit to the University.

Please use the information below to assist you in submitting a reimbursement claim. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact reimbursements@math.columbia.edu.

Page last updated: May 11, 2017


General Guidelines

Basic Policies

  • Please review the official Columbia University travel and business expense policies prior to submitting a request
    • Business expenses are “local” expenses
    • Travel expenses involve leaving the New York City area and include an overnight stay
    • Note: not knowing Columbia policy is not valid justification for failure to comply
  • Submit all expenses in a timely manner, preferably within 10 days of your last expense
    • Receipts received by the department after 120 days of the last expense date may be considered taxable income
  • Provide a conference flyer, seminar announcement, invitation letter, or other document to confirm the business purpose
  • If you are unsure about what is allowable, please check with the department before you incur an expense. Refer to this “cheat sheet” for common allowable / unallowable expenses
  • Incomplete submissions or poorly documented receipts will either delay processing, be returned for more information, or will not be reimbursed

Receipts

  • Must be itemized and show proof of payment (i.e., “CASH”, “VISA xxxx”, “PAID IN FULL”)
    • If a receipt does not show proof of payment, submit a credit card transaction or bank statement as supporting documentation
  • Be aware of receipts that indicate “estimate” or “quote”. These are NOT acceptable for proof of payment
  • Number each receipt to match the corresponding number on your expense worksheet
  • Scan all receipts into a single PDF file or tape to an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper
  • Please print single side only

If no receipt is available

  • If a receipt is misplaced or one was not provided, complete the missing receipt worksheet
    • Provide a justification in addition to the receipt description
    • Sign and date the bottom, and submit with your expense worksheet

Meals

  • Provide an itemized receipt, showing all items purchased
  • Ensure proof of payment is visible on the receipt (“CASH”, “VISA xxxx”, or similar)
  • Provide the names of all participants at the meal
  • Identify ALL alcohol purchased, or write “no alcohol” if the receipt is not itemized
    • Alcohol is a segregated expense, and must be placed in the “segregated” column
  • Meals are limited to three per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner); snacks and refreshments will not be reimbursed
  • Limits (per person, excluding tax & tip):
    • Breakfast – $25
    • Lunch – $35
    • Dinner – $50
  • If you anticipate exceeding a meal threshold, please notify the department in advance for approval. Exceptions will be made only in compelling cases.

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Travel and Lodging

Flights

  • Always purchase the lowest cost economy ticket, unless there is a documented condition why an upgrade is necessary
    • Upgrades to business or first class travel are considered “segregated”, and are not always reimbursable
    • If upgrades are necessary and allowable, at the time of booking obtain a quote for a round-trip economy flight, and submit with your purchased ticket
  • Ensure proof of payment is clearly visible
    • Note that websites such as Expedia often show only an “estimated fare” or “quote”. This is not a valid proof of payment.
  • If using a federal grant (NSF, NSA, DoD, etc.) you must comply with Fly America / Open Skies Act
  • Always arrive the day before your event begins, and depart the day after it ends. Extending travel beyond the minimum days for personal reasons requires additional documentation, or it cannot be reimbursed. Please consult the department before purchasing tickets involving extended stays.
  • Clearly document changes in travel plans, or unusual circumstances

Ground Transportation

  • Local transportation should specify origin and destination (e.g., taxi from airport to hotel)
  • Car rentals should be purchased through Hertz when possible, using Columbia account CDP# 254158
    • When using Hertz, DO NOT purchase insurance. This is included with the Columbia discounted rate. Insurance may be reimbursed from other vendors, if Hertz is not available
    • Provide a copy of the rental agreement with proof of payment
  • Use of personal vehicles may be claimed, and are reimbursed based on mileage. Gas is not eligible for reimbursement when using a personal vehicle.
    • Provide an online printed map showing your origin/destination and total number of miles
    • List this expense as “Personal vehicle mileage” on your reimbursement form as a line item
      • For travel occurring in 2016, the formula for mileage is: Total miles * 0.54 = $ amt
      • For travel occurring in 2017, the formula for mileage is: Total miles * 0.535 = $ amt
        • For example, you drive 100 miles round-trip to attend a conference. 100 miles * 0.535 = $53.50 (can be claimed as reimbursement)

Lodging

  • Obtain an itemized, zero balance folio upon checkout
  • Ensure proof of payment is clearly visible
  • Limits:
    • Domestic – $350/night
    • International – $400/night

Segregated vs Unsegregated Expenses

  • Most expenses are “Unsegregated”. Common “Segregated” expenses include:
    • First or business class travel upgrades (the cost above an economy flight. An economy quote for the same itinerary and travel dates MUST be submitted along with the purchased upgrade)
    • Expenses above Meal and Lodging thresholds
    • Alcoholic beverages
  • Segregated does not necessarily mean unallowable. However, these items cannot be charged to federal grants and may require additional approvals before reimbursements can be issued.

Foreign Currency

  • All expenses must be in US Dollars. Use a currency converter such as www.oanda.com to convert all foreign receipts to US Dollars. Conversions are based on the date of the actual expense. Write the converted amount of US Dollars on the receipt and provide a print out of a conversion page for confirmation. If you do not convert to US Dollars, leave the amount blank and the department will convert expenses on your behalf. Please number all receipts to match your expense worksheet.

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Instructions for Faculty and Students

What do I need to submit?

How do I correctly fill out the TBER worksheet?

  • Enter the following fields: (complete TBER example)
    • Name
    • Address (street, city, state, zip)
    • Signature / date
    • Business purpose of expenses (be specific)
    • Itemized list of expenses
  • Complete a separate expense worksheet for each trip. Do not combine multiple trips on one form.
    • A “trip” is defined as leaving and returning to New York City. Multiple conferences/events may be included in a single trip so long as the events are contiguous and you do not return to New York in between

Tips:

  • Provide a clear, specific business purpose
    • Acceptable: “Travel to _____ to participate in a conference on _______. July 1-5, 2017”
    • Not acceptable: “conference travel”
  • List each expense you are submitting, one item per line
    • Date of Expense is the date you purchased an item (NOT the date of travel, but the date the ticket was purchased; this may be several months before your trip)
    • Expenses in foreign currency must be converted to US Dollars.  Refer to the Foreign Currency section above.
  • If you have more than 8 receipts, use the “Extra Page” tab
  • Indicate the source of funding for your request in writing: via email or on the TBER
    • Example: “seminar fund” or “personal NSF research grant #xxxx”
  • Save a copy of the TBER excel file on your computer and enter your name and address for re-use
  • Take a copy of the expense sheet with you during travel, and record expenses as they occur
  • Submit local business expenses as receipts are collected, as opposed to accumulating multiple receipts throughout a semester
  • Please allow up to 6 weeks for processing before contacting the department for status or payment updates

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Instructions for Visitors

Prior to requesting a reimbursement, all non-U.S. citizens should confirm their eligibility for payment. If you are in a category such a “J-1 Researcher, Professor category not on Columbia’s sponsorship”, work authorization from your home institution should be obtained prior to requesting reimbursement. Typically this is a letter from your sponsoring institution that acknowledges that the travel is related to your visa program and provides permission to receive travel reimbursement and/or honorarium. After confirming you are eligible to receive payment, submit the following:

How do I submit a reimbursement claim?

  • Provide the appropriate tax form, supporting documentation, and non-employee expense worksheet (see above)
    • List each expense you are submitting, one item per line
      • Expenses in foreign currency must be converted to US Dollars.  Refer to the Foreign Currency section above.
      • Date of Expense is the date you purchased an item (NOT the date of travel, but the date the ticket was purchased; this may be several months before your trip)
  • Send submissions to reimbursements@math.columbia.edu, or drop off in person in room 509 Math
    • You may opt to leave the SSN field blank on the W8/W9 form, and call the department after submitting your forms to provide it over the phone (212-854-3950)
    • Refer to the section on receipts above to ensure proper documentation is provided prior to submission

Why must I submit tax forms for a reimbursement? Is my expense considered taxable?

  • If you are only receiving travel reimbursement (transportation, meals, lodging) for itemized receipts, this is not considered income and is not taxed. However, Columbia still requires a tax form on file to comply with IRS regulations.
    • Note: Do not submit the statement for non-resident alien payments or Form 8233 if you are only receiving travel reimbursement

What if I am receiving an honorarium?

  • An honorarium may be considered taxable income. If you are an international visitor, you must first confirm that you are eligible to receive an honorarium, based on your current visa status. If yes, submit the following additional documents:
    • Statement for Non-Resident Alien Payments (required)
    • Form 8233 (optional)
      • Only submit Form 8233 if you are claiming a tax treaty, for an exemption on withholding
      • In most cases where a tax treaty is not claimed, federal regulations require that Columbia withhold 30% from the honorarium at time of payment

Other helpful tips

  • Do not submit partial requests. If you do not have all receipts or documents available, submit your request electronically once everything is compiled.
  • Provide suitable contact information on the Non-Employee Expense Worksheet (phone, email)
  • Unless there is an exceptional circumstance, the department will not reimburse alcoholic beverages for visitors. Ensure all meal receipts are itemized, or it will be excluded from your reimbursement as a precaution.
  • The default payment method will send a check to the address listed on the W8/W9. You must notify the department at the time of submission if you wish to make alternate arrangments.
  • Please allow up to 6-8 weeks for processing before contacting the department for status or payment updates

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Help

Need help with your submission? Questions about a policy or form? Please contact the department for assistance at reimbursements@math.columbia.edu.

 

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Forms & Documents

Please review the above guidelines to ensure proper use of the documents below.

Employee Submissions

Visitor Submissions

Miscellaneous

 

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