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Expense claims - guidance on eligible expenditure

When incurring personal expenditure for travel and subsistence whilst on University business, reimbursal will be made by cheque, after submission and verification of the University’s Expense Claim form FD1

Example of a completed Expenses Claim form

All claims must be authorised by the line manager and budget holder/authorised signatory of the designated account/research grant to which the expenditure will be charged.

Reimbursal rates

Reimbursal will be made in line with the current travel and subsistence rates which are agreed annually by the University’s Finance Committee. Any claim over and above these rates requires a written justification to accompany the claim. The claim may be reduced to the approved rates.

There are four different allowances:

Part day spanning lunch i.e. absent for more than 5 hours over the lunchtime period

Part day spanning dinner i.e. absent for more than 5 hours over the evening period

Part day including lunch & dinner i.e. absent for more than 10 hours but not overnight

Overnight i.e. includes breakfast as well as accommodation (higher rate for London area)

Please note that the maximum subsistence rates include taxes and gratuities. Gratuities must not be excessive e.g. <10%.

These rates apply to anywhere within the UK, including cities and airports.

Meals overseas

Meals taken whilst overseas should be equivalent to a meal that could be purchased within the UK rates. The expectation is that individuals enjoy a modest breakfast, light lunch and more substantial evening meal. If the cost of living is low, individuals should not expect to be reimbursed for a five course meal just because it is inexpensive.


Modest amounts of alcohol are only reimbursed if consumed whilst having a meal and should be within the subsistence rates for the meal.


The rates may only be exceeded in exceptional circumstances i.e. where there is no choice e.g. no other accommodation available or where there is a strong business reason to exceed the rates, for example attendance at a conference in a hotel where the rates are in excess of the set rates and it is desirable to stay there in order to foster academic relations.

Where rates are exceeded, evidence should be provided to support the need to exceed. If this is not provided, only the standard rate will be reimbursed.

The policy is not intended to fund what might be regarded as inappropriate use of public/charitable funds as the University is a Charity.


ALL claims (with the exception of mileage) should be accompanied by valid tax receipts. A tax receipt is the receipt you are given at the point of payment, which details the specific items purchased, and is required for audit purposes.

Please note that a credit card slip is NOT a valid tax receipt.

It is the responsibility of the individual incurring the expenditure to submit all tax receipts with the claim form.

Reimbursement without a receipt will only be made in very exceptional circumstances, and will be reported on the annual P11D (unless <£5). The annual P11D is a return submitted by Payroll to HMRC. It details any payments made by an employer to an employee which are considered to be taxable benefits. HMRC use this information to adjust your annual tax allowance.


Purchase of goods/services should not be incurred by individuals and submitted for reimbursal. The University’s prescribed procedures for purchasing must be followed. Expense claims must not be used to bypass the purchasing requirements in place.

Reimbursal for small incidental items purchased, totalling <£25, may be made from petty cash. Petty cash cannot be used to reimburse travel and subsistence expenditure, regardless of the value.


Claims for reimbursement should be made within three months of incurring the expenditure, or before the end date of the grant, whichever is the earliest. However, if an advance was issued for travel, claims should be submitted within one month of the date of return.


Where anticipated that expenditure incurred will be large in value, an advance may be sought (typically for expenditure >£500). An advance may be granted for the estimated cost of up to one month’s subsistence. For periods exceeding one month, a request will be made to the Director of Finance.

Request for an advance should be made in writing to Gina Arnold by submitting an Advance form FD1B at least two weeks before travel. This should detail the reason for the advance, a breakdown of places to be visited, the type and sums of anticipated expenditure. If approved, the individual will receive a cheque for the advance. Upon return the individual should submit an Expenses Claim form within one month, detailing the advance taken. Please note that receipts are still required for ALL expenditure as with ordinary claims.

If expenditure claimed upon return is less than the original advance, the individual will be asked to reimburse the University the difference. If the expenditure is greater, the individual will be issued with a cheque for the difference.

Foreign Travel Advance

Requests for foreign currency advances must be made to Gina Arnold at least ten days before the currency is to be collected. You will be advised if there are any restrictions regarding the value of currency which can be taken in and out of a specific country. Travellers’ cheques will be issued in preference to cash, and will be ordered in the name of the individual who will collect and sign for the funds. The travellers’ cheques will be held at Barclays Bank St Andrews Street, although alternative arrangements can be made with another branch (if notified on the original advance request form).

Please note that any exchange rate differences will be journaled back to the account being charged for the advance.


Regardless of the funding source, employees should always choose the most cost effective method of transport for business journeys, taking into account other factors e.g. total travel time, associated subsistence costs, taxis to and from stations and safety issues. Cars should only be used where other methods of transport are impractical. If an individual chooses to use their car as opposed to travelling by train, and is unable to provide a business justification, the cost of an economy rail ticket price will be reimbursed.

Car insurance

Regardless of whether an individual claims reimbursal, if your personal car is used whilst on University business, you must ensure you have ‘business use’ added to your car insurance. Most insurance companies do not make an additional charge for this. If you do not request this, you will NOT be covered in the event of an accident. Please note that the University does NOT provide financial or legal cover for use of private vehicles.

Each year when you renew your cover, a copy of the insurance certificate should be provided to Melissa Large. Failure to provide confirmation of ‘business use’ will result in rejection of your claim. This requirement applies to employees and employed PhD students.

Although students are not employed, and therefore do not require ‘business use’ on their insurance, they are still required to provide a copy of their insurance certificate to Melissa Large before reimbursal of expenditure can be made.


The mileage claimed for a business journey should be the lower of:

  • The mileage actually incurred or
  • The mileage which would have been incurred if the journey had started and finished at the normal place of work

The University only reimburses the ordinary journey to work if additional journeys have been made in order to perform overtime, call outs, or where a severely disabled person is unable to use public transport. As this is not considered a business journey, the payment is subject to PAYE and is therefore reimbursed via Payroll (with the exception of commuting for employees with a severe disability).


Although reimbursal is made for parking whilst on business travel, excess parking charges, fines and wheel clamp charges etc will NOT be reimbursed.


The University encourages individuals to use the Uni4/Citi4 bus service which is subsidised.


Taxis should only be used where there is no other suitable alternative public transport available, or the number of individuals travelling together means that it is more cost effective, or due to carrying large, heavy, valuable or fragile items.

The Department has accounts with local taxi firms. The Accounts Office Supervisor will be able to advise you of the current suppliers used.


Wherever possible, business should be arranged so that rail travel can take place during off peak periods. The cheapest available tickets should be purchased for rail travel.

Air Travel

Economy class air travel should be used at the fare giving the best value for money, regardless of whether the expenditure is to be charged to a Research Grant or a Departmental Account. If the lowest fare is not taken up, the individual must provide a justification in writing when submitting their expenses claim form.

Individuals may make a case for premium economy travel to be authorised by HOD, if specific conditions are met. The flight must be more than 8 hours AND they are expected to work on behalf of the University (e.g. presenting a lecture/attending an event) within 3 hours of landing.


Fully flexible fares should not be used where flexibility in travel arrangements is not a business requirement.

Be careful to read the terms if using low cost carriers, as many attractive fares are exclusive of taxes.

NB: When booking air travel, the University’s requirements for seeking quotes MUST be followed if the total booking exceeds £250. Details of the quotes obtained should be attached to the back of the expenses claim form along with the printed receipt (can be email confirmation) when submitting expenditure for reimbursal. If quotes have not been obtained, or the cheapest option has not been chosen, a justification must be provided with the claim. It is expected only in very exceptional circumstances would three quotes not be available.


The cost of accommodation should not exceed the subsistence rates. If rates are exceeded a justification in writing must accompany your claim for reimbursal. A justification does not automatically mean the excess will be reimbursed.

Accommodation related charges not reimbursed by the University:

  • Newspapers
  • Personal phone calls
  • Bar
  • Mini bar
  • Videos/movies
  • Laundry

If accommodation is provided by a friend or relative £25 per night may be claimed. The individual should complete the ‘Private Accommodation Claim Form’ obtaining the signature of the host to certify that payment was made.

Accommodation whilst working abroad

Overseas travel accommodation should be roughly equivalent to UK 3 star level. In areas of deprivation or security risk, this may be increased to 4 star equivalent.

NB: When booking accommodation, the University’s requirements for seeking quotes MUST be followed if the total booking exceeds £250. Details of the quotes obtained should be attached to the back of the expenses claim form along with the printed receipt (can be email confirmation)/invoice, when submitting expenditure for reimbursal. If quotes have not been obtained, or the cheapest option has not been chosen, a justification must be provided with the claim. It is expected only in very exceptional circumstances would three quotes not be available.

Passports, Visas, Vaccinations

The University is not responsible for the cost of replacing lost or stolen passports. Visas and vaccinations required for business travel will be reimbursed, along with anti malarial medication.

Travel Insurance

The University provides travel insurance for employees and supervised students on field trips. Individuals are expected to use this arrangement and should complete the online application at least two weeks prior to the planned trip. Organisers of supervised Departmental field trips should arrange cover for all the travelling individuals direct with the Insurance Section (Internal 32216 or 39659).

When completing the online form the follow information is required:

  • Name and home address
  • Payroll number
  • Countries to be visited
  • Dates of the journey
  • Purpose of the journey
  • Confirmation of good health (proof of confirmation from the doctor that the individual can travel if he/she has a medical condition)

Individuals organising their own travel insurance as opposed to using the University’s cover, will not be able to claim reimbursal of the cost unless it can be proven that the University’s insurance would not have been sufficient for the cover required. If in doubt about the level of cover, please contact the Insurance Section at least two weeks prior to travel and prior to taking out alternative travel insurance.


Entertaining should wherever possible be carried out in the University’s own facilities or in Colleges.

A claim for reimbursal must include a schedule of all the individuals being entertained and their organisations, along with details of the purpose of the entertainment. Submission of the claim is a declaration that the entertainment was incurred wholly, necessarily, and exclusively for University purposes, and therefore there must be a clear benefit to the University from providing the entertainment.

The expenditure must be an appropriate use of University money and it must be remembered that the University is a charity, and therefore reflected in the cost of the entertaining.

The cost must be reasonable and will not normally exceed evening meal subsistence rates. It should not include anything other than the provision of food, a modest amount of alcohol and incidental costs e.g. a taxi to the restaurant.

The primary purpose must be to entertain non-employees i.e. their simple presence is not enough to justify the entertainment, it must be the main purpose of the event.

The provision of entertainment must not be seen to bring the University into disrepute by placing any public official under undue influence.

Examples of business entertainment:

  • To recognise the contribution of external individuals to the University e.g. to thank external examiners
  • Potential sponsors of research or donors
  • Potential collaborators contemplating business with the University, or existing collaborators
  • To improve public relations
  • Existing sponsors to report progress on their project
  • Individuals who will be able to positively influence the policies of government bodies, or other sponsors towards the University
  • Official visits
  • Prospective students/employees (exceptionally)

Examples of ineligible business entertainment:

  • Where there are no non-employees e.g. a meal held for a team as a thank you (this would be staff entertainment)
  • Where the entertainment of non-employees is not the main purpose of the event e,g, a research group decide to have a meal together and invite a visiting scholar who happens to be in the University at the time
  • There are non-employees present but their presence does not further the University’s business e.g. employees’ partners are invited to a staff social function

NB: Where the ratio of employees to non-employees is higher than 5:1 claims (for HMRC audit purposes) should note the business purpose served by having such a high number of employees compared to non-employees.

If the information required to back up claims for entertaining is not provided, the value will be recorded on the individual’s annual P11D.

Staff Entertainment

Working lunches

Sandwiches provided at a working lunch are eligible as long as details showing the purpose of the meeting are provided, along with the names of the attendees, and the working lunches are infrequent. The lunch must be an integral part of the meeting, and the cost must be trivial e.g. less than £5 per head. If the lunch is held after the meeting has concluded, or if the meeting moves to a restaurant, the lunch becomes taxable on the individuals attending.

Staff parties

Annual functions which are open to all staff in a Department and are less than £150 per head are not taxable.

Meals open to specific individuals are taxable and are reported on P11D.

Staff taken out to dinner after an Awards Ceremony as a thank you is a taxable benefit, even if the staff were not paid to work at the Awards Ceremony.

If there is more than one annual function, once the annual limit of £150 per head is exceeded the other functions become taxable.

Team building, away days and other similar events

It is necessary to establish the purpose of the event and its attendees:

If a daylong event is held, including a meal, the meal is considered incidental to the event and is not taxable.

If the event is primarily the meal, it falls under ‘staff entertainment’ and unless it is open to all staff members and when added to the cost of other annual functions is less than £150 per head, it will be taxable.

Communications – telephones/mobile phones/internet charges

Payments or the provision of vouchers/phone cards to employees for use of their mobile telephones are not normally reimbursed. If in exceptional circumstances they are reimbursed, these will be recorded as a taxable benefit and reported on P11D. The reasoning behind this is that HMRC conclude that the vouchers/phone cards can be used for private calls as well as business calls. This also applies to reimbursal of internet access costs incurred. Individuals can receive reimbursal of business call costs on private telephones/mobiles, if they produce an itemised bill with the calls marked clearly as business calls. These would not then be classified as a taxable benefit.

If the University owned telephones are used for private calls, the costs should be reimbursed to the University and VAT must be charged.

Protective Clothing

Provision of protective clothing or uniforms with un-detachable logos is not considered a taxable benefit. However, if clothing without a logo can be worn at any time it becomes a taxable benefit and must be reported on P11D.

If the University reimburses an individual for clothes they have purchased personally, they are taxable and must be paid via payroll.

Subscriptions to Journals

Subscriptions to journals or purchases of books can be reimbursed as long as they are kept in the Department’s library, or in the work area of the individual and accessible for the use of other individuals. They must not be kept at the individual’s home.


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