W-8 or W-9 │ Meals Travel │ ReceiptsCar Rental Foreign Currency Conversion Missing Receipts │Official Columbia University Policy

Which reimbursement form to use?

Columbia University students and employees use the Reimbursement Form (xls)
Non-employees and visitors use the Non-Employee Expense Work-Sheet (xls)

Are my reimbursement expenses taxable?

No, you will not be charged tax. Columbia University requires everyone to submit a W-8 or W-9 form along with their first reimbursement. This information is only used to process your payment. However, reimbursements submitted past 120 days from the date of the last expense are considered taxable income and may be taxed.

Which form, W-8 or W-9?

General Guidelines

  • Provide account number & professor name, your UNI, valid mailing address

  • Indicate the purpose, why it is considered a business or research expense

  • Always provide conference flyer or emails to indicate business purpose

  • Group and submit all expenses related to one event as one reimbursement

  • Separate each expense onto its own line- one expense per line item

  • Submit reimbursement within 120 days from date of the last expense


  • Save all receipts related to business and travel expenses

  • All receipts must be taped to an 8.5 × 11 piece of paper- NO staples

  • Number each receipt to match the expense number on the reimbursement form

  • Provide an invoice PLUS proof of payment. Just an invoice is NOT acceptable

  • Proof of payment (receipt) requirements:

    • Name of company items were purchased from

    • Date of charge

    • Amount paid to company

    • Name of items purchased (itemized receipt)

    • Credit card number (xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-1234)

    • Name of payee (your name)

A credit card or bank statement or a receipt will usually have all of the required information. If item was paid for with cash, please provide the receipt given to you and indicate you paid cash.

Segregated or Unsegregated?

Most of your items will be “Unsegregated” and should be placed in this column. Place items in “Segregated” column if they are alcohol, entertainment, flowers, gifts or other charges a grant or contract would deem unallowable. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Please remember that alcohol CANNOT be charged to sponsored projects)


  • List each meal per line item, and indicate which meal it is (breakfast, lunch or dinner).

    • Do not group meals together as one line item. Please separate each meal type per expense line.

  • Limit: Breakfast - $25, Lunch- $35, Dinner- $75 (BEFORE tax and tip)

  • Names of people eating if under ten people (over ten give number of people)

  • Indicate if alcohol was purchased and how much money it cost

  • Expenses for business meals involving external parties should not exceed $100 per person, excluding tax or tip. Such events include fundraising, recruitment or speaking engagements that are hosted and paid for by a University employee and attended by business colleagues, donors, students, or prospective employees, which result in a business benefit to the University.

  • Provide itemized receipt for all meals, not just credit card receipt.

    The original restaurant or cash register receipts for business meals must be obtained and submitted with the employee’s expense report.  The receipt must include:

        the date and location
        the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
        the meal items purchased (identify alcohol)
        the total amount of the meal
        proof of payment


  • Always take the cheapest flight/train/car/hotel possible, no first or business class

  • Taxi or train fare needs to indicate where you went, purpose

  • Flight/hotel dates need to correspond to conference dates, no extended stays (note purchases i.e. meals for non-conference related dates cannot be reimbursed)

  • Itemized hotel receipt needs to be obtained from the hotel upon check-out

  • International flights: ALWAYS select a US Airline if charging a Gov’t grant

  • Hotel limits: $350/night in the US, $400/night in international locations

Car Rental

Always try to rent Hertz and DO NOT purchase the insurance. Columbia University has their own rate with Hertz and insurance is covered.Insurance will be reimbursed for all other vendors, or if you are using Hertz internationally. Gas can be reimbursed when using a rental car.

Personal Vehicle

Instead of a car rental, you may want to use your own personal vehicle. Reimbursement rates are based on total miles traveled and you cannot be reimbursed the cost of gas when using this method. The personal vehicle mileage rate for travel: 

$.535/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2017
 $.545/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2018
$.580/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2019

In addition:

  • Provide an online printed map indicating the total mileage between your home and conference/trip destination

  • Place the total number of miles on the first page of the reimbursement in the “Personal Vehicle Mileage” section

  • Write the total amount as a new expense number with the business purpose, “Personal Vehicle Mileage”

Foreign Currency Conversion

Expense Reports can only be submitted in US dollars. Receipts of foreign currency must be accompanied by a translation of text and their conversions.For the conversion, you can find the appropriate rates by using Please print and submit the conversion rates for the travel dates used. You can either print and use the conversion rate for each expense date, or take the conversion rate average of the first date and the last date of the trip and use that number for all expenses within this date range. Please use the “Avg_Rate” or “Daily_Rate” tab on the Reimbursement Form accordingly.

Missing Receipts

Receipts for all items over $25 are required. If you are missing a receipt, please fill out theMissing Receipt Worksheet. Include the item number from the Reimbursement Form on the Missing Receipts Worksheet, and sign the document before submission.

Official Columbia University Policy

The complete travel and business expense reimbursement policy for Columbia University can be downloaded here: