This policy is under revision by the travel governance committee.

Update Notice:

This update is to revise the existing rate schedule for food and beverages related to UW Sponsored Events and to delineate individual traveler M&IE per diem allowance reimbursements from documentation, payment and specified limits for food & beverages related to University Sponsored Events or hospitality (hosted meals, etc.).

An individual traveler’s personal meal & incidental expense (M&IE) per diem allowance cannot be used to pay for items related to University Sponsored Events or any other related business entertainment activity that includes meals, food or beverages whether the expense is incurred in travel status or at the headquarter location. Likewise, Headquarter City, UW Sponsored Event and Hosted Meals are not reimbursed to travelers as individual meals.

University funds may be used to provide meals, break items or non-alcoholic beverage refreshments at a University Sponsored Event or other business function that gathers individuals associated with the University in a setting that is not purely social in nature provided the expense meets the requirements of the existing policy.

Examples of business functions that fall under the definition of University Sponsored Events and rate limits are:

  • Conferences
  • Seminars
  • Retreats/Workshops
  • Training Sessions
  • Academic Colloquiums
  • Receptions
  • Orientations
  • University Official Functions specific to events hosted by the President, Chancellor or Center Dean
  • Board of Regents meetings
  • Business meetings including external stakeholder and business partners of the University
  • Hospitality or hosted meals between University hosts and job interview candidates or recruits
  • Departmental meetings

Effective with arrangements for food & beverages made October 5, 2015 and after the maximum rate table below will apply to specific allowed expenditures within this policy and replaces the previous meal/break limits specified in this policy.

Maximum rates by location and meal expense type are:

Expense Within Wisconsin All Other Locations – Including International
Breakfast $12 $15
Lunch $18 $23
Dinner $30 $37
Refreshments/Break $10 $10

Note:  When the business purpose qualifies to offer a reception instead of a meal, the purchase of food & beverages will be reasonable and fitting to the type of reception being held.  All reception costs must be within the meal maximums prescribed for the particular time of day that the reception is held.

Maximum rates are based on actual expenses incurred and are inclusive of standard gratuity or required service charges up to 20% and any tax. Wisconsin tax exemption must be obtained.  Any purchases of food, beverages or related costs must be documented with an itemized receipt from the supplier and other supporting documentation as specified in this policy.  Credit card receipts alone will not suffice for University payment.

The rest of the provisions and requirements of this policy prevail until all revisions are complete.


A. Introduction

Costs associated with UW­ sponsored business events, some of which may occur at the headquarters location, may generally be reimbursed if they are actual, reasonable and necessarily incurred in the discharge of official duties. Section B, Section C and Section D outline specific requirements involving refreshment break, meal and reception expenses in connection with UW­ sponsored events. Section E, Section F and Section G outline policy based on the composition of attendees.

B. Refreshment Break Expenses

When Allowable

Refreshment break expenses are allowable only in association with a business meeting that meets one of the following criteria: a. facilities are not available within the building or immediate area of the meeting where attendees could obtain and consume normal break items within a typical break period (10 to 20 minutes), or b. having the attendees leave the meeting room would have an adverse effect on the continuity of the meeting, meaning it is expected that break items be consumed while the business meeting or program continues, or c. the majority of attendees are not UW/State employees. For purposes of applying this provision, board members are not considered employees.

Allowable Expenses

Refreshment break expenses must be limited to one break each morning and afternoon. The break may consist of nonalcoholic beverages such as coffee, tea or soft drinks, and at the discretion of each institution, a small food item may be included. The total cost must be reasonable and should not exceed $7.00 per person. Events that include a continental breakfast must not include additional food items at the morning break.

Approval Level

Director or Department head level or above.

Documentation Requirements

The following documentation must accompany the request for payment:

  1. The name, purpose, number in attendance, date and time (beginning/ending) of the meeting. A meeting agenda which includes all the required information is preferred.
  2. A statement indicating which of the criteria outlined in B was/were met. If the refreshment break is allowed the number of UW/State employees and non­-employees must be provided.
  3. Original invoices/receipts showing the amount to be paid or reimbursed.

NOTE: The restrictions outlined in this section do not apply to UW ­sponsored events attended primarily by the general public (reference Section F) if participants pay a fee to cover such costs.

C. Meal Expenses

1. When Allowable

If the meeting is held at the headquarters location of the majority of the attendees, a provided meal is acceptable only if the business could not be effectively conducted in such a manner so as to avoid the necessity of the meal. It is not appropriate for payment of meal costs at an employee’s headquarters location unless a mealtime speaker is scheduled, business is actually conducted during the meal, or facilities are not available near the meeting location for the attendees to eat at their own cost.

2. Allowable Expenses

Meal expenses, including tax and tip, for UW/State employees included in the payment are allowable only up to the amounts specified in Section X. Meal expenses of non­UW/State employees should be reasonable.

3. Approval Level

Director or Department head level or above.

4. Documentation Requirements

The following documentation must accompany the request for payment to a vendor or reimbursement to the employee:

  1. The name, purpose, date and time (beginning/ending) of the meeting. A meeting agenda which includes all the required information is preferred.
  2. A list of meeting participants for whom expenses are to be covered, indicating name and affiliation, i.e., institution, state agency, business, etc.
  3. Original invoices/receipts itemizing the cost per meal and showing the total amount to be paid or reimbursed.
  4. Justification for holding the meeting over the meal period

NOTE: The restrictions outlined in this section do not apply to UW­ sponsored events attended primarily by the general public (reference Section F) if participants pay a fee to cover such costs.

D. Reception Expenses

1. Definition

A gathering of individuals associated with a UW­ sponsored event that provides the opportunity for interaction in a setting that is not purely social in nature. Unlike a business meeting, a reception may not have a specific agenda or time frame. Like a business meeting, the purpose must be related to or promote the mission of the hosting department.

Expenses are not allowable for receptions that are solely for social or entertainment purposes, except as provided in other UW System policies as referenced below.

Examples at the end of this section describe receptions for which expenses paid by UW­ administered funds would be allowable.

2. Allowable Expenses

Reasonable food and beverage costs, reception room cost, service charges and gratuity may be paid. Even though it may not be possible to determine in advance how many will actually attend, a reasonable effort should be made to minimize expenses resulting from overestimated attendance. The hosting department should be prepared to justify the cost of the event to the news media and to political and private interests. Refreshments cannot include alcoholic beverages.

3. Approval Level

Director, Department head level or above.

4. Documentation Requirements

The following documentation must accompany the request for payment:

  1. Approval as indicated above.
  2. A statement or document which substantiates the official business relatedness of the reception.
  3. Original invoices/receipts showing the amount to be paid or reimbursed.
  4. When it is anticipated that the reception will be attended primarily by UW/State employees, the provisions of E.1 and G.1 below shall apply.

5. Examples of Allowable Receptions

  • A department of a UW System institution hosts a reception in a hospitality room at an out­ of ­town conference site hotel.
  • Alumni from the area and conference participants are invited for the purposes of faculty recruitment, fundraising and interaction with UW alumni regarding current UW issues.
  • A college of a UW System institution hosts a reception in conjunction with a guest speaker at an arts and lecture series to provide the participants an opportunity to discuss the topic of the speaker.
  • The art gallery hosts a reception for the opening of an art exhibit to provide the participants an opportunity to discuss the exhibit with the artists and other participants.
  • Critic teachers are requested to attend a business meeting from 4­ to 6:00 p.m., followed by a reception, but not dinner, and informal discussions relating to the instruction of student teachers.

6. Social or entertainment related receptions

UW System Administrative Policy 312 (SYS 312), Official Functions, UW System Administrative Policy 171 (SYS 171), Recruitment/Retention of Students, and UW System Administrative Policy 820 (SYS 820), Segregated University Fees delineate situations where social or entertainment related receptions are allowable.

E. Events Attended primarily by UW employees

Meetings, conferences and training sessions for participation primarily by UW employees (this includes employees from all UW institutions) are subject to the following:

  1. Meetings in non ­UW facilities are not allowable if additional expenses are incurred by the UW which would not have been incurred if the meetings were held in a UW facility. The only exception is when an adequate UW facility is not available. Justification for not using a UW facility where additional expenses are incurred requires approval of the institution controller.
  2. Registration fees must not include items which are not allowable under UW regulations.
  3. The brochure or registration form must be attached to the TER, PCard or invoice billed direct to the UW and should indicate the itemized costs, i.e., meals, breaks, etc., included in the fee, regardless of the dollar amount.
  4. All registration fees must be paid to the institution and deposited in the State Treasury.
  5. The names of the participants and the institution to which they are headquartered must be provided for all meal and lodging expenditures.
  6. Meal and refreshment break expenses are allowable under the restrictions outlined in Section B. and Section C., above. Lodging expenses shall not exceed the maximums.

F. Events attended primarily by the general public –  meetings, conferences, camps and training sessions sponsored by the UW or where the UW acts as the fiscal agent for participation of the general public and professional groups are subject to the following:

  1. Event should be planned and located in such a way that convenience and accessibility for the participants is maximized and costs to them and the UW are minimized. Utilization of campus facilities is encouraged. The services of a UW meeting planning department should also be considered.
  2. The brochure or registration form should indicate the costs, i.e., meals, beverages. breaks, etc., included in the fee. Wine/beer to be served with a meal included at the conference are the only alcoholic beverages which may be included in the conference fee. Registration fees must be charged for meals, beverages, lodging and other non-program­ related costs.  An accounting of the event registration fees collected and expense incurred must be completed and made available upon request.
  3. All registration fees must be paid to the institution and deposited in the State Treasury.

G. Off campus meetings, training sessions, etc. held primarily or exclusively for employees of the same institution:

  1. It is recommended that meetings and training sessions held primarily or exclusively for participation of employees from the same institution (generally a department or sub­unit of a department), be held in UW facilities. Refreshment break and meal costs in connection with these meetings are subject to Section B and Section C rules above.
  2. Prior approval of the Institution Business Representative is required for transportation (mileage, fleet car costs) or meeting room costs associated with a meeting held off ­campus.
  3. Related lodging costs are not allowable.