Travel and Business Reimbursement Guidelines

Columbia University employees, students, and visitors can be reimbursed for valid business and research-related expenses. Expenses must provide a clear benefit to the university and be necessary and reasonable. Below, please find information related to submitting receipts. For a complete overview of Columbia University’s TBER policies, please visit the Finance Gateway. All questions related to reimbursements within the IEOR department should be directed to ieor-payments@columbia.edu.

 

PHD REIMBURSEMENT

Submit your reimbursement

General Information

  • Any individual incurring the travel expense must be familiar with departmental and university policies to ensure compliance and appropriate spending of university funds.  
  • There are two types of expenses: business expenses and travel expenses. Please review Columbia’s official travel and business expense policies.
  • Business expenses are costs accrued locally (in the New York City area) with no overnight stays.
  • Travel expenses involve leaving the submitter’s home city and include an overnight stay.
  • In order to be reimbursed for travel and business expenses for IEOR-related events, faculty, students, and visitors must submit the complete set of documentation, as outlined for faculty, students, and visitors. 
  • A completed reimbursement application should be submitted in a timely manner, ideally within ten days of your last travel or business 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.
  • Incomplete or poorly documented receipts may delay processing. Submissions that are not in accordance with university policy will not be reimbursed.
  • If you have any questions about acceptable TBER expenses, please review the Reimbursable & Non-Reimbursable Expenses or contact us at ieor-payments@columbia.edu.
  • For technology purchases or inquiries, please first email ieor-tech@columbia.edu. For all other supplies, please contact ieor-payments@columbia.edu. Purchases that are made without pre-approval may not be reimbursed.

Receipts

  • All submitted receipts must be itemized (showing which meals/items were purchased) and indicate a completed transaction (proof of payment, for example “cash tendered” or “Mastercard xxxx”).
  • If a receipt does not show proof of payment, please provide a credit card statement as supporting documentation (and redact all sensitive bank information).
  • When submitting your TBER, scan your receipts into a single .pdf file. Please number each receipt in chronological order and in sequence of the expenses noted on your TBER report.

Foreign Currency

Columbia University will only issue reimbursements in US dollars. When completing your TBER form, please use a currency converter (www.oanda.com). Conversions must be consistent with the date the expense occurred.

Meals

  • Provide an itemized receipt, showing all items purchased and ensure proof of payment is noted.
  • Provide the names of all individuals at the meal.
  • Identify 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 coffee/tea/refreshments will not be reimbursed.
  • Limits (per person, excluding tax & tip):
    • Breakfast – $25
    • Lunch – $35
    • Dinner – $75
  • Any meal expense exceeding the threshold will be automatically reduced to comply with these limits.

Travel & Lodging

Flights

  • Always purchase the lowest cost economy ticket, unless there is a documented condition necessitating an upgrade.
  • 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 upgraded ticket.
  • Ensure proof of payment is clearly visible. Note: Websites such as Expedia often show only an “estimated fare” or “quote,” which 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, which generally requires use of a US-based air carrier. Please contact IEOR at ieor-payments@columbia.edu for additional information.
  • Travel extensions for personal reasons requires additional documentation or travel will not be reimbursed. Please consult the department before purchasing tickets involving extended stays.
  • Clearly document changes in travel plans or other unusual circumstances on the corresponding expense line on the TBER.

Ground Transportation

  • Local transportation should specify origin and destination (e.g., taxi from airport to hotel).

Rental Cars

  • Prior to reserving any rental car, please send an e-mail to ieor-payments@columbia.edu.
  • Provide a copy of the rental agreement with proof of payment.

Use of Personal Vehicle

  • Mileage on personal vehicles may be claimed as a reimbursable expense. Gas, maintenance, or repairs are not eligible for reimbursement when using a personal vehicle.
  • Provide a digital map of your origin and destination points, including total miles.
  • List this expense as “Personal vehicle mileage” on your reimbursement form as a line item. For 2020 travel, complete the calculated field for your mileage reimbursement. The calculator on the TBER uses the following formula: Total miles * 0.575=$ amount.

Lodging

  • Obtain an itemized receipt with proof of payment noted upon checkout.
  • The cap rate on domestic hotels is $350 per night. For international stays, the cap is $400 per night.

Segregated / Unsegregated Expenses

Most expenses are “Unsegregated.” Segregated expenses cannot be charged to federal grants and may require additional approvals before reimbursements can be issued. 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 (see Travel & Lodging)

  • Alcoholic beverages

Faculty Reimbursements

  • Complete a TBER Form as soon as possible after your travels.
  • When submitting your TBER, scan your receipts into a single .pdf file. Please number each receipt in chronological order and in sequence of the expenses noted on your TBER report.
  • Be clear and specific as you itemize your expenses.
  • If you have more than 15 receipts, use the Extra Page Sheet.
  • Please mind foreign currency exchanges.
  • Conference flyer, seminar announcement, invitation letter, etc. must be included.
  • Receipts and supporting documentation (see Receipts).
  • For missing receipts, complete the Missing Receipts Worksheet.
  • Submit to ieor-payments@columbia.edu, and allow a few weeks for processing.
  • Please contact the department before purchasing supplies (books, equipment, technology, or office supplies). These items must be purchased by the department and are tax exempt.
  • For technology purchases or inquiries, please first email ieor-tech@columbia.edu. For all other supplies, please contact ieor-payments@columbia.edu. Purchases that are made without pre-approval may not be reimbursed.

 

Student Reimbursements

  • Complete a TBER Form as soon as possible after your travels.
  • Please include an e-mail (from the department or faculty funding the travel) as backup for the funding source.
  • When submitting your TBER as an Excel file, please also scan your receipts, conference flyer, and e-mail confirmation of funding source (e-mail approval from department or faculty advisor) into a single .pdf file. Please number each receipt in chronological order and in sequence of the expenses noted on your TBER report.
  • Be clear and specific as you itemize your expenses.
  • If you have more than 15 receipts, use the Extra Page Sheet.
  • Please mind foreign currency exchanges.
  • Conference flyer, seminar announcement, invitation letter, etc. must be included.
  • Receipts and supporting documentation (see Receipts).
  • For missing receipts, complete the Missing Receipts Worksheet.
  • Submit expense report by completing the IEOR Student Reimbursement Form and uploading documentation listed here to the appropriate fields within the form.

Visitor Reimbursements

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.

Tax Forms

If you are only receiving travel reimbursement (transportation, meals, and lodging) for itemized receipts, this is not considered income and is not taxed. However, Columbia still requires to keep a tax form on file to comply with IRS regulations.

After confirming you are eligible to receive payment, submit the following:

Submission Instructions

  • 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 (see Foreign Currency).
  • Refer to the receipts section above to ensure proper organization of your paperwork.
  • Send submissions to ieor-payments@columbia.edu. Please allow several weeks for setting up your vendor profile and processing your reimbursement.
  • Your reimbursement will come in the form of a check to the address listed on your W-8/W-9.

All Forms