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A business meal must have departmental approval, include more than one person, and have a substantive and bona fide business purpose deemed essential to the University's mission.

The University will not pay for meals in recognition or in honor of particular individuals (e.g., wedding or baby showers). These meals are considered personal in nature.

Food/meal expenses that are permitted by University policy may not be allowable when paying with grants and other sponsored programs funding. Be sure to review the Sponsored Programs Food Guidance Overview and Food FAQs.

A business meal:

  • Has a daily limit of $75.
    • Alcohol, taxes, and tips are to be included in the daily limit amount.
    •  Have Supervisor approval and justification when over $150.
  • Must have the required purpose or reason, number of participants, and affiliation documented.
    • Names of participants, if 10 or fewer.
    • If more than 10, their affiliations are sufficient
  • Must have itemized receipts.

Buying and Paying for Business Meals

Note: If expensing a business meal while traveling, the meal must be claimed as either "travel" or "business," not both.

The preferred method to purchase catering for on-grounds business meals is with America To Go or one of the University’s Internal Service Providers.

To pay an external caterer $5,000 or more, submit a Purchase Requisition in the Integrated System prior to arranging the purchase. Include all information required for the meal in the Paper Clip attachment area of the form. A PSDS buyer will help to arrange the purchase and will create a Purchase Order.

For business meals in restaurants, the preferred payment method is the University’s Travel and Expense Card (also referred to as a P-Card or Purchasing Card). When paying with the Travel and Expense Card, follow policies and procedures for use of the card. All cardholder limits apply.

Unprepared food (e.g., grocery store food items) should be paid using the University Travel and Expense Card.

To pay with petty cash, follow the Petty Cash policy and the Petty Cash replenishment procedures. All Petty Cash limitations apply.

Reimbursement of business meal expenses is also allowed.

Taxes and Tips

Purchases of food, business meals, and catering paid directly by the University, including with a University Travel and Expense card, are exempted from Virginia Sales Tax. However, actual travel meals and business meals paid with personal funds are not exempt. The Tax Exempt form may be found here:

Tips should be reasonable and follow best practices.

Other Considerations

Any expenses for alcohol during a business meal MUST be paid with local funds. Information on circumstances under which alcohol may be served at the University is published in Policy STU-001: Use of Alcoholic Beverages and Prohibition of Other Drugs.

A companion attending a business meal is an allowable expense if the companion is considered to have a bona fide business purpose, that is, if the companion has a significant role in the proceedings or makes an important contribution to the success of an event. To receive reimbursement or expense Travel and Expense Card for a companion’s business meal requires justification and supervisor approval.