Carnegie Mellon University

Business and Travel Expense FAQs

An IRS accountable plan is an employee reimbursement allowance arrangement or a method for reimbursing employees for business and travel expenses that complies with IRS regulations. Maintaining an accountable plan in compliance with IRS regulations prevents employee expenses from being treated as taxable income.

The main IRS regulations that detail accountable plan requirements are:

  • Treasury Regulation § 1.62-2 (26 C.F.R. § 1.62-2), Reimbursements and other expense allowance arrangements
  • Treasury Regulation § 1.162-1 (26 C.F.R. § 1.162-1), Business expenses
  • Treasury Regulation § 1.162-2 (26 C.F.R. § 1.162-2), Travel expenses
  • Treasury Regulation § 1.274-5 (26 C.F.R. § 1.274-5), Substantiation requirements

These regulations, along with the Internal Revenue Code (Title 26 of the United States Code), can be retrieved through the IRS website.

Financial Record Retention Policy

We are required to keep receipts for six years or until audit is complete, whichever is greater.

It is the maximum level allowed by The Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The IRS requires documentary evidence for expenses in excess of $75.  Some departments may follow more stringent guidelines for budgetary and control purposes.  For example: the Australian government requires receipts for all expenditures so expenses tied to our Australian operations will require receipts regardless of expenditure level.
In reviewing the existing policy/processes and gaining feedback from campus, departments have the deepest knowledge on business requirements and budget availability.  The goal is to follow a compliant policy, use university funds as judiciously as possible, and streamline decision making and processes.
The designated departmental finance representative (DDFR) must be defined by the department and the information must be sent to Finance.  For some divisions, the DDFR is the Administrative Leadership Group representative for your division (e.g. Heinz College, Campus Affairs, Tepper); other divisions have assigned the DDFR responsibility to department personnel (i.e. H&SS, SCS, etc.).  Refer to the DDFR Listing to locate your DDFR.

The Business and Travel Expense policy website contains extensive information regarding the revised policy.  Some of the information available includes:

Policy Development and Changes includes the policy, the policy development process and the committee members, and a high-level summary of the changes.

Policy Training includes information about the organization of the training material, as well as links to the self-study materials (both with and without narration).

Implementation Aids & Tools includes:

  • a policy summary brochure that can be printed double-sided on a piece of legal paper),
  • a forms section with links to all policy related forms including some that are prototypes for department al modification and usage; and
  • the DDFR listing (designated departmental financial representative) that identifies individuals that can approve upgrades/exceptions that are defined in the policy.

Frequently Asked Questions includes questions relating to the policy and are grouped into broad categories for ease of use.

Patricia Herbster, Manager of Carnegie Mellon Copy Centers, is available to help colleges and departments with options for printing, scanning, faxing needs along with charging requirements.  Colleges and Departments may consider reducing the number of smaller, individual units for centralized, higher volume machines.
No, this is a special case which would need to be documented with your designated departmental finance representative.  The university will be reviewing expenses submitted 90 days after the expenditure date and confirming any extraordinary circumstances before subjecting to taxation.  The IRS requires expenses to be submitted in a reasonable timeframe – older expenses without documentation are more difficult to substantiate and have a higher likelihood of fraud.

These costs may be covered under the Carnegie Mellon University Communications Allowance Guidelines - effective July 1, 2009.

If an individual does not receive a Communications Allowance and has a business requirement that causes them to incur communication costs, they can submit an expense report that includes the following information:

Date:  08/01/08
Time:  6:00 PM

Names of all individuals participating in the phone call:  Suzie Smith and James Bond

Detailed Business purpose of call: Discussion on discount structure available to CMU faculty and staff with regards to the new Communication Allowance Guidelines that are being implemented across campus. 

Detailed explanation of business relationship with all participating parties on the call:  S. Smith is the University's point of contact at

Verizon for wireless services and J. Bond is the Associate Director of Procurement Services who handles the relationship between CMU and Verizon.  

If an individual receives a Communications Allowance, there would be no additional reimbursement of costs, except in extenuating circumstances.

The latest information on university suppliers can be found at Procurement Services Supplier Directory.
No, this is not permitted.
For any medical related issues, you should contact La Dawn Robinson, Equal Employement Opportunity Services Associate at x8-3930 or
There must be a business reason for this expense and it must be approved by the designated departmental finance representative.

The following costs will be considered reimbursable when acquiring a US/International Visa:

  • Travel to and from the location where the visa is to be obtained;
  • Lodging cost for one night at the location where the visa is to be obtained; and
  • Any direct business expense incurred during travel to the location where the visa is to be obtained.

Employees should also be advised that such travel should coincide with other University related business travel when possible in order to minimize the costs incurred for obtaining the visa.     

No, an employee will not be reimbursed for expenses paid with a gift card.  Reimbursement for travel costs will only be made to employees using a personal credit card that can be directly linked to their name.