Carnegie Mellon University

Expense Report Preparation FAQs

The business purpose should include a detailed description that documents and confirms how the expense relates to university business.  A good description should answer the following questions:

  • What does the expense represent?
  • Why does the expense relate to university business?
  • When did the expense occur?
  • Where did the expense occur?
  • Who was the expense for and what is their business relationship to the university?

While all of these questions may not apply to every business expense, the information should be included when relevant.  

  • For meals, the purpose should include the names of all attendees (if five or fewer) or the number of attendees (if greater than five), as well as the business topic that was discussed at the meeting. 
  • For travel, the purpose should include the destination, dates of travel, and the specific business reason for the travel, such as the name of the conference attended.
  • For supplies, the purpose should state the business and purpose of supplies and department that will use the supplies.

All individuals requesting reimbursement or incurring business and travel expenses are required to scan and attach original receipts to substantiate their business expenses, except in the case of per diem reimbursements.  All single expenditures of $75 and greater must be accompanied by original and itemized receipts. Photocopies of credit card charge slips or statements are not sufficient.  Estimates should not be provided; finalized receipts/bills are required, including rental vehicles and hotels. Tear-off stubs for meals should be accompanied by a cash register receipt. In rare cases where original or itemized receipts are not available, a Missing Receipt Form [.pdf] must be completed.  

The last four digits of the credit card utilized for the university business expense is not required as long as the receipt provides support that the transaction was paid in full. 

See the Expense Documentation section of the Business and Travel Expense Policy for additional information.

To have an employee added to your delegate listing, you should complete the Delegate Access Request form via the Online Forms System. This form is submitted online to the Business Systems Help Desk for processing.  This form is also used for removing employees from your delegate list.


Do not use the expense type "Unallowable" as a default for items that do not fit the options on the template pick list. If the expense does not exactly fit in one of the expense types available, the expense type that most closely represents the expense should be selected. For further guidance, contact

To request the addition of an object code to the expense report template(s), please send an email to describing the object code you believe should be added and the reason why you believe it should be added. Once the request is received, it will be routed to the Controller’s Office for review and approval.  When/if the request is approved, the object code will be added to the appropriate template.

There are several reasons why PTA strings may not work when creating an expense report. These reasons include:

  • The project, task, or award do not exist or the combination is invalid.
  • One of the segment values is end-dated or outside the date range of the expense that is being allocated.
  • The PTA rolls up to a GL string that contains an org value that is outside the approver’s signing limits.
  • A baselined budget does not exist for the PTA that is being used.
  • The task is "disabled."
  • The Expense Type/Expenditure Type is not acceptable on the PTA.

For further assistance, contact the Business Systems Help Desk at

Generally, the approver of a business expense should be the expense incurrer’s supervisor or someone at a higher level than the supervisor. No individual is authorized to approve their own, a peer’s or a supervisor’s business or travel expenses except in extenuating circumstances that were previously evaluated. Each department has a defined expense approval hierarchy in the Oracle Financials System.

In assigning approvers for expense transactions, bear in mind that an individual must have signing limits/access to the organizations where expense transactions will be charged. This restriction is imperative due to the nature of business and travel expenses and the authority that must be exercised by supervisors in approving or disallowing expenses in accordance with the policy.

The traveler or individual incurring the business expense is responsible for making sure the preparer (if applicable) submits the report and the approver approves the report, preferably within 90 days of incurring the expense and/or the last day of travel to prevent taxation.  It is also the responsibility of the traveler or expense incurrer to confirm payment was received.

Use the Accounts Payable (AP) Deposit Form - Expense Report (ER). [.pdf] to deposit a check or money order made payable to Carnegie Mellon University from an outside agency and Accounts Payable (AP) will apply the payment against the initial expense report in Oracle.  For questions, contact

For international travel, individuals should submit their expenses in the foreign currency in which the expenses have been paid (as evidenced by the related receipt(s)), and then convert the expense amount(s) utilizing Oracle.  If the foreign currency option for the individual’s travel is not available within the Oracle Expense Reporting Application, the individual’s foreign currency travel expenses should be converted using the OANDA Currency Converter.