Travel and Business Reimbursement Guidelines

Columbia University employees (faculty or students) and visitors to the University can be reimbursed by PER for valid business and research-related expenses. Expenses must provide a clear benefit to the University and be necessary and reasonable. Please find below information relevant to submitting reimbursement receipts. For a complete overview of Columbia University’s TBER policies, please visit the Finance Gateway. All questions related to reimbursements within the Economics department should be directed to


General Information

  • Any individual incurring the travel expense must be familiar with Departmental policies and this University policy in order to ensure compliance and prudent spending of University funds.  
  • Columbia University reimburses two main types of expenses: business expenses and travel expenses. Please review Columbia’s official travel expense policy and business expense policy.
    • Business expenses are costs accrued locally (in the New York City area)
    • Travel expenses involve leaving the New York City area and include an overnight stay
  • In order to be reimbursed for travel and business expenses for PER-related events or funds, faculty, students, and visitors to the University must submit to a completed TBER Form. Please also submit receipts (see below). Review the TBER Instructions printable for additional info. 
  • A completed reimbursement application should be submitted in a timely manner, ideally within 10 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 cheat sheet or contact PER at


  • All submitted receipts must be itemized and indicate a completed transaction (proof of payment, for example “cash” or “Mastercard xxxx”)
    • If a receipt does not show proof of payment, please provide a credit card statement as supporting documentation (redact all sensitive bank information)
  • When submitting your TBER, scan your receipts into a single pdf. Number each receipt in chronological order and in order of the expenses noted on your TBER report.
  • If you do not have a receipt, submit and complete the Missing Receipts Worksheet

Foreign Currency

Columbia University will only issue reimbursements in US dollars. When completing your TBER form, please use a currency converter (for example, Conversions must be consistent with the date of the expense


  • 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


  • Always purchase the lowest cost economy ticket, unless there is a documented condition necessitating and 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 ticket.
  • Ensure proof of payment is clearly visible
    • Note that websites such as Expedia often show only an “estimated fare” or “quote”; this 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 PER at 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.

Ground Transportation

  • Local transportation should specify origin and destination (e.g., taxi from airport to hotel)
  • Car rentals should be purchased through Hertz when possible, using Columbia account CDP# 254158
    • When using Hertz, DO NOT purchase Liability or other insurance from the agency. Loss/Damage Waiver and Liability Insurance is included under the Columbia contract. Insurance may be reimbursed from other vendors, if Hertz is not available.
    • Provide a copy of the rental agreement with proof of payment.
  • 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 2019 travel, calculate your mileage reimbursement using the following formula: Total miles * 0.580 = $ amt.


  • 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”. 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 above)
    • Alcoholic beverages
  • Segregated expenses cannot be charged to federal grants and may require additional approvals before reimbursements can be issued.

Faculty and Student Reimbursements

  • Complete TBER Form (TBER) as soon as possible after your travels
    • Review Sample TBER and TBER Instructions
    • Complete a TBER for each travel instance – do not combine multiple trips on one form
    • Be clear and specific as you itemize your expenses
    • If you have more than 15 receipts, use the Extra Page Sheet
    • Keep in mind foreign currency exchanges
  • Conference flyer, seminar announcement, invitation letter, etc.
  • Receipts and supporting documentation (see above)
  • Submit to and allow a few weeks for processing

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. 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.  Refer to the Foreign Currency section above.
    • Refer to the receipts section above to ensure proper organization of your paperwork.
  • Send submissions to Allow several weeks for processing.
  • Your reimbursement will come in the form of a check to the address listed on your W8/W9.

About Tax Forms

  • If you are only receiving travel reimbursement (transportation, meals, lodging) for itemized receipts, this is not considered income and is not taxed. However, Columbia still requires a tax form on file to comply with IRS regulations.
    • Note: Do not submit the statement for non-resident alien payments or IRS Form 8233 if you are only receiving travel reimbursement.


Please refer to the above information prior to filling out the appropriate form.

Employee Submissions

Visitor Submissions


1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)
Mail Code 3308  
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

1022 International Affairs Building (IAB)

Mail Code 3308

420 West 118th Street

New York, NY 10027

Ph: (212) 854-3680
Fax: (212) 854-0749
Business Hours:
Mon–Fri, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
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