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Expand/Collapse All Questions

Purchasing Questions:


 Q. How do I get a Procurement Card?

A. Contact the payments lead in the Payments Department to request an application for a Procurement Card. Once she receives your completed application, she submits a request for a card. Then, when she has received your card, she will contact you about the next Procurement Card training session. At the training session you will receive your card to use.


 Q. When are the Procurement Card training sessions?

A. There is one Procurement Card training session each month, and it is usually scheduled toward the beginning of the month. Once your card is received in the Payments Department, you will be notified so that you may plan to attend the next training session.


 Q. Where can I get a copy of my Procurement Card statement?

A. The Payments Department does not receive copies of Procurement Card statements. In order to receive a copy of your statement, you must call US Bank Customer Service at 1-800-344-5696. They will be able to send you a new statement.


 Q. Who should I contact regarding bid information?

A. Contact the payments lead in the Payments Department. She can help you find vendors to include on your bid list, as well as help you create bid letters.


 Q. What is the current state and local sales tax rate?

A. Seattle sales tax rate is 10.1%


 Q. Do we pay tax on online subscriptions and/or services?

A. No, not at this time, but it’s being reviewed by the State of Washington.



Business Expense & Reimbursement Questions:


 Q. What is a business expense?

A. Any expense that is directly related or associated with the active conduct of University business. This is a simple definition that fits most categories of expenses except entertainment, which requires greater scrutiny.


 Q. What is a business entertainment expense?

A. According to the IRS, for entertainment to be directly related to the active conduct of a business there must be a general expectation of deriving a business benefit. That means that the active conduct of business is the primary purpose of the activity. An example would be an area planning meeting that is held over lunch; staff working through dinner to complete a project within deadlines, and dinner is provided; prospective donors being entertained; or a University function where refreshments are served.


 Q. What is not a business entertainment expense?

A. An activity where business is a secondary aspect of the activity. An example would be a lunch where a business topic was discussed for only five minutes of the time. The objective was lunch not business. Remember that one of the criteria for keeping the reimbursed amount nontaxable to the employee is a description of the business purpose of entertainment.


 Q. Are entertainment expenses for spouses reimbursable?

A. Generally no. The IRS considers the presence of spouses to diminish the business nature of the entertainment expense; in fact it may jeopardize the purpose altogether, except when the employee can prove there is a clear business purpose for the event. Example: a visiting faculty from out of town, traveling with spouse, where business is conducted over dinner.


 Q. What is the current mileage rate?

A. The mileage rate for 2019 is 58 cents per mile. The mileage rate for 2018 is 54.5 cents per mile.


 Q. Are commuting miles reimbursable?

A. No. Travel from home to work is never reimbursable.


 Q. What if I travel from home to a remote job site and then to SPU?

A. The IRS wants to make sure that commute miles are not included, so they have set up a formula for this situation. Calculate the mileage from home to site to SPU. Then calculate the mileage from SPU to site to SPU. The lower mileage calculation is the amount to be claimed as reimbursable.


 Q. What if I travel from home to a remote job site then back home?

A. If your home is your primary place of business then you can report mileage from home to site to home. If not, you must follow the same steps as in the above example. Calculate the mileage from home to site to home and compare the mileage from SPU to site to SPU. Whichever is smaller is the amount to be reimbursed.


 Q. Can I bring a family member along on a business trip?

A. The employee is responsible for excess expenses incurred due to the addition of a family member: additional room charges, airline tickets and all meals. The employee is responsible for excess expenses incurred by traveling as a family.


 Q. Is childcare a business expense?

A. Generally no—except when childcare is offered to all participants at a specific event, such as the faculty retreat. But if childcare is provided on an ongoing basis at less than market cost, it becomes a taxable fringe benefit.


 Q. Are gifts to employees a business expense?

A. No. Gifts are considered fringe benefits and are taxable. In addition, the University policy on gifts prohibits gifts to employees, unless given through an established reward and recognition program.


 Q. What if I exceed the amount per meal limits?

A. There may be some situations that warrant exceeding the meal limits. The process is to document the situation and seek your VP’s approval. The limits were established by surveying local restaurants, classifying them into low, medium and high-end price ranges. At that point it was discussed what environments are most appropriate for business entertainment and into what price range those restaurants fell. Under no circumstances are meal limits to be exceeded where only SPU employees are present.


 Q. What is the advantage of using the per diem method?

A. The per diem allowance can be used when traveling away from home and allows the traveler freedom from collecting receipts. The employee receives $30 per day (SPU rate) to use on food and miscellaneous incidentals and only records the date of travel, business purpose and employees who are traveling. If the employee expects to spend more than the per diem amount on these items, it is to their advantage to keep receipts and be reimbursed for actual expenses.


 Q. What is the difference between the SPU and IRS per diem rates?

A. The amount of money you would receive and the amount of time it takes to fill out the Request for Reimbursement. The SPU per diem rate of $30 per day is the lowest of the IRS rates but can be used without taking the time to look up the exact location and rate allowed by the IRS. It takes less time and it may be the lesser money choice. The IRS per diem is determined by city and state and may go as high as $50 per day. This takes more work and it may be the greater money option.


 Q. If I go to a conference where some, but not all, of the meals are provided, can I use the per diem option?

A. To use the per diem option, the per diem amount would have to be prorated for the portion of the day not covered by the conference. This becomes complicated and reduces an already low amount. It may be easier in those cases to request reimbursement on actual expenditures.


 Q. Why are so many signatures required on Requests for Reimbursement?

A. The employee signature attests to the accuracy of the reimbursement. The supervisor signature attests to the appropriateness of the expenses to the program and budget. The Director of Finance and Controller signs because this is a major area of scrutiny by the IRS. In order to protect staff from being taxed on the reimbursements, greater scrutiny is warranted.


 Q. Why do I have to attach receipts?

A. The University requirement of original receipts is similar to our requirement of original invoices. This eliminates the chance of a payment duplication error and ensures that we only pay once for any expense. In addition, the presence of original receipts shows the IRS that the University is meeting its obligation to reduce the likelihood of an employee seeking reimbursement twice. (This protects our employees by removing IRS suspicion.) 


 Q. What do I do if I am unsure of the correct account code to use?

A. Call the PD for assistance and an explanation of how the account codes are organized. You can also access the online Chart of Accounts. The Ctrl+F feature allows you to search the accounts by description.


 Q. What do I do if I have lost/misplaced my receipts or invoice?

A. Vendors can send a copy of the invoice upon request. It should be documented that the original invoice has been lost/misplaced. With requests for reimbursement, it is difficult to document expenditures without the receipts. If you know what was spent and the amounts were under $50, the PD can process the request for reimbursement. If the amounts are over $50, a memo to the area VP is required, explaining the loss and requesting reimbursement. The area VP must approve this before the PD can begin processing payment.

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