Policy 201.I – Meals & Incidental Expenses (M&IE)

Statement of Policy

This policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, and non-employees traveling on behalf of the University. When a traveler is expected to incur costs for meals and incidentals for overnight business travel, the University will reimburse meal and incidental expenses (M&IE) under a per diem allowance.  The University will not pay M&IE per diem allowances in advance.  Reimbursement claims in excess of the M&IE per diem for the location will be reduced to the M&IE per diem for the location. 

The M&IE per diem must be paid directly to the traveler.  Travelers cannot claim an M&IE per diem on behalf of another person.  Individual business travelers dining together will each be paid their respective per diem allowances.  The maximum M&IE per diem allowance will be at a rate established by the Federal Government for the location and dates of travel.  The UW TravelWIse Rate Calculator is the official source for obtaining lodging and M&IE Per Diem rates prior to travel.  The calculator is updated on a monthly basis with any changes passed by the federal government.

Note: University hosted meals are governed by Policy 202: Hosted Meals & Events and are not covered by this policy.

Note: Sponsored projects (e.g., fund 144 or 133) are subject to the terms and conditions of the specific award, as well as applicable program guidelines, which may restrict use of funds for certain types of expenses.  Please contact the RSP accountant for your award with any questions.

Day Trip Meal Allowance
Travel that does not include an overnight stay will be limited to a tax reportable day trip meal allowance of $15 per day when the approving authority expects the traveler to incur meal expenses.  No day trip meal allowance will be paid if the traveler receives any provided meals.

First and Last Days of Travel
The first and last day of travel qualifies for 75% of the M&IE per diem based on the location where the traveler spends the night, regardless of departure and return times. For trips that have multiple destinations, the first day’s M&IE per diem is based on the rate for the traveler’s destination – the location where the traveler will be spending the night.  Subsequent full travel days are based on the location where the traveler will spend the night for that day of travel.  The return day is determined by the location where the traveler spent the night before returning home or to University headquarters.

Impact of Provided/Sponsored Meals on M&IE Per Diem Allowances
If a meal is provided at a conference or event on a day when M&IE per diem is allowed, including first/last days of travel, the meal portion of the per diem is prorated (20% breakfast, 30% lunch, 50% dinner) and deducted from the allowable per diem.

Note: Hotel breakfasts included in the lodging reservation price or meals provided as part of an airline ticket price will not require a deduction from the M&IE per diem allowance; however, meals purchased at a hotel in addition to the lodging reservation price will be deducted from the lodging reimbursement and reimbursed as part of the M&IE per diem allowance.

Incidental Expenses            

The M&IE per diem for each location includes an allowance for specific incidental expenses.  Travel incidentals not included in the M&IE per diem allowance are covered in Policy 201.R – Travel Incidentals.  The M&IE rate for domestic locations includes a $5 allowance to cover incidental expenses. The M&IE rate for foreign locations includes an allowance, which varies by location, to cover incidental expenses. The incidental portion of the per diem includes the following expenses:

  • Fees and tips given to restaurant staff, porters, baggage handlers, hotel housekeeping or other service staff, valets, train or ship service staff, etc. (excluding tips for taxi drivers)
  • Transportation between places of lodging or business to obtain meals
  • Phone calls (business and personal)
    • Laundry, dry cleaning and pressing of clothing
    • Bottled water
    • Mailing and other expenses associated with filing expense reports

Documentation Requirements

Receipts are not required for M&IE per diem allowance reimbursement.

Travelers and departmental staff should contact their respective Divisional Business Office for policy or procedural questions.

Divisional Business Offices may contact uwtravel@bussvc.wisc.edu with questions.