University community members incur various types of expenses as they perform tasks and duties that support the operations of the university and further its mission. This policy is to ensure that individuals who incur valid business expenses are reimbursed in a fair and equitable manner; that business expenses are reported, recorded and reimbursed in a consistent manner; and that the university complies with all applicable federal, state and local rules and regulations.


USC reimburses employees, students, and guests for necessary and reasonable approved expenses they incur in the conduct of university business. All reimbursements must be requested through the university’s travel and expense system (Concur). Certain expense reimbursements may require additional approval from a dean or vice president.

University departments may adopt more restrictive policies and such restrictions must be monitored through department level controls.

Government unallowable expenses may not be reimbursed using a sponsored project account. See

Timely submission and taxable income

The university follows IRS “Accountable Plan” expense reimbursement guidelines, which allows the university to reimburse business expenses without including the payment amount in the taxable income of the individual incurring the expense. To be non-taxable, business expenses must be:

  • Properly substantiated (see substantiating business expenses section below) and
  • Submitted within certain time limitations.

In order to comply with IRS guidelines regarding timely submission:

  • Travel related expense reimbursements are treated as a non-taxable reimbursement when submitted within 60 calendar days of the trip return date and all other requirements of the university’s business expense policies are met
  • Non-travel related expense reimbursements are treated as a non-taxable reimbursement when submitted within 60 calendar days of the transaction date and all other requirements of the university’s business expense policies are met

Pursuant to IRS guidelines, expense reimbursements are generally treated as a taxable reimbursement when reimbursements are submitted more than 60 days after the transaction date or the trip return date.

Substantiating business expenses

The university requires receipts to be used to substantiate business expenses. For un-restricted accounts a receipt is required:

  • When a single expense is $75 or more; or
  • For a hotel expense of any amount.

Sponsored project accounts receipts are required for all amounts when commercially available.

When a receipt is required and cannot be obtained or has been lost, a Missing Receipt Declaration must be completed and signed by the individual who incurred the expense.  Information on this process is available online at

Personal forms of payment

For liability and tax compliance reasons the university offers several university-issued forms of payment to be used whenever possible for incidentals and travel and entertainment expenses instead of personal funds.

Reimbursement requests for approved expenses incurred using personal funds will be reimbursed upon event completion.

Cash advance

Cash advances are intended to cover anticipated expenses associated with (1) a university business trip, (2) a university-sponsored event or (3) human subject.

Because the university offers several preferred payment options (i.e., corporate cards, clinical cards or disbursement vouchers) that are more secure and less expensive for all parties to administer, cash advances will only be issued with SBO approval and all expenses must be substantiated by receipts.

The following is applicable when requesting and settling a cash advance:

  • A cash advance request will not be issued more than 10 calendar days prior to the date of departure or event;
  • Requests that exceed maximum rate allowances require approval from a dean or vice president, see the Business Services site;
  • A cash advance must be either returned or adequately accounted for, with receipts, within 60 calendar days of returning from a trip or of event completion to qualify as non-taxable income to the employee who received the cash advance payment. A past due advance must be returned or adequately accounted for before the individual will be eligible for additional advances (see “substantiating business expense” section above);
  • Failure to return or adequately account for a cash advance per expense policy will result in:
    • The entire amount of the cash advance being reported as taxable income on the employees W-2;
    • Loss of cash advance usage; and
    • Employee disciplinary action.

Refunds and rewards programs

Any reimbursement or payment issued by the university which subsequently results in a refund must be returned to the university.

All coupons, certificates, rebates, and/or points received as a result of a university purchase are USC property and all reward redemptions must benefit the university. In the case of rewards earned as a result of a sponsored project purchase, the reward is the sponsor’s property and the reward’s redemption must benefit the sponsor.

Sufficient funds and active accounts

Funds must be available and accounts active in order to process expense reimbursements.

Nonresident alien

A nonresident alien is a non-U.S. citizen who comes to the U.S. to perform work for the university. To be in compliance with the IRS, reimbursements to nonresident aliens must be made on an actual basis; per diem reimbursements are not allowed.


Reimbursement procedures can be found on the USC Business Services website.

Responsible office

Business Services
(213) 740-2716