Expense Report Related Issues
Over the last several weeks, a number of our colleagues have seen their expense reports returned, often along with a request for more information. After communicating with the relevant offices, including OVPR and Central Finance Office, we would like to provide the following clarification on the expectations on those reports. We should make it clear that this is not meant to be a comprehensive guideline. Rather, it is a just-in-time response to some of the concerns from our colleagues.
Q: Is there a new policy on the required documents for expense reports?
A: The GWTravel, Entertainment and Business Expense Manual (updated May 2018), is the official guideline for reimbursement policy for travel and other business expenses. Expenses to be charged to a sponsored research project are subject to additional requirements including Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Uniform Guidance (2 CFR §200), Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs), GW policies and sponsor-specific terms and conditions.
In order to keep up with the latest regulations from the government and sponsors, GW updates its policies regularly as needed. When that occurs, we will inform you promptly.
Q: What are the common issues that have come up recently?
A: The most common issue is the lack of information in the "Business Purpose" field. As we explained in ourResearch Update on 8/25/2017 (see below for full details), a well-written business purpose should provide information on who, what, when, where, and why.
Q: The "Business Purpose" field in Concur only allows 64 characters; how can I fit all the information as needed?
A: If your description is too long to fit in the Business Purpose field, you can use the Comment section to enter more info, but please include a brief description in the Business Purpose field. This field is included when the expense is recorded in EAS for both General Ledger and Grants Module reporting so it is more helpful to have the brief description than a generic statement such as “see comments”.
Q: My expense report for my recent conference travel was returned to me along with a request for conference agenda. Is that a new requirement?
A: There is no such specific requirement. However, a conference agenda can be a way to provide appropriate documentation to justify the travel and its relevance to the project. Other alternatives, such as a conference weblink or email invitation from the conference organizers, may be acceptable as well.
Q: Are there particular requirements for expense reports charged to a sponsored project?
A: When submitting an expense report for a sponsored project, the PI needs to provide sufficient documentation that can show the allowability of the cost on the project and how the specific cost benefits the overall projects objectives. This can be explained in the "Business Purpose" / "Comments" fields (it is advised to also include a conference agenda to the conference fee or the largest expense on the expense report).
Q: If I do include my conference agenda, where in Concur should I upload to? Do I need to upload it to each item of the same expense report? What if my conference agenda is very long with over 100 pages?
A: If you include a conference agenda or other documentation such as pdf file of an invitation, or a contract, or a list of attendees, you can upload those under "Receipt" as a single grouping of documents. Once one item is attached, any other documents can be attached to the same expense by either choosing replace or append the new document to a receipt.
You do not need to upload the same document multiple times. In most cases, it shouldn't be difficult for an approver to locate the document. If you have such a concern because your expense report is exceedingly long, you can add a comment such as "conference agenda is with the receipt for dinner on May 30."
For a 100+ page agenda, you can select the 1-2 pages with the most relevant information, e.g. name/place/dates of conference, or your talk if applicable.
Q: Whom should I select as the approver(s) for my expense report?
A: For sponsored project related expense reports, you should select the first two levels of approvals (no need for SRA for other reports)
- Your supervisor (usually your department chair)
- Your SRA (Add SRAs by going to Details->Approval Flow, then clicking on the plus sign to the right of the Manager Approval box to add a User-Added Approver).
After those two approvals, the report will either go to OVPR, followed by the central finance approval, or it will go to the central finance approval directly, depending on the specific expenditure items in your report.
Q: GW policy requires a 60 day deadline for expense report submission.When does the clock begin and end?
A: The start date is the transaction date, or completion of travel. The end date is the date when the expense report is submitted by the employee. In particular, you should not be penalized for the additional days taken by the approvals, as long as you submitted the report within 60 days. Transactions sent back to the employee for additional information may also trigger email alerts, and you should resubmit those expenses with the appropriate additional information as soon as possible, but your PCard will not be suspended for delinquent reporting if the expenses were originally submitted in a timely manner.
Q: Is anything else being planned to ensure everyone is on the same page for expense report expectations?
A: Our SRA team and the CCAS Finance Team (led by Cindy Allen) are working with OVPR and GW Procurement to arrange a training session for expense report approvals (SRAs, CCAS Finance team, and Department administrative staff) so we are fully aware of the expectation from the central offices.
In addition, if there is enough interest from our faculty, we can consider a roundtable conversation with faculty and the relevant offices (OVPR, Procurement, etc.) so that our faculty can hear directly from those offices and vice versa. If you have such an interest, please let us know via our webform Feedback on Advancing Research
====== From CCAS Research Update 8/25/2017 ========
It has come to our attention that there is a need for more information regarding the business purpose(s) for expenses on sponsored projects. Please remember that, according to federal regulations, a well-written business purpose should provide information on who, what, when, where, and why, unless already provided through other supporting documentation. Some examples of insufficient and sufficient business purpose descriptions are below. For more information, check the GW Travel, Entertainment and Business Expense Manual (updated 8/22/2017), and refer to Appendix C.
Also, if your description is too long to fit the Business Purpose field in Concur (which is character-limited), you can use the Comment section to enter more info.
[ Note added 6/15/2018, the Travel, Entertainment and Business Expense Manual (updated May 2018) now contains a new list of Business Purpose with shorter descriptions with less than 64 characters ]
||Insufficient Business Purpose Description
||Sufficient Business Purpose Description
||Personal meal for Raleigh trip to attend student demonstration of research findings and visit collaborators 8/16-19/16
||5/25/16 International Chinese Statistical Association conference registration fee for award PI, Dr. Smith
||Baggage fees for Dr. Smith’s travel to and from Boston, MA for the PPTOX conference 12/10/16
||Clay for Ranhom project to mold body parts for research5/5/16
- From Juliana Smith and Yongwu Rong, with input from the SRAs