Hospitality, Payment or Reimbursement of Expenses


Administration & Finance


Fiscal Affairs


Accounts Payable

Contact Information: 

David Chelliah / Manager Accounts Payable and Fiscal Services / 415-338-2367

Effective Date: 

Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Revised Date: 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014



There are occasions when the judicious extension of hospitality in connection with official University business is in the best interest of San Francisco State University. This University policy and procedures governs the manner and extent to which the University may provide hospitality to employees, students, donors, guests, visitors, volunteers, and other individuals as part of a business meeting; recreational; sporting or entertainment event; or other occasion that promotes the mission of the University. This policy also addresses meals served to employees as part of a morale-building function and meals provided to prospective students and employees.


This policy governs the appropriate use of CSU operating Fund (485), University trust funds, enterprise funds and auxiliary funds unless legally exempted or otherwise restricted; e.g. documented trust agreements. The policy does not apply to an employee’s meal expenses incurred while on travel status, e.g. attending an off-campus conference or business meeting, which is covered by the Integrated CSU Administrative manual, Policy Number 3601.01.




Expenses for hospitality must be directly related to, or associated with, the active conduct of official University business. The occasion must serve a clear University business purpose, with no personal benefit derived by the official host or other university/campus employees.  In addition, the expenditure of funds for hospitality should be cost effective and in accordance with the best use of public funds.

The procedures set forth in this policy are intended to conform to the Internal Revenue Service regulations related to entertainment expenses. Accordingly, any payment made to an employee in connection with hospitality may not result in taxable income to the employee.

When determining whether a hospitality expense is appropriate, the approving authority must evaluate the importance of the event in terms of the costs that will be incurred, the benefits to be derived from such an expense, the availability of funds, and any alternatives that would be equally effective in accomplishing the desired objectives.



Following are examples of situations where the provision of hospitality is permitted:

Host to Official Guests


When the Campus is host to official guests, including visitors from other universities, members of the community, visiting dignitaries, donors, University employees visiting from another work location, etc., the cost of meals or light refreshments may be paid or reimbursed.  In addition, such costs may be paid or reimbursed for prospective students or appointees for positions requiring specialized skills and/or experience of a professional, technical, or administrative nature. The hospitality expenses of the spouse or domestic partner of an employee may be reimbursed provided such hospitality serves a bona fide University business purpose. Participation in official functions that require the attendance of a spouse or domestic partner needs high-level authorization of vice President or above for payment or reimbursement of hospitality expenditures. Fundraising events, alumni gatherings, community and recruiting events are examples of activities that may require the attendance of a spouse or domestic partner.


Meetings of a Learned Society or Organization

The cost of meals or light refreshments may be paid or reimbursed when the University is the host or sponsor of a meeting of a learned society or organization.


Retreats, Meetings and Business Meals

The cost of meals or light refreshments may be paid or reimbursed when meetings of an administrative nature are held that are directly concerned with the welfare of the University.  Where meals are involved, they must be a necessary and integral part of the business meeting, not a matter of personal convenience, e.g., the cost of meals for employees from the same work location may be reimbursed if a working lunch is included as part of a scheduled meeting. The meeting should take place over an extended period of time and the agenda should include a working meal to satisfy the requirement that the meal is part of a business function.  Reimbursement will not be allowed when two or more employees from the same work location choose to go to lunch together to continue their business as an incidental part of the meal, or when the meeting could have been scheduled during regular working hours. Reimbursement may be allowed when it is necessary for employees to conduct official campus business during a meal, the circumstances surrounding the meal are beyond the control of the employee, and it is impractical to complete the business during normal working hours.


Spouses and Domestic Partners

Hospitality provided to the spouse or domestic partner of an employee may be permitted when it serves a CSU business purpose.  Such an individual’s presence is considered to serve a CSU business purpose if he or she has a significant role in the proceedings or makes an important contribution to the success of the event.  Official functions to which spouses or domestic partners are invited as a matter of protocol or tradition such as ceremonial functions, fundraising events, alumni gatherings, athletic games, and community events may be considered business related.  An agenda, invitation or similar documentation should be included with the payment record.


Student-Oriented Meetings

The cost of light refreshments may be paid or reimbursed when meetings between faculty or administrators and students are held for support of University sponsored student events and activities (e.g. leadership recognition ceremony) and student recruiting efforts.


Prospective University Donors and Donor Cultivation

The cost of meals or light refreshments may be paid or reimbursed when the University hosts an event for the purpose of generating the goodwill of prospective donors.



The cost of light refreshments (and the cost of certificates/awards/plaques/promotional materials presented to Non-Employees and Employee Non-Cash Awards) may be paid or reimbursed for receptions held in connection with:



Meetings of a learned society or organization

Fundraising events

Meetings of student organizations/groups,

Employee recognition or length of service awards or retirement presentations,

Celebrations of milestones in the University’s history such as Founder’s Day or the inauguration of a new president,

Ceremonies honoring achievements by students (e.g. commencement, honors convocation) or employees (e.g. emeritus faculty).


Faculty/Staff Picnics, Holiday Gatherings, and Parties

The cost of meals or light refreshments for employee morale functions such as faculty/staff picnics or holiday gatherings may be paid or reimbursed, provided it can be demonstrated that such functions serve a University business purpose. The cost may not be paid or reimbursed from the CSU Operating Fund. They may be charged to other funding sources provided it can be demonstrated that such functions serve a University business purpose and there are no restrictions on the other funding sources that disallow these expenses.


Event Location

University employees hosting a meeting, conference, or event must host these in an established business location. Hosting these at an employee’s/private resident is prohibited.


Gifts Presented to Non-Employees

It is the policy of the University that gifts of moderate expense as described herein may be presented to non-University individuals or organizations when the gifts are made on behalf of the University.  However, the presentation of such gifts is permitted only if it can be demonstrated that the gift benefits the University or is clearly necessary to the University's fulfillment of its role as a good community citizen.  To avoid any appearance of favoritism, no officer or employee should present a gift that appears to be offered because of the position held by the recipient.


Gifts may not be presented to the following:

University employees or relatives of University employees.

Any individual or organization associated either directly or indirectly with a political party, campaign, or candidate, or a group engaged in an attempt to influence legislation, elections, referendums, or the like.

Any person with whom a presenter has an outside business relationship, i.e., where any conflict of interest exists.

The business reason for making the gift or the nature of the business benefit the University derived or expects to derive must be documented in writing.  In most cases, the promotion of goodwill in the University community is an acceptable business purpose.


Important-Gifts of cash are not permitted.


Gifts presented to Employees


It is the policy of the University that work-related events may be acknowledged by the presentation of a non-cash award to an employee for the purposes of recognizing of length of service, work accomplishment, or retirement. In addition, gifts as an expression of sympathy may be presented to employees as specified in section VI of this policy. Such awards and gifts are intended to conform to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations in order to be excludable from an employee’s gross income.




Personal Benefit


Hospitality expenses that are of a personal nature and not related to the active conduct of official University business will not be paid or reimbursed. Example includes employee birthday, weddings, anniversaries, bridal shower and baby showers.



Hospitality expenses will not be paid or reimbursed for membership in social organizations, activities or entertainment services that discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, or disability.




Delegation of Authority

Approval for all official University hospitality expenses must be obtained at the appropriate level.  In order to ensure that the approval of hospitality is entirely independent, individuals with delegated approval authority shall not approve the expenses of a person to whom they directly report. The approving authority should be the supervisor (or higher level) of the official host. In addition, individuals with delegated approval authority shall not approve their own hospitality expenses. If the official host is the President, approval shall be by the Vice President for Business and Finance/CFO.

High-level authorization of Vice President or above is required for payment or reimbursement of hospitality expenditures for the following:

  • Recreational, sporting or entertainment events
  • Spouse or domestic partner of an employee

A Delegation of Signature Authority Form or an equivalent form must be on file for each individual to whom approval authority for hospitality payments has been delegated. Any delegation of authority must be in writing, with copies provided to the Office of the Associate Vice President – Fiscal Affairs.


Authority for Exceptions to the Policy

Exceptions to this policy must be approved by the President, a Vice President or an Auxiliary Chief Executive Officer / General Manager in advance of the event/expenditure. In certain circumstances, however, when entertaining a guest at dinner, the exception may need to be approved after the expenditure has occurred by the appropriate authority. Please use the “Authorization for Exception to the Hospitality Policy” form. The President and Vice Presidents have the authority to exceed the restaurant meal limits with certification that it is for development purposes. The authority in this section may not be delegated.



Rates are recommended by the Associate Vice President – Fiscal Affairs and are authorized by the Vice President for Administration and Finance. Maximum rates allowed for hospitality, specified in Appendix A, include taxes and service. These rates do not include the rental of meeting or conference facilities, which may be charged as an additional expense.

The maximum rates will be reviewed periodically by the Office of the Associate Vice President-­Fiscal Affairs and adjusted as appropriate.



Generally, gifts are presented when tradition, commonly accepted institutional practice, or social custom dictates gift giving. To prevent the appearance of favoritism, gifts presented to a particular individual or entity shall be given infrequently, based on objective criteria.

In order for such a gift purchase to be reimbursed, the business purpose for presenting the gift must be documented in accordance with the procedures set forth in Section E, below.

Examples of individuals and organizations that may be presented with a gift on behalf of the University include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A visiting dignitary or scholar, to express appreciation, e.g., a distinguished lecturer;
  • A donor or potential donor, to acknowledge a contribution, recognize service, or express sympathy in the event of the death or major illness of a family member;
  • A volunteer, to honor the contribution of time or other resources;
  • A potential donor, to promote the University's programs or to express the University's goodwill toward the community;
  • An organization, to promote goodwill;
  • A client, to promote good customer relations;
  • A foreign dignitary or University official, to promote goodwill.
  • Awards to students





Work-related Awards

Recognition of Length of Service, Work Accomplishment, and Retirement non-cash awards must conform to the requirements listed below:

Employee Service Awards

An item of tangible personal property may be presented to an employee for length of service contributions to the University.  Such awards are subject to the following limitations:

  • The award must be given for length of service achievement;
  • The recipient must have completed at least five years of service; and,
  • The recipient must not have received a similar gift in any of the prior four years

A length of service award valued at up to $250 is allowable. A service award valued in excess of $250 may be allowable as an exception to the policy only. An award valued at more than $400 is prohibited.

Work Accomplishment Awards

Including Employee of the Month, Employee of the Year, and Distinguished Faculty Awards. Awards must be occasional and infrequent. An item of tangible personal property may be presented to an employee for work accomplishments. The selection of the staff / faculty who will be awarded must be made in accordance with an established process. The awards are subject to the dollar limits specified in section (a) above.

Retirement Awards

An item of tangible personal property may be presented to an employee separating with at least 5 years of service are permissible upon his or her retirement, subject to the dollar limits specified in section a. above.


Sympathy Gifts

Gifts of tangible personal property, such as flowers, may be presented as an expression of sympathy in the event of the death of an employee or a member of the employee's immediate family. The employee’s immediate family includes spouse or domestic partner, the spouse or domestic partner’s father, mother, sister, brother and child.  The cost of such gift is limited to $100 per department / office, unless exceptional approval is obtained.



Any award that is taxable is prohibited.  Expenses for such awards cannot be reimbursed from any fund source or approved as an exception to this policy

Examples of awards that are prohibited include the following:

  • Cash or negotiable gift certificates
  • Parking permit in excess of $175
  • Transit passes in excess of $65
  • Work-related awards in excess of $400
  • Recreation memberships
  • Season tickets to sporting or cultural events