Travel Information

Am I allowed to claim the full "per diem" for meals, whether I spent that amount or not?

Effective August 1, 2020, Iowa State University has adopted per diems for meals for all travel. Actual meal expenses are no longer reimbursed, unless specifically required by a funding source. This policy must be enforced consistently, therefore individual departments or business units cannot enforce reimbursement of actual meals.


What amounts are allowable for meals?

Meal reimbursement is a per diem determined by the destination, travel status, and provided meals. See the Summary of Allowable Travel Expenses for allowable amounts and the time frames for reimbursement.


If I go under the allowable amount for lunch, can I spend more than the allowable amount for dinner?

With the implementation of per diems on August 1, 2020, all reimbursable meal per diems are reimbursed at a set rate.


If I go under the allowable amount for one day, can I spend more than the allowable amount for another day on the same trip?

With the implementation of per diems on August 1, 2020, all reimbursable meal per diems are reimbursed at a set rate.


Are receipts required for meal expenses?

Receipts for an individual's meals are only required when the amount of the meal exceeds $75.00. This applies for both personal reimbursement and with Travel & Hospitality Card use. Group meals require a receipt regardless of amount.


How do I find the meal per diem rate for my trip?

  • All meals within the State of Iowa is limited to $35 per day, plus $5 incidentals on all incidental eligible days.
  • For all domestic meals within the contiguous United States (except Iowa), the rates are governed by U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Their per diem lookup can be found here.
  • For all domestic lodging in Alaska, Hawaii, or US Territories, the rates are established by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Their rates are determined at the city level, and can be found here.
  • All international lodging rates are determined by U.S. Department of State. Their rates can be found here.

Workday is calculating a different amount for an individual meal than GSA. Is this an error?

Iowa State University meal breakdowns are as follows:

  • Breakfast: 20% of total
  • Lunch: 30% of total
  • Dinner: 50% of total
GSA, DoD, and DoS may have different individual meal rates than this, therefore the “breakdowns” on those websites should be ignored. Workday will calculate a different total, so only the full per diem rates should be considered.


If I was in a very expensive location, or I have dietary restrictions, can I get reimbursed for more than the established per diem rate?

Per Diems set by GSA, DoD, and Department of State factor in the cost of meals in their meal (and lodging) rates. Because of this, you may not request higher than the per diem rate of your destination.


I am staying in multiple locations in one trip. What per diem rate should I use?

Within the expense report module in Workday, every day can be edited when claiming per diems. Because of this, the location of the lodging for that day should be used for the meal per diem for that day.

For example: if you departed Ames and stayed in Chicago, IL on Monday, you should use the per diem rate for Cook County, IL. If you spent most of Tuesday in Chicago, but flew to Atlanta and lodged there, you will use Fulton County, GA on Tuesday. If you returned to Ames on Wednesday, you are still able to claim the per diem rate for Atlanta instead of just the standard $35 State of Iowa rate.


On my Payroll Info in Workday there was an amount recorded for "Taxable Meals." What does this mean?

Meals on trips not requiring overnight travel are required to be reported to the IRS as taxable income unless the primary purpose of the meal was to discuss business with a client (not another ISU employee). Workday Expenses automatically records non-overnight meals as taxable.


Can I pay for the meals of other employee's traveling with me?

This practice is strongly discouraged, as it makes duplicate reimbursement more likely. Nearly all travelers have credit cards, and it is preferable to have each individual pay for and claim his/her own expenses separately. Group meals should only be paid for by one employee in certain circumstances.


When is a group meal allowable?

Group meals are generally allowable in most scenarios that serve an ISU Business Purpose. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Group student travel
  • Hospitality meals, which can include:
    • interview meals for faculty
    • recruitment meals for potential grad students
    • donor relation meals
  • Collaborative meals with non-employees
Putting the meals of multiple ISU employees on one tab is strongly discouraged, as each employee must submit their own expense report. Paying for another employee's meal may cause audit issues.


Can meal deliveries or gift cards for meal deliveries, such as Grubhub or Door Dash, or other food items be reimbursed when attending a virtual event?

Because no travel is involved and only meals while in travel status can be reimbursed, this would be considered unallowable.


Can per diem be claimed while attending a virtual conference?

If no travel is involved, per diems cannot be claimed.




This page was last updated on October 18, 2021.