Number: 210-01

Effective Date:





1 of 9

Staff Contact:

Iwen Wang

Approved By:

Denis Law


To establish policies and procedures for City business expenses incurred by an employee or appointed/elected City official during overnight travel status or tax home status, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This policy also outlines when reimbursement for expenses are considered fringe benefits under the IRS’ definition.


All City Departments / Divisions


RCW Chapter 42.24, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Regulations

210-08 - Food and Beverage Expenditures

215-18 - Travel Authorization & Expenses Report Form (Attachment A)

250-08 - Purchasing Card Policy


It is the policy of the City of Renton to reimburse elected/appointed officials and employees for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while conducting business for the City.

Generally, eligible expenditures include travel and reasonable living costs incurred by an employee while away from their regular tax home, as necessitated by City business. Authorized Approvers will make the determination of eligible and ineligible meals in coordination with the Administrative Services Administrator. Reimbursements for necessary and reasonable expenses are made, subject to the rules herein and with Chapter 42.24 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). It is assumed and expected that expenses will be consistent with the best interests of the City, including the City’s need to manage travel costs.

Questions on this policy and procedure should be directed to the Administrative Services Administrator.


5.1    A/P. Accounts Payable

5.2    Air Fare / Air Travel. The air travel standard is coach, which is generally the least costly air fare available that adequately meets the City’s purpose.

5.3    Authorized Approvers. Those persons or their designees as identified in 6.1.1.

5.4    Conference. Includes, but is limited to, a symposium, seminar, forum, or convention associated with a league, association, alliance, etc. For the purposes of this policy and procedure, the word conference also means any formal training session typically attended by an audience from a wide geographic area and/or organized by a regional or nationally known entity.

5.5    Conference Meals. Meals provided at a conference, including continental breakfast. The cost for such meals are either included in the registration fee or can be obtained by paying an extra fee with the registration payment. The registration form and/or the conference program schedule identify any meals provided or available for purchase.

5.6    Department Account Representative. The person who coordinates the submission of all travel expense reports from their department to A/P. The primary task is to make sure all required documentation is included and required approvals are obtained before department expense reports are submitted to A/P.

5.7    Eligible Meals. While in overnight travel status, meals not provided at a conference will be advanced or reimbursed at the current City M&IE per diem rate. When an employee is not in overnight travel status, non-conference meals can be reimbursed but any per diem paid is subject to income tax withholding as a fringe benefit.

5.8    Employee. Shall include City employees and elected or appointed officials of the City of Renton, and volunteers traveling in an official capacity representing the City.

5.9    Expense Report. The Travel Authorization and Expenses Form attached herein and as amended.

5.10    Hosting. Includes, but is not limited to, activities that are intended to lobby or influence any elected official, governmental official, or vendor and are normally social rather than a governmental business event, and normally include expenditures for food and beverage. City funds are not to be used for “hosting.”

5.11    Meals and Incidental Expense (M&IE). The dollar amount allowed for each meal, including tax, gratuities, and incidental expenses. The City Finance Division will publish from time to time the M&IE breakdown or “per diem rates.”

5.12    Mileage Rate. The reimbursement rate per mile for using a personal vehicle on City business as published by the Finance Division from time to time.

5.13    Non Overnight Travel Status. By the IRS’ definition, non overnight travel status to travel to local cities. For example, it is non overnight travel status to go to Olympia, Tacoma, or Woodinville for a day class or workshop and return home the same day.

5.14    Overnight Travel Status. When an employee’s duties require them to be away from the general area of their tax home substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work and sleep or rest is needed to meet the demands of work while away from home. The rest requirement for overnight travel status is not satisfied by napping in a car. An employee does not have to be away from their tax home for a whole day as long as their relief from duty is long enough to get the necessary sleep or rest.

5.15    Purchasing Card (or P-Card). Any City credit cards used by employees for eligible City expenses and/or purchases.

5.16    Tax Home. The IRS term identifying your principal place of work.

5.17    Travel Authorization and Expenses Form. This form is required for approval of overnight travel, advance of meal and incidental expenses. This form is Attachment A to this policy and procedure. To obtain an electronic copy of the form, go to RentonNet / City Forms / Finance forms.

5.18    Travel Time. The time required to reach a destination that is outside of the general area of the employee’s or appointed/elected City official’s tax home.


6.1    Travel:

6.1.1    Authorization – An employee must obtain authorization prior to overnight travel. The Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), City Council President (for council and council liaison travel), and each Department Administrator or their designee are authorized to approve travel. Use the Travel Authorization and Expenses Form to obtain the required approval signatures. This form includes full cost estimates for travel expenses and a section to request an advance check for meal and incidental per diems. An employee incurring travel related expenses without obtaining prior approval is at risk of not being reimbursed for those expenses by the City.

6.1.2    Councilmember Attending Regional Meeting – Councilmembers attending regularly scheduled and/or standing regional meetings within their committee assignment, or otherwise previously approved by the majority of the City Council, are representing the City officially and are eligible for reimbursement of associated costs. This includes, but is not limited to, regular membership meetings of the Association of Washington Cities and Suburban Cities Association.

Councilmembers participating in other regional meetings, forums, and trainings are attending in an unofficial capacity on their own time and resources.

6.1.3    Excess Travel Time – The time it takes to travel in excess of one work day each way. If the excess travel time is required due to the employee’s choice of transportation, it will be charged to the employee as accrued time, i.e., vacation, comp time, or personal leave.

6.2    Exceptions:

Exceptions to this policy and procedure may be made only for unusual or extenuating circumstances and upon the written authorization of the Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer, or the Administrative Services (AS) Administrator or by a majority of the City Council for Council expenses. Exceptions must be consistent with State law, and Renton Municipal Code.

6.3    Meal and Incidentals Per Diem:

6.3.1    The City advances or reimburses at the M&IE per diem rate for eligible meals during authorized travel status. The current advance or reimbursement is paid at the following City M&IE per diem rate:

Breakfast     $10

Lunch    $15

Dinner    $30

Incidental Expenses:    $5

and as revised from time to time by the Finance Division.

6.3.2    The City does not advance or reimburse per diems for meals provided at a conference.

6.3.3    No advances will be made for airline tickets, registration fees, lodging, or other expenses that can be billed to the City, charged to a City purchasing card, or paid through the regular accounts payable process.

6.3.4    Obtaining an advance of the M&IE per diems requires planning ahead. An employee with overnight travel authorization may request an advance check for M&IE per diems by using A/P’s regular vendor payment schedule. The procedure is as follows:    Prepare the Travel Authorization and Expenses Form, using M&IE per diems claimed on the first through the last day of travel, provided the person is in Travel Status during the following periods:

•    6:00 to 9:00 a.m. for breakfast

•    11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for lunch

•    5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for dinner     Obtain the required signature approvals.    Enter the M&IE advance amount due into Eden, following the regular A/P schedule. The approved Travel Authorization and Expenses Form is your invoice for an M&IE advance check. Attach the conference registration and program description to the invoice. Submit to A/P by the regular A/P cutoff date. Special checks will not be issued.    A/P will release the advance check on the regular accounts payable “mail check” date.    Upon completion of travel, recalculate any miscalculation of the meal or incidental per diems that results in the City advancing more money to the employee than was due. The employee shall reimburse the amount of the per diem overage to the City of Renton promptly. Any M&IE advance overage not repaid promptly may be collected through payroll deduction.

6.4    Expense Reporting:

6.4.1    If using a City Purchasing Card, you’ll need to get all travel related receipts to your department account representative prior to the close of that month’s billing cycle.

6.4.2    Required documentation for travel expenses include receipts for expenses claimed/reported (other than those provided for via per diem), and a copy of the approved Travel Authorization & Report form, if not submitted previously.

6.4.3    For a mileage claim, the mileage is calculated from the starting point to the destination. For a day-trip started from home, the start point should be the closest to the destination, either home or City Hall, even if the traveler begins their trip from home.

6.4.4    For an expense that is outside of policy, include the written approval for the exception.

6.5    Eligible Expenses:

6.5.1    Travel Status Meals and Incidental Expenses – The cost for a meal and incidental expenses is advanced or reimbursed at the City’s current M&IE per diem rate. All meals taken during travel status are reimbursed on a tax free basis, consistent with IRS rules. The exception is meals provided at a conference, which are not covered.

6.5.2    Transportation:    The actual costs for bus travel, train travel, taxi, tolls, car rentals, parking fees, and air travel (coach or economy class only) from SeaTac Airport to the destination and return are eligible expenses.    Employees using a personally owned auto to travel out of town on City business, if approved by an authorized approver, will be reimbursed at the current City mileage rate provided the total of the mileage rate does not exceed the total cost of the least expensive round-trip airfare to the same destination. Mileage is calculated from City Hall or your home, whichever is closer to the destination.

6.5.3    Lodging – The actual cost of hotel or motel accommodations at the double occupancy rate is eligible with the following exception: If a family member or guest accompanies the employee resulting in a higher room rate than the conference rate, the employee shall pay the amount over the conference rate. Note the conference accommodation rate on the lodging bill if that information is not contained in the conference registration materials. If a conference organizer offers multiple hotel options, an employee shall generally choose the least expensive hotel accommodation available unless the cost of traveling to and from the less expensive hotel cancels out the savings compared to the cost of a hotel closer to the conference site. The reason for not using the least expensive hotel accommodation should be noted on the Travel Authorization & Expenses Form.    A lodging bill detailing the charges shall be attached to the backup documentation and sent to A/P for processing.    If lodging accommodations are shared between two or more employees, the lodging bill for the employees sharing the room shall be expense reported by the employee who pays the lodging bill.

6.5.4    Laundry, Telephone, Internet Fees – Covered by incidental expenses.

6.5.5    Per Diems – Necessary meal and incidental (M&IE) expenses while on travel status are reimbursable at the City’s current per diem rates.

6.6    The following expenses shall not be paid for or reimbursed by the City:

•    Travel expenses paid by another organization.

•    Meals included in a registration fee.

•    Tips or gratuities (which are included in the M&IE per diem).

•    Meals or lodging accommodations for family or guests.

•    Alcoholic beverages.

•    Valet or room services.

•    Tours or sightseeing.

•    Mileage if traveling as a passenger in a privately-owned car.

•    Travel insurance.

•    Hosting.

•    Theft, loss, or damage to personal property.

•    Fines or penalties.

•    Any other personal expenditure or expenditures beyond “reasonable and necessary” as determined by the Authorized Approver.

6.7    Non Overnight Travel Status Meal:

An Employee may be reimbursed for their meals during non overnight travel status, but meals in non travel status may be considered taxable by the IRS.

6.7.1    Eligible Meals:    Meals included in the cost of a meeting registration are eligible and are not taxable as a fringe benefit.    Non-conference local (non overnight travel) meals shall be reimbursed based on actual expenses but not to exceed the per diem rate for the meal as established by the City. Reimbursements for non travel status meals, if applicable, will be reported as earned income to the employee in accordance with IRS rules.    Individuals may be reimbursed for non travel status meal expense from the petty cash fund, provided the proper documentation is attached to the petty cash slip and the amount is within the petty cash limit. Some examples of proper documentation are meeting agendas, sign-in sheets, or appointments/invitations that establish the business purpose.    Meals for elected or appointed officials conducting formal City business during meal times are authorized. Light dinner/refreshments may be provided for staggered City meetings starting prior to 5:00 p.m. and are expected to continue beyond 7:00 p.m.

6.7.2    Ineligible Meals:    Discussing City business during a meal does not make the meal reimbursable when the business could reasonably have been conducted during non meal periods.    Authorized approvers or their designees will determine whether meals consumed locally (while attending a meeting or training on behalf of the City) are eligible for reimbursement. The approver’s signature on an expense report or petty cash slip indicates his/her approval. Determination of the meal as eligible does not preclude the meal from being taxed as a fringe benefit.