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Expense Reimbursements

Employee Expense Reimbursements

It is the policy of Northwestern University to reimburse University faculty and staff and to pay outside vendors for necessary, appropriate, and approved travel, entertainment, and courtesy, and other expenditures required to advance the academic mission of the University. In order to obtain reimbursement for personal funds expended, and to account for any amounts expended using a travel advance, all expenses must be documented on the NUFinancials Expense Report which can be accessed via the NUPortal.

Upon completion, the Expense Report should be submitted to Accounts Payable for processing. A complete Expense Report must include:

  • Original detailed receipts or other acceptable documentation for all expenses submitted on the Expense Receipts page(s) of the Expense Report
  • If any expense submitted for reimbursement is not in accordance with University policy, an Expense Policy Exception Request
  • An employee check to Northwestern University for a refund of any unspent portion of a non-corporate card advance
  • All required signatures and approvals, including Accounting Services for Research and Sponsored Programs (ASRSP) approval for sponsored project expenses

For an Expense Report overview, see Expense Reports in NUFinancials (eLearning)

To review the steps in the NUFinancials Expense Report process, see Expenses Entry Quick Reference

Reimbursement will be made via the employee's normal payroll payment method, either direct deposit to the employee's primary payroll bank account or by check. For special situations, an employee may contact Accounts Payable to request a check rather than a direct deposit reimbursement.

Visitor Expense Reimbursements

It is the policy of Northwestern University to reimburse individuals who are not University faculty or staff, but who have incurred expenses for University-approved, business-related expenses, including transportation, lodging, and other travel or non-travel costs.

  • guest lecturers or researchers
  • consultants
  • prospective faculty or staff
  • non-employee students

The department/school is responsible for informing the visitor of the University's expense reimbursement policies prior to his/her incurring of expenses, providing the visitor with the Visitor's Expense Report form to document expenses, collecting from the visitor the vendor information required for processing the reimbursement, and having all visitor forms properly completed and processed.
Follow these steps to reimburse a visitor for expenses:

  • The visitor provides vendor information, completes the Visitor's Expense Report form, attaches all original detailed receipts, and submits the information to the department.
  • The department determines if the visitor vendor information already exists in NUFinancials. For details on looking up a vendor see Enter Request to Modify a Supplier.
  • If the vendor is not in NUFinancials, the vendor information must be added. Scan receipts and/or the completed Visitor's Expense Report form to be attached to the vendor code request entered through the NUPortal. For details on adding a vendor, see Supplier Registration (eLearning).
  • The W-9 form is not required for reimbursements/refunds unless the visitor will be reimbursed more than once. (The W-9 is required for individuals for payment of services, a speaker fee or an honorarium.)
  • Once the new vendor code has been processed, Accounting Services will send an email containing the new vendor code to the individual who requested the new vendor.
  • The department submits the original approved and signed Visitor's Expense Report form, receipts for all expenses, and an Expense Policy Exception Request for any expense submitted for reimbursement that is not in accordance with University policy to ASRSP (for sponsored projects) or to Accounts Payable for reimbursement to the visitor.
  • Accounts Payable accepts scanned/attached signatures and documentation to the online voucher. If a department does not have scanning capabilities original documentation may be submitted via campus mail.
  • Grant-related expenses and documentation must go to ASRSP for review and approval first before routing to Accounts Payable.
  • Reimbursement will be made via check to the visitor.

Important Note

For the Visitor's Expense Report scanned/attached signatures and supporting documents are preferred and acceptable.

Visitor's Expense Report

  • Uses: Reimbursement of individuals who are not university faculty and staff, but who have incurred expenses for university approved, business-related expenses, including transportation and lodging.
  • Submission Method: Online Voucher with attached electronic documentation.
  • Signatures Needed: Visitor, Department, Dean, or Principal Investigator, as necessary, on form, then NUFinancials workflow approvals related to chart string (original is not needed).
  • Documentation Needed: Receipts or other support for the expense (original is not needed).

Important Note about Payment to Individuals

  • It is recommended to use the Contracted Services Form, online voucher, and paper form, for all honoraria.
  • If payments to an individual (honoraria or otherwise) total $600 or more in any calendar year, the IRS requires the University to issue a 1099 tax form to the individual. To issue the 1099 tax form, the University needs the information collected when requesting a Vendor ID. For more information on adding a vendor, see the Vendor Processing page.
  • Because it may be difficult for departments to know if an individual has received payments from other areas of the University to track if the cumulative payments have reached $600, it is recommended to collect and submit all necessary information for the Vendor ID. Accounts Payable will distribute a 1099 tax form, as required.

Tips on Supporting Documentation

  • All original documentation in support of a transaction (expense reports, online vouchers, journals, or requisitions) that has been scanned and attached to the transaction record should be retained for three months, at a minimum, as part of the quality review process. Once the Expense Report with all pertinent documentation has been approved by responsible unit approvers, expense supervisors, and Accounts Payable, it becomes the official University record and departments need not keep the paper support for longer than three months. Accounts Payable maintains its records for eight years in compliance with University retention policy.
  • A Contracted Services Form, fully completed and signed, can serve as sole documentation, if appropriate.
  • Procurement and Payment Services will be part of workflow approvals for all vouchers in excess of $25,000.
  • Procurement and Payment Services will still require BD-1 or SSJ for Direct Payment Requests in excess of $25,000.

Special Non-Resident Visitor Considerations

Non-resident independent contractor travel reimbursement is issued via Payroll when travel expenses are being paid in addition to an honorarium or a speaker fee.

Reimbursement from Petty Cash

No single expenditure of more than $100 may be reimbursed through the petty cash fund. Amounts in excess of $100 must be reimbursed using an Expense Report. Petty cash disbursements may be made for:

  • Emergency purchases
  • Freight, C.O.D.s, postage due
  • Authorized local travel or entertainment less than $100
  • Payment of research participants up to $100 cumulative for the calendar year (with prior grant authorization from ASRSP)
  • Food purchases less than $100 (note that tax is not reimbursable)
  • Card Sale refunds up to $25 each

An employee seeking reimbursement from petty cash should fill out a Petty Cash Pay-Out Form and submit it to the fund custodian with original detailed receipts. The custodian will make the payout directly to the employee for approved requests.

Procedures for petty cash funds including fund custodian responsibilities are outlined in Cash Handling Policies & Procedures.


Contact Information

Contact Information

Questions About


Processing of employee and visitor expense reports and reimbursements

Gary Ernsteen, Manager of Accounts Payable, 847.491.4445

Allowable expenses for sponsored programs

Jany Raskina, ASRSP, 847.491.4697

Angie Gwinn, HR Tax Compliance Supervisor, 847.491.7204

Vendor maintenance

Elizabeth Gladic, Vendor File Management, 847.491.5338

Petty cash

Depository Services, 847.491.5790

Accounting Services, 847.491.5337