Staff are responsible to understand and adhere to the documentation and record keeping requirements of the project or activity, local regulatory agencies, funding agencies (if applicable), and University central administration. Each charged expense must be supported by the correct documentation and proof of payment to clearly indicate that payment has been made:

→ All expenses must have receipts;

→ Receipts must have a zero balance, unless they represent a partial payment;

→ The amount claimed as an expense must match the receipt;

→ First and last names must be provided when identifying the person who incurred the expense;

Receipts that are not in English must have all the following parts identified and translated: the name of the vendor, date, business purpose, quantity, unit cost, and total price of the items procured.

Complete documentation must be received for all expenses of $75 or more ($25 for meals) and all lodging. If documentation of an expense of $75 or more ($25 for meals) and all lodging is not available, the traveler may submit a written description of the item purchased, noting the date, the location, and the amount. 

For convenience, Accounts Payable provides a Missing Receipt worksheet that may be completed and attached as back-up to the Travel and Business Expense Report when a receipt is missing. Any request for reimbursement documented in this way requires supplemental approval; for this you can use the Supplemental Approval Form for Travel & Business.

If a receipt is lost or proof of payment is not clearly documented, an exception memo should be prepared and signed both by the employee incurring the expense and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Employees must not copy another receipt to submit in its place or alter original receipts in any way.

Each expense must be documented to be:


It has to be explicitly permitted under the gift or grant agreement, contract or other funding source.


It has to be shown to fit under the terms of the award agreement. An allocable cost is a cost incurred to advance the work under the award, or it is necessary to the overall operation of the institution and is deemed to be assignable in part to the funded projects. The expense must have a budget line within the relevant sponsored program to which it can be charged.

Have Valid Business Purpose

It has to be related to the programmatic work of the gift or grant, contract or other funding source against which the expense is charged. Business purpose must be specific.  “Travel to Boston, MA to speak at Accounts Payable Network conference” is an appropriately documented business purpose. “Travel to Boston for conferenceis not. The business purpose of an expense may be obvious to the traveler, but not to a third-party reviewer.

Keep all financial records, supporting documentation, and other pertinent records for the time period stipulated by the funding source, unless local laws require retaining documents for a longer period. Absent directions to the contrary, records should be retained for seven years from the date of submission of the applicable expenditure.

The CAO should ensure that staff who handle records are aware of Columbia’s Records Retention Policy

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