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Business Expense Procedure

Practice Guide



Business Expense Procedure limits / inclusions are too high - can my unit come up with a local document / more conservative rules on certain expenses?

Local documents are allowed for the Business Expense procedure with lower amounts prescribed if UNSW wide amounts are considered too high for the Faculty/Division, however they may not prescribe higher dollar limits / less conservative rules on expenditure.


Does Business Expense Procedure also apply to contractors and students?

This procedure applies to anyone who incurs expenditure on behalf of the University, including contractors, students, visiting academics, etc.




Do we need to limit overseas accommodation to 4 star if capped at $400 per night?

Travellers are expected, within the allowable exceptions, to limit overseas accommodation to a maximum of 4-star even if they can obtain the higher star rating for under the $400 cap.

Can I stay in 5 star accommodation if I pay for the difference in cost out of personal funds?

A traveller is not allowed to personally pay the difference in price to upgrade to 5 star and above accommodation as there may still be the public perception that UNSW is funding the higher star accommodation.


What happens if you need to exceed the ATO accommodation rates for domestic travel, and the $400 per night for international travel because of high demand, etc?

UNSW Travel Management Company (TMC) will be able to assist with booking appropriate accommodation that is of required standards and within the allowable rates. Where it is not possible to obtain reasonable accommodation for essential travel at these rates due to specific reasons, (on an exceptionable basis) it is allowable to exceed these rates.


Hotel room upgrades are not always under the staff member’s control. For example, where travel is arranged at short notice these may be the only rooms available. 

Travel should be arranged at the earliest possible time in order to avoid potential cost hikes, e.g. preferred accommodation or flights being booked out.

Some room prices may include Wi-Fi / breakfast and it may be cheaper to upgrade the room for these items, than purchase them separately.

Under the Business Expense Procedure this is allowed. The BEP prohibits luxurious / recreational upgrades only. If meal allowances have been claimed and the breakfast is included in the room rate the allowances need to be adjusted.



















Where a flight cost does not include checked baggage (e.g. Jetstar flight), is the additional cost of paying for checked baggage considered excess baggage and therefore not allowable?

Paying for one piece of, or reasonable baggage would not be considered excess baggage and therefore allowable on a flight fare that does not include checked baggage, e.g. Jetstar 


Are travellers always going to be expected to take the cheapest and most direct flight even if this is inconvenient?

It would be expected that the most direct flight is the most convenient. A traveller would not be expected to take an indirect route to their destination based on the fact that it is the cheapest.


Can I upgrade from economy to another class of travel if I use my own cash or points?

It is acceptable to upgrade from economy to another class of travel using personal funds or points provided that staff pay the extra cost upfront themselves. The Travel Management Company (TMC) will be able to assist you with this.

Can I purchase a seat with extra leg room in economy class?

The traveller must endeavour to use the lowest fare class appropriate for the required travel. Seat with extra leg room may be purchased for flights of more than 2 hours if pre-approved.

What if an external grant contract allows for business class travel?

It is acceptable to travel at a higher class than economy if this is allowed under the external grant requirements subject to normal review processes at Research Finance, or if any other third party is funding the travel.

Do travellers need to seek approval if:
1. The business/premium economy fare is paid by a third party or
2. The difference between a business/premium economy fare is paid by a third party 

When UNSW staff are invited to visit other organisations, it is the expectation that this travel is funded by the inviting party, in which case the expenditure will be guided by the inviting party's instructions. 


What type of evidence/certificate is acceptable for a traveller to travel above economy class for medical reasons?

Is a physiotherapist's certificate considered sufficient?

Any traveller travelling by air at a class higher than economy due to medical reasons must provide a certificate from a legally qualified medical practitioner that specifically describes the condition as to why it is recommended for the individual to travel above economy class. It is still the responsibility of the Management Board member or Dean to decide if they wish to approve the travel class.

A certificate or letter from a physiotherapist is not generally considered sufficient on its own as evidence.


Airline lounge / club memberships


Will airline lounge membership be paid once staff member has already travelled 5 times, or when it is anticipated they will travel 5 times a year?

One airline lounge membership will be paid by UNSW when it is genuinely expected that the traveller will travel more than 5 times in the current year by air. The traveller's supervisor or other appropriate person is required make that assessment based on current information.

Does it matter if >5 times travelled domestically or internationally?

Both domestic and international trips by air are considered in the assessment for qualification for airline lounge membership.

Are there UNSW rates available to employees for the Qantas Club?

Substantial discounts are available for Qantas Club memberships for all UNSW staff and these must be availed of when membership is being expensed to UNSW. For more details contact the UNSW Procurement team.



Can donations be made to approved organisations in lieu of payment for survey participation?

These payments may be made to organisations approved by the President and Vice-Chancellor / Vice President, External Relations as appropriate.


Entertainment of staff members


Are there any rules about purchasing of alcohol for serving on the premises at functions?

Alcohol purchased is counted towards respective entertainment category. Nature and quantities need to be in line with the procedures' guiding principles, subject to UNSW Alcohol and Drugs Procedure.


Can refreshments be provided for training/meetings lasting several hours (i.e. 9:30am - 1:00pm)?

Refreshments for training/meetings lasting several hours should follow the procedures' guiding principles, i.e. it should be necessary, reasonable and appropriate.

Can lunch be provided for all-day training?

Lunch may be provided for all-day training, capped at $25 per person (exc. GST).


Is the $150 p.p. cap inclusive of additional costs such as venue hire, accommodation, etc.

The $150 per person cap on the three staff entertainment streams  are inclusive of any additional costs associated with the events, such as venue hire, accommodation, etc.

What does ‘event capped at 10% of the event may be guests (but still UNSW employees)’ mean?

It means that the Faculty can invite staff members from other Faculties or Divisions of the University to any of these events, but these guests should not make up more that 10% of the total attendees. 

If I am attending a UNSW event organised by another business unit as a guest where meals & beverages are provided, does it affect my business unit's $150pp allocation?

No, in this case the cost will be absorbed by the organising business unit.


How can we monitor $150pp x 3 entertainment expenditure?

In order to monitor costs of staff entertainment, generally budget unit holders will have visibility of the entertainment expenditure incurred across the three entertainment streams. It is also important that the guidance on this is communicated to staff as they are likely to be aware of the costs incurred by them.


Are fruit baskets allowable?

Fruit baskets may be allowable subject to the procedures' guiding principles. The frequency and extent of these fruit baskets will need to be considered.


Can our team organise weekly/fortnightly team events?

Staff morale-building events are allowed for a legitimate business purpose, subject to the key principles and to the value of no more than $150 per person per annum (aggregated). Examples include:

  • Annual / biannual team-building event(s)
  • Monthly / quarterly team social gatherings

Can we have farewells/welcomes/birthdays etc. celebrations?

These events may be combined with allowable staff morale-building events. If these events are in addition to staff morale-building events, then they must be self-funded.


Entertainment of Students


Is it allowable for a lecturer to have a session where food / drinks are provided to students to obtain feedback about courses, etc.?

Subject to the procedures' guiding principles.


Entertainment (where non-UNSW parties are involved)


What are the rules are around catering, purchasing alcohol or having morning or afternoon tea for post-seminar networking?

Catering or other entertainment for post-seminar events should follow the procedures' guiding principles, i.e. it should be necessary, reasonable and appropriate  



Do the limits for meals (i.e. breakfast $30, lunch $40, dinner $60), include beverages?

Amounts noted per person in these instances, where non-UNSW parties are involved, are exclusive of any alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. Please note that with all other entertainment categories, amounts noted per person are inclusive of beverages.


Gift Cards and Cabcharges


What records need to be kept for gift cards and Cabcharges?

It is a requirement of the UNSW Business Expense Policy for each Business Unit to maintain a register of gift cards and a register of Cabcharges. These registers should record the quantity and value of cards purchased, cards issued and the number and value of cards on hand at any time. Business Units should also record who the cards were issued to and the reason why. Where practicable, Business Units should also record the receipt of the gift card or Cabcharge by the end user (either by signature or email). The registers should be signed off by an appropriate approver each month.


Can the same person be responsible for purchasing and issuing gift cards and Cabcharges?

Appropriate segregation of duties is an important control and should be maintained in respect of gift cards and Cabcharges. This means that (where practicable) the person who purchases the cards should not also be responsible for issuing them. In all instances the person who maintains the registers should not be the person who signs them off each month.  


How should gift cards and Cabcharges be stored?

Storage of physical gift cards and Cabcharges should be in a secure location (e.g. locked cupboard or safe) with access only available to appropriate authorised persons. Holding excess stock of cards (e.g. greater than 3 month’s requirements) is discouraged.


What other controls should we have in place around gift cards and Cabcharges?

Each Business Unit should also ensure that gift cards and Cabcharges have been approved for use before being purchased and distributed, and that the value and use of cards is within the requirements of UNSW Business Expense Procedure.




What is the appropriate gift card value to be given to students and/or survey participants for their contribution?

Whilst no particular amount is prescribed, the value needs to be in line with the procedures' guiding principles. Also, gift cards purchased must be treated like cash and gift card register needs to be maintained.


Can we buy gifts such as flowers / hampers to staff who suffer from prolonged illness or celebrate childbirth?

No gifts are permitted for non-work-related reasons, unless self-funded.


Can we buy gifts that are not UNSW-branded items for repeat guests who already received UNSW-branded gifts in the past?

UNSW-branded items should be considered as the first option, given a wider range of merchandise that is available. Other gifts may be purchased where prior approval has been obtained.


IT hardware & software


Are individual subscriptions to Adobe Creative Cloud and their applications allowed as a business expense?

UNSW IT have a University wide subscription for the full suite of Adobe Creative Cloud applications that is available to all UNSW staff on all UNSW owned devices as well as personally owned computers. Staff with individual  subscriptions outside of this must cancel these. Further information on this are available on the IT website.


What is considered a reasonable cost for items such as mobile phones, laptops, etc?

It is acknowledged that some users require IT equipment with higher specifications than others, however a user should not purchase equipment that exceeds their business requirements based on personal preference. For example, a top of the range mobile phone costing approx. $2K is likely to exceed the requirements of most users.

Please note that the use of UNSW suppliers is required unless an exemption is sought. 


Meals whilst travelling


Do the limits for meals whilst travelling include beverages? All expenses incurred for meals whilst travelling, this also includes entertainment of external guests whilst travelling, are capped as per this category of the BEP and are inclusive of food and beverages. The cap is based on the ATO reasonable travel allowance rates.


Memberships / Subscriptions


Can I pay for multiple work-related subscriptions/memberships?

Multiple memberships/subscriptions may be permitted where it can be demonstrated that they are necessary and clearly advantageous to the University and prior approval has been obtained.


On ground transport - parking


Can I pay for parking when travelling to other UNSW campus locations for work meetings?

Staff travelling between UNSW campuses for work commitments are allowed to pay for parking out of UNSW funds.

Sometimes when receiving deliveries to the University, parking is required for more than the 15 minutes allowed for the loading bays. Is it acceptable to purchase parking permits for the delivery company in these circumstances?

If deliveries to UNSW are likely to take more than the 15 minutes allowed in the loading bays, contact Estate Management in advance with the details at and they will assist with a workaround for the delivery. This should mitigate the need to purchase parking permits on behalf of the delivery company


On ground transport - public transport, rail and taxis


Can I take a taxi from/to hotel to/from the place of business when undertaking University travel?

When on UNSW travel, travelling from the hotel to place of business and back is not considered travelling from ‘primary place of residence’ to ‘normal place of work’ hence normal rules apply.

All travellers should consider the use of public transport for University business travel if practical and safe. Prudent business judgement is to be applied when using taxis.


When can I take taxi from/to home to/from work?

It is acceptable to charge for trips to and from home to work for other specific work-related reasons – such as an additional trip out of hours (i.e. more than 2 hours earlier / later of individual’s normal span of hours as laid out in the UNSW EBA) or if a work commitment required leaving a car at work the previous day.

Can I take a taxi home after work celebration (i.e. Christmas function)?

Prudent business judgement is to be applied when using taxis. Taxis after work celebration events (i.e. Christmas functions) are deemed as private expenditure.


Do taxis include Uber services?

The use of Uber is permitted under the Business Expense Procedure with the exception of Uber Black or equivalent.


Passport and/or travel documents


Is it possible to make exceptions to the requirement to travel more than 10 times per annum to obtain an APEC Business

An APEC card can be purchased if travelling less than 10 times a year where it can be clearly demonstrated that there is a cost efficiency for the University


Petty expenses


Does the rule around petty expenses less than $10 apply to incidentals whilst travelling?

The $10 rule for petty expenses does not apply for incidentals whilst travelling provided that they stay within the limits listed in Appendix 1 of the Business Expense procedure.  




Where private travel is greater than 50% of the duration of the trip, how much of the airfare should the traveller personally pay for?

Where private travel is greater than 50% of the duration of the trip 50% of the airfare should be paid by the traveller or the FBT incurred. Please note that UNSW will not pay for any additional flights as a result of the private travel and these must be paid in full by the traveller.

Please also note that private travel in these circumstances should only be arranged as a result of required business needs and not the other way around (e.g. a traveller should not try and find a  conference to attend overseas with the intention that UNSW will fund 50% of their already planned private trip) 


Do students (who are not employees) need to reimburse 50% of flight costs to UNSW if the private component is greater than 50% given that there will be no FBT payable for students?

Students (who are not employees) do not need to reimburse 50% of flight costs to UNSW if the private component is greater than 50% as there will be no FBT payable. They will however be required to pay for any additional costs as a result of the private component, e.g. accommodation, additional flights (or difference in price if applicable for dates changes), meals on private days.




Can Schools 'sponsor' certain student societies where they are connected with the School (funding amounts are quite small)?

Where these student societies have been approved by the President and Vice-Chancellor / Vice President, External Relations as appropriate, this sponsorship may be approved as a School level.


Do we need to seek approval from the Division of External Relations every time prior to sponsoring an event?

No separate approval is needed for sponsorship payments made to organisations approved by the President and Vice-Chancellor / Vice President, External Relations as appropriate.


travel allowance


Is the same rate applied to all staff irrespective of their salary bands?

A single set of rates noted in the Business Expense procedure will apply to all staff (except Management Board and Deans).


If meals are provided with accommodation and/or conference package, do I need to reimburse that portion of travel allowance claimed back to the UNSW?

In the circumstance where a staff member is provided with a meal whilst claiming per diem (for example a conference lunch) or has their meal paid for (for example a meal while entertaining a UNSW guest), the staff member’s portion (calculated as a straight pro rata of the number of people legitimately attending) of the total is required to be reimbursed to UNSW. 


Travel Insurance


A visiting will be travelling to Australia from overseas, do I need to consider additional travel cover?

For all travel insurance related questions we strongly recommend to visit the travel website ( or contact the finance insurance team. 


Visa Costs


Where visa cost is > $3,000 and credit card is the only accepted method of payment, can I it put on a UNSW credit card?

Yes, as long as the pre-approval is obtained in line with the Credit Card Procedure.