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Meals for Short-Term Domestic Travel

Find out about meal expenses for travel in the continental U.S. that lasts fewer than 30 days.

Meal costs can be claimed only for travel longer than 24 hours. For details and exceptions, see Claiming M&IE.

Guidelines

  • Meal and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) is the term for the daily maximum for meals and service tips for business travelers' individual costs during trips lasting from 24 hours to 29 days in the continental U.S.
  • Claim the actual amount spent up to the maximum of $74 per day. (If actual cost exceeds the maximum, see instructions under Claiming M&IE. The M&IE Rate prior to March 1, 2016 was $71 per day.)
  • M&IE isn't per diem, which applies to long-term U.S. travel (30 days or more) and travel outside the continental U.S.

Recording M&IE

  • Before your trip, ask your department's travel preparer or approver if you must turn in receipts. UC San Diego travel policy doesn't require meal receipts for M&IE, but departments may require them to calculate the actual amount to claim for reimbursement up to the threshold.
  • If your department doesn't require receipts, keep a log of the actual amount spent on meals and tips each day of travel.

Claiming M&IE

Travel shorter than 24 hours:

  • For travel shorter than 24 hours, meals can only be claimed if you had:
    • An overnight stay and you provided a lodging receipt to your department's travel approver
    • A working meal scheduled as an integral part of a conference
  • If you claim a meal for either reason above, indicate the business requirement of the cost in the Notes section of the Meals tab in MyTravel. Entertainment costs incurred during travel status should be claimed under MyEvents.

Travel longer than 24 hours:

  • After 24 hours, the maximum M&IE for each partial day is rounded to the nearest 1/4 day (6 hours) multiplied by $74. Example for 28 hours of travel:
    • Day 1 is 24 hours: Claim the actual cost up to $74.
    • Day 2 is 4 hours: Round to 1/4 day, or .25, and multiply by $74. Total M&IE maximum for day 2 is $18.50. Claim the actual cost up to $18.50.
  • You can consecutively claim the allowable maximum amount only on a rare occasion. There are no exceptions based on location or high-cost area. If actual expenses meet or exceed the maximum of $74 per day and you are claiming the $74 maximum, use the Notes section of the Meals tab in MyTravel to explain.

Incidentals

The incidentals portion of an M&IE rate includes tips for service (e.g., for waiters, baggage handlers, etc.)

Tax consequences

  • Correct use of M&IE, by claiming actual expenses only up to the maximum daily amount, is required.
  • If M&IE is improperly used by routinely claiming the maximum amount or claiming the maximum amount on any occasion without written justification, it would be considered taxable income to the traveler.
Notice: UC San Diego travel policy, as published in Blink, is decisive. It has been adapted to UC San Diego's organization, delegation of authority, terminology, chart of accounts and processing applications. The source for UC San Diego travel policy is UC Travel Policy and Regulations (PDF).