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Standard and Special Entertainment

If you're an employee authorized to act as a designated host to entertain on behalf of UC San Diego, ensure that the entertainment activity is directly related to university business and does not personally benefit you or other employees.

Reimbursements and payments

Use Concur (login required) to claim expenses, request payments, or reconcile Travel & Entertainment Card charges/transactions.


Standard Entertainment and Special Entertainment must be approved by authorized employees with delegated entertainment approval authority. For more information, see approving meetings and entertainment.

Note: Please review this guide for a quick reference of the approvals needed for specific Event types.

Standard Entertainment

Types and purposes

Standard entertainment includes meal or light refreshment expenses for:

  • Hosting prospective donors to generate goodwill
  • Hosting official guests, including:
    • Visitors from other universities
    • Members of the community
    • Employees visiting from another work location
  • Recruitment, where expenses are either:
    • Funded from a source designated for graduate student, athletic, or professional recruitment
    • Related to recruitment for positions requiring specialized training or specialized professional, technical, or administrative experience
  • Receptions, in conjunction with:
    • Conferences (receptions not included in the registration fee)


Review fund-source restrictions when serving alcohol.

Events where expenses exceed the per-person maximum are considered special entertainment.


Special Entertainment

Types and Purposes

Special entertainment includes meal or light refreshment expenses for events with expenses exceeding the maximum allowable per-person cost and for certain types of activities regardless of expense.

The following circumstances are considered special entertainment:

Cost Exceeds the per-person-maximum

When entertainment costs exceed the per-person maximum, provide a written justification as to why higher costs were unavoidable and necessary to achieve the UC San Diego business purpose of the activity.

Even with appropriate justification and approval, costs may not exceed the per-person maximum by more than 200%. If this were to occur, UC San Diego Travel is required to send a special request to the Chancellor for review and approval, and it is limited to special circumstances.

Participants include a spouse, partner, or family member

Entertainment expenses for a spouse, partner, or family member can be approved only if there's a bona fide business purpose for attending the event, such as:

  • Recruitment
  • Alumni gatherings (non-UC San Diego employees)

For events where there's no business purpose served by a spouse, partner, or family member's attendance, the employee should pay for their guest's portion.

Employee Morale or Holiday Gatherings

Faculty and staff morale-boosting functions, such as appreciation, recognition, length of service, retirement, farewell, picnics or holiday gatherings, must serve a UC San Diego business purpose and can be approved as special entertainment if costs are:

  • Limited to only the employees in attendance
  • Within the allowable cost-per-person
  • Permitted under the fund source

If expenses exceed the per-person meal maximum, justification is required, including reasons why the higher costs were unavoidable and necessary to achieve a business purpose.

Note:  A retirement or farewell celebration requires that the employee is separating from UCSD after at least 5 years of service.

Special and Social Events 

For holiday parties and gatherings not limited to employees (attendees include employee's spouse, partner, or other invited guests), typically there is no bonafide UCSD business purpose served by the non-employee’s attendance. Unless the non-employee guest is a donor, each employee should pay their guest’s portion – which is common practice.

For special and social events:

  • Provide a comprehensive participant list including names, titles, and either the occupation or business relationship.
  • Provide written justification if expenses exceed the per-person meal maximum, including reasons why the higher costs were unavoidable and necessary to achieve a business purpose.

Functions at private residences should follow all applicable entertainment policy:

  • Follow IRS policy when making payment for services to individuals such as servers or cooks.
  • Remember that payment for these services are considered income to the recipient and must be reported to the IRS for tax purposes.
  • Collect names and Social Security numbers of recipients of payments for personal services. Include your contact information in the request so that Travel staff can obtain the Social Security numbers and enter this data directly into a secured application at the time of processing.

Tickets to Community Events or Fundraisers

Tickets for donors, students, or guests to attend a community event, such as a sporting event, concert or other similar entertainment venue are considered special entertainment and are processed in Concur. Tickets on behalf of employees are treated as gifts and are also processed under Concur.

Cost for a table or ticket (cash contribution) to a UC San Diego fundraiser or an outside non-profit event requires an explanation of the business purpose and a statement showing the difference between the table fee and the cost of meal/refreshments. The vendor should be paid directly through Concur or with a Travel & Entertainment (T&E) Card. In addition, the following documentation as it relates to the specific event is required:

  • For a non-UC San Diego entity, process under Concur and attach a transmittal letter on UC San Diego letterhead to be sent with the UC San Diego payment to the recipient organization. See a sample transmittal letter (PDF).
    • Note: Payment must be paid by UC San Diego and not by the individual employee. If an individual pays for the event, they may only be reimbursed for the meal component and would retain the “donation” benefit for their own taxes.  For example, if the purchase of two tickets is $500, for which the meal component is $100 and $400 is a donation, the individual may only be reimbursed the $100.
  • For tickets to employees for sporting or cultural event (season tickets excluded), process under the Payment Request form if the payment is directly to the non-employee Payee. If the tickets include a meal component or if it's a reimbursement to an employee, use Concur.
Find answers, request services, or get help from our team at the UC San Diego Services & Support portal.