Expenses for Meals and Visitor Travel

General considerations in determining allocability to grants:

  • Grant funds cannot be used for entertainment or social activities.
  • Meals for Cornell employees/students who are not in travel status are unallowable.
  • Grant funds may not be used for intramural meetings of any organization or its components (including laboratories, departments, or centers).


Q.    I took a research visitor out to dinner.  Can I charge that to my grant?

A.     While such expenses are valid Cornell business expenses, they are usually federal unallowable and must therefore be charged to gifts or discretionary funds rather than grants.  Most attendees at such dinners are Cornell employees and/or students who are not in travel status, and their meals are considered federal unallowable regardless of the purpose of the meal.  The purpose of the meal must also be considered: if the purpose is to entertain a visitor, the expense is federal unallowable.  If the visitor is in travel status his/her meal may be charged to the grant as a travel expense.  In that case, the benefit to the funded project should be made clear in the business purpose.  Typically, when a research visit is a necessary component of a funded project, all of the visitor’s travel expenses would be charged to that project.   The best way to handle this is to have the visitor pay for his/her own meal and add it to the reimbursement request.

Q.    The speaker at my group’s weekly seminar is an expert in a topic closely related to my grant.  Can I charge his/her travel expenses to the grant?

A.         If the purpose of the visit is speaking at the weekly seminar, no, as that would be an expense for an intramural meeting.  If the purpose of the visit is collaborating on your grant and the visitor happens to give a talk at the weekly seminar while here, the travel can be charged to the grant (note:  when the expenses are submitted for payment or reimbursement, the business purpose should indicate how your funded project benefitted from the visit rather than simply stating that the visitor spoke at the weekly seminar).