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Business Meals

Business meals are those taken with business associates, university guests, job applicants, professional colleagues, or donors, during which University business discussions take place. Business meals are also those taken with other employees when, to ensure privacy and confidentiality, business must be conducted off campus. When authorized by the department head, business meals may also be taken for the purpose of employee recognition or reward.

  • Faculty, staff and students may be reimbursed for approved, necessary and reasonable business meal expenditures.
  • Business meal expenses, including gratuities, should follow the guidelines set forth in the Annual Spending Guidelines. This is a maximum amount permitted, without exception.
  • The number of Brown hosts accompanying a guest for lunch or dinner should be no more than four, unless it is held at the Faculty Club. Exceptions require a senior officer approval.
  • Hospitality reimbursement for family members is not permitted unless there is a specific business purpose for the family member's attendance at the event.IRS Publication 463 states:  You generally cannot deduct the cost of entertainment for your spouse or for the spouse of a customer. However, you can deduct these costs if you can show you had a clear business purpose, rather than a personal or social purpose, for providing the entertainment.”
  •  If a Senior Officer approves of the reimbursement, the reimbursement must be made using a payroll adjustment form.
  • Original receipts are required for all business meal expenses.


Certain functions and events are considered business entertainment if they are intended to provide hospitality to individuals outside the University when considered necessary and customary in furthering the University's interests.

Some examples of business entertainment may include:

  • receptions for University guests and visitors,
  • alumni reunions or similar alumni events,
  • entertaining donors or prospective donors,
  • welcoming receptions for parents and students

In keeping with the University's 'Brown First' policy, departments are required to arrange such events through Brown Dining or the Faculty Club.

Meals paid for by the university should fall within the guidelines posted in the Annual Spending Guidelines. It is recognized that there may be circumstances, especially involving entertainment of a distinguished visitor to the University or at a dinner meeting during travel, when the cost of dinner may exceed this limit. Such exceptions require Senior Officer approval. A Senior Officer is a member of the President's Cabinet. Good judgment should be used in these cases.