University of Pennsylvania
arrow Comptroller's Office
arrow Tax and International Operations
arrow Intermediate Sanctions
arrow Tax Research Topics
divider line
arrow Document/Forms
arrow Contact Information
arrow Feedback


Comptroller's Office
University of Pennsylvania
Suite 329 Franklin Building
3451 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
215.898.6291 (Phone)
215.746.7630 (Fax)

Penn Home Penn A-Z Directories Calendar Maps
Office of the Comptroller

[ Tax and International Operations ]

Tax Research Topics

Comptroller's Home -> Tax and International Operations -> Corporate Tax

Below is a list of topics most commonly referred to regarding taxability.

Assignment of Income

Income earned is generally taxable to the payee at the time payments are made available to them.

The assignment of income doctrine provides that an individual, who assigns his or her right to receive income, rather than receiving the income directly, retains the tax liability associated with that income. Under this doctrine, an individual is not allowed to shift the taxation of income by making a gift or gratuitous transfer of income to another individual or organization, including the University. The assignment of income doctrine is summarized in IRS Revenue Ruling 69-102.

Business Meals

In order for travel meal reimbursements to be excludable from wages, employees must be traveling away from their tax home on their employer’s business. The tax home encompasses the general area of the taxpayer’s place of business. Traveling “away from home” means

  1. Employee must be traveling away from the general tax home area substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work, and
  2. Employee needs to obtain substantial sleep or rest to meet the demands of the work while away from home.

The IRS doesn’t specifically define sleep or rest, however, the Tax Courts have determined that sleep or rest is one that requires the securing of lodging. U.S. v. Correll, Barry v. Commissioner, Unger v. Commissioner Thunstedt, T.C memo 2013-280 and Rehman, T.C. Memo 2013-71.

IRC §1.62(a)(2), Rev. Ruling 75-170, Rev. Ruling 75-432
See Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses; Publication 5137 Fringe Benefit Guide

Publication 463


You can deduct the cost of meals in either of the following situations.

  1. It is necessary for you to stop for substantial sleep or rest to properly perform your duties while traveling away from home on business.
  2. The meal is business-related entertainment.

Publication 5137

Meals Away From Tax Home But Not Overnight

Generally, these meals are taxable as wages to the employee because travel must be away from home overnight to be excludable.

Example: An employee is required to travel out of town to work for the day. The employer agrees to pay for the employee’s meals while away. The employee leaves home at 7:00 a.m. and returns home at 9:00 p.m. Before the employee returns in the evening, the employee takes a nap in his car for an hour. Although the employee is away from his tax home for substantially longer than a normal work day and even stops for rest, the rest is not considered to be substantial. The employee is not considered to be away from home overnight. Any meal money that the employee receives is taxable as wages.

Questions & Answers

Q:Why can’t I be reimbursed for the cost of my personal meals for same day travel, for example, if I leave at 6:00 a.m. and don’t return until 10 p.m.?

A:In accordance with IRS guidelines, an employee is required to need substantial sleep or rest to qualify for personal meal reimbursement. Substantial sleep or rest requires overnight lodging. Therefore, same day trips without an overnight stay will not qualify for personal meal reimbursement.

Q:What are the tax implications if I am reimbursed for a personal meal?

A:The reimbursement is considered a taxable fringe by the IRS and all such reimbursements are taxable income to the recipient and must be included as wages on the recipient’s W-2 at year end.

Q:What is an example of a taxable meal?

A:A University employee travels outside of the office on an assignment for the work day and does not require overnight lodging; he purchases lunch and requests reimbursement. Since there was no overnight lodging, the reimbursement is taxable income to the employee and is required to be included in their wages.

Q:If a faculty member takes a job candidate out for a meal, is the reimbursement taxable?

A:No, if there is a justifiable business purpose for taking the job candidate to lunch.

Q:If an employee takes some international visitors or other university guests out for a business-related dinner, is that considered taxable?

A:No, it is not a taxable dinner because there is a justifiable business-related purpose for the meal.

Q:If an employee goes to a conference Friday through Saturday, stays overnight both nights and leaves Sunday morning, is the breakfast on Sunday considered taxable?

A:No, because of the overnight stays, the Sunday meal is not taxable.

Q:Are meals that are provided for overtime work that exceeds the normal work schedule excludable from employee’s wages?

A:Generally yes, if all the following conditions are met, occasional meal money may be excludable from income as a de minimis fringe benefit:

  1. Occasional Basis – Meal is reasonable in value, and not provided regularly or frequently, and
  2. Provided for Overtime Work – Overtime work necessitates an extension of the employee’s normal work schedule, and
  3. Enables Overtime Work – Provided to enable the employee to work overtime. Meals provided on the employer’s premises that are consumed during the overtime period, or meal money expended for meals consumed during that period, satisfy this condition.

Regularly provided meal money does not qualify for the exclusion for de minimis fringes provided by an employer.

Business Use of Home

Please refer to the attached PDF flowchart

Commuting Expense

The costs of commuting to and from work are not deductible, either as trade or business expenses or as expenses incurred in the production of income. Instead, they are nondeductible personal expenses. The cost of commuting to and from work is not deductible even if it is essential to the taxpayer's pursuit of business activities that he have his car with him at work, or even if the taxpayer is on call and thus must have access to speedy and reliable transportation to his place of employment.

Compensation assigned to charity

A taxpayer generally can't avoid the tax on compensation paid for services he performs by having the amounts given directly to charity.

Primm, T., (1933) 28 BTA 13 .

If a person renders services to a third party for the benefit of a charitable organization, any amount paid under an agreement or understanding to the charity by the third party for those services is income to the person performing the services. It doesn't matter if the commitment to pay the earnings directly to the charity is made before the services are rendered. 14

Reg § 1.61-2(c) ; Rev Rul 58-495, 1958-2 CB 27 .

Dues paid to charity organization

Membership dues paid to charitable organizations or other qualifying professional organizations aren't deductible as charitable contributions if by reason of such membership the taxpayer receives benefits or privileges, such as publications, the use of a library, free or reduced admissions to concerts, lectures, etc.

But many cultural organizations, e.g., tax-exempt museums and symphonies, also solicit “sustaining” and similar members who pay much higher dues for the privilege of being known as benefactors of the organization. Where such dues have a dual character because of the great discrepancy between payments and benefits, IRS will give due consideration to the possible separation on a uniform basis of that portion of the total payment that may properly be treated as a charitable contribution.

Educational Reimbursements

Please refer to the attached PDF flowchart

Employee Gifts and Awards

The University of Pennsylvania recognizes the services of its employees while complying with federal, state, local and or other sponsor guidelines. The University of Pennsylvania establishes cost-effective practices that are consistently applied.


On occasion the University or an individual department, school or center will recognize employees for outstanding work-related achievement, a significant contribution, or a major milestone such as a promotion or retirement.

This document provides specific guidelines regarding the value and type of gifts or awards to employees and whether or not they are subject to payroll taxes.

When these occasions arise, we are reminded that:

1. Federally sponsored funds should never be used to charge employee gifts, morale building events, or celebratory/work related achievement events;

2. Departmental funds may be used at the discretion of the department within the criteria of this policy and the departmental budget.

The following guidelines have been developed according to the IRS regulations concerning gifts and awards to employees.

This policy does not cover ordinary business expenses in the promotion of employee morale. Examples of such business expenses are: occasional business lunches and office gatherings. Nor does this policy cover performance-based awards or bonuses, which are generally taxable to the recipient and are processed through Payroll.

This policy is not applicable to prizes/awards given for established student events.

Furthermore, this policy does not preclude individual faculty or staff members from giving personal gifts to their colleagues provided University funds are not used for this purpose. Such personal gifts will not be reported as taxable income to the recipient.


1) It is not appropriate to spend any University funds in recognition of employees for non work-related achievement or events such as birthdays, holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc.) weddings, baby showers, housewarming, etc.

2) Gifts and awards received by employees are taxable and must be reported as additional earnings if their value exceeds the following thresholds:

a) Cash or gift certificates of any value

i) the IRS considers gift certificates, gift cards or any savings bond to be a cash equivalent even if the property or service acquired with the gift certificate would normally be excludable

b) Gifts or awards of tangible personal property with a value greater than $100

i) Gifts and awards of tangible personal property to employees are “de minimis” when they are awarded infrequently and are not greater than $100
ii) De minimis Fringe Benefits

c) Gifts or awards of tangible personal property greater than $400 for a length of service or retirement award

i) These awards may not be made within the employee’s first five years of service or more frequently than every five years.

3) All taxable gifts and awards will be net of Federal, State, City and FICA payroll taxes. In other words, the total expense charged to the departmental funding source will equal the specified award amount; however the amount received by the employee will be net of the applicable taxes withheld.


Recognition may take the form of celebratory events such as a department-wide luncheon, dinner, or party. Appropriate circumstances for such recognition include:

  • To mark achievement of a major departmental goal;
  • To honor an employee in connection with a work-related employee recognition program;
  • To honor an employee who is leaving the University or department;
  • To honor a retiree (other than University wide recognition programs).
  • These costs should be treated consistent with the University’s general business expense guidelines.

    Recognition may also be in the form of a gift. Appropriate circumstances for recognition by gifts include:

  • To honor an employee for achievement of a work-related goal or objective (non-bonus);
  • To honor a long-service employee, outside of a University-wide recognition program;
  • To honor an employee departing the University or department.

    Celebratory events and gifts to honor an individual for personal reasons (e.g., wedding, baby shower, birthday, housewarming, holiday, etc.) may not be charged to University funds. Personal funds should be used to pay for these and other kinds of staff parties and for gifts for such events.

    Flowers: The University will not pay or reimburse for payment of flowers, other than flowers of nominal cost sent upon the hospitalization of an employee or a death in the employee’s family.

    Holiday Cards: The University will not pay or reimburse for payment of holiday cards for interoffice mailing. External mailings are allowable for purposes such as alumni and donor relations.


    Taxability of Awards to Employees

    Cash and gift certificates of any value Taxable
    Tangible personal property – occasional and value not greater than $100 Non Taxable
    Tangible personal property – value greater than $100 (does not include a length of service or retirement gift) Taxable
    Tangible personal property - valued in the range of $0 - $400 for length of service or retirement Non Taxable
    Tangible personal property valued greater than $400 for length of service or retirement. (Only the amount greater than $400 is taxable or reportable.) Taxable

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at

    Reimbursement of Sabbatical Expenses

    The IRS would allow sabbatical expenses to be reimbursed if: 1. It is for research purposes 2. The research is in the employee’s field of study 3. The research cannot be performed elsewhere. As long as the 3 criteria are met, taxability should not be an issue for reimbursement of the travel expenses, regardless of a salary or no salary. If all 3 criteria are met, send the reimbursement to Travel.

    In order to be prepared for an audit, a document stating the following needs to be included with the travel receipts:
    1. The University requires the employee to conduct the research (to prove that the research is not for personal reasons)
    2. What is the purpose of conducting the research and how will it benefit the Univ. of Penn.
    3. A statement that the research is in the employees field of study
    4. Why the research is being conducted at a location other than the Univ. of Penn.


    Taxability of Relocation Expenses for Faculty and Staff


    The recently passed Tax Reform Act repeals the employee deduction and income exclusion for moving expenses. Therefore, reimbursement of qualifying moving expenses reimbursed in 2018 and forward will now be recognized as taxable income for the employee. No longer can qualified relocation expenses be reimbursed tax-free. The request for relocation reimbursement must be made through payroll as an additional pay.

    Student Prizes

    Taxation of Student Prizes

    Cash, gift certificates and other cash equivalents are taxable income to students regardless of value. The giving of these items as prizes are strongly discouraged.

    Contest prizes

    Scholarship prizes won in a contest are not scholarships or fellowships if you do not have to use the prizes for your education. If you can use the prize for any purpose, the entire amount is taxable.

    Taxable Scholarships and Fellowships

    If you received a scholarship or fellowship, all or part of it may be taxable, even if you did not receive a Form W-2. Generally, the entire amount is taxable if you are not a candidate for a degree.

    If you are a candidate for a degree, you generally can exclude from income that part of the grant used for:

    Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance, or

    Fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for your courses.

    You cannot exclude from income any part of the grant used for other purposes, such as room and board.

    Prizes & Awards

    Prizes and awards are amounts received primarily in recognition of religious, charitable, scientific, educational, artistic, literary, civic achievement, or as the result of entering a contest. All prizes and awards (with the exception of qualified scholarships) are includible in gross income (Code Sec. 74 (a); Reg. § 1.74-1(b)) unless all of the following conditions are met:

    a. The recipient was selected without any action on his or her part to enter the contest.

    b. The recipient is not required to render substantial future services as a condition to receive the prize or award.

    c. The prize or award is transferred by the payer to a government unit or tax-exempt charitable organization as designated by the recipient.

    All three of the above conditions must be met in order to exempt the prize from taxation.

    IRS Reporting Requirements

    For US and resident alien students, all prizes in the amount of $600 or greater must be reported by the University to the IRS on form 1099-MISC. It is the responsibility of all prize recipients, regardless of the amount of the prize, to report the taxable prize received to the IRS on their personal income tax returns.

    For non-resident alien students, the University is required to withhold 30% tax on the full amount of the prize unless the individual is exempt from taxation under a tax treaty. Contact Tax and International Operations at or Room 308 Franklin Building (between 10 am and 2 pm) to determine treaty eligibility. The prize amount will be reported to the IRS and to the student on form 1042-S.

    Department Reporting Responsibilities

    For prizes of $600 or more issued to US students and resident alien students, the following documentation must be forwarded to Accounts Payable:

    • The student name and address
    • A W-9 with the student’s social security number
    • Value of the prize

    For all prizes issued to non-resident alien students, the following documentation must be forward to Accounts Payable:

    • The students name and address
    • Value of the prize
    • University of Pennsylvania Foreign National Information Form (see Comptroller’s webpage, payroll forms section)
    • A copy of the student’s I-94 Card, Visa, Passport and I-20 / DS 2019 or I-797
    Note-If the non-resident alien student is an employee of the University, only the student’s name, address, and prize value is required to be forwarded to Accounts Payable.

    It is important to inform the recipients of the income tax consequences of their winnings. Even in situations where the University is not required to report winnings, the recipients are responsible for reporting such payments on their individual tax returns.

    The University is not in the position to offer specific tax advice. It is recommended that the student consult with a tax professional.

    Unrelated Business Income

    The University is required to report any income received from activities that are unrelated to its mission. The IRS established these requirements to avoid unfair competition between non‐profit organizations and for‐profit, taxable businesses. The key principle revolves around the source of the revenue, and not how that revenue is spent.


    All three elements must be present to determine if an activity is subject to UBIT. The activity must:
    1. Be conducted as a trade or business, with a profit motive
    2. Be regularly carried on
    3. Not be substantially related to the tax exempt mission of the University


    1. Conduct of a Trade or Business is any activity carried on for the production of income from selling goods or performing services, with the intent of realizing a profit
    2. Regularly Carried On refers to business activities that exhibit frequency and continuity; are conducted with a frequency and manner comparable to the conduct of similar activity by a for‐profit, taxable business; and are not activities that are sporadic or infrequent.
    3. Not Substantially Related means that the business activity must not be substantially related to the University’s exempt mission, which includes education, research, and public service. How essential is this activity to accomplishing the University’s mission? Does the activity contribute importantly to accomplish that purpose?

    Exceptions – Not Subject to Taxation

    1. Activity/Service is for the convenience of students, faculty, and staff
    2. Qualified Sponsorship Payments
    3. Rent from real property when no additional services are provided – classrooms, theatres and auditoriums, parking lots, and athletic facilities
    4. Substantially all the work is performed by volunteers

    Revenue Subject to Taxation

    Advertising Revenue

    Career Center services for alumni

    Equipment Rentals and Sales to non‐university members

    Merchandise Sales and Services to the public, such as, pharmacy items and reprographics

    Fee for service arrangements

    Police Services – when the services are provided for the benefit and protection of the vendor, and is beyond the normal and necessary protection provided for university property and people

    Sponsorship payment – for a payment to constitute a qualified sponsorship payment, there must be no arrangement or expectation that the sponsor will receive any substantial return benefit for its payment, other than the use or acknowledgement of the sponsor’s name or logo

    Use of Recreational or Athletic Facilities – income received from public, alumni, and spouse or children of students, faculty, and staff

    Use of Athletics Facilities by professional teams

    Need to contact Tax and International Operations? Visit the Tax and International Operations directory.

    College Hall window

    Comptroller Spotlights

    GL Object Codes FY2018
    Concur Expense Type/Object Code Matrix (2018)
    FY2018 Closing Instructions
    FY18 Closing Calendar QRG
    Guide to RCM Year-End Closing
    RCM Year-End Closing Summary Template
    Office of the President Home Page Penn A-Z Directories Calendar Maps
    Copyright © , University of Pennsylvania
    3451 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 · 215.898.5000
    Copyright Information | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

    Penn Home
    Visit Penn's website