Honoraria and Guest Reimbursement

Visit Disbursements

Honoraria Payments

An honorarium is a gratuitous payment of money or other thing of value to a person for the person’s participation in a usual academic activity for which no fee is legally required. An honorarium is provided as a token of appreciation for participation in an activity or event, and not as a contractual obligation to pay for services rendered. An honorarium is usually a one-time payment made to an individual (not a corporation, business, or partnership) who is not an employee of the University, for a special and non-recurring activity or event. 

“Usual Academic Activity” means activity conducted for the benefit of the honorarium-paying institution and includes lecturing, teaching, consulting, conducting research, attending meetings, symposia or seminars, or otherwise sharing knowledge. Readings and performances are included in academic activities, so long as the activity is open without charge to the public and/or students. 

Please Note: Under IRS regulations, honoraria payments are considered taxable income. Therefore, as a matter of policy, the recipient of an honorarium payment may not transfer the payment to another organization or individual. If the honorarium recipient wishes to transfer the payment to another organization or individual, they must receive the money and then donate it. 


  1. Is the individual a business, corporation, or partnership? 
  2. Was the payment amount negotiated between the University and the individual? 
  3. Is there a contractual agreement? 
  4. Are the individual’s services recurring? 
  5. Is the individual an employee or student employee? 
  6. Did the individual set the price? 

If you have answered ”yes” to any of the above questions the payment does not qualify as an honorarium. 

Required Documentation

U.S. Citizens or U.S. Resident Aliens

  • Form W9 (submitted at the time of Supplier Registration) 
  • Flyer or Memo documenting person’s participation, date, and location of activity or event 

Foreign Nationals

A Guest speaker that holds a J, B, or Waiver Status is permitted to be paid honoraria. The documents required for payment are as follows: 

Additional Documentation for J1 Visa Holders

  • Photocopy of visa 
  • Photocopy of DS-2019 form 
  • If your guest speaker’s J1 visa was issued by a U.S. institution other than Penn, a letter from the issuing institution recommending such activity and explaining how the activity would enhance the exchange visitor’s program. This letter is to be written prior to the engagement. 

Honorarium Rule (“9/5/6” Rule) for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals in B-1, B-2, VWB, and VWT status may accept an honorarium and/or reimbursement of travel expenses under the following conditions: 

  • The services provided are for “usual academic activity or activities” 
  • The activity at the University lasts no more than 9 days 
  • The individual has accepted such payment from no more than 5 educational or research institutions (including the University of Pennsylvania) in the previous 6-month period. 

Special Note for Visitors on TN, H-1B, or O Visas

Visitors on TN, H-1B or O visas not sponsored by Penn may NOT receive honoraria or service payments (including employee compensation). In these cases, it may be necessary to arrange to pay your guest speaker’s home institution so that they can in turn pay your guest speaker. Penn’s Corporate Tax, Compliance, and Payroll office reviews travel reimbursement requests for holders of these types of visas on a case by case basis. 


U.S. income tax will not be withheld from U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents. However, at the applicable tax rate, taxes may be withheld from payments to Non-Resident Aliens from non-tax treaty countries and also tax-exempted countries unless a properly completed IRS Form 8233 (Exemption From Withholding on Compensation for Independent Personal Services of a Nonresident Alien Individual) and the applicable statement under IRS Revenue Procedure 87-9 is submitted, along with the payment request. 

NOTE: Tax treaty benefits are not automatic. Determination of eligible treaty benefits are processed by the Corporate Tax, Compliance, and Payroll office. Non-Resident Aliens who may be eligible to receive a tax treaty exemption will be provided with IRS Form 8233 and applicable statement by the Tax Department. The Foreign National must submit a signed Form 8233 to the department initiating the request for payment in order to ensure that U.S. income tax will not be withheld from the payment. 

The University is obligated to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Form 1099 all U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens receiving cumulative remuneration greater than the annual threshold amount of $600. 

The University will report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Form 1042-S all Non-Resident Aliens receiving cumulative remuneration. 

Guest Travel Reimbursements

The Guest Travel Reimbursement form is used to support travel expense reimbursement for Penn guests (governed by Penn’s Accountable Plan/Policy) and must be attached to the Non-PO Payment Request form on the Penn Marketplace. Penn guests receiving an honoraria or award (both tax-reportable and reported on the Non-PO Payment Request form) would also use this worksheet for any travel reimbursements.

Compensated individuals that are not employees and are identified as Independent Service Providers (ISPs) or Limited Engagement that receive “reimbursement” payments from Penn in connection with services provided should not use the GTR worksheet for any agreed upon expense reimbursements. These should be reflected within their fee structure. All such payments should be coded to the appropriate tax-reportable object codes and will be reported on their 1099.

Travel expenses or other reimbursements to individuals other than guests, employees, and students (i.e., independent contractors) are not governed by Penn’s accountable plan/policy. Accordingly, this worksheet cannot be used to support these payments. 

For more information