2330 Expenditures for Remote Work

Document purpose

To ensure the appropriate stewardship of University funds in support of remote work.


February 2021


May 2022


May 2024

Responsible Office




Policy Sections

  1. Generally Allowable Purchases

  2. Purchases Requiring Prior Approval

  3. Purchases Not Permitted

  4. Policy Reminder on Internet Access from Home

  5. Policy Reminder on Commuting and Mileage Reimbursements

Policy and Guidance

Many University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”) employees began to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Penn is deeply appreciative of the adaptability and resiliency of its employees. Penn now supports a culture where different modes of flexible, hybrid, and remote work may be permissible for staff consistent with institutional needs.  This policy sets forth the current guidelines pertaining to purchases made to support effective remote work. As always, employees are expected to spend Penn funds prudently for valid business purposes.

1.  Generally Allowable Purchases

Penn will supply employees the appropriate tools to do their jobs. Expense approval processes will continue to be managed at the discretion of the Schools/Centers. Employees should seek approval in advance of incurring any expenses.

The following items, if needed to support effective remote work, are generally approved but still must adhere to their respective School/Center approval processes. Basic office supplies like pens, pencils, highlighters, and small computer accessories, such as a keyboard and a mouse, may be considered for remote work purchase, but approval for these purchases may vary by School/Center. Employees should make these purchases under the same guidelines as non-remote purchases of the same kind. For additional information on best practices, please contact your Senior Business Administrator.

Employees may purchase approved items via a Purchase Order (PO) through BEN/Penn Marketplace or with a Purchasing Card (P-Card). Departments are encouraged to designate a point-person (or point-persons) to aggregate employee requests for approved items into bulk purchases for the department.

  • Office supplies should be ordered through Telrose/Office Depot or other approved suppliers via PO or departmental P-Card. If relevant to your School/Center, see the assigned requisitioner for your department, program, or center to place these orders. Note: Some Schools do not reimburse for supplies or equipment purchased on your own (via Amazon or other entities) for remote home work. Again, please consult with your School/Center Business Administrator to ensure compliance with their respective practice.
  • Books may be purchased from the Penn Bookstore via Purchase Order, P-Card, or Bookstore Charge Card.

Purchased items may be shipped directly to the employee’s remote work location. Please consult with your department Business Administrator for your School/Center approved practices.

If you have an exception, please see your Business Administrator.

Employees making purchases on sponsored awards must continue adhering to applicable allowability guidelines.

2.  Purchases Requiring Prior Approval

Most purchases that employees may need to perform work remotely and that are not for research, require pre-approval from the Senior Business Administrator. The preferred practice is that employees do not have identical/similar items in multiple locations. Examples include headphones, microphones, webcams, tablets, computers, laptops, and monitors. Employees should consider the feasibility of bringing existing equipment home for temporary or regular use. Penn equipment that is taken offsite should be inventoried, used for business purposes only, maintained, and returned in the same condition in which it was obtained, absent normal wear and tear. Business Administrators should notify employees of the appropriate process for tracking items that have been moved to the home location.

Business Administrators should notify employees of the appropriate process for recording equipment that has been removed to their home location on the department’s Information Technology (“IT”) inventory. If an employee requires additional equipment to support effective remote work, purchases of the above items require prior approval from the employee’s Business Administrator.

All equipment items purchased with University funds are the property of the University and must ultimately be returned to Penn. If these items need maintenance/repair while being used at home, employees should notify their Local Service Provider.

3.  Purchases Not Permitted

The following items are not approved for purchase and will not be eligible for University reimbursement, except in extenuating circumstances or pursuant to specific state requirements which requires prior approval from senior management:

  • Private worksite or employee home expenses (e.g., electricity, insurance, home maintenance, home renovations or modification for office purposes, and other similar personal expenses)
  • Purchase costs or maintenance/repair expenses associated with employee-owned items or related service.
    • Sales taxes related to purchase of books or any other approved items are not reimbursable.

4.  Policy on Internet Access from Home

The cost of accessing the internet from home is considered a personal expense and will not be reimbursed, except in extenuating circumstances or pursuant to specific state requirements, which requires prior approval from the School/Center  Senior Business Administrator.

Please see your School/Center Senior Business Administrator for any additional policies specific to your School.

5.  Policy on Reimbursements for Travel to Campus

  • Employees who are working a hybrid schedule will not be reimbursed for travel to their Penn work location on the days they are working at Penn. Under Treasury Regulation 1.262-1(b)(5), such travel would be considered the costs of commuting, which are non-reimbursable personal expenses.
  • Employees who are working a fully remote schedule for Penn’s convenience (i.e. because there is no space for them at a Penn location, or because their work requires them to be at a non-Penn location) are eligible for reimbursement related to certain expenses incurred for occasional visits to Penn, subject to approval by the School/Center.
  • Employees who are working a fully remote schedule for their own convenience are not eligible for reimbursement for expenses incurred for occasional visits to Penn, except where there are specific state requirements or at the discretion of the School/Center.

6.  State Requirements

  • The following states/jurisdictions have additional requirements related to reimbursing employees for certain remote work expenses: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C. School/Center Senior Business Officers should contact the University Corporate Tax Department for guidance on reimbursing employees working in these jurisdictions. Employees working in these jurisdictions should obtain prior approval before incurring any additional expenses.
  • Some states (including Pennsylvania) allow employees to deduct certain unreimbursed expenses on their personal income tax returns. Employees should consult with their tax advisors regarding such deductions. The University does not provide personal tax advice to employees.