Hospitality and entertaining expenses: claimant guide

The University will reimburse the provision of food, drink or other hospitality incurred in furthering University business. 


Costs of refreshments and entertaining should be, and be seen to be, reasonable, in line with the value for money principle and should not create a personal benefit. Government and some funders view hospitality and entertainment as a personal benefit and therefore will not refund the costs. Wherever possible seek guidance from your department before incurring costs.

Types of entertainment

  • Business entertainment: costs may be claimed for entertainment that furthers or promotes University business (e.g. dinner for a seminar speaker, examiner lunch, meals with government officials)
  • Non-business (social) entertainment: please note that unless certain conditions (regular event, open to all staff with a maximum spend of £150 per person per tax year inclusive of VAT) are met, this is a taxable benefit

Entertainment considerations

When entertaining, you should consider the following:

  1. Cost: reasonable and proportionate to the situation?
  2. Scale: what would be the public perception of the entertaining?
  3. Alcohol: could the alcohol consumed be considered excessive either in price or amount consumed? Would attendees have been affected by the amount of alcohol such that it is unlikely that effective activity (e.g. networking) could be achieved?


Reference should also be made to the Anti-Bribery Policy, the Gifts and Hospitality Policy, the Misuse of Alcohol and Drugs Policy and alcohol guidelines published by the Chief medical Officers of the UK.


Refreshments and working meals

Refreshments and working meals should be arranged and purchased through your department wherever possible.

It is reasonable to provide light refreshments (e.g. tea, coffee and biscuits) before, during or after a meeting.

The cost of a working meals can only be claimed if:

  • it is integral to the meeting; and
  • a copy of the agenda, notes or action points are retained; and
  • it takes place in an appropriate location:
    • University staff only: must be taken on University premises
    • University staff and externals: can take place on or off University premises; and
  • alcohol is not consumed


A meal taken immediately after a meeting is considered to be entertainment, not a working meal. A meal taken on college premises is not considered to be University premises.


Making a claim

To make a claim, the following information must be provided:

  1. the names of all attendees including staff
  2. the organisation of each attendee and staff status (OU staff or non-OU staff)
  3. the purpose of the entertainment
  4. agenda/ meeting documentation should be attached when claiming working meal


For non-business entertaining that is deemed a taxable benefit (i.e. it does not meet the conditions above, for example a team celebration meal or collaborator meal) where the department is willing to pay the tax on behalf of the claimant the expense should be processed via SAP Concur, where the claimant will pay the tax they should complete the Taxable Benefits Expense Claim form. 


What should not be claimed

  1. Entertaining for political events
  2. Tips in excess of 15%


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