Business Services

Per Diem

Meals - Per Diem vs. Actual

Per Diem means "For the Day" in Latin. If you claim Meals per Diem you do not need receipts. Meal per diem rates cover the meal, taxes, tips, and an incidental expense allowance.

Actual meals claimed require detailed receipts showing meals and beverages and may not exceed per diem rates.

Group Meals may be reconciled two ways:

  • Claim exact amounts as “Meals – Actual” including a detailed restaurant and/or grocery receipts for group meals with meals and beverages showing and a list of authorized attendees. Attendees must be in travel status or authorized on an FBA form for Chart 1. For group meals on Chart 2 attendee authorization is optional via a FBA Form for Chart 2. Amounts, including tax and tip, may not exceed per diem rates per person. Documentation should clearly indicate which meal(s) (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack) the receipt represents.
  • Claim “Meals – Per Diem” for other travelers by handing them the cash from the advance and having them sign a sheet stating they received the cash from you. This signed sheet including accurate dates and amounts serves as your receipt and must be submitted with your expense report. Documentation should clearly indicate which meal(s) (breakfast, lunch, dinner) were used to calculate the cash payment.
  • If you mix methods, meals must be deducted from the per diem rate for meals you claim as “actual” with a receipt. Documentation should clearly indicate which meals are paid using per diem, and which meals are paid directly as an ‘actual’ meal.

Please see the blue box to the right for rates.


8:01 AM Breakfast
12:01 PM Lunch
6:01 PM Dinner

What this means is that if I leave at 8:02 AM I would not be eligible to claim breakfast for that day. If I return home at 6:00 PM I am not eligible for dinner. TEM will block the meal.

Per diem is destination based including the return leg of the trip. In-State/Out-of-state expense type selections are typically for the whole trip. i.e. A breakfast in Seattle on your way to Portland is "Out-of-State".

Per Diems Meals are typically split by the Travel Desk at 25% Breakfast, 30% Lunch, 45% Dinner. An incidental cost is included in per diem meals and the TEM system uses an algorithm to divvy it into the meal split, so the breakdown will be slightly different in the TEM system generated percentages.

Can you claim per diem for breakfast when your motel provided Continental Breakfast or for meals provided on airlines?

Yes, you can. Meal payments are not required to be reduced or eliminated due to meals served on airlines or for continental breakfasts included in hotel stays. “Continental Breakfast” is defined as: Either (1) a breakfast generally consisting of juice, bread, fruit and a hot beverage (typically coffee or tea), or (2) a light meal defined in agency policy.

Day Trip Meals are Taxable

Day trip meals are regulated by the IRS.

You are eligible for a taxable meal reimbursement on day trips if you are in travel status at least 11 hours regardless of the day of the week. You will be eligible for the same per diem meal rates.

Use the "Day Trip Meals - Taxable" expense type in TEM and note which meals you are claiming if not a full day. Taxes will be withdrawn from a future paycheck. Travel Services will send an email to travelers notifying them of which paycheck will be affected.

*If you are traveling specifically for a business meeting with a meal, a Food and Beverage Approval Form may be filed. A detailed receipt will be required. The meal will be billed as “Actual” and will not be taxable. Meals under Chart 1 (state) funds must still meet per diem per person and may not include alcohol.

Lodging - Per Diem vs. Actual vs. Exceeds Per Diem

The Per Diem rates for lodging is the room rate before taxes and other mandatory fees. If you are unsure of the lodging rate or if it will meet per diem when completing your TA, please choose "Per Diem" for your expense type.

Lodging will be adjusted to the “Actual” expense type after travel on your TR (Travel Reimbursement.) This will allow you to add taxes and mandatory fees to your reimbursement when your base room rate is within per diem. You may use the “Actual” expense type to claim the per diem amount plus taxes if your room exceeds per diem but no exception applies.

If your base room rate is higher than per diem and a state-approved exception applies, use "Lodging -Exceeds Per Diem" and request an exception with a Lodging Exception memo. You may note the SAAM Exception code and reason in the description of the first night’s lodging if you prefer.

If the base rate will exceed per diem by 150% or more, please be sure to attempt to find less expensive lodging. A quote should be posted with the Travel Reimbursement to show that this was the best rate available.

Per Diem Destination Match Warning

  • PROBLEM: When you enter your destination city for your itinerary on a Travel Authorization in TEM, you may receive the following Destination Match Warning asking if you want to use the default per diem rate ($46 Meals and $83 Lodging for US destinations):
  • SOLUTION: If you receive this Warning it’s because the location entered doesn’t exist in the table in the back of the system. The tables are pulled directly from the federal per diem sites, therefore some cities aren’t listed specifically or fall under a comparable city.
    • Click Cancel
    • Check the online per diem rates on the GSA Per Diem Look-Up page.
      • Enter the destination city
      • If the city isn't listed in the result Primary Destination, but instead pulls a different city (usually the larger metropolitan area of the city entered), use that city and make a note in the TA comments of the actual destination city.
    • For AK, HI and Territories, please view DOD Travel Management Office Per Diem Rates Query
    • For International Travel, please review US DOS Foreign per diem rates.
      • Remove the Province. For example, enter Vancouver, Canada. (Do not enter B.C.)
  • EXAMPLE: A traveler is attending a conference in Burbank, CA. When Burbank, CA is entered in TEM, they received the above Per Diem Destination Match Warning. They check the online per diem rates from GSA Per Diem. Burbank is not listed separately but is included in the greater Los Angeles area showing that the actual Per Diem Rate for the area is $71 Meals and $138 Lodging.