Most frequent reasons an expense report is returned

Dec 12, 2023 | News

Expense reports generally go through a multi-layered approval process during which the report will either be approved or sent back for revision. 

Common reasons why expense reports are returned include:

Incorrect per diem

  • Incorrect location—Claiming, for example, per diem in Chicago, IL when the conference was in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, IL. The per diem location should be where the actual business event took place.
  • Claiming per diem on non-business travel days—Per diem can only be claimed on the business travel dates. If there is a personal day in the middle of a business trip, per diem may not be claimed for that day.
  • Employees taking business meals with other employees while traveling—All employees are required to claim per diem. A per diem is a daily meal allowance for a single university employee when traveling on university business. When eating together, employees should each pay for their own meals and collect the per diem after the trip.

Additional information on per diem can be found on the travel page of the Procurement Services website


Inadequate Receipts

  • Missing receipts/proof of payment (not showing paid, no method of payment, or zero balance)—For all purchases over $75 a receipt/proof of payment is required.  
  • Receipts are not itemized—An itemized receipt with the following information must be submitted with the expense report:
    • Supplier name
    • Purchase price for the item
    • Description of the item(s) purchased
    • Quantity of the item(s) purchased
    • Date of purchase
  • Requesting reimbursement for expenses you have not yet paid—For travel bookings/reservations, a receipt must be attached that shows the actual bookings/reservations have been paid. A confirmation with a balance due is not an acceptable receipt. 


Out-of-policy expense

  • Business class travel flight duration is less than eight hours—The university pays for coach/economy class airfare. Approved exceptions for travel on non-federal funds are allowed when:
  • A university traveler is accompanying a major donor or dignitary – first or business class is allowable when approved by the unit   
  •  A flight exceeds eight hours in duration – business class is allowed 
  • Purchase of additional insurance on rental cars—Any additional insurance purchases on domestic rentals should be marked personal. U-M’s Risk Management Department advises that travelers:
    • Decline all collision insurance for vehicle rentals originating in the U.S. as the university self-insures for commercial rental vehicle loss/damage.  
    • Accept collision insurance when traveling outside the U.S.

It is strongly recommended that employees use U-M’s preferred car rental suppliers, National Car Rental and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to ensure the appropriate insurance is included. 


Incomplete business purpose

  • Missing conference name and dates—When attending a conference, your business purpose should include the conference name and dates. If the expense is incurred on behalf of another individual, include the name of that individual.  

Additional information can be found in the Expense Business Purpose Guide


Incorrect mileage

  • Mileage claimed from incorrect starting location—The origin for business travel mileage is computed from the employee’s U-M unit office location or home address, whichever is closest to the destination. 

Additional information on mileage can be found on the Procurement Services website.

Read U-M’s Travel and Business Hosting Expense Policy (SPG 507.10-1) for more detailed information. 

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Finance Customer Care

Phone: (734) 764-8212, prompt 2
Fax: (734) 615-6235


Customer service is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.


Procurement Services
7071 Wolverine Tower
3003 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1282
By appointment only