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UPPS 03.01.03 - Purchase of Awards, Flowers, Food, or Refreshments

Purchase of Awards, Flowers, Food, or Refreshments

UPPS No. 03.01.03
Issue No. 8
Effective Date: 11/14/2014
Next Review Date: 6/01/2019 (E5Y)
Sr. Reviewer: Associate Vice President for Financial Services


    1. This policy sets forth guidelines for the purchase of awards, flowers, food, and refreshments for allowable activities by Texas State University.

    2. The Texas State University System (TSUS) Board of Regents has determined that the expenditure of institutional funds, that are not otherwise restricted, for the purchase of awards, flowers, food, and refreshments assists the university in carrying out its educational functions, promotes education in the state of Texas, and provides an important public purpose.

    3. Accordingly, the Board of Regents authorizes Texas State to use such funds for the purchase of awards, flowers, food, and refreshments, in accordance with the guidelines set forth in this policy.

    4. The TSUS Rules and Regulations, Chapter III; Section 6.8, authorizes the president to implement this policy through appropriate directives and delegation. Those requesting authorization and approval of specific expenditures must document the request in accordance with the requirements of Section 06.05. Documentation may occur on the Alcohol, Flowers, and Food Expense Pre-approval Authorization Request form (AP-12), a procurement card log when purchases are made in accordance with the applicable policy governing the use of the procurement card, a purchase requisition, or an e-NPO.

    5. Expenditures must have a clear business purpose and meet one or more of the following criteria:

      1. the recognition or promotion of academic achievement, athletic achievement, scholarship, or service to Texas State or the state at officially recognized events;

      2. the promotion or communication of intellectual ideas or exchange of administrative and operational information on programs or allowable activities of the institution among students, faculty, staff, administrators, and representatives of the public. Approved activities under these criteria do not include business meal reimbursements (see Business Meal Reimbursement for further guidance);

      3. the support of student events and activities that are sponsored by Texas State;

      4. the recruitment of highly qualified students, faculty, and staff (Spouses of prospective faculty and staff candidates may be included in recruitment meals);

      5. the promotion of the exchange of ideas with business and community leaders regarding the role of Texas State in support of economic development, cultural enrichment, and partnerships within the community;

      6. the assistance of the Board of Regents, accrediting agencies, officials from other universities, or public officials in inspecting and reviewing facilities and programs;

      7. the support of a continuing education program sponsored by Texas State; and

      8. the representation of the university to significant external constituents by one of the primary offices charged with such duties. The Office of the President, offices of Cabinet-level officers, the office of the associate vice president for Research and Federal Relations, offices of academic deans, and the Dean of Students office are the primary offices charged with these duties.

    6. Specific exemptions from the requirement of Section 01.05 include the following:

      1. purchases of food for use in academic laboratories;

      2. purchases of food for resale;

      3. purchases of food or feed for consumption by animals;

      4. reimbursement of meals associated with official employee or prospective employee travel under Texas State travel rules and regulations;

      5. allowances for food for athletes, athletic recruits, and food purchases associated with game expenses paid by the Texas State Athletic Department;

      6. payments for student travel on educational field trips when students pay for the travel;

      7. purchases of awards, flowers, food, and refreshment from agency funds;

      8. reimbursement to a non-employee in the course of providing services to the university;

      9. purchases for the operation of the Texas State Child Development Center;

      10. expenditures for food or refreshments for camps and continuing education or professional development conferences, seminars, and short courses if fees also covered the cost of these items in the registration fees assessed;

      11. student events that are officially sponsored by the division of Student Affairs; and

      12. purchases of bottled water up to and including five-gallon bottled water and water cooler rental, as well as coffee and tea.

    7. The current General Appropriation Act, Internal Revenue Service Code rules and regulations, and the following govern achievement awards:

      1. Only items of tangible personal property (e.g., a pen, a crystal bowl, a clock, etc.) are allowable employee achievement awards.

      2. Cash or cash equivalents, gift cards or certificates, tickets to the theatre or sporting events, vacations, and real property are not allowable employee achievement awards.

      3. Unless excludable from an employee’s wages, the achievement award must be reported as taxable income to the employee. The maximum amount allowed for exclusion from an employee’s wages for an employee achievement award is $400 per tax year per employee. Items of tangible personal property awarded as achievement awards may be excludable when awarded as:

        1. a de minimis benefit;

        2. a length of service award following the employee’s first five years of employment, but no more often than in five year intervals; or

        3. safety achievement awards when given to an employee other than a manager, administrator, clerical employee, or other professional employee.

      4. Length of service and safety achievement awards must be awarded as a part of a meaningful, but not necessarily elaborate presentation.

      5. Texas State’s scholarship coordinator in the office of Financial Aid and Scholarships must receive notification of achievement awards for students.

    8. The university prohibits spending institutional funds on flowers, food, or refreshments for personal use or consumption during routine day-to-day operations, except as outlined in Section 01.06 l. However, if a clear business purpose can be identified, light refreshments, sodas, and juices, may be provided for visitors, within reasonable limits.

    9. The university prohibits purchasing flowers, food, or refreshments for employees’ spouses, children, and other family members.

    10. Expenditures incurred for personal reasons are not allowed.

    11. Exceptions to this policy may only be made with approval from the president or the requestor’s respective Cabinet officer. Approval must be indicated on the payment document. The approval role cannot be delegated by the Cabinet officer.


    1. Food – food for human consumption, non-alcoholic beverages, and other incidental expenses customarily included on the food invoice with a formal dinner (e.g., set-up fees, wait staff charges, etc.).

    2. Institutional Funds – all funds received or generated by the university other than those held at the State Treasury and funds held in trust as agency funds.

    3. Allowable activities – student banquets, refreshments for seminars, meals for faculty recruitment, receptions for faculty and staff, etc.

    4. Agency funds – funds held in trust by Texas State for other entities and are not considered assets of the university.


    1. The following conditions apply depending on the funding source indicated:

      1. The university prohibits using state-appropriated funds, including education and general revenue, as well as statutory undergraduate and graduate tuition to purchase flowers, food, and refreshments for any of the reasons covered under this policy.

      2. The university allows the use of grant and contract funds to purchase food and refreshment if the expenditure is necessary and allowable under the grant or contract and meets the requirements of OMB Circular A-21 and State of Texas Uniform Grant Management Standards. Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs for additional information.

      3. The university prohibits using locally-generated income from course and instructional fees, physical plant administrative overhead charges, or scholarship, loan, university endowment, and plant fund accounts to purchase flowers, food, or refreshments for any of the reasons covered under this policy.

      4. The university allows the use of other locally-generated income for the purchase of food when not otherwise restricted from such purposes.


    1. Annually, the President’s Cabinet allocates a nominal amount of funds for appreciation celebrations or achievement awards at functions such as faculty receptions, commencement, retirement receptions, award banquets, school receptions, division receptions, and receptions for important guests.

      1. Alcohol is not an allowable cost for these events.

      2. These funds are maintained by the Finance and Support Services division (See FSS/PPS No. 03.08, Discretionary Budgets and Expenditures, for additional information).

    2. State law permits use of state appropriations including education and general revenue, as well as statutory undergraduate and graduate tuition for awards for professional achievement and other outstanding service (e.g., safety) for current employees, volunteers and retirees. For allowable awards paid from state appropriations, the cost per current employee, volunteer or retiree shall not exceed the amount specified in the most current General Appropriations Act. Examples of acceptable awards include lapel pins, plaques, and engraved certificates.

    3. The university allows the use of institutional funds to purchase achievement awards in excess of the cost per current employee, volunteer, or retiree allowed in the most current General Appropriations Act.

    4. Refer to Section 01.07 for IRS regulations regarding achievement awards.


    1. Purchase requisitions are normally required for acquisitions of awards, flowers, food, or refreshments. The account manager must approve the purchase and then forward it to the Procurement and Strategic Sourcing office for processing. The account manager is responsible for reviewing and approving the transaction according to Texas State policy and procedures.

    2. In extraordinary circumstances in which processing a purchase requisition into a purchase order is not feasible:

      1. A department may request reimbursement for expenditures if in accordance with Texas State policy and procedures with the completion of the Texas State University Participant/Subsistence Payment Request (AP-2); or

      2. The university P-card administrator will give specific advance approval for use of a university issued P-card to pay for a purchase.

    3. Any catered event must comply with UPPS No. 05.03.02, Catered Events.

    4. Food, excluding alcoholic beverages, provided with conferences, workshops, and similar events are allowable when:

      1. the expenses are for the participants who paid the required fees; and

      2. the literature (e.g., brochures, advertisements, etc.) soliciting participation in the activity states or infers the expenses as a part of the fee. This literature and the receipts or invoices must accompany the payment voucher.

    5. Itemized invoices and receipts should be attached to each payment document. There should be adequate records or sufficient evidence of:

      1. the amount;

      2. the time, place, and description of the expenditure;

      3. the business purpose and the benefit to the university; and

      4. the business relationship of the persons involved.


    1. Reviewers of this UPPS include the following:

      Position Date
      Associate Vice President for Financial Services June 1 E5Y
      Director, Procurement and Strategic Sourcing June 1 E5Y
      Director, General Accounting Office June 1 E5Y
      Director, Sponsored Programs June 1 E5Y

    This UPPS has been approved by the following individuals in their official capacities and represents Texas State policy and procedure from the date of this document until superseded.

    Associate Vice President for Financial Services; senior reviewer of this UPPS

    Vice President for Finance and Support Services