Meal/Lodging Per Diem

Meal/Lodging Per Diem- Concur

Western is in the process of transitioning from TEM to Concur for Employee Travel and Expense Management. Please see our Concur Updates page for more information.

Meals - Per Diem vs Actual

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

For group travel a travel leader can provide per diem for other travelers by handing them cash from a cash advance or out of pocket funds to be reimbursed. They must be sure to have them sign a sheet stating they received the cash from the travel leader. This signed sheet must include accurate dates and amounts. This 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.

Actual meals claimed require detailed receipts showing meals and beverages ordered as well as proof of payment, and may not exceed per diem rates.

For group travel, meal 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) the receipt represents.


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.


GSA Per Diem Site & WA State Per Diem Maps

Travel Services recommends meals to be reimbursed at Per Diem rates for all solo travelers.


Meal Times

If you are in travel status for the below times, you are able to claim the corresponding meal:

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. 

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 split by the State of Washington as 25% Breakfast, 30% Lunch, 45% Dinner. An incidental cost is included in per diem meals and Western's travel system uses an algorithm to divvy it into the meal split, so the breakdown will be slightly different than the above percentages.

Food photo

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 the Travel System 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.

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.

Travelers may request an exception to the maximum lodging rule. Allowable exceptions per SAAM rule 10.30.20 include:
  • a1) When a traveler is assigned to accompany an elected official, a foreign dignitary, or others as authorized by law, and is required to stay in the same lodging facility.
  • a2) When costs in the area have escalated for a brief period of time either during special events or disasters.
  • a3) When lodging accommodations in the area of the temporary duty station are not available at or below the maximum lodging amount, and the savings achieved from occupying less expensive lodging at a more distant site are consumed by an increase in transportation and other costs.
  • a4) The traveler attends a meeting, conference, convention, or training session where the traveler is expected to have business interaction with other participants in addition to scheduled events. Further, it is anticipated that maximum benefit will be achieved by authorizing the traveler to stay at the lodging facilities where the meeting, conference, convention, or training session is held.
  • a5) To comply with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act or when the health and safety of the traveler is at risk.
  • a6) When meeting room facilities are necessary and it is more economical for the traveler to acquire special lodging accommodations such as a suite rather than to acquire a meeting room and a room for lodging.
  • b) The traveler is required to attend a meeting, conference, convention, or training session where the traveler is expected to have business interaction with other participants in addition to scheduled events; AND It is anticipated that maximum benefit with be achieved by authorizing the traveler to stay at the lodging facilities where the meeting, conference, convention, or training session is held; AND The lowest available advertised lodging rate at the lodging facility exceeds 150% of the applicable maximum per diem amount for the location. Documentation supporting the lodging rates is to be attached.

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.