Reimbursable Expenses for Remote Work

Please check our Frequently Asked Questions (Reimbursable expenses section) 

General Expenses

Many campuses have been receiving requests from employees for reimbursements of various expenses associated with working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to remember that  generally, employees who are working from home are not considered to be on travel status as defined in  Business and Finance Bulletin G-28, Travel Regulations, as “the period during which a traveler is traveling  on official University business outside the vicinity of their headquarters or residence.” Because employees who are working from home are not on travel status, they are not eligible for meal reimbursement. If they have to travel to the regular office where they would normally work, that is a non-reimbursable commuting expense. 

However, if a campus determines that an employee’s work location is outside the office, then campuses have the option to reimburse travel expenses for employees who have a business-related reason to attend meetings at the home campus. Such reimbursements for business-related travel are not taxable to the employee if they otherwise follow the substantiation requirements in G-28. 

Generally, requests for reimbursement of meals taken at home (or delivered) during a Zoom business meeting are not reimbursable under policy. Per Business and Finance Bulletin BUS-79, a business meeting requires an in-person host, and is intended for on-premises and/or in-person meetings of employees. None of those factors occur, for example, when an employee is reimbursed at their own home for a meal taken during a Zoom meeting with colleagues. 

Some employees have requested reimbursement for certain expenses related to internet connectivity, phone usage, etc. Business and Finance Bulletin G-46, Guidelines for the Purchase of Cell Phones and Other  Electronic Devices, addresses the situations where the University may purchase personal computers and related software, printers, telephone lines, fax machines, and Internet and e-mail service for employees who telecommute or frequently work from home. Only business-related equipment that can be returned to the office at the end of the remote work arrangement should be reimbursed. If any item needs to be installed,  charges related to the installation are the responsibility of the employee. Campuses should evaluate on a  case-by-case basis where reimbursement is necessary for employees with specific needs not already met with existing resources.

If the department head approves such purchases under a shelter-in-place rule, it is only allowable if the  University-issued office equipment can’t be taken home or the employee does not already have personal equipment at home to enable them to perform their work duties. In such cases, the employee and the department are responsible for ensuring that University equipment in the employee’s off-site workspace is used primarily for University business.  

An employee may request reimbursement for the business use of an Internet, fax, messaging, or similar service purchased with the employee’s own funds when it would not be practicable or cost-effective for the  University to separately purchase this resource if such equipment is needed to perform the duties of the job and does not currently exist. An employee may request reimbursement for the business use of a cellular phone or similar device purchased with the employee’s own funds only if the individual incurs additional charges on a calling plan for business calls over the plan limit. In such cases, the University will reimburse those charges at the excess minute rate, upon receipt of supporting documentation. No reimbursement shall be made for business calls or a percentage of total business calls made within the package minutes covered under the employee’s calling plan contract.

Employees should work with their departments for regular office supply needs. Such supplies may be shipped to remote employees if needed.

Equipment Expenses

For employees who work remotely pursuant to a Flexible Work Agreement, the University can provide a virtual ergonomic assessment of their remote workspace, if one has not already been performed. If an employee wants the University to purchase non-portable equipment such as a desk, monitor, docking station, or chair, for their remote workspace, and that employee works remotely at least three full days per week, the employee must arrange for a virtual ergonomic assessment of their remote workspace. The employee’s department will purchase non-portable equipment that is recommended by the ergonomic assessment for the remote workspace (if the employee does not already have adequate non-portable equipment available). A limited amount of matching funds are available for the purchase of ergonomic equipment. If an employee separates from the University within two years of receiving non-portable equipment such as a desk or chair, the employee must pay the cost of returning the equipment to UC Berkeley. If an employee is working less than three full days per week in a remote location, purchases of non-portable equipment are at the discretion of the department.