Finance

Expenses FAQ - General

FAQs

1.  Why is the policy changing?

When we implemented the new Expenses Policy in December 2017, the Expenses policy has not been updated or reviewed since September 2011. We now review the policy annually. By updating the expenses policy, we can make sure the policy is up-to-date, operationally effective at all levels and compliant with our charitable purpose, public expectation and tax law. But importantly it also helps claimants and authorisers to understand what can and cannot be claimed for, what is considered reasonable and what the exceptions are.

 

2.  What was wrong with the old expenses policy?

Internal Audit have highlighted a number of issues with the old Expenses policy. It was difficult to embed the policy because there was ambiguity in some of the wording. It used words such as ‘should’ rather than ‘must’ which can lead to misunderstanding, and we want to clear up any confusion. The wording in the new policy is clear that colleagues have to comply; it isn’t a choice.

We’ve also brought the policy up to date in a number of areas. For example, we’ve removed the old daily limits on subsistence.

 

3.  Who does the policy apply to? 

The policy applies to all staff of the University, its subsidiary companies and to students and others employed by the University who incur expenses which the University has agreed to reimburse. The policy does not apply to staff based overseas long-term or staff with home-working contracts. If you are unsure about your contract status, contact your line manager.

The policy does not apply for applicants claiming interview expenses; in this case, the HR recruitment policy should be used.

 

4.  When does the new policy come into effect?

The updated policy is in effect from 1 March 2019 and applies to all expenditure incurred from that point onwards.

However, we recognise that some people may have to submit claims relating to expenditure before 1st March 2019. This is absolutely fine and such claims will be under the previous expenses policy.

 

5.  What constitutes as incidental spending?

We are encouraging staff to purchase the majority of goods & services through existing (or new) suppliers, but we recognise that this is not always possible. If your job at the University requires you to procure unusual items from suppliers that are currently not University contracted suppliers, we advise you to use expenses to do make these purchases. Using expenses is also acceptable for purchasing items in emergencies, internationally, at short-notice or on an ad-hoc basis.

 

6.  Some examples when expenses are the recommended route:

6.1. I need to purchase specialist materials that will allow me to continue research into a specialist area. They can only be sourced from the US.  

This is an acceptable use of expenses as these items must be purchased from a supplier that is currently not University contracted.

 

6.2.We have a blood donation room where staff donate blood for use in experiments. I stock the room with small cartons of juice and bars of chocolate/sweets etc for the donors. I buy these from the supermarket and claim the money back through my e-expenses account.

This is an acceptable use of expenses, but in instances such as this we would ask you to consult with Procurement about adding a such items to SciQuest for ordering online.

 

6.3. I pay for subscription fees and courses, then use eExpenses to claim the money back. 

This is an acceptable use of expenses if the supplier isn’t on the system, and you are not able to pay online with an invoice.

 

6.4. I work in public engagement and we need to buy last-minute supplies from the supermarket for our events/activities.

This is an acceptable use of expenses as it is last-minute, ad-hoc purchasing for University-related purposes.

 

6.5. I run a lab in the University. I often have to make very small purchases of £5-10 for things which are quick and easy to pick up at the local store that I can walk to.  

This is an acceptable use of expenses as it is last-minute, ad-hoc purchasing for University-related purposes.

 

6.6. I was away from the University and the charger for my laptop stopped working.  I went to buy a new charger locally.   

This is an acceptable use of expenses as it was an emergency purchase to aid working away from the University.  

 

6.7. I was on sabbatical in Geneva Switzerland, when my iPad stopped working.  I was using my iPad to review two PhD thesis drafts at the time.  So I bought a new one locally.   

This is an acceptable use of expenses as it was an unforeseen or emergency purchase whilst abroad away.

 

7.  It is not possible for us to anticipate all of the exceptional circumstance purchasing going on across the University. For this reason, we have to have a policy that works for the majority of spending and attempts to mitigate mis-use, or abuse of the expenses system, but we accept that certain spending outside of Procurement channels is inevitable.

 

8.  For the majority of computer equipment, office supplies, consultancy, etc. colleagues must use the official Procurement suppliers. If you are purchasing something on a regular basis that is not currently on the Finance system, please contact the Procurement team who will help you set them up as an official supplier.

 

If you are unsure about whether your purchase constitutes as incidental spending, please contact the Finance Department at finance.helpline@ed.ac.uk and we will be happy to help.  

 

9.  Will there be an amnesty to allow older claims to be submitted once this new policy takes effect?

We know this policy change requires some time to be embedded across such a large institution. To help with this, we kindly ask that you make any outstanding claims as soon as possible. More generally, you should submit expenses claims within three months of the expense being incurred except where there is an acceptable reason for delay.

 

10.  I have found cheaper alternatives to the University procurement option

It is usually much cheaper to use the approved suppliers than it is to buy products from a high-street shop. Occasionally you will find cheaper alternatives online, but purchasing online will not provide sufficient legal guarantees or protection to you as an individual or the University should something go wrong.

However, if you do discover an option that is significantly cheaper than the choice provided to you through the University procurement or approved suppliers, please make the Finance Department aware so they can investigate this for future purchases.

 

11.  I am a student who works in a lab and need to buy something, what do I need to know?

If you’re employed by the University, this policy also applies to you. If you need to buy something, speak to your line manager, or if that is not possible, the Finance Department, and we can advise you on next steps.

 

12.  I want to buy a new laptop

To buy a new laptop you need to go through the official Procurement channels, which in this case is SciQuest. This applies even if the latop is funded by a research grant.

 

13.  I want to buy a flight

Staff are strongly advised to book via Key Travel, but this is not compulsory. More information can be found here.

At this time we are not proposing to implement the mandatory use of the University’s Travel Management Service, Key Travel, and staff can use an alternative to Key Travel where financial savings can be clearly demonstrated.

 

14.  I need to buy office stationery

For all stationery purchases, you can use Office Depot on SciQuest.

 

15.  I want to purchase a subscription for something that is only available via card payment

If this is required for you to do your job, you can apply for a corporate credit card.

All applications for a corporate credit card require a business case.

 

16.  My circumstances changed and I needed to buy something at last minute – what are my options?

You should always plan well in advance, However, for genuine emergences contact the Finance Department at finance.helpline@ed.ac.uk , who will do their best to assist you.

 

17.  How do I get a corporate credit card?

We know there are circumstances when University procurement routes offered are not appropriate. For these purchases, you can apply for a corporate credit card.

All applications for a corporate credit card require a business case.

 

18.  Going through the official procurement route takes too long

We are legally required to use the official channels in order to protect the University and staff and students at the University.

Also, it is usually much cheaper to use the approved suppliers than it is to buy products from a high-street shop. Occasionally you will find cheaper alternatives online, but purchasing online will not provide sufficient legal guarantees or protection for you as an individual or for the University should something go wrong.

 

19.  I buy my books from Amazon, can I still do this?

Many publishers and book retailers are University contracted suppliers on the Finance system. You can search on Buy@Ed for existing suppliers.  For example, you can place an order using SciQuest to buy books from Blackwells who offer a 20% discount for University staff. 

 

If there is currently no contract with a supplier you need for certain books, such as Amazon then we would advise you to continue claiming on expenses. Similarly, for very low cost items where it isn’t possible to raise a PO with the suppliers for that amount.   

 

20.  Does the new policy apply to visitors to the University claiming expenses from our accounts, and does it apply to UoE staff overseas on fieldwork for research?

The policy does not apply to visitors. It applies to staff, students employed by the University and others employed by the University. Where appropriate and authorised by a budget holder, we can reimburse visitors through the Non-Trade creditors ledger using the relevant Accounts Payable forms.

 

The policy applies to all staff whether in the UK or not, unless staff have a separate employment contract for working long-term overseas with different arrangements for claiming expenses, or staff with home-working contracts, who have their own agreements. If you are unsure about your contract status, contact your line manager. We recognise that if staff are overseas it is more difficult to access the University’s standard procurement routes so would we would advise staff to continue to claim purchases through eExpenses if they cannot use the University’s contracted suppliers.

 

21.  Does the policy apply to all external examiners (UG/PGT/PGR)?

Yes, the policy applies if the external examiners are contracted to and paid by the University and they incur expenses which the University has agreed to reimburse.

 

 

22.  I can’t find the goods and services that I’m looking for

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact the Procurement team, who will be able to help you.

 

The Finance Department have a dedicated team to answer your questions on this policy change.

Tel: 0131 651 5151 option 1

Email: finance.helpline@ed.ac.uk