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General Finance Policies

  • Stanford’s fiscal year runs from September 1 to August 31. 
  • Expenses must be submitted in a timely manner (within 10 days after the expense date or the last day of travel) to ensure there is sufficient time for the transactions to be verified and fully approved by Stanford's auditors before the IRS deadline. Per federal regulation, expenses verified after 60 days will be reported to the IRS as taxable income.
  • The Department of Art & Art History requires receipts for all purchases, regardless of value. Receipts must include:
    • Itemization of what was purchased
    • Credit card authorization or proof-of-payment (Business & Department-Sponsored Meals require an itemized receipt and a copy of the credit card authorization slip)
    • The names of all the participants and their titles or other information establishing their business relationship
  • Purchasing cards may not be used for any travel-related expenses. Cardholders must write a check payable to STANFORD UNIVERSITY for any travel expense charged to a Stanford Purchasing Card (PCard).
  • Purchasing cards cannot be used for purchases paid via PayPal or Ebay. In addition, Purchasing cards may not be used for any purchase over $4,999.99 (Note: The item cost includes tax, shipping, handling and installation, if applicable). Purchases should not include split transactions.
  • Purchasing cards and Travel cards may not be used for personal expenses. Cardholders must write a check payable to STANFORD UNIVERSITY for any personal, non-Stanford business-related expenses charged to a Stanford Purchasing Card (PCard) or Travel Card.
  • All goods purchased using Stanford funds (including computers and specialty equipment) are owned by Stanford University, and must be surrendered to the University at the end of its useful life, or in the event that a faculty member’s employment with the University ends. Personal sales of Stanford property is strictly prohibited.
  • NO VENDOR PAYMENTS FOR REIMBURSEMENT: Stanford will not reimburse the personal payment of a vendor invoice. All payments to vendors (for services) must be made by Stanford University, by a Stanford-issued check requested using the Payments for Services or Goods Form.
  • Following retirement and any recall period, Travel Cards must be destroyed and may no longer be used. Purchasing cards may be retained after retirement until total available balance is below $100.

Event Co-Sponsorships

Faculty may collect co-sponsorships from other Stanford units to support events or activities that are expected to occur in the current fiscal year.  Unspent funding will be returned to co-sponsoring units before the fiscal year ends in mid-August in accordance with Stanford's fiscal year close requirements.

Please forward all commitment emails to the Director of Finance and Operations (DFO) so the commitments can be tracked appropriately. The DFO will provide you with a summary and PTA(s) for allocating expenditures. If the project or commitment changes after the initial award, please forward the changes and co-sponsor approvals to the DFO.

Business Purposes

Per IRS Regulation Compliance requirements, all expenses at Stanford must have a business connection

  • They must have been incurred while performing services on behalf of the University
  • Expenses must be reasonable and necessary based on facts and circumstances
    • Reasonable means that the nature and amount of the expense does not exceed that which a prudent person would incur under the same circumstances. A good test is whether the individual could defend the expense if it came under public scrutiny.
    • A necessary expense is one that supports and furthers the University mission and its ongoing operation.
  • The Business Purpose must clearly document this business connection to the University, its mission, and the funding source. A Business Purpose should be written so that someone reading it at a future time (e.g., an auditor reviewing the expense 2-3 years later) would have no questions about the activity. The Business Purpose must describe:
    • Who (all attendees and Stanford affiliation)
    • What (the purpose of the expense and the expected outcome)
    • When (date and time for a meal, or inclusive dates of travel)
    • Where (Restaurant/City, or all travel destinations and dates in each location)
    • Why (descriptive connection to Stanford business)

Additional guidelines for writing a clear Business Purpose are available here:

Faculty Research & Teaching Accounts

All regular faculty members are asked to keep track of their spending and the available funds in their research accounts. Sufficient funding must be available in research accounts to cover all pending liabilities, including uncleared Purchasing Card transactions and Travel Card transactions, and other hard commitments against faculty funds. Overdrafts are not permitted with faculty research accounts. Any faculty with an overdraft will be required to write a check to Stanford University to cover the overdraft.

  • To check your research account funding/expenditures at any time, please log into FFIT (
  • Questions about your research account funding or expenses should be directed to the Assistant Manager or the Finance Associate.
  • All expenses must be submitted via a department webform with details as to how the purchase benefits your research and supporting documentation.

Hiring a Student Assistant

To hire a student to assist with research, please fill out the Hiring Students webform. If the student is not already in the payroll system, they will need to complete all hire paperwork with the HSHR Service Center in Littlefield Center room 333 (365 Lasuen Mall) before working any hours for the faculty member. Any questions about pay rate guidelines or the hiring process can be directed to the Assistant Manager.