1.32.20  Using Appropriated Funds to Purchase Meals and Light Refreshments  (08-24-2010)

  1. This IRM contains policies and procedures for using appropriated funds to purchase food at events which IRS sponsors or hosts.

  2. This IRM is issued by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Internal Financial Management (IFM), Office of Financial Management Policy (FMP).  (08-24-2010)

  1. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) publishes the Principles of Federal Appropriation Law (commonly referred to as the Red Book). This publication serves as a detailed fiscal law guide covering those areas of law in which the Comptroller General renders decisions. The Red Book details the availability and use of Federal funds; of relevance to this IRM are the requirements for and under what circumstances Federal agencies may use appropriated funds to purchase food for government-sponsored events.

  2. IRM 1.32.1, Official Travel Guide, originally provided guidance on using appropriated funds to purchase food at formal conferences, training events, award ceremonies, and cultural awareness events. This document replaces the section of the IRM which covers providing light refreshments at conferences and clarifies statutory authorities and requirements.

  3. As a general rule, IRS may not use appropriated funds to furnish food for Federal employees or private sector individuals, unless specifically authorized under statute, as is detailed in this IRM.  (08-24-2010)

  1. 5 USC § 4101 et seq., Government Employees Training Act (GETA)

  2. 5 USC § 4110, Expenses of Attendance at Meetings

  3. 5 USC § 4501-06, Government Employees' Incentives Awards Act (GEIAA)

  4. 26 USC § 61, Gross Income Defined

  5. 26 USC § 119, Meals and Lodging Furnished for the Convenience of the Employer

  6. 41 CFR 301-304, Federal Travel Regulation (FTR)

  7. GAO, Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, Volume I, (3rd ed) (GAO Report No. GAO-04-261SP), Chapter 4, Section C.5.b, Food for Government Employees  (08-24-2010)
Related Resources

  1. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Training Policy Handbook

  2. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Management Directive 715, Federal Responsibilities under Section 717 of Title VII and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, dated October 1, 2003

  3. IRM 1.32.1, Official IRS Travel Guide

  4. IRM 1.33.4, Financial Operating Guidelines

  5. IRM 6.410.2, Leadership and Education, Selection of Off-site Locations and Facilities for Training

  6. IRM 6.451.1, Employee Performance and Utilization - Awards and Recognition  (08-24-2010)
Glossary of Terms

  1. In this IRM, the terms below have the following meanings:

    1. Event Coordinator - An individual or office responsible for coordinating an event.

    2. Food - An inclusive term used throughout this IRM to encompass meals and light refreshments.

    3. Formal Conference - A meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium or event. See IRM

    4. Light refreshments - Include, but are not limited to, coffee, tea, milk, juice, soft drinks, ice cream, donuts, bagels, muffins, fruit, veggie trays, cheese trays, pretzels, cookies, and chips. Light refreshments must be provided in quantities that are not considered to be a meal.

    5. Meal - A quantity that equals a full serving of breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    6. Official Station - Refers to a place where an employee is permanently assigned. As defined in the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR), the geographic limits of the official station are the corporate limits of the city or town in which the employee is permanently stationed. The FTR further states that, if the employee is not stationed in an incorporated city or town, the official station is the reservation, station, or established area, or for large reservations, an established subdivision, having definite boundaries within which the designated permanent official station is located.

    7. Training - A planned, prepared, and coordinated program, course, curriculum, subject, or routine of instruction or education which will improve individual and organizational performance and assist in achieving the agency’s mission and performance goals.

    8. Special Emphasis Programs - Promote equal opportunity in the hiring, advancement, training, and treatment of targeted groups. These programs advocate necessary change to overcome barriers that restrict equal employment opportunity for women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities. These programs improve the workplace environment by promoting and fostering diversity in the workplace through awareness and educating Internal Revenue Service employees and others to appreciate, value, understand, and celebrate social and cultural similarities and differences.  (08-24-2010)

  1. This subsection provides responsibilities for:

    1. Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

    2. Office of the Financial Management Policy.

    3. All IRS Business Units.  (08-24-2010)
Office of the Chief Financial Officer

  1. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is responsible for establishing policy regarding the use of appropriated funds to purchase food.  (08-24-2010)
Office of the Financial Management Policy

  1. The Office of the Financial Management Policy (FMP) within the CFO’s Internal Financial Management Unit is responsible for approving requests for the purchase of food at formal conferences.  (08-24-2010)
IRS Business Units

  1. The business units are responsible for:

    1. Establishing internal procedures for using appropriated funds to purchase food at formal conferences, training events, awards ceremonies, and special emphasis programs and for obtaining all required approvals. These procedures must include the review and approval process and documentation requirements and may include Delegation of Authority memoranda requirements at the discretion of the business unit.

    2. Exercising prudence when purchasing food at authorized events. The amount spent on food must be reasonable in relation to the nature, size, and overall event costs.

    3. Following the Federal Acquisition Regulations and IRS procurement policies and procedures, including the Restricted Purchase List, when purchasing food for approved events.

    4. Obtaining all appropriate approvals prior to the event.  (08-24-2010)
General Authorities and Requirements

  1. The Comptroller General has identified statutory authorities that permit the use of appropriated funds to pay for food, at IRS-sponsored events, in the following circumstances:

    1. Formal conferences - that meet the requirements detailed in IRM, Use of Appropriated Funds to Purchase Meals and Light Refreshments, and Expenses of Attendance at Meetings, 5 USC § 4110.

    2. Training - that meets the requirements detailed in OPM Training Policy Handbook, and Government Employees Training Act (GETA), 5 USC § 4101 et seq. The food is necessary to obtain all of the benefits of the training and to achieve its objectives.

    3. Award ceremonies - that meet the requirements detailed in IRM 6.451.1, Employee Performance and Utilization - Awards and Recognition, and Government Employees’ Incentive Awards Act (GEIAA), 5 USC § 4501-06. Employees are formally recognized and food advances the recognition of the award recipients.

    4. Special emphasis programs - that meet the requirements detailed in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Management Directive 715. The food is a cultural sampling of meals and is an integral part of the formal program.

  2. When holding an event in a hotel or similar facility, a business unit cannot contract to pay for food and allow the facility to provide the conference rooms or support at no cost to the Government. In other words, the facility is not allowed to compensate (or "comp") a conference room in exchange for the IRS purchase of food.

  3. The IRS cannot use appropriated funds to pay for food at preliminary or evening social gatherings or during breaks to merely facilitate social interaction or to improve the attendance of participants.

  4. The IRS is generally prohibited from using appropriated funds to pay for food at day-to-day internal business meetings.

    1. Day-to-day business meetings are meetings that involve discussions of the IRS internal procedures or operations. Attendance at routine IRS-sponsored meetings are generally subject to the prohibition on furnishing food to employees at their official duty stations.

    2. The presence of a mealtime speaker between meeting segments to discuss business, management, and day-to-day operations does not provide an adequate basis to treat the meeting as anything other than an internal business meeting.

    3. To overcome the general prohibition against using appropriated funds to purchase food for an internal meeting, the meeting must be held at an outside facility; the cost of the food must be at no extra charge to the IRS; the selection of the meeting facility has been made in compliance with IRS requirements referenced in IRM (5); and the cost of the facility providing food must be competitive with other facilities that do not provide food.

  5. For additional information about IRS policies on obtaining off-site facilities, reference the Acquiring Training, Meeting and Conference Space Memorandum at: http://awss.procurement.irs.gov/policy/pandp/pp70-24.pdf.

  6. For additional information about IRS policies on purchasing food, reference the Restricted Purchase List at: http://awss.procurement.irs.gov/policy/pandp/pp70-11.pdf and the Purchase Card Reference Document at: http://erc.web.irs.gov/docs/2002/awss/cs/pc_policy/pc_microlist.xls.

  7. For additional information about Government purchase card use, refer to IRM 1.32.6, Purchase Card Program Handbook.  (08-24-2010)
Formal Conferences

  1. IRS may use appropriated funds to pay for food at formal conferences, provided that the event meets the requirements and conditions provided in this section.

  2. A formal conference is a planned, prepared, and coordinated event that provides attendees from the Government and/or private sector with substantive professional and technical knowledge that is related to the IRS mission. The event:

    1. Must include registration, published substantive agendas, and scheduled speakers.

    2. Must involve topical matters of interest to and participation of multiple agencies and/or nongovernmental participants.

    3. Cannot be a routine event that covers the day-to-day operations of the IRS.

  3. In addition:

    1. The food must be incidental to the event.

    2. The food must be part of the formal event that includes not just the discussions that occur during the food service, but also formal presentations and functions separate from when the food is served.

    3. Attendance during the food service is required to ensure the audience’s full participation.

  4. If all of the above criteria are met, then IRS may use appropriated funds to purchase food for all participants in attendance at the event upon approval, as provided in IRM 1.32.20 (7).

  5. When purchasing food for a formal conference, the amount paid for the food must be reasonable in relation to the number of attendees. Generally, the cost per person may not exceed 25 percent of the per diem rate for applicable meals based on the geographic location of the conference.


    There are 100 attendees scheduled to attend a conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. The meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) rate for this location is $61 per day. The maximum amount paid for food should not exceed $1,525 per day ($61 times .25 equals $15.25; $15.25 times 100 equals $1,525).

  6. No attendees at a formal meeting or conference are required to be in temporary duty status.

  7. Business units must request approval before providing food at a formal conference. Submit request via e-mail no later than one week before the event start date to the Director, Office of Financial Management Policy (FMP). Request must include the following information:

    1. Date(s) of the conference.

    2. Number of projected attendees and organizations represented.

    3. Nature of the conference.

    4. Proposed agenda and speakers.

    5. Registration requirements.

  8. The Director, FMP, will review the request and respond to the requesting office within three business days.

  9. Early submission is recommended in the event the request is denied and other arrangements must be made.  (08-24-2010)
Training Events

  1. The Government Employees Training Act, 5 USC § 4101 et seq. , authorizes agencies to pay for all or a part of the necessary expenses of training. Comptroller General decisions indicate that in some circumstances detailed in this section, providing food at a government sponsored training event is a "necessary expense".

  2. In accordance with 5 USC § 4101, the event must meet all of the following criteria to be considered training:

    1. The announced purpose is educational or instructional.

    2. More than half of the time is scheduled for an organized exchange of information between presenters and audience.

    3. The content of the event is relevant to improving individual/organizational performance.

    4. Development benefits will be derived by attendance.

  3. In addition, the food must be necessary in order for the participants to obtain all of the benefits of the training and for the training to achieve its objectives.

  4. Requests for the use of appropriated funds to purchase food at training events must be reviewed by an appropriate official within the Finance Office of each business unit as identified in the business unit's internal procedures.  (08-24-2010)
Awards Ceremonies

  1. The Government Employees’ Incentive Awards Act, 5 USC § 4501-06, permits agencies to incur necessary expenses for the honorary recognition of Federal employees under established awards programs. This includes providing food at IRS-hosted award ceremonies.

  2. The GAO Comptroller General decisions have emphasized that the purposes of awards ceremonies are to foster public recognition of employees' meritorious performance and allow other employees to honor and congratulate their colleagues.

  3. In accordance with GEIAA, the event must meet all of the following criteria to be considered an awards ceremony:

    1. The awards being presented meet the criteria for the recognition of employees under the GEIAA.

    2. The awards must recognize special acts or achievements.

    3. Award recipients are publicly recognized.

  4. The food must advance the recognition of the award recipients as is determined by the appropriate IRS official.

  5. The GAO Comptroller General decisions do not authorize providing food to recognize employees for their achievements in connection with an event or function that is primarily designed to achieve other agency objectives.

  6. The quantity of food to be provided must be commensurate with the scale of the ceremony. Business units must exercise prudence when using appropriated funds to purchase food for awards ceremonies. Generally, only items classified as light refreshments are appropriate at an awards ceremony.

  7. Requests for the use of appropriated funds to purchase food at awards ceremonies must be reviewed by an appropriate official within the Finance Office of each business unit as identified in the business unit's internal procedures.  (08-24-2010)
Equal Employment Opportunity Special Emphasis Programs

  1. The EEOC Management Directive 715 and IRS Procurement Policy and Procedures Memorandum No. 70.11, Restricted Purchase List, permit the IRS to use appropriated funds to purchase food for Equal Employment Opportunity special emphasis or cultural awareness programs.

  2. The event must meet all of the following criteria:

    1. Be part of a formal program to advance EEO objectives.

    2. Be intended to make the audience aware of the cultural or ethnic history being celebrated.

    3. Be part of the larger program to serve an educational function.

  3. In addition, the food must:

    1. Consist of small samples of ethnic foods prepared and served during the event. Meals and light refreshments are not authorized.

  4. The appropriate EEO official in each business unit must determine that the planned event advances EEO objectives.

  5. For additional information about Special Emphasis Programs, visit the National Headquarters Equity, Diversity & Inclusion web site at: http://hqeeod.web.irs.gov/NewSite/WebPages/Page1459.aspx.  (08-24-2010)
Per Diem Adjustment for IRS-Furnished Food

  1. In accordance to the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), when the IRS furnishes food, an attendee in travel status makes the following adjustments for the claimed meals and incidental expenses (M&IE):

    1. If IRS furnishes meals, then the attendee deducts the appropriate amount from the claimed M&IE. For example, if the IRS provides lunch at a conference at a location where the M&IE is $61 per day, then an IRS attendee on TDY reduces the claimed per diem by $15.25 for each day lunch is provided.

    2. If the IRS furnishes light refreshments, then the attendee makes no adjustment or reduction to the claimed M&IE amount.

  2. See the FTR 41 CFR 301–11.17 through 11.19 for additional information on this requirement, including exceptions.  (08-24-2010)
Taxability of Meals

  1. Meals furnished by the IRS may be taxable to the employee. Business units need to consider the potential tax implications of providing meals to employees at their official stations prior to providing such meals.

  2. See the IRS Publication 15-B, Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits, for guidance on the tax treatment of employer-provided meals and on the circumstances in which meals may be excluded from income.

  3. The event coordinator is responsible for reporting taxable meals furnished to IRS employees to the Beckley Finance Center (BFC). The event coordinator can contact BFC at *CFO.BFC.Debt.Collection.Helpdesk@irs.gov.  (08-24-2010)
Determining the Nature of an Event

  1. The individual or office coordinating/hosting the event should first determine if the event meets the basic criteria for training, awards, or special emphasis programs. If not, then the coordinator should determine if it fits the criteria for a formal meeting and conference.

  2. Event coordinators/hosts may consult with General Legal Services (GLS) or with the CFO, IFM, Office of Financial Management Policy, for advice on the nature of an event.

  3. Event coordinators/hosts are responsible for obtaining the appropriate approvals and ensuring that the event is properly documented.  (08-24-2010)
Documentation and Records Retention

  1. The event coordinator/host is responsible for maintaining records of attendees (for example: invitation letters, registration forms, or sign-in agenda) and approvals. The office must have these records available for inspection by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or other interested parties.

  2. Any hotel contract that includes refreshments and/or sleeping rooms or requires the acceptance of contractual terms and conditions is subject to IRS procurement processes and procedures.

  3. Purchase cardholders must obtain itemize receipts as part of the required documentation.

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