Understanding How Per Diem Works


When it comes to business travel or working on temporary assignments away from home, managing expenses can be a challenge. One common aspect of expense management is understanding how per diem works. Per diem, derived from Latin meaning “per day,” refers to the daily allowance given to employees for their expenses during business trips or overnight stays.

Per diem provides a structured approach to reimbursing employees for their meals, lodging, and incidentals while they are away from their regular place of work. It simplifies the reimbursement process by offering a fixed amount for each day, eliminating the need for employees to submit individual receipts for every expense incurred.

In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of per diem, including its definition, calculation method, eligibility criteria, and the benefits it offers. Additionally, we will explore the differences between per diem and traditional expense reimbursement, along with some practical tips on effectively managing your per diem allowance.

Let’s get started by understanding the basics of per diem and how it can significantly simplify your business travel expense management.

What is Per Diem

What is Per Diem

Per diem, derived from the Latin phrase “per day,” refers to a daily allowance provided to employees or individuals to cover expenses incurred during business travel. It is a fixed amount of money that is meant to cover meals, lodging, and incidental expenses while away from home.

The primary purpose of per diem is to reimburse employees for their out-of-pocket expenses while on business trips, ensuring they are not financially burdened for necessary expenditures. It helps simplify the reimbursement process by providing a standardized allowance instead of requiring employees to submit detailed expense reports.

This daily allowance can vary depending on the location and duration of the trip. The rates are typically set by the employer or based on government regulations. Different regions or countries may have their own specific per diem rates to account for variations in living costs.

For example, let’s say an employee is required to travel to a different city for a three-day conference. Instead of tracking individual expenses for meals, accommodation, and incidentals, they would receive a predetermined per diem amount for each day of the trip. This simplifies the process for both the employee and the employer, reducing administrative burdens and ensuring fair compensation.

Per diem payments are often tax-free for the recipient, making it an attractive benefit for employees. However, it’s essential to understand the specific tax regulations in your country or region to ensure compliance.

In summary, per diem is a daily allowance provided to employees to cover expenses incurred during business travel. It simplifies the reimbursement process, ensures fair compensation, and provides financial support for employees while away from home. Understanding how per diem works can help individuals effectively manage their travel expenses and maximize their benefits.

Benefits of Per Diem

Benefits of Per Diem

Per diem, also known as a daily allowance, offers several advantages for individuals who are required to travel for business purposes. Understanding the benefits of per diem can help you make the most of this reimbursement method and maximize your financial savings.

1. Reimbursement: One of the key benefits of per diem is that it provides a convenient way for employees to get reimbursed for their travel expenses. Rather than having to submit receipts and itemized expense reports, per diem simplifies the process by offering a fixed daily rate for meals, lodging, and incidental expenses. This eliminates the hassle of keeping track of every receipt and speeds up the reimbursement process.

2. Tax-Free: Another significant advantage of per diem is that it is typically tax-free. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows employers to provide per diem payments to cover employee travel expenses without including them in taxable income. This means that employees can receive the full per diem amount without any deductions, resulting in additional savings.

3. Cost Control: Per diem helps both employers and employees control costs more effectively. By providing a predetermined daily allowance, companies can set a budget for travel expenses and avoid unexpected overspending. On the other hand, employees benefit from knowing exactly how much they can spend each day, which encourages them to be mindful of their expenses and make smarter choices.

4. Flexibility: Per diem also offers flexibility when it comes to meal choices. Instead of having to submit individual receipts for each meal, employees can decide where and what to eat within the allocated daily allowance. This gives them the freedom to choose meals that suit their preferences and dietary needs, making their travel experience more enjoyable.

5. Time-Saving: Since per diem eliminates the need for extensive paperwork and reimbursement processes, it saves time for both employees and employers. Employees can focus more on their work-related tasks and spend less time on administrative duties. Employers can streamline their expense management processes, reducing the burden on their finance departments.

Example: Sarah, a sales representative, frequently travels to meet clients across different cities. With per diem, she no longer needs to collect and organize receipts for every meal or hotel stay. Instead, she receives a fixed daily allowance that covers her expenses. This not only simplifies her accounting but also provides her with tax-free savings. Sarah appreciates the flexibility to choose where to dine within the allotted amount, allowing her to enjoy local cuisine while staying within her budget.

In conclusion, the benefits of per diem, including reimbursement convenience, tax-free status, cost control, flexibility, and time-saving, make it an attractive option for individuals who frequently travel for business purposes. By understanding how per diem works and effectively managing it, employees can make the most of this reimbursement method and enhance their overall travel experience.

Per Diem Calculation

Per Diem Calculation

Calculating per diem involves determining the daily allowance provided to individuals for meals, lodging, and incidentals while on a business trip or during any official travel. Understanding how per diem rates are calculated is essential for both employers and employees to ensure accurate reimbursement and expense management.

Meal Allowance

The meal allowance is a significant component of per diem. The General Services Administration (GSA) provides standard meal allowances based on the location of the travel destination. These allowances vary from one region to another and are further categorized into breakfast, lunch, and dinner rates. For instance, if the GSA’s prescribed meal allowance for breakfast is $15, lunch is $20, and dinner is $40, then the total daily meal allowance would be $75.

Lodging Expenses

Per diem also covers lodging expenses incurred during the business trip. The allowable lodging expenses are determined by the employer or the organization based on the traveler’s destination. It is crucial to note that the lodging rate should not exceed the maximum limit set by the employer or the government. If the actual lodging cost is lower than the established rate, the traveler can retain the difference. However, if it surpasses the set limit, the traveler may need to bear the additional expense personally.


Apart from meals and lodging, per diem may also include an incidental allowance to cover small miscellaneous expenses. Examples of incidental expenses include tips for hotel staff, taxi fares, parking fees, and other minor expenditures. The incidental allowance is meant to account for these miscellaneous costs that may arise during the trip.

Total Per Diem

To calculate the total per diem amount, you need to add up the meal allowance, lodging expenses, and incidental allowance. For instance, if the meal allowance is $75, lodging comes to $100, and the incidental allowance is $25, then the total per diem amount for that particular day would be $200.

It is important to remember that per diem rates can vary based on factors such as the traveler’s job role, the purpose of the trip, and government regulations. Employers may have their own specific per diem rates or may adhere to the prescribed rates by the GSA or another relevant authority.

By understanding per diem calculations, employees can ensure they receive accurate reimbursement for their expenses, and employers can effectively manage their travel budgets. It is advisable to keep track of receipts and maintain detailed expense reports to avoid any discrepancies during the reimbursement process.

In summary, per diem calculation involves determining the meal allowance, lodging expenses, and incidental allowance. By following the established rates and guidelines, both employers and employees can ensure fair and accurate reimbursement for business-related expenses incurred during official travel.

Eligibility for Per Diem

Eligibility for Per Diem

Per diem, which is a daily allowance provided to employees for expenses incurred during business travel or overnight stays, is a valuable benefit that many organizations offer. However, not everyone is eligible to receive per diem. In this section, we will explore the criteria for eligibility and shed light on how it works.

Travel and Business Trips

One of the key factors determining eligibility for per diem is the purpose of the trip. Per diem is usually offered to employees who are required to travel for work-related purposes. This could include attending conferences, meeting clients, conducting site visits, or any other activities directly related to the job.

For instance, if you work in sales and have to frequently visit different cities to meet potential clients, you may be eligible for per diem. On the other hand, if your role does not involve travel or overnight stays, you may not qualify for this allowance.

Overnight Stay

Another crucial aspect of per diem eligibility is the requirement for an overnight stay. In most cases, per diem is provided when an employee spends at least one night away from their regular place of work or residence. This is because staying overnight often incurs additional expenses such as accommodation and meals.

Let’s take an example to understand this better. Suppose you work for a multinational company and are assigned to a project in another city. Since the project requires you to spend several days or weeks there, the organization may provide you with a per diem to cover your daily expenses during the stay. However, if your work only involves day trips without any overnight stays, you may not qualify for per diem.

It’s worth noting that the specific eligibility criteria for per diem may vary between companies and industries. Some organizations may have stricter rules while others may be more lenient. It’s essential to consult your employer’s policies or speak with the HR department to determine your eligibility for per diem.

By understanding the eligibility requirements for per diem, you can ensure that you meet the necessary criteria to receive this beneficial allowance. If you are eligible, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the company’s per diem policies and procedures to make the most of this valuable benefit.

Remember, per diem is intended to cover reasonable expenses incurred during business travel or overnight stays. It is not meant as an opportunity to profit from the allowance. Therefore, it’s important to use the funds responsibly and keep accurate records of your expenses.

Overall, per diem can be a significant advantage for employees who frequently travel for work. It helps alleviate the financial burden of daily expenses and provides a sense of financial security during business trips. However, it’s crucial to understand and meet the eligibility criteria set by your organization to avail of this benefit.

Stay tuned for the next section, where we will explore the key differences between per diem and expense reimbursement.

Per Diem vs. Expense Reimbursement

Per Diem vs. Expense Reimbursement

When it comes to business travel, one common concern for employees is how they will be reimbursed for their expenses. Two popular methods of reimbursement are per diem and expense reimbursement. In this section, we will compare the two approaches and explore the differences between them.


The first major difference between per diem and expense reimbursement lies in the way expenses are handled. With per diem, employees receive a fixed daily allowance to cover their expenses during the trip. This allowance typically includes costs for meals, lodging, and incidentals. On the other hand, expense reimbursement involves the employee documenting and submitting receipts for their actual expenses incurred during the trip.

Reimbursement Process

The process of receiving reimbursement also differs between per diem and expense reimbursement. Per diem payments are usually made in advance or on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly, depending on the company’s policy. Employees receive the predetermined per diem rate regardless of whether they spend less or more than the allocated amount. This provides a sense of predictability and helps simplify the reimbursement process.

Expense reimbursement, on the other hand, requires employees to submit their expenses after the trip. They need to compile all relevant receipts and fill out expense reports detailing each expense. The reimbursement is then processed based on the submitted receipts and the company’s reimbursement policy. This method requires more effort from the employee in terms of record-keeping and documentation.

Claiming Expenses

With per diem, employees do not need to provide itemized receipts for individual expenses. Instead, they receive a fixed allowance that covers various expenses. This simplifies the process for both the employee and the employer as there is no need to track and verify each expense. However, it is important to note that if an employee spends less than the allocated per diem amount, they may not be able to keep the remaining funds.

Expense reimbursement requires employees to keep track of every expense and provide receipts as proof for each item. This allows for more flexibility, as employees can claim all their legitimate expenses and get reimbursed accordingly. However, it also requires meticulous record-keeping and the risk of some expenses being disallowed if they do not meet the company’s reimbursement policy.


In conclusion, per diem and expense reimbursement are two different approaches to handling employee expenses during business trips. Per diem provides a fixed daily allowance, simplifying the process for both the employee and the employer. On the other hand, expense reimbursement requires detailed documentation and allows for greater flexibility in claiming expenses. Companies should carefully consider their specific needs and policies when deciding which method to implement.

By understanding the comparison, reimbursement process, and claiming expenses associated with per diem and expense reimbursement, businesses can choose the most suitable approach for their employees while ensuring accurate and fair reimbursement.

Tips for Managing Per Diem

Tips for Managing Per Diem

When it comes to managing per diem, there are several strategies you can employ to ensure you make the most out of your daily allowance. From budgeting wisely to keeping track of expenses, these tips will help you effectively manage your per diem and maximize your savings.


One of the key aspects of managing per diem is creating a budget. Before embarking on your business trip, take the time to plan out your expenses. Consider factors such as meals, transportation, and incidentals. By setting a clear budget, you can ensure that you stay within your per diem limit. This not only helps you avoid overspending but also allows you to allocate any remaining funds towards other important areas.


Saving money while on a business trip can be challenging, but with careful planning, it is achievable. Look for cost-effective options when it comes to meals and lodging. Opt for affordable yet comfortable accommodations, and explore local eateries that offer reasonably priced meals. Additionally, consider utilizing public transportation or sharing rides to minimize transportation costs. By making smart choices, you can save a significant amount of money and potentially even have some leftover from your per diem.

Tracking Expenses:

Keeping track of your expenses is crucial for effectively managing per diem. It is essential to maintain detailed records of all your expenditures during the trip. Use tools such as expense tracking apps or spreadsheets to record each expense, including receipts and invoices. This allows you to have a clear overview of how you are spending your per diem and helps identify areas where you can cut down or make adjustments. Moreover, accurate expense tracking ensures easy reimbursement and simplifies the accounting process.

Effective Planning:

Proper planning plays a vital role in successfully managing per diem. Research the cost of living in the destination city to get an idea of what to expect in terms of expenses. Plan your meals in advance and consider packing some snacks or light meals to avoid unnecessary spending. Make use of loyalty programs or discounts offered by hotels, airlines, or restaurants to maximize your savings. By meticulously planning your trip, you can make the most out of your per diem and have a stress-free experience.

Seek Professional Advice:

If you find managing per diem challenging or have specific questions regarding tax implications or expense policies, consider seeking advice from professionals. Accountants or travel management experts can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your unique circumstances. They can help you understand any regulations or restrictions related to per diem and offer strategies to optimize your allowance effectively.

Remember, managing per diem requires discipline, organization, and careful planning. By implementing these tips – budgeting wisely, prioritizing savings, tracking expenses diligently, effective planning, and seeking professional advice when needed – you can navigate through your business trips with ease while making the most out of your per diem allowance.
Per diem is a vital aspect of business travel that provides employees with a daily allowance to cover their expenses while away from home. In this article, we have explored the ins and outs of per diem, including its definition, benefits, calculation, eligibility, and management.

Understanding how per diem works is crucial for both employers and employees. It ensures fair reimbursement for travel expenses and simplifies the expense tracking process. By offering a tax-free daily allowance, per diem reduces the administrative burden associated with reimbursing individual expenses.

We have highlighted the advantages of per diem, such as providing certainty in budgeting, promoting savings, and eliminating the need for tedious expense reporting. Additionally, we have discussed the components used to calculate per diem rates, including meals, lodging, and incidentals.

It’s important to note that per diem is typically applicable for business trips that require an overnight stay. Eligibility criteria may vary depending on company policies and the nature of the trip. Therefore, it is essential to familiarize oneself with the guidelines before embarking on any travel assignments.

Furthermore, we have compared per diem to traditional expense reimbursement methods, emphasizing the simplicity and efficiency offered by per diem. While expense reimbursement involves documenting and submitting individual receipts, per diem offers a fixed daily allowance without the need for detailed expense reporting.

To effectively manage per diem, we have provided tips on budgeting, tracking expenses, and maximizing savings. These practices enable employees to make the most of their per diem allowance and avoid overspending or financial hardships during their business travels.

In conclusion, understanding how per diem works empowers both employees and employers to navigate business travel more efficiently. By leveraging the benefits of per diem, such as simplified administration, fair reimbursement, and budget predictability, organizations can ensure a smooth and cost-effective travel experience. So, whether you’re a frequent traveler or manage a team of business travelers, mastering the intricacies of per diem can greatly enhance your travel arrangements and financial well-being.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button