On a Reimbursable Basis Definition? An In-Depth Explanation

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Key Takeaways:

  • On a reimbursable basis means funds are only released for costs already incurred and paid before requesting reimbursement.
  • It involves being repaid for expenses or losses already spent or incurred.
  • Reimbursement compensates someone for out-of-pocket costs or overpayments made.
  • Business expense reimbursements often cover travel, food, and other costs paid from personal funds.
  • Cost-reimbursement contracts pay allowable incurred expenses as prescribed in the agreement.
  • The reimbursement basis specifies how the tenant repays the landlord for expenses related to the leased space.


When signing a contract, agreement, or lease, you may come across the phrase “on a reimbursable basis.” But what exactly does this mean and why is it important? This comprehensive guide will explain the definition of “on a reimbursable basis” and delve into all the key details surrounding reimbursement structures.

Understanding what it means for payments or funds to be provided on a reimbursable basis is essential for both individuals and organizations. It provides clarity on when and how reimbursement will occur, allowing you to appropriately plan finances and cash flow. We will explore common examples of reimbursable arrangements, the mechanics of submitting and processing reimbursements, and how to determine if this approach makes sense for a given situation.

Gaining a full grasp of reimbursement basis will help ensure there are no surprises down the road. You will be able to realistically budget and anticipate cash requirements when entering into agreements that include this provision. Whether you are signing a contract, lease, or any other binding document with reimbursable elements, this guide breaks down the specifics so you can make informed decisions. Let us begin unraveling the reimbursement basis definition.

What Does “On a Reimbursable Basis” Mean??

The term “on a reimbursable basis” means that funds will only be released for costs and expenses that have already been paid out first, before being compensated or repaid. In other words, the individual or organization has to lay out the money up front from their own budget, and then submit a request for reimbursement afterward.

This is in contrast to an invoicing or direct payment structure, where a bill or invoice is submitted and funds are advanced to cover the expected costs. With a reimbursable approach, the expenses must be incurred and paid first, and proof provided, for repayment to be issued.

Some key characteristics of the reimbursement basis include:

  • Requires outlay of personal/company funds before repayment.
  • Payment/funds only released after expense report or proof of payment submitted.
  • Repays exact amounts that have been spent or lost, within defined limitations.
  • Commonly used for travel costs, operating expenses, project materials, etc.
  • Allows paying entity to review justification and supporting documentation before issuing reimbursement.

Understanding these dynamics is essential when evaluating agreements structured on a reimbursable basis. It provides clarity on the process and timeline for recouping any funds you expend related to the contract or project.

Examples of Reimbursable Arrangements

There are many situations where expenses are handled on a reimbursable basis. Some of the most common include:

  • Business travel: Companies often cover employee travel costs related to conferences, client meetings, or other work activities via reimbursement after the trip concludes and expense reports are submitted.
  • Office supplies/expenses: Employees may purchase printer ink, software licenses, furnishings, or other items for the office and get repaid by submitting receipts and documentation.
  • Medical care: Health insurance frequently handles claims on a reimbursable basis, paying back patients for covered services after proof of payment is provided.
  • Government contracts: Many government contracts are structured as cost-reimbursable, with contractors billing allowable expenses after they are incurred.
  • Tenant improvement allowances: Commercial leases may offer reimbursement for build-outs, renovations, or other improvements made to the space by the tenant.
  • Household employer arrangements: Families may reimburse nannies or elder caregivers for expenses they incurred related to services provided, such as education supplies or transportation costs.

As you can see, the reimbursement basis allows the paying party to verify expenditures before releasing funds, rather than advancing money upfront. This gives them greater oversight of costs.

How the Reimbursement Process Works

When an agreement states it will use a reimbursable basis, what exactly does the repayment process entail? Here is an overview of the typical steps:

  1. Eligible expenses are incurred and paid out-of-pocket by the requesting individual/company.
  2. Documentation such as receipts, invoices, and proof of payment are retained.
  3. A reimbursement request or expense report is compiled and submitted to the reimbursing party.
  4. The reimbursing party reviews the request for accuracy, eligibility, and completeness.
  5. Once approved, payment is remitted to repay the amount laid out.
  6. Requesting party receives the reimbursement and applies funds back to the accounts used to initially pay the expenses.

Importantly, the reimbursing entity retains full discretion to determine whether the expenses submitted meet eligibility guidelines and are properly documented. They may reject or reduce reimbursements if submissions do not comply with requirements.

It is smart to understand reimbursement policies upfront so you can gather the right documentation during the process. Keeping organized records also makes compiling requests easier. Prompt submission for repayment once expenses are incurred aids cash flow.

Key Differences From Advance/Invoice Payments

Since the funds are not advanced upfront under a reimbursable approach, how exactly does this differ from paying on an advance or invoice basis?

Advance payments: With advance payments, funds are issued before any expenses have been incurred. This provides access to cash to cover planned costs in the future. Advances must typically still have supporting documentation for how they were applied after the fact.

Invoice payments: Paying by invoice allows billing expected expenses before they are paid out. Funds are remitted upon receipt of a bill to cover anticipated costs prior to outlay by the requesting party.

Reimbursable basis: Funds are only provided after actual costs are incurred and initially expensed by the requesting individual/company. This repayment model allows the reimbursing party to validate expenses before paying.

The reimbursement basis shifts the timing of cash payments. For the party making the expenditures, it requires having the working capital to cover costs upfront before repayment. And the reimbursing party does not have to advance funds until expenses are actually validated.

Why Use a Reimbursable Basis for Payment?

With the requirement to front expenses before receiving repayment, why would agreements ever specify a reimbursable basis? There are several advantages that make this model beneficial in certain situations.

Better expense oversight – The reimbursing party can review actual expenditures, supporting documentation, and compliance with eligibility guidelines before issuing payment. This allows for tighter control over costs.

Match timing of cash flows – Reimbursements synchronize the timing of cash outlays with repayment rather than advancing lump sums. This can support cash flow management.

Limit risk – For expensive or complex projects, it reduces the reimbursing party’s risk by only requiring repayment once milestones or outputs are achieved.

Support contingencies – Since exact costs may be unknown upfront, reimbursement avoids overpaying relative to actual expenses incurred.

Incentivize efficiency – When the requesting party has to lay out their own funds first, it incentivizes keeping costs reasonable and documenting diligently for repayment.

Promote accountability – The need to submit expenses for reimbursement promotes responsible spending and record-keeping.

For certain types of collaborations, contracts, projects or unique situations, handling expenses on a reimbursable basis can make sense for one or more of the above reasons.

Reimbursement Basis in Contracts and Agreements

The reimbursement basis is commonly found in formal agreement documents and contracts, especially when large sums are involved. The term specifies the timing and structure of expense repayment. Some examples include:

  • Government and institutional contracts – Research grants, construction projects and consulting contracts often use a reimbursable structure to maintain oversight over expenses.
  • Tenant leases – Build-out, moving, or operating cost provisions in commercial leases are often designated as reimbursable expenses.
  • Travel policies – Employee travel expense reimbursement guidelines fall under this category.
  • Service agreements – Home care services, construction work and specialized services may rely on client reimbursement of expenses.

Clearly specifying reimbursement terms in contracts eliminates confusion over when and how covered expenses will be repaid. It also ensures appropriate documentation like receipts and invoices will be maintained and submitted.

If a binding agreement will entail outlay of funds by one party that the other party will subsequently repay, the reimbursement basis should be explicitly addressed. This makes both sides aware of the process and their responsibilities. Ambiguous language can lead to payment disputes down the road.

Best Practices for Tracking Reimbursable Expenses

Because the reimbursable model requires careful documentation and well-organized records, following best practices is advised:

  • Maintain a dedicated reimbursement tracking file or spreadsheet to record all pertinent transaction details as they occur.
  • Save digital copies of all receipts, bills, canceled checks, or other proof of payment documentation.
  • Note the related agreement, project name, or category for each expenditure.
  • Compile reimbursement requests promptly when total expenses reach a worthwhile amount.
  • Make copies of all materials submitted for reimbursement in case follow up is required.
  • If allowable, submit requests regularly (i.e. weekly or monthly) to maintain cash flow.
  • Follow up on overdue reimbursements in a timely fashion.
  • Notify the reimbursing party of expected high-cost expenditures in advance when possible.
  • Understand reimbursement guidelines thoroughly and track expenses accordingly.

With a systematic approach, reimbursement transactions can be managed smoothly even on large, complex projects and collaborations.

Questions to Consider About Reimbursable Agreements

When evaluating an agreement that will involve reimbursement of expenses, some important questions to consider include:

  • What types of expenses are eligible for reimbursement? Are any excluded?
  • What documentation is required (receipts, invoices, proof of payment, etc.)?
  • Are there caps, limits or guidelines on specific cost categories or total expenses?
  • What is the typical turnaround time to receive reimbursement after submitting a request?
  • Will any withholding from payments be required until project milestones or outputs are delivered?
  • Are there any consequences if expenses are deemed ineligible or lack documentation?
  • Can reimbursement requests be submitted in installments as costs are incurred or only at project completion?
  • How will disputes over reimbursement be resolved?

Getting clarity on these areas will allow for proper planning, tracking of expenditures, and management of cash flows when relying on the reimbursement model.

Cost-Reimbursable Contracts: A Common Form

Cost-reimbursable contracts represent one of the most prevalent applications of the reimbursable basis for major purchases and projects, particularly by public institutions and government entities. Under this agreement structure:

  • The contractor takes on performance risk – They are obligated to complete the work or deliverables.
  • The buyer takes on cost risk – They repay all legitimate expenses associated with the scope.
  • Contract terms specify a not-to-exceed amount for total reimbursements.
  • Reimbursable expenses must adhere to regulations on eligible costs.
  • Intense documentation and justification of expenses is required.

This arrangement allows buyers to compensate contractors for reasonable actual costs rather than trying to estimate expenses upfront. It shifts risk away from contractors so they do not lose money fulfilling the work. There are also incentives to maximize performance and minimize costs.

State, local and federal government contract funding as well as some institutional purchases rely heavily on the cost-reimbursable model. Construction projects, research, military equipment purchases, event security and consulting are all commonly structured as cost-reimbursable agreements.

The Reimbursement Basis in Commercial Leases

Within commercial property leases, it is very common to split responsibilities between the landlord and tenant using a reimbursable basis. Rather than the landlord taking on all expenses related to operating the building and maintenance, many costs get divided between the parties.

Typical lease clauses may state utility costs, property taxes, or common area charges will be allocated to tenants “on a reimbursable basis.” This portion of shared expenses is then invoiced to tenants based on their percentage of the building’s square footage, also known as their pro-rata share.

The lease will specify how the landlord will calculate, invoice, and document the reimbursable expenses from tenants. Tenants are responsible for reimbursing the landlord according to the agreed-upon terms.

Benefits of this approach include:

  • Tenants only pay their fair share of building operating expenses.
  • Landlords can recoup costs directly tied to tenant activities and requirements.
  • Risks and responsibilities are allocated between the parties.
  • Expenses can be tailored based on how space is used.

The reimbursement structure allows the economic realities of building operations to be reflected in lease payments. Costs can be connected to those generating or “causing” them rather than spreading everything uniformly.

Takeaways on the Reimbursement Basis

When entering into any agreement involving shared costs, outlay of funds, or potential repayment of expenses, take note whether payments are structured on a reimbursable basis. This means clearly documenting and tracking your own expenses connected to the project or contract, then submitting them for repayment per the agreed-upon terms.

Gaining a solid understanding of reimbursement requirements, eligible expenses, documentation needs, and submission procedures upfront is key. With proper planning and diligent record-keeping, the reimbursement model allows two parties to collaborate while fairly apportioning costs and retaining oversight. If structuring an arrangement involving reimbursement, be sure to specify terms explicitly to prevent misunderstandings.


The reimbursement basis is an important concept to grasp when entering into contracts, leases, travel policies, or any agreement involving shared costs. By thoroughly learning its meaning, examining common examples, understanding key processes, and considering associated benefits and risks, you can determine if this payment structure makes sense.

Where allowed, be sure to clarify reimbursement guidelines and protocols upfront. Then implement disciplined tracking and documentation of your expenditures. With this foundation, reimbursement models can be managed smoothly. Understanding exactly how and when you will recoup expenses avoids cash flow surprises and costly misunderstandings

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