Payments to Conference Participants
Conference Attendees :
A conference attendee is a person who attends a conference but is not an invited speaker or panelist.
Travel reimbursements for conference attendees are considered to be taxable income by the US Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). The reimbursement is a “travel grant” or “travel award” and is a non-service payment.
Travel expense reimbursements provided to international conference attendees are subject to US income tax. If income tax withholding is required, Vanderbilt University must withhold the tax from the reimbursement and forward the payment to the IRS. This means that the international conference attendee will not receive a full reimbursement of their travel expenses and travel should be planned with a firm understanding of this.
The amount of income tax withheld depends on a number of factors including the visa status of the attendee; tax treaties benefits; and the length of physical presence in the USA; it normally ranges from 14% - 30% of the travel reimbursement. If you would like to receive an income tax assessment prior to arranging travel, please complete Vanderbilt’s Business Visitor Questionnaire (BVQ) as quickly as possible.
Travel reimbursements to domestic (“US residents and US residents for tax purposes”) conference attendees are also income. However, domestic conference attendees are required to self-report the receipt of the travel reimbursement on their annual tax return. Vanderbilt is not required to withhold income tax at the time the travel reimbursement is provided.
Conference Speakers :
A conference speaker is a person who has been invited to present a lecture, discussion, paper, or serve as a panelist, etc., at a conference.
Travel expenses for both domestic and international conference speakers and panelists are considered non-taxable, business expenses by the IRS. Therefore reimbursements for these expenses are not considered to be income to the invited speakers. As such, no tax withholding is required on any partial or full reimbursement of travel related expenses paid to invited speakers.
Honorarium or Speaker Fees :
Honorarium and/or speaker fees are considered to be taxable income regarless of whether the conference participant is a speaker (or panelist) or attendee. If the visitor is an international person, the ITO will do a tax analysis before payment is issued to determine the amount of income tax withholding that is required. Any and all applicable tax treaty benefits will be applied to reduce or eliminate income tax withholding as long as the ITO has received a completed BVQ and the necessary immmigration documents. Additional information on honoraria or speaker fees can be found on our website: