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Making Purchases Purchasing Basics
Purchasing Basics

Competitive Bidding
Delegated Purchasing
Signature Authority
Purchase Order Terms and Conditions
Preferred Supplier Agreements
Supplier Payment
Unauthorized Purchases
Pennsylvania Sales Tax Information
On-Site Insurance Requirements
Conflict of Interest
Gifts and Gratuities
Personal Purchases

Competitive Bidding

In order to meet the University's competitive bidding requirements, a minimum of three formal written quotations are required for orders with an aggregate total cost of $5,000. Exceptions to the competitive bidding requirement are limited to purchases from University preferred contract suppliers.  Preferred contract supplier status is marked in the Penn Marketplace and is also available as a criterion in the supplier search feature on the Purchasing Services website.

Purchasing Services reserves the right to require and obtain additional competitive quotations regardless of the purchase order dollar value whenever, in its judgment, the additional quotations will best serve the interest of the University.

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Delegated Purchasing

Authorized faculty and staff are empowered to purchase required products and services from external suppliers on behalf of the University. With delegated authority comes responsibility for ensuring that procure-to-pay related duties are executed in an efficient, effective, professional, and ethical manner. Authorized BEN Buys purchasing system users and Purchasing Card cardholders are accountable for ensuring that their purchase activity is accurate, necessary, and in accordance with all applicable laws and University Financial Policies.

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Signature Authority

Unless authority has been granted to an individual by the Trustees, only the Purchasing Services department has the authority to enter into a purchase agreement or otherwise obligate the University. A properly executed purchase order constitutes a contract that is binding on both the University and the supplier. Some suppliers may also require accompanying terms, conditions, agreements or forms. In all cases, these agreements are to be signed by an authorized Purchasing Services staff member in advance of any commitment to purchase to a supplier. All documents without an authorized signature will be considered invalid and not binding upon the University.

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Purchase Order Terms and Conditions

The Purchase Order Terms & Conditions and the Purchase Order (collectively, the "Agreement") shall constitute the complete and exclusive statement of the Agreement between University and an authorized BEN Buys supplier with respect to the purchase of any products or services. In the event that supplier terms and conditions conflict with the University of Pennsylvania Purchase Order Terms and Conditions, the latter shall control. Purchasing Services is the only organization that is authorized to modify or agree to changes to the University's standard purchase order terms and conditions.

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Preferred Contract Suppliers

Faculty and staff are encouraged to use the Supplier Search to determine the appropriate supplier for the required purchase. University preferred supplier contracts should be used whenever applicable to ensure the University leverages its buying power and receives the "least total cost" when purchasing products or services from an external supplier.

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Supplier Payment

The timely payment of purchase order invoices is a priority for the institution and a critical success factor for Purchasing Services contracting and cost containment initiatives. Payment of supplier invoices according to purchase order payment terms enables Purchasing Services to negotiate and award best-in-class supplier discount pricing agreements.

Suppliers are directed to submit all purchase order invoices directly to Accounts Payable for processing. At no time is a Penn faculty or staff member, or student permitted to request a supplier to submit a purchase order invoice directly to the ordering department instead of the Accounts Payable department. BEN Buys users are required to proactively manage and respond to BEN Alerts to ensure timely payment of supplier invoices.

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Unauthorized Purchases

Only the Purchasing Services department has the authority to enter into a purchase agreement or can otherwise obligate the University for Procurement Indebtedness. Individual faculty and staff members are not authorized to sign on behalf of the University, or to bind the University in any manner. At no time is a Penn faculty or staff member, or student permitted to request a supplier to ship a product or perform a service without prior issuance of an approved purchase order, verbally place an order with an unapproved purchase order number, or verbally request a supplier to add a product or service to an existing approved purchase order. Based on contract law, individuals who do not have delegated authority, and who enter into unauthorized agreements, may be held personally responsible for the cost of the products or services purchased.

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Pennsylvania Sales Tax Information

The University of Pennsylvania is exempt from Pennsylvania sales tax for most purchases directly related to the education and research mission of the University. Purchases not directly related to the mission are subject to Pennsylvania sales tax.

Any business related purchase not paid by a University check or a University Purchasing Card is subject to Pennsylvania sales tax.

While certain University purchases are taxable, it is the obligation of the supplier to collect Pennsylvania sales tax. If a supplier requests the University's Pennsylvania sales tax number for an official University purchase, faculty, staff, and authorized students are to provide the following information to the supplier.

University of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Sales Tax Number 75-532-357

The University is obligated to provide a formal Tax Exemption Certificate if requested by a supplier for an official University purchase. Requests to submit a tax exemption certificate to a supplier must be directed to Purchasing Services. Upon receipt of the request, an official University of Pennsylvania Tax Exemption Certificate will be sent directly to the supplier. Copies of the tax exemption certificate WILL NOT be sent back to the requestor.

Listed below are examples for which the University is obligated to pay Pennsylvania sales tax:

  • Retirement or miscellaneous gifts, flowers, and awards.
  • Purchases of materials, supplies, and equipment used and installed in the construction, reconstruction, remodeling, repair and maintenance of real estate as to become a permanent part thereof. (materials and supplies used for routine maintenance and repair of real estate are exempt from sales tax)
  • Purchases of equipment used but not installed in the construction, reconstruction, remodeling, repair and maintenance of real estate
  • Occupancy tax at hotels, motels, and similar establishments.

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On-Site Insurance Requirements

Under a variety of circumstances, outside organizations are required to provide evidence of commercial general liability insurance and to name the University as an additional insured to the organization's insurance policy in order to be permitted to conduct business on University property. All such arrangements require a written contract or agreement with the University. Purchasing Services works collaboratively with the Office of Risk Management to ensure that proper insurance requirements are in place before any on-site work begins.

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Conflict of Interest

Penn faculty and staff who act on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania have an obligation to avoid activities or situations which may result in a Conflict of Interest for the appearance of conflict of interest. Employees must not use their University positions to influence outside organizations or individuals for the direct financial, personal or professional benefit of themselves, members of their families or others with whom there is a personal relationship.

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Gifts and Gratuities

In order to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest, at no time should an employee solicit or accept gifts from a supplier or contractor or from a potential supplier or contractor. Ordinary business courtesies, such as payment for a modest lunch are acceptable. Gifts which are promotional items without significant value (less than $25.00), and which are distributed routinely by the supplier to clients, are also acceptable. Gratuities or gifts of money to an employee cannot be accepted at any time.

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Personal Purchases

Purchasing Services will not facilitate or approve any transaction for purchases of a personal nature. Purchase order and purchasing card transactions containing items which appear to be of a personal nature will be questioned by Purchasing Services. Purchase Services will solicit the support of the Office of Audit and Compliance to investigate cases of inappropriate purchase activity.

A formal Employee Purchase Program is available to faculty and staff for personal purchases from designated Penn contract suppliers.

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