2.3.3 Allowable Direct Costs

Additional Resources: 

Policy No: RESEARCH  2.3.3
Type of Policy: Administrative
Effective Date: December 2013    
Last Revised: November 2014

Policy Owner: OSP
Policy Contact: Duane Hutchison, Executive Director, duane.hutchison@osp.gatech.edu

1. Reason for Policy

All costs charged to any sponsored projects must meet the standards established in the Uniform Administrative Requirements (2 CFR 200) and must meet the following criteria to be allowed:

  • Reasonableness - at the time the costs was incurred, a prudent person would have made a similar decision (in relationship to the goods or services purchased and the amount paid).
  • Allocable to sponsored agreements - the goods or services are chargeable to sponsored research projects (either directly or indirectly) in relationship to the benefits received (an equitable allocation process).
  • Consistent treatment - the cost is consistently treated as either a direct cost or an F&A cost by all university departments.

2. Policy Statement

Direct costs are those that can be specifically identified with a single sponsored project. These costs usually include salaries/wages, fringe benefits, contracted services, supplies, equipment, travel, communication*, tuition remission and participant support costs. In most instances the direct costs should be reflected by major budget categories with an attached narrative detailing how the costs were calculated. The budget narrative should contain enough detail for the sponsor to verify the appropriateness of the costs. (*see definition of communication costs listed below.)

  1. Salaries and Wages – The budget detail should include the title, name and percentage of time/number of months summer or academic for each person listed on the budget. If a specific technician, graduate student or other student worker has not been identified at the time of budget preparation the salary amount for those categories should be consistent with those normally paid by the department or if you are unsure of the rate then use the Institute average category.

    ESTIMATING YOUR BUDGET: Salary compensation should be based on the percent of time the employee will spend on the project.
    Example: (monthly salary rate) x (___% of effort) x (no. of months).

    If the project is multi-year, most people include at least a 3% annual increase effective July 1 of every year. Salaries posted to a sponsored program will be based upon actual salaries not projected salaries. All budgets have their limitations! If you budget for a graduate student and end up hiring a post doc instead; keep in mind that there are additional fringe benefits that you MUST pay out of the budget for a post doc!

  2. Fringe Benefits (Current Rates) – Ineligibility for Fringes: Undergraduate Students* and Graduate Students.* Fringe Benefits are calculated according to the Rate Agreement for the Georgia Tech Research Corp. negotiated with our cognizant federal agency, the Office of Naval Research and include FICA, unemployment and workman’s compensation, retirement and group health insurance. [*Note: Salaries and wages of employees who participate in all or part of the social security program but do not participate in retirement or group health and life insurance plans. This rate covers (i) temporary classified persons, (ii) temporary academic or research professionals not eligible for the retirement programs or group health or life insurance coverage, (iii) student employees who are registered for less than a full academic load and (iv) part-time employees employed for less than 50 percent of a full work schedule.]
  3. Equipment – Only items costing $5,000 or more with a useful life of two years or more should be listed here. Cost estimates should include any installation, tax and shipping costs associated. The need for the equipment should be adequately justified on the budget explanation page. General purpose equipment, such as computer equipment, is not eligible for support unless primarily or exclusively used in the actual conduct of scientific research. [Note: Restriction on General Purpose Office Equipment - The Office of Management and Budget does not allow purchase of general purpose office equipment. According to OMB Circular A-21, "'General purpose equipment' means equipment, the use of which is not limited only to research, medical, scientific or other technical activities. Examples of general purpose equipment include office equipment and furnishings (chairs, file cabinets, etc.), air conditioning equipment, reproduction and printing equipment, motor vehicles, and automatic data processing equipment." These are only allowable if they have been specifically identified and approved by the sponsoring agency in advance of purchase.]
  4. Travel – Proposed travel should include number of trips planned, number of persons for each trip, conference name, location, purpose and cost. The purpose of the travel should be adequately justified on the budget explanation page. Many federal agencies require utilization of U.S. Flag Carriers on international flights. Be sure to check your guidelines for details. URL for Federal Per Diem Rates: http://www.state.gov
  5. Participant/Trainee Support Costs – Typically used on federal awards for the costs of the travel, meals and lodging of project participants (not GaTech employees); i.e., the trainees at a science education conference or a stipend for participants who complete project survey. Facilities and administration costs are not charged on participant support costs on federal awards.
  6. Other Direct Costs – Other Direct Costs include materials and supplies, publication costs, consultant services, long distance telephone/fax and subcontracts. All direct costs should be itemized. The following list explains the most commonly requested ‘other direct costs.’
    1. Materials And Supplies – Indicate in general terms the type of expendable materials and supplies required along with their estimated costs. The breakdown should be more detailed when the cost is substantial. General purpose office supplies are not to be included in this category as they are covered by indirect costs. i.e., local phone calls!
    2. Publication Costs – Funds may be requested for the costs of preparing, publishing, or otherwise making available the findings and products of the work conducted under the research project, including costs of reports, reprints, or page charges.
    3. Consultant Services – Anticipated consultant services should be justified and information furnished on each individuals’ expertise, primary organizational affiliation, daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected services. We recommend that a letter be included in the proposal from the consultant stating their willingness to participate, as well as their actual daily rate with proper documentation. Some federal agencies will limit the maximum daily compensation rate paid to off-campus consultant services – check with your Contracting Officer to verify limitations.
    4. Subawards – Subawards should be disclosed in the technical section of the proposal to show a clear delineation of the work to be performed by each organization. The total amount for proposed subawards should appear under “Other Direct Costs” in the master budget for the project. Each “sub” should follow the following guidelines:
      F&A is charged on the first $25,000 of each subaward.
      Formal proposal signed by authorized representative with a statement of work and budget are required to be submitted to the Contracting Officer. See Interdivisional Transfer for information on issuing subprojects between Georgia Tech Departmental Units & GTRI.
  7. Cost Sharing – If cost sharing is to be included in a proposal then the sources of cost sharing and matching must be identified at the proposal stage with appropriate forms identifying such.  Only mandatory cost sharing is tracked by OSP and G&C accounting.
  8. Tuition (Link to F&A Rates) – Tuition for graduate students is normally included in the budget.
  9. Communication – This includes telephone communication, postage, FedEx, advertising and associated costs that are non-routine and pose an extraordinary need (i.e., a phone bank for a project that includes a survey administered via the telephone.)
  10. Repairs and Maintenance – This includes costs of maintaining property, i.e., maintenance contracts for office equipment and repairs of that equipment.
  11. Interdivisional Transfers – Interdivisional Transfer is utilized when subprojects are established between Georgia Tech and GTRI. The subproject recipiant details their portion of work and the cost associated with it (both direct and indirect). The cost is then loaded into an “other” category and added to the total budget. Because it is an internal transfer, these costs would not be included in the F&A cost calculation.

3. Scope

This policy applies to all Georgia Tech Faculty and Staff.

4. Definition

Direct Costs Costs that can be specifically identified with a single sponsored project. These costs usually include salaries/wages, fringe benefits, contracted services, supplies, equipment, travel, communication, tuition remission and participant support costs.

4. Related Information

Resource Link
Equipment on Sponsored Projects http://www.osp.gatech.edu/equipment/
Grants & Contracts Accounting – Allowable Expenses/td> http://policylibrary.gatech.edu/allowable-expenses

5. Policy History

Revision Date Author Description
12-31-2013 OSP Rev 1.0
11-20-2014 OSP Rev 2.0