General Guidelines for Spending Sponsored Funds: Allowable Expenses
One of the most important aspects of grant administration is the proper expenditure of funds. Sponsored project funds may be used to defray most, if not all, of the costs of doing the project work. It is imperative, however, to abide by federal guidelines that specify which expenses should be listed as direct costs on awards and which should be reimbursed through indirect cost recovery. Principal investigators and their research administrative staff should be aware of the following principles, as outlined in federal guidance, which are used to determine the appropriateness (what is allowable) of charging an expense as a direct charge on a sponsored award.
It is the principal investigator's/project director's responsibility to ensure that the funding he or she has received is expended for charges that are "allowable" for the project in question. In general such allowable costs must satisfy four conditions:
The nature and amount of the expenditure should reflect the action that a prudent person would have taken under the same circumstances.
Chargeable or assignable in that is it either incurred solely to advance the project work or has a reasonable basis for proportional assignment. Note that items typically covered by indirect costs (e.g. office supplies, administrative personnel or facilities costs) should in general not be assigned to sponsored projects. However, if administrative personnel are doing work that directly furthers the project goals (as opposed to, for example, managing the finances of the project) it is possible that they are allowed to be direct-charged to the award.
Through application of generally accepted accounting principles.
Conforming to any limitations or exclusions either specific to the sponsor or to federal guidance.
Questions regarding the allowability of costs should be directed to the Cost Accounting Unit of the Office of Sponsored Programs. You may also choose to view the PowerPoint file in the Training section of the OSP website and review more detailed guidance in APM 45.06. Note that expenses incurred after the termination date of an award are unallowable and will become a departmental responsibility.