Direct Charging to Sponsored Accounts

Guidelines on budgeting and charging costs to federally sponsored projects

In July, 1993, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued revised regulations regarding the allowability of certain types of expenditures on federal and federal flow-through funds.  Salaries and benefits of administrative and clerical staff and certain general expenses, including office supplies, postage, local telephone costs, and memberships in professional and scientific organizations were no longer allowed a direct charged to federally sponsored agreements except in special circumstances.

Examples of projects where the direct charging of administrative and clerical salaries may be approved include major, complex, multi-investigator projects such as Center Grants, Program Project Grants, and other sponsored projects that entail assembling and managing teams of investigators. It may also be permissible to charge these salaries to single investigator projects that require an extraordinary level of clerical and administrative support, such as the following:

  • Projects that involve extensive data accumulation, analysis and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, searching, and reporting, such as data reduction, epidemiological studies and clinical trials.
  • Projects that require making extensive travel and meeting arrangements for a large number of participants, such as conferences and seminars.
  • Project whose principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals and large reports (other than routine progress and technical reports), books, and monographs.
  • Project that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services (e.g. off-campus research).
  • Projects that require project-specific database management, individualized graphics or manuscript preparation, human or animal protocols, IRB preparations, and/or other project-specific regulatory protocols, and multiple project-related investigator coordination and communications.

The following guidelines should be observed when preparing budget proposals or directly charging costs under federally sponsored agreements:

 Administrative and Clerical Salaries and Benefits

Administrative and clerical salaries and benefits associated with routine services such as typing reports, filing, handling mail, making travel arrangements, answering telephones, etc., should not be budgeted or charged as direct costs, even when there is a direct benefit to the project.

Office Supplies

Office supplies that are normally used in the general administrative support of a project should not be included in the budget.  Office supplies that are used exclusively for project-specific activities may continue to be included in the budget.  Since many items of office supplies are used for both general administrative support and project-specific activities, it is important that these items, when included in the budget, be described in terms of their proposed use.

Local Telephone Costs

Local telephone rentals used to conduct routine business of the project should not be included in the budget.  Telephone lines, including data lines, modems, and telephones, used to conduct surveys or maintain contact with project activities conducted at remote locations may continue to be included in the budget.

Telephone Toll Calls

Telephone toll calls (long distance) may continue to be included in the budget.  However, care must be taken to ensure that calls are directly related to project-specific activities.

Memberships in Professional and Scientific Organizations

Memberships in professional and scientific organizations should not be included in the budget.


Postage may be included in the budget when it is directly related to the conduct of the study, including correspondence with the sponsor and project participants.  Additional postage may be included in the budget to disseminate surveys and materials produced as a result of the project activities.

In order to allow these charges against sponsored agreements, the items must be included in the budget as it was approved by the sponsoring agency.  Principal Investigators and their departments are responsible for ensuring that costs assigned to federal projects are appropriate.  Restricted cost categories and other inappropriate charges can be readily detected in audits, and resulting disallowances must be reimbursed to the federal government from departmental funds.