Computing Devices – Guidelines for Charging to Externally Sponsored Projects

Under Uniform Guidance, computing devices are identified as machines used to acquire, store, analyze, process and publish data and other information electronically; also included in the definition are peripherals for printing, transmitting and receiving, or storing electronic information.  Any devices that cost under $5000/unit are considered supplies and can be direct charged to sponsored projects if they are essential to the project.  To meet this requirement, the computing devices must be:

  • Necessary to fulfill the project’s scope of work
  • Specifically identified with and used exclusively on the project (or projects)

General purpose computers, especially laptops, can be used to support a variety of activities and are not usually dedicated to one specific purpose.  As a result, general purpose computers and laptops are not normally allowed as direct charges.  Computers that are attached to equipment necessary to analyze data pursuant to a projects scope of work or laptops that are used to conduct tests/interviews with subject in remote locations can be justified as direct charges. 

PIs are responsible for determining whether or not the computing device is essential and to what extent the cost of the device is allocable to a sponsored project.  PIs and departments must maintain documentation that describes how the computing device meets the requirements. 

Generally, it is expected that the need for computing devices is fully described and justified in the proposed narrative or budget or otherwise approved by the sponsor.  Otherwise, documentation must be established in the department to:

  • Describe how the computing device directly benefits the project
  • Identify how it is unlike a general purpose item
  • Be retained throughout the record retention period for audit purposes

Last updated: 11/13/2015