Cost Principles Reference Grid

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UMBC Cost Principles Reference Grid

The purpose of the grid (click above) is to assist with determining what is typically allowable under 2 CFR 200, generally referred to as “Uniform Guidance” as a direct cost, facilities and administrative (F&A) cost and what is classified as an unallowable cost.  Direct charges may sometimes require sponsor approval as indicated below.  Additional information is provided for select items in the section below.

Other Considerations:

For a complete list of items which require prior written approval see 2 CFR 200.407.  Under expanded authority, some agencies may have waived the sponsor approval requirement.  If there are questions concerning the need for prior approval contact your Office of Sponsored Programs Manger.

A. Administrative & Clerical Salaries (200.413/200.430)

Administrative and clerical staff salaries and associated fringe benefit costs should normally be treated as F&A costs.  Direct charging of these may be appropriate only if all of the following conditions are met:

  • Administrative or clerical services are integral to a project or activity;
  • Individuals involved can specifically be identified with the project or activity;
  • Such costs are explicitly included in the budget or have the prior written approval of the sponsoring agency; and
  • The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.

Integral is defined as essential to the project’s goals and objectives, rather than necessary for the overall operation of the institution.

You may not include salaries of administrative personnel conducting such activities as financial reconciliations, general office clerical work, and proposal preparation, as these costs are recovered through F&A charges.

B. Office Supplies, Postage, Local Telephone Costs, Periodicals and Memberships

Items such as office supplies, postage, local telephone costs, periodicals and memberships should normally be treated as F&A costs.

C. Computing Devices (200.453)

The cost of computing devices is allowed for those devices that are essential and allocable to the sponsored project.  They are no longer required to be solely dedicated to the project.  Be aware, however, that computing devices costing less than $5,000 are included in the material and supplies category of direct costs.

Note:  Computing devices (UG 200.20) means machines used to acquire, store, analyze, process and publish data and other information electronically, including accessories (or “peripherals”) for printing, transmission and receiving, or storing electronic information.  Capitalized computer equipment (i.e. costing $5,000 or more), is still classified as general purpose equipment and is normally unallowable as a direct cost unless approved by the awarding agency.

D. Entertainment (200.438)

Entertainment costs are allowable only when the cost is specific and has a programmatic purpose to the award, and is authorized either in the approved budget or with the prior written approval of the federal awarding agency.  In all other cases, costs of entertainment, including amusement, and social activities, and any associated costs are unallowable.

E. Participant Support Costs (200.75/200.456)

Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences or training projects.  These costs require prior agency approval.  In addition, these cost must be excluded when calculating the Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) to determine the overall project’s F&A costs.

Participant is defined as an individual who is the recipient of a service or training provided at a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity funded by a sponsored project.  University employees may not be participants. The Office of Contract and Grant Accounting (OCGA) will establish a separate project to account for awards with participant support costs.

F. Publication and Printing Costs (200.461)

Costs of publication or sharing of research results that are incurred outside the period of award performance are allowable and may be charged before project closeout, even if the project has ended.  These costs should be included in the budget.  If publication costs are not identifiable with a particular cost objective they should be allocated as indirect costs and funded by a non-sponsored source.

G. Visa Costs (200.463)

Short-term, travel visa costs (as opposed to longer-term, immigration visas) are generally allowable expenses.  Since short-term visas are issued for a specific period and purpose, they can be clearly identified as directly connected to work performed on a sponsored project.  For these costs to be directly charged, they must:

  • Be critical and necessary for the conduct of the project;
  • Be allowable under UG;
  • Be consistent with cost accounting practices and policy;
  • Meet the definition of “direct costs” as described in UG.