Commonly Requested Budget Items
Guidelines for Federal Sponsored Expenditures
This OSP Handbook provides an introduction to Federal Cost Principles and guidance to the treatment of specific types of costs. Some commonly requested budget items, such as books, computers, equipment, and meals require a specific set of circumstances to be budgeted as direct costs on federal funds (see the website for a complete list).
Budget estimates for travel can be done using any online travel portal, bearing in mind any restrictions placed on budget requests by the sponsor guidelines. Refer to Travel and Entertainment for cost principles related to travel on sponsored awards.
Subcontracts and Consulting or Vendor Contracts
Vendor vs. Subrecipient guidance
Use this guidance during the budgeting process to determine whether work by outside parties makes more sense as a Vendor Agreement or Subcontract. This will ensure that you have calculated the IDC appropriately and provided the proper documentation and institutional approvals for the proposal
Indirects on Subcontracts
In compliance with OMB Circular A-21, Section G., indirects are only assessed on the first $25,000 of any one subcontract or subgrant on a federal award. However, if an institution receives more than one subcontract on a single grant, overhead will be charged only on the first $25,000 of the institution’s total subcontract expenditures.
If the proposal is to a non-federal sponsor, the sponsor’s maximum published indirect cost rate must be applied to the total direct costs of the project (i.e. the full amount of the subcontract). See .
Materials required for Subcontracts
It is important to start working with the subcontractor as early as possible in the application process as gathering information and requesting revisions can be time consuming. Most federal sponsors require that each standard proposal attachment (Biographical Sketch, Facilities and Resources, etc.) be provided by both the Prime and the Subcontractor. At minimum a Detail Budget, Budget Justification, Statement of Work, and Institutional Letter of Commitment will be required.
Capital equipment that has an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more should not bear overhead on a federal award. Visit the Research Finances pages for more information about the different types of capital equipment and policies around Equipment Management.
Capital equipment on campus is covered under Harvard's master insurance program. If a Principal Investigator (PI) plans to transport equipment, may need to purchase additional services. See Special Purpose and Custom Risk Solutions from Risk Management and Audit Services. If the equipment is being transported internationally, be sure and also consult Katrin Duevel about the University Export Controls Policy.
Tuition may also be charged directly to grants, but only in a non-overhead-bearing Object Code (6430), and only up to the percentage of effort the graduate student devotes to that grant.
See Personnel for more detailed information about graduate student appointment types and tuition remission
Participant Support Costs
These costs typically support training, conference, and workshop activities and may include travel, stipend, and subsistence for participants. On some federal awards, funds budgeted to support participants must be accounted for separately (i.e., using a separate Subactivity). Participant support costs are not excluded from Harvard’s IDC calculation, so participant support costs may or may not bear overhead depending on sponsor policy (e.g., the NSF does not permit overhead on Participant Support Costs).
Some sponsors use the term Participant Support to mean Subject Payments. Be sure to clarify this as necessary. Payments or gifts given to research subjects in exchange for study participation are subject to overhead.