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Computer and Laptop Purchases

General purpose computers which are non-capital equipment (valued under $5k) - especially laptops - can be used to support a variety of activities and are typically not allowable as direct charges to federal awards. As a result, general purpose computers and laptops are typically considered under the federal guidelines to be F&A (indirect) costs. Exceptions may exist for computers and laptops which are dedicated to a particular research function and necessary for the conduct of a particular statement of work and justified as an "unlike circumstance," that is, above the normal level of everyday use required by a project. For such computers to be eligible as direct costs on sponsored awards, they must be distinguished from general-purpose computers. To be considered as direct costs, federal guidelines provide that computers should be:

  1. Necessary to fulfill the project's technical scope of work;
  2. Fully described and justified in the proposal narrative and budget;
  3. Specially identified with and used primarily on the project; and
  4. Approved by the sponsor.

Note that a single computer typically cannot be justified for multiple grants.

Examples when direct changing of computers may be appropriate Examples when direct charging of computers may not be appropriate
Computers are connected to scientific equipment Computers used for general and administrative tasks such as reading email, word processing, financial reports, web surfing
Computers are necessary to conduct field studies Computers used for general reporting on awards, such as progress reports, technical reports
Computers are used as a server for research calculations  
Computers are necessary to store human subjects data in order to maintain the confidentiality of the data  
Computers must be destroyed at the end of the project as per sponsor requirements  
Examples when direct charging of computing supplies may be appropriate Examples when direct charging of computing supplies may not be appropriate
Hard drives are used for extensive data storage mandated by sponsor or which exceed normal departmental storage capacity Computer paper, printer toner, diskettes/jump drives
Software that is not generally available or for which UK does not have license and is necessary to perform the technical scope of the project Software for which UK has a site license, e.g. MS Office, Word, Excel, etc.

Who to Contact:

Post-Award Administration

For all questions after your proposal has been awarded, the Post-Award Administration Staff is responsible for managing proposals that have been funded by a sponsoring agency.
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