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:
- Necessary to fulfill the project's technical scope of work;
- Fully described and justified in the proposal narrative and budget;
- Specially identified with and used primarily on the project; and
- 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:
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.