Allowable/Unallowable Expenditures

Costs are allowable when they are directly attributable to specific work under a sponsored agreement. The items listed in this section are some of the more common costs involved in sponsored programs and are provided as guidance only. Failure to mention a particular item of costs is not intended to imply that it is either allowable or unallowable.

When expenditures relate to multiple projects, those projects should be charged an appropriate amount based on use to the extent practical. 

For a list of common expenditures, and whether they should be charged directly or indirectly to federally sponsored programs, see Sponsored Projects Allowable and Unallowable Costs. If you have any questions about the allowability of any cost on your project, please contact Sponsored Programs or Sponsored Programs Accounting.

In most cases, administrative costs (including office supplies, computers and related equipment and software, postage, local telephone costs, and memberships) are treated as indirect costs on sponsored projects. If, however, a sponsored project requires an extensive amount of administrative support and the project falls within the definitions allowed by OMB A-21, it may be possible to directly charge these costs to the project. These administrative expenses must be:

  • incurred for the performance of a “major project or activity,”
  • specifically identified and directly benefiting the project,
  • specifically budgeted,
  • approved by the awarding agency, and
  • supported by a budget justification.

Following are examples of indirect costs that normally should not be direct charged to sponsored programs:

  • Memberships
  • Office Supplies (including general purpose computers & standard computer software)*
  • Local Telephone Costs (including line charges, network connections & cell phones)
  • Postage or Delivery Costs *
  • Proposal Preparation Costs
  • Electricity
  • Insurance
  • Security Costs
  • Library Costs

* These costs may be charged directly to a sponsored program provided that they are extraordinary and are being used in significantly greater proportion than a routine level of support would require. See sponsored projects allowable and unallowable costs.