Cost Restrictions on Federally-Supported Projects


Direct charging of administrative, secretarial or clerical salaries on federal funds is appropriate only where ALL of the following conditions are met:

  • An extensive amount of administrative or clerical work is required to carry out the project, and
  • The administrative or clerical personnel are specifically listed and robustly justified in the budget proposal
  • The individuals have responsibilities specifically related to the project.
  • The effort devoted to the project is documented, and the sponsoring agency accepts the cost as part of the project’s direct cost budget.
  • The position is budgeted at 25% effort or greater (3 months).
  • Meets one or more of the qualifying criteria highlighted below.

Qualifying Criteria

  • When administrative/clerical services involve extensive data collection literature/library searches, analysis, surveying or similar services required for accomplishing the programmatic objectives of the grant/contract.
  • If a grant/contract requires an extraordinary amount of normal services such as large, complex programs.  A large complex project will have multiple UMass investigators as well as multiple partnering institutions and individuals through subcontracts and consultant arrangements.  A monetary rule of thumb has large projects starting somewhere around $500,000 direct cost per year but this is not a fixed point but simply an approximation.  Think of NSF Center grants, large complex NIH Program projects, etc.
  • Projects that require travel arrangements for large numbers of participants, such as conference grants.
  • Projects whose principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals, large reports, books and monographs (EXCLUDING routine progress and technical reports).
  • Projects that are geographically inaccessible to normal departmental administrative services.
  • Projects requiring project-specific database management or intensive project- specific regulatory protocols.

Account monitoring, meeting arrangements, or typing general correspondence or reports on behalf of a grant/contract would be considered the normal services to be provided by the University and treated as an indirect cost; consequently they would NOT be allowed as a direct cost.

Charging for administrative/clerical costs on federally funded projects is not normally allowable on federal funds but if the criteria listed above can be met, the position may be allowable as a direct cost.  Be sure to check in with your business manager or OPAS Pre-award administrator for input.

Office Supplies

This type of expense may be appropriate as a direct charge to a grant/contract only when it clearly benefits/supports programmatic objectives. Examples would include research notebooks and computer paper used during the technical course of a project.

Items such as pencils, paper clips, memo pads and post-its are normally considered an indirect cost and therefore not allowable as a direct charge. Reasonable judgment should be exercised when charging office supplies directly to a grant/contract because they are likely to be highly scrutinized during sponsor proposal review or during an audit.


The direct charging of postage to an award for purposes such as the shipment of materials, mailing of research surveys to human subjects and submitting deliverables is appropriate if reasonable care is taken to assure that such costs are for the sole purpose of the grant/contract and can be specifically identified and justified as such. Routine correspondence is considered to be an indirect cost and not an allowable direct charge.

Telephone Service

Toll calls are allowable if they are allocable to the project.  Cell phones are generally not allowable and are only allowed in extremely unique situations. For further guidance, please contact OPAS.

Charges for land lines and data access are also not allowable except for extremely unique situations.  For further guidance on allowability, please contact your business manager or OPAS Pre-award administrator.

Policies and Resources Affecting Administrative/Secretarial Compensation