Award Related

Policy on Unallowable Costs

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Policy on Unallowable Costs

Effective Date: This policy is effective July 1, 1998

Applicability: This policy applies to all federally sponsored agreements.

I. Definition

Unallowable costs, for the purpose of this policy, are costs that cannot be included in the direct costs of sponsored agreements or in the university's indirect cost rate according to OMB's Circular A-21. These costs are not necessarily what the university considers unallowable. Unallowable costs, by UMASS definition are outlined in Trustee Document T92-031 and include items such as: expenses for personal gain, political contributions, personal gifts of gratitude, and personal fines.

Circular A-21 defines allowability of costs as "(a) they must be reasonable; (b) they must be allocable to sponsored agreements under the principles and methods defined in A-21; (c) they must be given consistent treatment through application of those generally accepted accounting principles appropriate to the circumstances; and (d) they must conform to any limitations or exclusions set forth in these principles or in the sponsored agreement as to types or amounts of cost items."

II. Guidelines

Unallowable costs and directly associated costs must be appropriately identified on all documentation to ensure these costs are in the proper accounts and are excluded from direct and indirect costs of sponsored agreements. Correct classification of unallowable costs in the accounts is also important in the computation of indirect cost rates.

Directly associated costs are expenses that would not have been incurred if the unallowable cost had not been incurred.

 Below is a list of the main unallowable costs taken from part J of Circular A-21 and a description of how these expenditures are treated at the Amherst campus. This is a quick reference. There are exceptions for some of the items listed.

Unallowable Cost Categories UMASS Account Coding
Advertising and public relations - to promote the institution Object code - 3510, Advertising
Object code - 3520, Exhibits/displays
Alcoholic beverages Object code - 3429, Alcoholic Beverages
Alumni activities OU 505030, Alumni Relations
Bad debt (write-off of Accounts Rec.) Object Code - 9400, Write-off grants and contracts
Charitable donations and contributions Not allowed by the State
Commencement and convocation expenses Account 216070, Undergraduate Commencement
Contingency provisions Object code - 9950, Contingencies
Cost overruns on Sponsored Agreements Object Code - 9400, Write-off grant and contract
Entertainment expenses Object Code - 4301, Entertainment
Fines and penalties Object code - 3560, Fees, Fines, Lic
First class and other non-coach travel Determined by Travel Administration
Fund raising and investment management costs OU 505020, Development
Goods or services for personal use Not allowed by the State
Institutional Officer's Housing Chancellor's Housing Accounts
Interest cost Object codes - 77xx, Debt payments
Legal costs relative to failure to comply with state, federal, local, or foreign statutes Incurred by Common Services
Lobbying costs OU 505050, University relations
Memberships in any civic, community, country club, or social organization Object code - 2680, Membership Dues & Fees
Personal use of institutional furnished vehicles Included in Employee Compensation (autos)
Selling and marketing of university goods of services Tracked by function within Auxiliary Services
Student activities cost OU 503020, Campus Activities
Trustee travel and subsistence Incurred by Common Services

 Examples of Unallowable vs. Allowable Expenses

A common area of misunderstanding, in the past, has been in the area of business function (allowable) vs. entertainment expenses (unallowable). Below you will find examples that we hope will clarify this matter for the university community. If there are any questions concerning the allowability of a cost please contact the Office of Grant and Contract Administration or The Controller's Office, Grant Accounting Section for assistance.

Unallowable Entertainment

The cost of dinner and the tickets are considered entertainment and charged to object code 4301.

(2) It is the end of the Fiscal Year and you have survived another one. You decide to have a year end party for your department to lift morale. Catering delivers a luncheon in the conference room and everyone in the department gets together to socialize and unwind.

The cost of catering is considered entertainment and charged to object code 4301.

 The above costs are for "amusement, diversion, and social activities and any costs directly associated with such costs (such as tickets to shows or sports events, meals, lodging, rentals, transportation, and gratuities)" and therefore are examples of unallowable entertainment costs. The encumbrance documents should be coded with object code 4301 to designate them as entertainment.

Allowable Business Function

 (2) You are recruiting a new post-doc and decide to perform the interview over lunch, you pick up the tab.

The costs of both luncheons are allowable expenses and should be classified as a business function. They are considered an extension of business.


NSF Data Management Plan

NSF Data Management Plan Requirement Goes Into Effect January 18, 2011

As of January 18, 2011, grant proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation will require a two-page supplemental plan for data management and the sharing of research products. The Office of Research and the University Libraries are partnering to help investigators comply with this new requirement.

The NSF’s policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results states that:

Investigators are expected to share with other researchers, at no more than incremental cost and within a reasonable time, the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants. Grantees are expected to encourage and facilitate such sharing.

Accordingly, any data management plan must describe how the project will conform to this policy and may Include:

  1. the types of data, samples, physical collections, software, curriculum materials, and other materials to be produced in the course of the project;
  2. the standards to be used for data and metadata format and content;
  3. policies for access and sharing including provisions for appropriate protection of privacy, confidentiality, security, intellectual property, or other rights or requirements;
  4. policies and provisions for re-use, re-distribution, and the production of derivatives; and
  5. plans for archiving data, samples, and other research products, and for preservation of access to them.

Given the diversity of disciplinary practice and expectations with regard to data management and sharing, the NSF is not offering uniform directions, specific instructions, templates or other prescriptions.  Rather, NSF is providing FAQs and guidance documents from specific Directorates that address compliance. The entire policy, FAQ list, and links to Directorate information are available at

Please note the following points:

  • Data Management Plans will be evaluated by study sections;
  • Several criteria for compliance will be determined by the community of interest through the process of peer review and program management;
  • Implementation costs for data management plans that exceed routine storage needs should be included in direct costs; rates and costs must be authorized by the University Office of Cost Analysis.  (contact  Jacqueline Watrous at )
  • A valid Data Management Plan may include only the statement that no detailed plan is needed, as long as the statement is accompanied by a clear justification;

If your proposal is due on January 18 but you plan to submit earlier, you must still include a data management plan (January 18 is the Tuesday following Martin Luther King Jr. Day).

The University Libraries are establishing an infrastructure for digital collections and have a history of expertise and experience in the management and description of scholarly material for dissemination, sharing, and preservation. Consequently, the Libraries can facilitate compliance with data management requirements through the following services to investigators:

  1. Guidance in the identification of appropriate data repositories for the archiving of large-scale data sets and associated research outputs, such as the ICPSR or Dryad[1], and assistance with material deposition.
  2. Consultation on metadata and standards for format and content of data, policies for data sharing and accessibility, and plans for long-term access and preservation of data sets.
  3. Provision of a globally accessible and widely indexed online location for faculty’s research outputs, including persistent URLs and searchable metadata, through ScholarWorks, the University's Institutional Repository. ScholarWorks accounts are available to faculty at no charge and with minimal size limitations.

In support of the NSF requirements for data management and sharing plans, the University Libraries and the Office of Research will be working together to formalize and refine these services and to make them broadly available across the campus research community. These services will enable investigators to adequately and competitively comply with this new NSF requirement.

Additional information and services can be found at:

Including a link to a data management plan TOOL

For further information and immediate assistance, please contact:




Mike Malone                                               Jay Schafer

Vice Chancellor for Research                      Director of Libraries

and Engagement




"Whistleblowing" legislation notice to Employees

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Whistleblowing Policy

Massachusetts General Laws c. 149, § 185 protects employees from retaliation for engaging in what is commonly known as "whistleblowing" activities. The scope of the law is very broad. It protects state employees who report or threaten to report illegalities, regulatory violations, health and safety violations, and environmental hazards committed by the employer or by another employer with whom the employer has a business relationship. The law also protects employees who refuse to participate in such activities and provides protections for employees who testify or report crimes. As a general matter, employees are protected against retaliatory action so long as the employee has brought the matter to the attention of a supervisor by written notice and has afforded the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy, or practice. Written notice may not be required to be filed when an emergency exists, when the employee reasonably believes the University has knowledge, or when the employee fears physical harm asa result of disclosure.

The following notice will be posted on the appropriate website and brought to the attention of all employees.


Protection Against Retaliation

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 149, Section 185 offers protections against retaliation to an employee of the Commonwealth who:

  • Discloses, or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or to a public body an activity, policy or practice of the employer, or of another employer with whom the employee's employer has a business relationship, that the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to law, or which the employee reasonably believes poses a risk to public health, safety or the environment;
  • Provides information to, or testifies before, any public body conducting an investigation, hearing or inquiry into any violation of law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to law, or activity, policy or practice which the employee reasonably believes poses a risk to public health, safety or the environment by the employer, or by another employer with whom the employee's employer has a business relationship; or
  • Objects to, or refuses to participate in any activity, policy or practice which the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, or a rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to law, or which the employee reasonably believes poses a risk to public health, safety or the environment.

Although some specific statutory exceptions exist, these protections against retaliatory action… "shall not apply to an employee who makes disclosures… unless the employee has brought the activity… to the attention of a supervisor of the employee by written notice and has afforded the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy, or practice".

How to File a Complaint of Retaliation

Employees with complaints should file their notices to the Deputy Chancellor, Chancellor’s Office, Whitmore Administration Building, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

All complaints of retaliation shall be made in writing and include a clear, detailed, and factual description of the retaliation action, employee(s) involved, and specific date(s) or timeline(s) of the retaliatory action. When relevant, the notices should include a discussion of oral reporting of the issue to managers or supervisors and/or internal communication regarding the issue.

All complaints of retaliation shall be made within two (2) years of the incident that the complainant believes to be retaliation. A complaint is considered filed based on the date it is postmarked, hand- delivered, faxed, or emailed to the Deputy Chancellor.

Processing a Complaint of Retaliation

Initial response to a Complaint

The Deputy Chancellor shall confirm receipt of the complaint in writing to the complainant.

The Deputy Chancellor shall review the details of the complaint to determine if an investigation should occur. An investigation shall occur if the complaint:

a.    Is filed within twelve (12) months of the retaliatory incident.

b.    At least one negative personnel action occurred after the date of the retaliatory incident and in connection with the person(s) named in the complaint.

If a complaint does not meet the conditions under which an investigation shall occur, the Deputy Chancellor shall notify the complainant in writing within fifteen (15) calendar days of the decision not to pursue an investigation.

Initiating an Investigation

The Deputy Chancellor shall notify the employee(s) accused of retaliation in writing that an investigation shall commence. The accused employee(s) shall receive a copy of the complaint.

The Deputy Chancellor shall interview the accused employee(s) and provide an opportunity for the accused employee(s) to respond to the complaint in writing. Responses shall be made in writing to the Deputy Chancellor within 30 calendar days of the accused employee(s)’s receipt of the notification of an investigation or the date of the interview, as indicated by the Deputy Chancellor.

The Deputy Chancellor may request that the complainant and/or accused employee(s) submit supplementary information for the investigation, including the names of witnesses.

Within six (6) months of the date that the Deputy Chancellor notified the complainant that an investigation shall commence, the Deputy Chancellor shall prepare a written report of the investigation findings, including the original complaint of retaliation, a list of individuals interviewed, and any other documentation collected during the investigation.

The Deputy Chancellor shall render a decision on the complaint within six (6) months of the close of the investigation. The complainant and accused employee(s) shall receive notification of the decision in writing. The complainant has no right to appeal a final decision.

The decision and written report shall remain on file in the Deputy Chancellor’s Office for a period of five (5) years.

Reporting Improper Activity

Filing a Report of Improper Activity

Employees with complaints should file their written notice of improper activities with their immediate supervisor or other appropriate administrator within their unit. When there is the potential for a conflict of interest, notices may be filed with the Deputy Chancellor, Chancellor's Office, Whitmore Administration Building, University of Massachusetts Amherst. When the issue involves the Chancellor or his office, notices should be made to the UMass President, Office of the President, 333 South St, Shrewsbury, MA 01545.

Responsibilities of Supervisors and Administrators

Supervisors and administrators who receive notice of significant improper activities -- as defined as those which constitute a violation of the law or regulation, or which the employee reasonably believes poses a risk to public health, safety or the environment,--shall immediately report such allegations in writing to the Deputy Chancellor, with a copy to their unit’s Vice Chancellor. Significant improper activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Allegations that reflect a problem with an internal policy that is likely to exist at other units within the University.
  • Allegations that are likely to receive media or public attention. Allegations that involve the misuse of University resources.
  • Allegations that have the potential to create significant liability for the University. Allegations that are criminal in nature.
  • Allegations that have the potential to pose a threat to the health and safety of members of the University and/or the public. 
  • Allegations that are judged by the supervisor or administrator to be sensitive for another reason.

Description of Notices

All notices shall be made in writing and include a clear, detailed, and factual description of the issue and employee(s) involved. When relevant, the notices should include a discussion of oral reporting of the issue to managers or supervisors and/or internal communication regarding the issue. Notices may be submitted anonymously. Notices submitted anonymously must provide sufficient evidence to justify an investigation.

Investigation Process

Upon receipt of a notice, the Deputy Chancellor shall promptly review the documentation provided and investigate the allegations in conjunction with relevant University or State agencies or units based on their areas of expertise.

Upon completion of the investigation(s), the Deputy Chancellor shall classify allegations as “improper” or “not improper” activities. When an allegation is classified as “not improper,” the investigation shall be formally closed and findings shall be communicated in writing to the employee(s) who initiated the notice. When an allegation is classified as “improper” activity, the Deputy Chancellor shall notify appropriate University or State agencies or units and initiate appropriate legal or disciplinary procedures as required by University policy and/or state or federal law.

Paperwork documenting the notice and investigation shall be kept on file in the Office of the Deputy Chancellor for three (3) years.

Supporting documents:

 Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 149, Section 185 

Revised 07/14/15


Document File: 


Cost Transfer Policy

A cost transfer is any adjustment or transfer of expenditures to/from an externally funded contract or grant account by means of a university (1) personnel action form or (2) journal entry form. Diligent review of financial records and timely communication between principal investigators and departmental administrators should prevent the necessity for transfers; however, under certain circumstances transfers may be appropriate.


Document File: 

Release Info: 

November 1, 2016

Document File: 


Procedure for Dealing with Restrictions to Open Research


Review relevant document (e.g., Request for Proposal or Request for Application, draft research agreement, draft Material Transfer Agreement).

Upon receipt of these documents, research administrators in the Office of Grant and Contract Administration (OGCA) or the University of Massachusetts Innovation Institute (UMII) review the document for clauses that:

A. Constrain the University from disclosing:

a. the existence of the contract or grant;

b. the identity of the sponsor or the grantor and, if a subcontract is involved, the identity of the prime contractor; and

c. the purpose and the scope of the proposed research in sufficient detail:

i. to permit informal discussion concerning the wisdom of such research within the University; and

ii. to inform colleagues in immediate and related disciplines of the nature and importance of the potential contribution to the disciplines involved

B. Limit the ability to disseminate fully and promptly the results of the research or specifically permit retroactive classification (other than standard clauses found in federal contract templates that are not germane to the research).

C. Restrict who can participate in the research project.


Determine whether research is "proprietary" or "restricted."

If research administrators find restrictive clauses, they will work with the Office of Research Compliance (ORC) export control staff to determine whether the clauses fit into the "proprietary" or "restricted" categories:

Proprietary research: Industrially-sponsored research that uses the sponsor's proprietary information or results in intellectual property for which the sponsor has an option to an exclusive license. These sponsors often request restrictions on who can discuss the research and under what circumstances. They also may prohibit publication of confidential company information or ask the researcher to delay publication of research results so that they can review the material for proprietary information or take steps to secure intellectual property rights to possible inventions.

The University accepts "proprietary" research agreements that do not restrict who can work on the project and do not request unreasonable (>12 months) publication delays. Agreements containing other restrictions fall under the definition of "restricted" research.

Restricted research: Research that is restricted in who can work on the project or how and when the researchers can discuss the results of the project. This type of research includes projects that are labeled as "sensitive but unclassified" by the sponsor.

Principal investigators seeking to conduct restricted research must request an exemption from the Openness in Research policy through the Office of Research Compliance (ORC) and approved by the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement (VCRE).  Under expanded authority delegated by the University of Massachusetts President's Office (UMPO) to the Amherst campus, the VCRE is empowered to accept certain restricted research under the auspices of the UMII and with the technical assistance of ORC.  NOTE: The University will not accept government classified research (i.e., "secret" or "top secret").


If the research falls within the definition of restricted research, the research administrator refers the matter to the Office of Research Compliance (ORC) for analysis, technology control plans and to assist the principal investigator with the process of seeking an exemption to openness.


Negotiate to remove or amend restrictive clauses.

OGCA or UMII research administrators, with guidance and assistance from ORC as appropriate, will attempt to negotiate an agreement that is satisfactory to the potential sponsor and principal investigator, and in compliance with the University's policies and the principles of academic freedom.


Refuse the contract or request an exemption

If the sponsor does not agree to remove the restrictions, the principal investigator may opt to decline the award or to seek an exemption to Trustee policy requiring free and open dissemination of research results.


Initiate exemption Request.

The principal investigator must initiate the Exemption Request (Request for Exemption Form). This form facilitates the flow of information among the groups that will discuss and recommend approval or denial of the exemption request.

ORC will assist the principal investigator(s) in seeking the exemption.  To request an exemption, complete the steps below.  Note that sponsored research awards that deviate from standard policies, such as publication and dissemination norms, will be processed through UMII.


Complete the Request.

Within three business days for receiving the request, the directors of OGCA and ORC will complete their sections of the request documenting the circumstances and efforts made to negotiate more favorable terms and conditions as appropriate to the nature of the research.


Forward exemption request to the Open Research Committee.

ORC submits the exemption request to the office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement and assists the VCRE in convening an ad hoc advisory committee to evaluate it.  Typical composition of the ad hoc committee includes the department head/chair, the relevant dean and another "arm's length"dean, a Research Council member and Research and Engagement senior staff.


VCRE decision to grant or deny the exemption request.

Consistent with UMPO's delegation of authority, the VCRE makes the final decision, based upon the recommendations and input from the ad hoc advisory committee.  An affirmative decision by the VCRE will be predicated upon appropriate compliance protocols being initiated to mitigate any risks, including technology control plans or U.S. government licensing, if required.  Restricted agreements are processed under the auspices of UMII in accordance with the campus delegations received from the UMPO.


The Office of Research Compliance tracks requests for exemptions and provides reporting to campus stakeholders and governance groups, including the Faculty Senate Research Council and other interested offices, as necessary.



* this procedure has been adapted from materials developed by the University of Minnesota for similar purposes