Frequently Asked Questions
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1. What does it mean to be on travel status?
See Tufts’ travel policy here. Per the Internal Revenue Service, “You're traveling away from home if your duties require you to be away from the general area of your tax home for a period substantially longer than an ordinary day's work, and you need to get sleep or rest to meet the demands of your work while away.
Generally, your tax home is the entire city or general area where your main place of business or work is located, regardless of where you maintain your family home. For example, you live with your family in Chicago but work in Milwaukee where you stay in a hotel and eat in restaurants. You return to Chicago every weekend. You may not deduct any of your travel, meals or lodging in Milwaukee because that's your tax home. Your travel on weekends to your family home in Chicago isn't for your work, so these expenses are also not deductible. If you regularly work in more than one place, your tax home is the general area where your main place of business or work is located.”
2. Can I add personal travel days to my existing business trip?
See Office of the Vice Provost for Research guidance on sponsored travel here. If you are booking a flight with more stops or a longer duration than required for the business trip due to personal travel, then you should provide as documentation a comparable itinerary (including price, dates, and air class) based on the business portion of the travel. The comparison itinerary must be obtained at the time of purchase or within one business day of booking the flight. Only the allocable business portion of the travel can be charged to the sponsored award. In other words, if 100% of the trip is not for a business purpose, 100% of the transportation cost (ie. flight/train) cannot be charged to the sponsored project. Please talk with your assigned Senior Research Administrator prior to booking to ensure you are clear on the potential personal share. See additional information on business travel here.
3. What are best practices for traveling on sponsored projects?
Booking travel. Use of the University-authorized travel agent(s) is preferred and encouraged as the travel agent(s) are familiar with the Fly America Act and other restrictions related to traveling on sponsored funding. Travelers should arrange all travel, (air, rail, hotel and rental cars) through one of these authorized agencies. Airfares or train tickets booked through the university-designated travel agent(s) will be billed directly to Tufts.
Splitting the cost of a trip between projects. Given the fact that many of our investigators have research activities in other countries, there may be times when an international trip is planned that benefits multiple projects and the costs can be shared among projects. There should be a method for allocating transportation expenses across projects; talk with your SRA in advance of a trip to determine an appropriate method. You are required to document this method in the expense report itself upon reconciliation.
Receipts and the use of personal cards. Receipts are always required for hotel, car rental, and other transportation costs, whether the expense is charged to your personal card or Tufts corporate card.
Per diem vs itemized receipts for meals. Tufts follows an IRS-termed "Accountable Plan" for meals and incidental expenses, meaning travelers must provide itemized receipts OR use a per diem rate. You must choose one reimbursement method for a given trip, and the method applies to the entirety of the trip. To use the per diem reimbursement method, you must use a personal card to pay for meals. If you had intended on using the receipt-based reimbursement method and accidentally used a personal card, you must use per diem. Of note:
- In addition to establishing a per diem rate by location, the federal General Services Administration website establishes rates by meal. If you are attending a conference that includes meals, you may still choose per diem reimbursement, however, conference-provided meals must be deducted from the day-rate.
- Individual projects may have established per diem rates that are lower than the federally established rate.
- Travel days must be pro-rated to 75% of the per diem rate.
Multiple travelers. Family members and any other individuals not working directly on the sponsored project to which the travel is being charged may not have meals or any other type of expenses covered by the project. Meal purchases must be made separately.
Unallowable expenses. Expenses of a personal nature, including entertainment expenses, are unallowable under Tufts Travel Policy. Alcohol is unallowable under Tufts Travel Policy.
4. What is a travel advance and is it the same thing as a project advance?
Sponsored project expenses should be paid by check or wire directly whenever possible. However, to ensure the efficient operation on a sponsored award, cash advances are sometimes required. There are two types of cash advances and each requires separate management and reconciliation: travel advances and project advances.
Travel advances can be made to an individual for the purposes of paying for expenses while on travel status. A Travel Authorization & Advance Form must be completed with a reasonable estimate of expenses and submitted to TSS for processing. Once received, the traveler may use the advance for travel expenses compliant with University Travel Policy and sponsor specific requirements.
Project advances are issued for international research operations to cover the cost of in-country research and related expenses such as the cost of supplies, interpreters, guides, and data collectors. A Project Advance Form is prepared to request a project advance and requires approval from both the School and Central Post Award.
Please review detailed guidance on the Office of the Vice Provost for Research website here.
1. What is the process for distributing gift cards to research participants?
See OVPR guidance for purchasing gift cards on grants here and specifically note the following related to gift card distribution:
A distribution log must be provided to allocate the cost of incentive cards to sponsored award(s). The log should list names of volunteer subjects or their participant IDs, value of received incentive cards, date of receipt, and the following additional information as appropriate for the type of distribution:
- In-person distribution: signatures of the subjects who received the incentive cards.
- eGift Cards: purchase receipt from the vendor, and
- If sent directly to participants electronically: vendor receipt showing recipient and delivery details and confirmation of delivery.
- Distribution by email: a copy of the emails sent, as well as a read receipt for each or a confirmation from the person that they received it.
An example distribution log can be found here. Please bear in mind that Tufts’ IRB requirements around participant identity must be followed even when establishing documentation for gift card distribution. If you do not have access to a p-card, please contact the Finance Office to determine the best way to proceed with the purchase. When reconciling the purchase, you must provide the purchase receipt along with the distribution log. If you have more specific questions, please contact your research administrator.
2. My research project has ended and I have leftover gift cards. What do I do?
Please work to avoid this situation by purchasing small amounts of gift cards and reduce the possibility of extras. It is also strongly suggested that gift cards be purchased for national and/or online retailers so that in the case of extra cards, the excess can be transferred to another project without physical restrictions (such as to a local or region-specific grocery store, for example). When extra cards cannot be avoided and a project has ended without being able to return, repurpose, or otherwise use the cards, a PI or project staff member should be in touch with the Finance Office to make a plan.
1. I want to pay students on my project. How do I start?
To start, you must determine the rate the student will be paid for the type of work they will perform. You will use your project’s budget and the Pay Rate Guidance sheet located within the student hiring section to help you make this determination. You will then complete the Student and Temp Offer Letter Template and it send it to the student with your SRA, and the Finance Coordinator (Sharon Grant) cc’d. Sharon will process the job data in PeopleSoft HRMS and follow up regarding new hire steps and payroll information.
Please read the student hiring section for more nformation about the hiring process and the Timesheets and Time Submission section to understand responsibilities of both the student employee and manager related to time submission.
If you do not already have a candidate identified for your student hire, you can complete the form on the Student Affairs website or contact Isabel McFall.
2. How much should I pay my student?
The rate can vary based on several factors such as the type of work, the project’s budget, and the student employee's experience, credentials, or expertise. The Friedman School provides a Pay Rate Guidance Sheet within the student hiring section to help. Hiring managers have discretion to choose the rate they pay within the ranges suggested and can discuss an alternate rate with Krissy Day if circumstances require.
3. How do I decide between hiring a temporary employee vs. posting a staff position?
A variety of factors can help you determine which type of hire is best for your specific project needs, including the project timing, funding source(s) and allowability for different hire types, duration of work, budget, and consistency of work required. Review the temp hire and staff hire sections of the Hiring and Appointments tab for more detail on each. Your SRA can help you understand any allowability or budget limitations on your specific project.
4. Can I pay my employee more than an HR-provided range?
The HR Compensation Office maintains salary ranges for all staff job ranks based off market data analyses and internal and external equity comparisons. Staff managers may work with HR and these ranges during two processes: hiring a new staff member or when undergoing a compensation and role review for a current staff member.
Hiring a new staff member
When a manager has the need to recruit for a new staff member, they work with the HR business partner to initiate a search. See the staff hiring section for details on the process. As part of the initial discussions, the HR business partner and/or assigned recruiter should provide the hiring manager the salary range for that job rank and discuss the hiring manager's budget and how those align. As candidates are brought forward and an offer is considered, the recruiter will recommend the salary to be offered based on the candidate's background and how they compare to other staff currently in the role across the university. The manager has discretion on what salary to offer but equity considerations are important. The HR business partner, hiring manager, and Krissy Day can discuss unique situations and how to best move forward.
Compensation and role review
When a manager requests a compensation review for a staff member within their group, the manager will receive the results of the review once the HR business partner has discussed the results with Ed Kleifgen and Krissy Day. Part of this discussion is to review internal equity across the Friedman School, and the HR review already assesses equity across the university and externally. If there are questions or concerns about the results, further discussion can be had.
1. What are honoraria payments and how are they processed?
An honorarium is a token payment made to bestow recognition to an individual for services they perform, for which payment is not required and for which propriety precludes setting a fixed price. The arrangement between the recipient and the university is informal and does not require a contract. Because payment is not required, honorarium recipients do not provide an invoice to the university. Circumstances in which an honoraria payment might be appropriate on a sponsored activity include advisory board participation or guest speakers at a workshop. Honoraria are not a payment option to circumvent timesheet submission, to avoid registering through PaymentWorks, or other workarounds.
Best practice is to include honoraria payments in the original proposal budget. Honoraria payments are made through the University’s Check Voucher process. You can submit a request for a Check Voucher here. For more detailed information, please review this TSS article.
2. What is the process for hiring a consultant?
First, review the following resources:
Once a clear determination has been made that a consulting agreement with an individual is the best path forward, this is the general process:
- Talk with your SRA and/or PI about budget availability and confirm that the nature of the work justifies the proposed type of agreement (see consultant resources above).
- If you’re working on a consulting agreement and the person is a non-US citizen working in another country, you and your research administrator will need to discuss tax implications with Tufts Global Operations.
- Once budget and Global Operations issues are resolved, work with individual or the vendor to develop a scope of work (SOW). Your SRA can help develop payment terms appropriate for the deliverables and scope of work.
- Obtain access and log in to Purchasing's Contract Management System (CMS). See here for instructions.
- Complete, within CMS, the purchasing intake form and submit it along with the agreed SOW and request that a new agreement be initiated. Purchasing contacts listed by business area can be found here. Ed Lothrop handles consulting agreements.
- The purchasing contact will work directly with the vendor/consultant on the terms of the agreement.
- Request that your SRA and/or PI if appropriate be added as a "Stakeholder" to the agreement for status updates.
- Purchasing will sign the agreement and send you a copy once finalized.
- In parallel to the contract initiation in CMS, send a separate email to email@example.com to request the set up of a requisition (e-req) to create a purchase order (PO) for the agreement.
- This message should include: the vendor name, the grant number, the account code (usually 5120 Purchased Services or 5126 Consultants), the time period which should match the agreement, the amount of funding (contract ceiling), and any applicable attachments (agreement if signed).
- If Tufts has not paid the vendor previously, an invitation may need to be sent from Payment Works (our vendor system) to the vendor directly to enter payee information. TSS should manage this process for you, or you can log into Tufts PaymentWorks and send an invitation to the vendor as well. Note that an email address is required, and it will save time if the email address for the PaymentWorks invitation is the person who has bank account information and any other details required for payment.
- E-reqs over $50,000 are automatically routed to the school for approval in addition to Post Award and Purchasing.
- Once purchasing generates and signs the agreement, please send a copy to your SRA for the grant file.
- Once TSS generates the PO, please send a copy to your SRA, and email the PO number to the vendor so they have it to reference on their invoices.
3. I’m working with a vendor. How do I pay their invoice?
Once an agreement is established, PO established, and the vendor has completed work and is starting to submit invoices, the vendor must send invoices directly to firstname.lastname@example.org to kick off the approval and payment process that is administered through the Tufts Medius system. If you were the requestor for the PO, you will receive an email notification with a link to Medius for invoices that require review and approval. You, as a project manager, can handle the approval process, but the PI will need to sign off (either via email or physical signature on the invoice) on all invoices being charged to his/her grants. Once the invoice is approved, it is routed to Accounts Payable through Medius for payment. You can track payment status through PeopleSoft PO Inquiry.
1. I am a PI. How often do I have to certify in ECC?
Principal Investigators (PIs) and anyone with a faculty title certify their Individual Statements after-the-fact on an annual basis covering the preceding academic year (September – August). Additionally, PIs are required to certify Project Statements for each internal grant number on which students, staff, and/or post-docs are paid on a quarterly basis (academic quarters).
- September – November: certified by PIs in January
- December – February: certified by PIs in April
- March – May: certified by PIs in July
- June – August: certified by PIs in October
2. What do I do if the Project Statement or Individual Statement I am reviewing seems incorrect?
By the time you are reviewing your Project Statement or Individual Statement, it has already been reviewed by the School’s finance staff to ensure accuracy of non-sponsored labor allocations and by your research administrator to ensure accuracy of sponsored labor allocations. In light of this, please first reach out to your research administrator to clarify any questions you may have about the information as presented and we will be happy to either explain or facilitate any necessary revision.
1. How do I calculate a day rate from annual salary?
To calculate a daily rate, divide an annual salary by 260 days (52 weeks times 5 days per week).
Even though budgets should be built on the institutional base salary times a percentage of effort devoted to the project (out of 100% level of effort), in rare cases PIs may be asked to present a budget based on a daily rate calculation as opposed to a percentage of effort. It is important to remember that a daily rate is only a mathematical presentation and Tufts effort tracking systems does not track effort in days. When presenting a budget using a daily rate, a statement about institutional practices must clearly indicate that the number of days is presented for illustrative purposes and the effort will be tracked in percentage and then converted to days.
2. How do I hire someone who lives abroad?
The global employment environment is complex and the employment laws in foreign countries are typically designed to protect the employee, not employer. Hiring remote workers abroad can be more challenging (and possibly pricier) than a standard hire, so work with your SRA on the budgeting aspect. Tufts Global Operations is the most appropriate unit to answer your question regarding the total costs and the lead time needed prior to the start date. Together with HR, Tufts Global Ops makes recommendation on how to design the hiring process as well as the employment relationship compliantly. When it comes to hiring abroad, do not cut corners at the cost of violating laws. It is not the Tufts way of doing business and it will guarantee to come back and bite.
3. Where is Tufts registered as an employer globally?
Contact Tufts Global Operations for an up-to-date information.
What do I if my program officer says they will be auditing my project?
If you are contacted directly about an audit (either programmatic or financial), please refer such request to Meryem Ould-Sfiya of Research Administration Compliance and Risk Management in the Division of Finance before scheduling any visits or releasing any documents. Whether it is an annual Uniform Guidance audit or a sponsor-requested audit, Research Administration Compliance and Risk Management will coordinate the response with the Post-Award unit and notify the Friedman School of an action plan.
Can I charge long-term visas to my research grant?
Visa costs can and should be identified in the proposal budget as a direct cost and justified in the budget justification as to why it is necessary for the performance of and allocable to the project. These costs are necessary for individuals who are expected to work on the project and must be allocated in the same proportion as the salary requested. If an unbudgeted visa cost is required after an award is funded, the Principal Investigator (PI) will work with their assigned Senior Research Administrator (SRA) to ensure the allocability and allowability of the visa cost for the specific award prior to incurring the expense.
- Federal funds – Short-term and travel visa costs for a specific period and purpose are generally allowable direct costs. Longer term, non-immigrant visas are allowable only when considered as part of initial recruitment costs as defined and described in the Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR § 200.463(d) (See here). Renewal fees associated with longer term visas are not an allowable direct cost.
- Non-federal funds – To maintain consistency in treatment of costs, non-federal funds are managed the same as federal funds unless the specific award terms and conditions allow the visa cost or specific approval is obtained from sponsor to charge the visa cost other than for recruitment purposes.
As a Principal Investigator, how do I talk about indirect costs with prospective sponsors of my research?
We get it. You know your direct costs inside out and can straightforwardly defend every dollar of each line item in a phone conversation with the program officer. However, when it comes to explaining indirect costs, it’s not so straightforward. Perhaps you secretly wish that this big chunk of funds can stay on your budget to support one more dissemination trip or one more sub-study instead of being requested as indirect costs (or overhead, or facilities and administration or F&A). Or perhaps your sixth sense is telling you that the sponsor will kill your project for the cost. But you shouldn’t think that way. Here’s why.
First, let’s agree that these indirect costs are real, necessary and significant. Research at Tufts University cannot be conducted outside of the appropriate physical, managerial and regulatory compliant environment regardless of the funding source, whether federally funded or non-federally funded. To achieve the appropriate research environment, the University (or the Friedman School) incurs these costs with the goals to:
- Maintain/upkeep of physical infrastructure (depreciation, operations and maintenance, utilities, costs of capital)
- Run research, computational, and communication resources (library, database resources, computing resources, technical and technological support)
- Manage the institution (financial, accounting, human resource management, purchasing, insurance, legal, safety, senior management)
- Operate the research enterprise (proposal development, agreement or contract negotiation, research information systems, regulatory compliance of human subject, animal care, environmental hazard, national security, controlled goods, export controls)
- Handle research outputs such as intellectual property or technology transfer
Falling behind in funding indirect costs will impede the School’s ability to adequately invest in, or sustain, a viable research environment, and will end up negatively impacting faculty/researcher productivity. Indirect costs are not profit; instead they are part of the real costs of conducting the outside funded sponsored activity.
Second, we understand that some sponsors are not willing to fully fund indirect costs and have written policies indicating this is the case. To balance the need to recoup these real costs, the Friedman School has developed guidance on the application of indirect costs for sponsored activities. Please always first contact your assigned Senior Research Administrator (SRA) for proposal budget development guidance. We are happy to communicate directly with sponsors to explain what these costs are, how they are calculated, and why they are necessary. However, we understand there are circumstances in which you may need to have an initial budget conversation with a sponsor and indirect cost questions may arise. Here are some main points you should know and feel comfortable sharing.
- The University's federally negotiated indirect cost rate for sponsored research on the Boston campus is 65% of modified total direct costs. This rate is applicable regardless of the type of organization funding the sponsored activity.
- Principal Investigators across Tufts University do not have the authority to agree to or negotiate with sponsors any indirect cost rate other than the applicable federally negotiated rate.
- Certain sponsors may have a written indirect cost limitation. In these cases, approval for a planned submission must be sought by the submitting PI, working with your assigned SRA, from the School's Executive Administrative Dean in advance of any substantial scope of work development.