Purpose of the Policy
Definition of Amherst College Faculty Research Support Funds
Expenses that May Be Charged to Research Support Accounts and Expenses that May Not
Ownership of "Durable Assets" Purchased with Research Support Funds
Salaries and Wages
Research Travel and Business-Related Entertainment
Child Care and other Dependent Care Costs
Gifts and Other
Departure of Faculty Members from the College
Avoiding Personal Tax Implications

Purpose of this Policy
This policy outlines how college research funds can be spent—i.e., which expenses may be charged against faculty research accounts—to ensure that expenses are recorded in an accurate and timely manner and that the college complies with tax regulations under the Internal Revenue Code.  Please note: this policy does not address research expenses that are being supported through external funding, such as grants (as specified by the college and federal guidelines). 

Definition: Amherst College Faculty Research Funds 
The college allocates research funds to individual faculty and to departments to support the Amherst faculty’s research and other scholarly activities.  This funding includes “start-up funds,” Faculty Research Award Program (FRAP) funds, Special Faculty Research funds, the provost’s annual allocation for faculty travel and research, and department funds.

Which Expenses May Be Charged to Research Accounts and Which May Not?
Faculty research support funds cannot be used to supplement a faculty member’s academic-year salary, to cover personal expenses, or for summer salary support.  Unlike compensation, faculty research support funds generally are not subject to personal income tax (see information about avoiding person tax implications below) . All expenditures that are charged to faculty research support funds must be fully documented, and specific reference to the research or scholarly activity being conducted must be provided.   

Typical Expenses Charged to Faculty Research Fund Accounts
Examples of expenses that are often charged to faculty research fund accounts include salary and fringe benefits for research assistants; equipment, professional travel, books, journals, memberships in professional societies, and electronic resources; laboratory, studio, and office supplies; and services purchased from research support facilities.  Please note that any payment to an independent contractor or a vendor for services needs to be made directly by the college through Amherst’s accounts payable office.  These expenses are not eligible for reimbursement.

Durable Assets 
What are They, and Can They Be Purchased with Research Funds?
Certain “durable assets” may be purchased using research funds.  For this purpose, durable assets are defined as tangible goods that yield service or benefits over a number of years.  Examples of durable assets include scientific equipment, iPads, and computers.  Durable assets purchased with faculty research support funds are the property of Amherst College.

Unallowable Durable Assets
The following durable assets normally may not be purchased with faculty research support funds: furniture and furnishings, rare books (defined as books with a purchase price above $500), works of art, academic regalia, and costs associated with home Internet access or cell phone plans/calls, including overage charges.  EXCEPTIONS REQUIRE PRIOR WRITTEN APPROVAL BY THE PROVOST AND DEAN OF THE FACULTY.  In the rare instances in which such exceptions are granted, approval will be based on a determination that the purchase is a legitimate and necessary research or scholarly expense, and the “asset” must be inventoried, as described above.

Who Owns and Retains Durable Assets Purchased with Research Funds?
Again, durable assets purchased with faculty research support funds are the property of Amherst College.  Most items will be inventoried, and an Amherst College property sticker will be issued.  This sticker must be affixed to the equipment in a visible or accessible location. If a faculty member, upon leaving the college or upon retirement, wishes to acquire equipment or other items of value that were purchased with faculty research support funds, the faculty member should contact Steven Hegarty, director of academic finance, by email or phone (ext. 5937).  Items determined to be eligible for purchase may be acquired at fair market value. Note that due to licensing restrictions, college-issued computers and tablets are not available for resale.

Some Details about Supplies
Laboratory and office supplies may be a significant expense, particularly for research conducted in the sciences and performing arts. All lab, studio, and office supplies purchased with faculty research support funds must be clearly documented as research or scholarly costs. The college has negotiated competitive prices for lab and office supplies with several vendors. For more information on vendor partners, please consult the Procurement Services website.

Some Things to know about Salary and Wages
If faculty research support funds are used to fund a research position, the prospective employee must be informed, in writing, that funding is temporary and that there is no commitment of employment after the funding is exhausted or the specific research project is completed. Human Resources and the faculty member’s home department should be contacted for specific hiring information.  Funds must be adequate to cover salary, accrued vacation, and associated fringe benefit costs, as determined through the fringe benefit rate established by the college.

Using Funds for Research Travel and Business-Related Entertainment
Expenses relating to research travel and entertainment must follow the Amherst College Reimbursement Policy for Travel, Business, and Entertainment Spending. These guidelines are available online.

Effective immediately, reimbursement using a per diem rate (see below) will be an option for meals and incidental expenses only for internal college funding awards (annual travel and research, start-up, Faculty Research Award Program [FRAP], Special Faculty Research, and Gregory S. Call student travel) and external grant awards (e.g., NSHF, NIH, NASA, ACS-PRF, Mellon) to Amherst faculty. 

Travel within Thirty Days
Faculty may select one of the following methods for payment of meal expenses while traveling for research, scholarship, or creative work that is funded by the college through an internal award or through an external grant:

Reimbursement/payment for reasonable, actual meal expenses; or the Meals and Incidental Expense (“M&IE”) per diem allowance for the location of travel, as published (by applicable time period): Domestic Per Diem or Foreign Per Diem.  Note: the domestic per diem rates include tips for services as incidental expenses (but not laundry and dry cleaning).  The international per diem rates include laundry, dry cleaning, and tips.

As a guideline, if using actual meal expenses, those expenses should not be greater than the applicable per diem allowance.  All reimbursements for actual expenses incurred must continue to meet the spending allowances of any specific grant, agency, and/or Amherst College policy.

These two methods may not be combined for the same trip.

Travel That Exceeds Thirty Days  
When research requires travel in a distant location for periods that exceed thirty days, it is expected that travelers will be able to find less expensive meal options (e.g., groceries).  Therefore, reimbursement for meals and incidental expenses for travel that exceeds thirty days is permitted only up to 50 percent of the current published federal per diem rates for M&IE at that location for the applicable time, available at domestic per diem or foreign per diem, for the number of days that meals and incidental expenses are incurred.  These reimbursement limits apply for the entire duration of the trip, not just for the portion of the trip that exceeds thirty days.

Child Care and other Dependent Care Costs
Please consult with the director of academic finance or the provost if your childcare responsibilities will require taking your child with you on business travel.  In some circumstances, with prior approval, the provost’s office may be able to provide extra compensation to offset these costs. Please note that an extra compensation payment is taxable.

As stated above, faculty research support funds may not be used to pay for home internet access or cell phone plans/calls.

Gifts and Other
Faculty research support funds may not be used to pay for gifts (for employees or non-employees), donations, flowers, parties, and/or any costs unrelated to faculty research or scholarly activities.

Departure of Faculty Members from the College
Upon the departure of a faculty member from the college, any unspent balances, durable assets, or items of value remain with Amherst College.  Normally, no expenditures may be made from research support funds after the end of an appointment at the college.  Faculty members who are considering leaving Amherst should consult with their department chair and/or the Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty about the disposition of their remaining faculty research support funds.  With written approval from the provost, in advance of retirement, emeritus faculty members may continue to use some unspent balances to support their research and other scholarly activities.

Avoiding Personal Tax Implications
As long as research support funds are used within the guidelines described in the spending policy, there are generally no tax implications for faculty members.  Failure to abide by these guidelines may result in tax consequences, however.  The IRS views faculty research support funds that are used for the direct, personal benefit as additional income and, as a result, requires the college to report the amount on the faculty member’s W-2 form and to withhold taxes.

Steven Hegarty, director of academic finance, is available to answer questions about this policy by email or phone (ext. 5937).

Effective Date: January 1, 2019


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