United States Federal Funding Guidelines

Grants Management Office

Use of Grant Funds

US Federal Government funding agencies have clear guidelines relating to allowable costs. While these may vary slightly from scheme to scheme, there is a clear expectation across all agencies that US Federal funding should not be used to meet the indirect costs of institutions. 

Costs must be:

  • Allowable (see below);
  • Reasonable: ‘prudent person test’ / specific circumstances;
  • Allocable: The cost can be easily identified and assigned to the activity on some reasonable basis; 
  • Incurred solely to advance the work under the sponsored agreement / not for convenience or to cover over-expenditures.

Indirect costs are not allowable costs. The UNSW Account Codes v Indirect Costs Table will assist you in identifying where action must be taken to either seek sponsor approval for expenditure or transfer costs to operating accounts.

What costs are allowable?

US Federal Government funds for a research activity may only be expended on Direct Research Costs.  In some instances your award will be allocable to any direct research costs that can be justified in terms of achieving research results. In most instances, the direct research costs you incur should align to the budget you put forward in your application.

  • The costs must be specifically and readily identifiable to a specific project with a high degree of accuracy.
  • The costs are required by the project scope, due to the project’s special purpose or circumstances.
  • The costs must be specifically budgeted as a line item in the proposal budget and justified in the proposal narrative. 

Indirect Costs

Facilities and Administration (F&A) costs are the infrastructure support or indirect costs that UNSW deducts from grants.  Researchers should request 8% of their budget in F&A costs for all US NIH Awards and 10% for all other US Federal Awards. These percentages will be deducted from your grant at setup.

Facilities and Administration costs are not to be used to support the acquisition of, or provide for depreciation on, any capital expenditures, or support the normal, general operations of foreign and international organisations.


  • The US Federal Government requires you to ‘Fly America’ where possible when booking travel utilising their funding. UNSW travel policy and procedure must also be followed for all travel expenditure incurred.

Time and Effort Reporting

Time and Effort Reporting is required by US federal regulation and University policy for all individuals who are paid from US federally funded projects.

The lead UNSW investigator on the project is responsible for certifying annually that effort supported (paid) by a US federally sponsored project has been performed as promised.(Effort expended in support of a US federally sponsored project  as promised in the proposal, but not paid by the project, should also be verifiable if requested.) 

Anyone certifying effort for another individual must credibly have first hand knowledge of the individual’s actual effort.