Responsible Officer: Director

Responsible Unit: Award Management

Effective date: July 1, 2008

Last revised on: August 25, 2017

Policy Statement

The University generally does not advance cash for work performed on sponsored projects. However, cash advances may be permitted in the following circumstances: nominal study subject payments, extended field trips to remote locations, certain other travel, and other exceptional activities. The PI or the PI’s designee must authorize the request for a cash advance by signing the Application for Advancement of Contracts & Grants Funds (make this a hyperlink). Advances are strictly limited to those circumstances requiring cash payments of dollar amounts that are too small to justify the use of an imprest bank account and are intended for a one time purpose and short periods of time. The expenditure object code 8511 is designated for these types of advances.

Compensation for human subjects of sponsored research is generally defined in the initial consent form and can be distributed by various means.

Documentation of disbursements to study subjects is essential to ensure that the University meets federal requirements, including those of the IRS. In addition, PIs are required to supervise the maintenance of all records regarding study subjects, including the subject’s name and/or Social Security number. By December 31st of each year, the PI is required to provide Procurement Services the name, tax ID, and home address of anyone receiving such compensation when the amount of compensation exceeds $200.

I. Cash Advance for Gift Card Purchases or Study Subject Payment

The advance is made payable to the principal investigator or study coordinator and is considered a loan for which he/she is responsible for managing. The advance should be reconciled within 60 days.

The use of gift cards offers a convenient and safe way to provide compensation. Since gift cards are considered compensation to the study subject, reporting is required (receipts, etc., as mentioned above). They must be reconciled within 60 days. There can be no more than two outstanding advances at one time. IF NOT reconciled in a timely manner, the employee to whom check is made “payable to” will be subject to having the outstanding amount drafted from the employee’s salary.

II. Wire Transfer

A cash advance requesting a wire transfer of funds should be for no more than two months of operating cash (unless accompanied by supporting documentation). This type of cash advance should be reconciled within 60 days. The department will provide OSR with expenditure documentation, including original detailed signed receipts, study subject identification numbers, etc. for proper review and entry into accounting records. Requests for replenishment will not be approved without proper reconciliation.

Reason for Policy

This policy explains the various methods by which cash payments may be made on sponsored research accounts.

Procedures and Related Policies

The Finance Division, is the primary source for addressing questions about accounting details for establishing, monitoring and payment of study subjects through imprest bank accounts, gift cards and the like. Inquiries of this nature should be addressed directly to this division.

Finance Division: Policy 306 Imprest Checking (Bank) Accounts
Finance Division: Procedure 306.1 Establishing an Imprest Checking (Bank) Account
Finance Division: Policy 307 Cash Advance
OSR Policy 500.14, Pro-1 Cash Advance Request & Reconciliation


Questions and concerns can be submitted online at Ask OSR or by using the OSR staff directory. Within RAMSeS, the “Speak to Someone” option assists in locating the staff member best suited to address project-specific issues.


Research Administration Glossary at Carolina
1. Finance Division Policies and Procedures Manual

Revision History

08/25/2017 Revised policy to clarify reconciliation timeframe.
01/06/2011 Revised policy to clarify authorization required by Principal Investigator.
05/30/2010 Revised policy to conform to Finance Division newly revised Policy 307 – Cash Advance.
12/22/2009 Revised policy to include the compensation threshold that must be reported to Accounting Services.
9/4/2009 Changed title of policy from Compensation for Study Subjects to Cash Advances to reflect additional types of requests for advances.

The policies in the Office of Sponsored Research Policies & Procedures Manual supersede any OSR policies, procedures and appendices previously included in the University Business Manual, a publication of UNC Chapel Hill’s Division of Finance.