500.14 Cash Advances

Responsible Officer: Director
Responsible Unit: Research Administration
Effective date: July 1, 2008
Last revised on: August 28, 2017

Policy Statement

The University has the ability to advance cash for activities related to a sponsored project utilizing unrestricted, university funds. Cash Advances are to be made only for business expenses incurred by or on behalf of an employee in their capacity as such. The Cash Advance is reconciled to project funds once the cash has been utilized and the expenses are reviewed for allowability. Advances are strictly limited to two types of activities: 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; or, providing advanced funds to collaborating institutions unable to support a system of cost-reimbursement for payment.

These types of payments are only for business expenses incurred by or under the supervision of employees in their capacity of completing work on behalf of the University. The request for a Cash Advance must be authorized by the Project Director or Principal Investigator (PD/PI) or their designee. Examples of such types of expenses include study subject compensation, extended field work in remote locations, certain travel expenses, collaborating institutions requiring advanced payment, and other exceptional circumstances.

The Cash Advance process is owned by UNC Finance Division (Finance), however, any advances involving a sponsored project require additional oversight by the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR). For policy on non-sponsored projects Cash Advances please see the Finance Policies and Procedures Manual.

Expectations of Cash Advance management:

  • All advances must be reconciled within 60 days after receipt of the advance.
  • A project can only have two outstanding advances at a time.
  • Advances to a third-party institution or University foreign facility will not exceed two months of that institution’s operating cash.
  2. Requests for a Cash Advance are created by selecting the appropriate transaction based on the method of payment. Options include a voucher transaction and wire transfer. A payment is then provided leveraging unrestricted, non-project resources. The advance is made payable to an individual or institution and is considered a loan.

    The requestor and the project’s PD/PI are responsible for management of open Cash Advances. All required documentation for the transaction must be submitted with the request. Projects are limited to two open Cash Advances at a time. Additional advances will only be approved once one of the two outstanding Cash Advances have been reconciled.

  4. Reconciliation is the responsibility of the Departmental Administrator, PD/PI, and the recipient of the Cash Advance. Open advances are reconciled once the funds have been spent and the open advance had been reconciled in the University’s financial system.

    The department submits documentation for the use of the cash, detailed receipt information for the expenses, and any other required documentation. Any unspent cash is to be returned to the University during this process. OSR reviews the documentation and transaction details to confirm that expenses meet all applicable regulations regarding allowability. OSR Pre-Audit technicians provide the final approval for the reconciliation transaction. If approved, the Cash Advance expenses are moved to the correct budget account code and the advance is closed.

Reason for Policy

Cash Advances are required to allow for business to be conducted in specific situations. It is necessary to determine the acceptable circumstances to use this process and the methods which they must be managed.

Procedures and Related Policies

Office of Sponsored Research: Policy 500.14, Pro.1: Cash Advance Request & Reconciliation

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


For questions regarding this policy and its related procedure, please contact ResAddminOSR@unc.edu. For questions regarding Pre-Award management or Post-Award administration, please contact the assigned Sponsored Programs Specialist. For invoicing, reporting and other financial matters, please contact the assigned Sponsored Projects Accountant. OSR Staff assignments may be found in RAMSeS or on the OSR website.


Revision History

08/28/2017 Revised policy to clarify expectations of cash advance management, updated hyperlinks to Procedures and Related Policies, and Contacts.

01/06/2011 Revised policy to clarify authorization required by Principal Investigator.

05/30/2010 Revised policy to conform to Finance revised Policy 307 – Cash Advance.

12/22/2009 Revised policy to include the compensation threshold that must be reported to Accounting Services.

09/04/2009 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.