Office Supplies

Guideline Date: April 2015     Revision: 1     Last Review: August 2017

Why are office supplies normally charged as indirect costs?

General office supplies incurred for administrative and supporting services that benefit common or joint departmental activities in departments and organized research units will not be allowed as a direct charge to a federal award. Since office supplies cannot be readily identified with a specific project at a high degree of accuracy, they are considered an indirect cost.

Examples of office supplies that may be charged as a direct cost:

  • Material required for poster or publication preparation, e.g., poster board, photographic supplies or color paper for a presentation that is directly attributed to the sponsored project.

If you plan to charge office supplies as a direct cost:

If the expense is anticipated, include it in the budget and budget justification at the proposal stage. Provide a detailed explanation of the way the supply benefits the specific sponsored project. Prior sponsor approval is required prior to purchasing the supply. The principal investigator is responsible for maintaining this documentation for six years after the end date of the project. Auditors often ask for procedures of controlled access to or documented use of supplies.