Computing Devices

Last updated on January 30, 2017

Defines computing devices as supplies and allowable as a direct cost when the device is used to advance the aims of the project, but may be used for other purposes as well.

UCSF Summary (click to expand)

Computing Devices are machines that cost less than $5,000* and are used to acquire, store, analyze, process, and publish data and other information electronically, including accessories (or “peripherals”) for printing, transmitting and receiving, or storing electronic information.
Charging computing devices as direct costs is allowable for devices that are:

  • essential to performing the work
  • allocable (provide benefit), but are not exclusive, to the performance of a federal award or soley dedicated to the performance of the federal award.

The project must not have reasonable access to other devices or equipment that can achieve the same purpose; devices may not be purchased for reasons of convenience or preference.

* There is no change in policy regarding treatment of items over $5,000. If the acquisition cost of a computer is greater than $5,000 (and has useful life of more than 1 year), it should be categorized as computing equipment. See the BUS-29: Management and Control of University Equipment for more information regarding capital equipment.

Application at UCSF (click to expand)

The Uniform Guidance is effective for federally sponsored agreements and new funding increments awarded on or after December 26, 2014. Federal awards received before December 26, 2014 must continue to follow the requirements in OMB A-21 and UCSF Policy.

Determining whether a computing device is essential – The Principal Investigator should consider (and document) whether performing the work under the award without the computing device would be difficult and inefficient. An important measure of this is determining (and documenting) whether the anticipated cost of performing the work without the computing device is greater than the combined cost of performing the work plus the cost of acquiring the computing device.

Determining whether a computing device is allocable to a federal award – If a computing device is essential to a federal award it is allocable to that award. The total cost may be allocated to the benefiting federal award – even when its usage is not solely dedicated to the award. The Principal Investigator (PI) and department administration should use the most reasonable allocation method and ensure that there is proper documentation that accurately reflects the PI’s judgment.

Determining whether the cost of a computing device is reasonable – The Principal Investigator must make an informed, prudent decision taking into consideration not only the cost, but the utility, quality and value of the device to the project.
If a computing device is not essential to a federal award, it is not allocable (in whole or in part) as a direct cost to that award. In such cases, the computing device is considered to be a “general use” item and must be treated as an indirect cost expense (just like paper, pens and other general use supplies) and charged to an appropriate institutional funding source.

When submitting the proposal, the budget justification should explain how the computing devices will be used to advance the aims of the project.

Agency Specific Guidelines (click to expand)

• National Science Foundation - Grant Proposal Guide
Chapter II.C.2.g(vi)(a), Materials and Supplies
• National Institutes of Health - Grants Policy Statement
Part II, Section 7.9 Allowability of Costs/Activities