The Supplies & Materials budget category applies to consumable supplies, regardless of cost, and equipment with a unit value of under $5,000 or a useful life of under two years. Supplies should be listed by general type such as chemicals or glassware.
General office supplies, such as paper, staples, pencils and pens and non-capital equipment such as calculators and printers, are generally not allowable on federal grants unless they can be directly allocated to specific project and are fully explained in the budget justification. This budget category can be supported by general descriptions of the type of supplies included and a best estimate of their cost.
If the awarded budget includes general office supplies, the department must complete a CAS form.
Under the OMB Uniform Guidance, computing devices are allowable direct costs on federal awards if the devices are “essential and allocable,” and they do not have to be solely dedicated to the project. Computing devices are defined as machines 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.
Duke has determined that cell phones do not meet the definition above and are unallowable as direct costs on federal awards except in exceptional circumstances. Best practice would dictate that purchases of cell phones on Federal Grants should be budgeted and well justified in the proposal.
General purpose supplies and local telephone services
The University provides general office and data processing equipment and supplies to its faculty and staff. Only supplies and equipment which will be used for grant activities can be considered a direct cost and the expense must be clearly justified.
Local telephone service is a departmental administrative cost, however, if a phone or line can be identified exclusively with a project and will only be used for research or project activities, permission may be secured to charge the line as a direct cost. Examples of services which would meet the criteria are:
- a modem used for twenty-four hour collection of seismic data from around the country
- a hot-line reserved for participants on a research study
By contrast, providing a phone for a new member of a research team is an expense which the university should cover with unit funds.