Research and Sponsored Projects Manual (RSP)

Effective: 11/1/1996

Revised: 12/3/2015

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RSP 503–02: Sponsored Project Expense Advances


To provide sponsored principal investigators (PIs) and their departments with the necessary guidelines to:

  1. establish an expense advance for sponsored project activities
  2. allow for out-of-pocket expenses related to sponsored projects
  3. safeguard sponsored project expense advance funds and related documents


  4. maintain satisfactory accounting controls.


Financial Services
Office for Research and Sponsored Projects Administration (ORSPA)
Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED) (Finance)
University policy


The efficient operation of a sponsored project sometimes requires availability of funds in advance. The university generally has three types of cash advance mechanisms: (I) sponsored project expense advances; (II) petty cash funds; and (III) travel advances.

  1. Sponsored project expense advances are the only acceptable type of advance to be used on a sponsored project or an Investigator Incentive Award (IIA) account.
  2. For establishing a petty cash fund on a non-sponsored, non-IIA account, see the Financial Services Policy and Procedures ManualFIN 403, “Petty Cash Funds for State and Local Accounts.”
  3. Travel advances for individual travel of ASU staff and students are authorized through Travel Reimbursements. For details, see the policies under FIN 501, “ASU Travel Policy.” For group travel, one employee must be responsible for all expenses.


Establishing a Sponsored Project Expense Advance

Expense advances for a sponsored project may be utilized for approved project purposes. All expense advances must comply with allowable project costs and adhere to university policies.

For additional information see the following:

  • for a description of prohibited purchases, the Financial Services Policy and Procedures ManualFIN 401–03, “Prohibited Transactions”


  • for establishing a petty cash fund on a departmental account, FIN 403, “Petty Cash Funds for State and Local Accounts.” Petty cash may not be used for sponsored or IIA accounts.

Expense advance requests for sponsored projects are authorized by an ORSPA AMT GCO (Award Management Team Grant and Contract Officer), and by the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED) Finance on Investigator Incentive Award (IIA) accounts, and then issued by the Student Business Services division of Financial Services. Expense advances are requested and authorized by completing the “Application for Sponsored Project Expense Advance Form” in the Sponsored Project Expense Advance Forms & Guidance Packet. Once Student Business Services has processed the expense advance application, the custodian will be notified when a check is ready for pick up at Cashiering Services.

A sponsored project expense advance should be limited to:
  1. The shortest period possible to effectively utilize the advance. Typical period duration is six months to one year. Requests for a period longer than one year must be justified and will require OKED director/assistant director approval. Under no circumstances can the expense advance be used past the account end date, and the due date cannot be more than a month after the usage period.


  2. The smallest possible amount necessary that permits efficient use of the expense fund as excessive balances lead to unnecessary risks of loss. Each expense advance is kept by a fund custodian who has sole responsibility for the security of the cash and related documents.

Exception requests to the above restrictions for extenuating circumstances must be reviewed and approved by an ORSPA AMT assistant director, or for IIA accounts, the OKED Finance director.

Responsibility for issuing, monitoring, expending, documenting, clearing, auditing, and securing sponsored project expense advances is a shared effort. Typically the advance custodian, the PI, ORSPA AMT GCO or OKED Finance, Student Business Services, Cashiering Services, and Payables and Reimbursements handle these responsibilities. Additionally, responsibilities for travel advances are shared with the individual traveler, the traveler’s department, and the Travel Reimbursements office.

For detailed instructions regarding how to establish a sponsored project expense advance, see the Research Administration Web site.

Using Expenses Advances while Traveling

Expense Documentation When Traveling

While traveling, the expense advance custodian should obtain receipts for all expenses paid from the advance. Some form of documentation will be required to support every expenditure. However, a per diem rate may be claimed for meals if this meets the sponsor allowability requirements. Generally, it is a good idea for the traveler to take along a blank receipt book in case vendors do not have their own receipts. The description of the payment and the date should be entered on the blank receipt and the vendor should sign the receipt.

Many faculty conduct research in rural or remote locations, often times in foreign countries where local custom may dictate the way negotiations related to commerce take place. For example, the faculty may need to procure an item such as a shed for material storage while in the field and the negotiation may involve bartering rather than payment in cash. These situations are governed by the customs of the local community. In extenuating circumstances, when acquiring hand written receipts is not possible, the PI shall maintain a log of incidental expenses. Use of the “Sponsored Expense Advance Remote Operations Purchases Log” in the Sponsored Project Expense Advance Forms & Guidance Packet is required. The log should provide the date, approximate time, amount paid, item description, and a brief justification of the purchase and will serve as a substitute for receipts in these instances.

Please refer to the U.S. State Department Web site ( for U.S. embassy contact information and additional information about traveling to specific foreign countries.

Payment for Services When Traveling

Payments to individuals for services should be made through ASU Purchasing and/or Accounts Payable whenever feasible (see the Financial Services Policy and Procedures ManualFIN 421-01, “Guest Lecturers, Consultants, and Other Independent Contractors”). If circumstances dictate that payments be made for services outside the U.S., for example to hire interpreters or guides, the following guidelines apply:

  • payments may be made to non-U. S. citizens working outside the U.S.
  • only under unusual circumstances may payments be made to U.S. citizens working outside the U.S.


  • payments cannot be made to ASU employees (including the sponsored expense advance custodian).

Managing and Securing Expense Advances When Traveling

There are a number of tools available to a custodian who is traveling abroad. See the Sponsored Project Expense Advance Forms & Guidance Packet for more information on these options.

Using Expense Advances for Human Subject Payments

Sponsored expense advances may be used to pay individuals participating as human subjects in authorized research. Documentation of subject payments made from sponsored expense advances may include logs signed by the recipients, canceled checks, or similar documentation as permitted by the Human Subject Institutional Review Board. For research studies subject to confidentiality requirements, only reportable payment information must be reported; all confidential documentation must be retained at the project level. Additional accommodation to confidentiality requirements should be discussed with the Tax Unit of Financial Services. Reimbursement of an expense advance should be requested using a PVQ document with expenditure code 7310 96.

For full details and reporting requirements for human subject payments, including the cumulative payment maximum of $600 per calendar year from all research projects, see the Financial Services Policy and Procedures ManualFIN 421–05, “Human Subject Payments.” For additional guidance, see the “OKED Research Integrity and Assurance’s (ORIA) ASU Procedures and Guidance” document on ORIA’s Web site.

Requests for Expense Advance Changes

For detailed instructions regarding how to request changes to an existing sponsored project expense advance, see the Research Administration Web site.

Review of Outstanding Cash Balances

Outstanding sponsored project expense advances are subject to periodic cash reviews by Student Business Services pursuant to this Research and Sponsored Projects (RSP) policy, which can result in the issuance of a deficiency notice if funds are not appropriately safeguarded and accounted for by the custodian.

Documentation of Expense Advance Expenditures and Close-Out

The sponsored expense advance custodian is responsible for prompt and regular clearing of advance amounts. Additional expense advances will usually not be issued to the custodian if previous advances have not been cleared. All sponsored expense advances should be cleared within one month after the expense advance usage end date.

Clearing any type of expense advance requires proper documentation and/or repayment of unused funds. The custodian is responsible for providing documentation of the expenditures made from the expense advance. Such documentation includes original receipts for expenditures, bank statements if applicable, and account reconciliation for outstanding expense advance funds. The custodian must submit all documentation to the Student Business Services division of Financial Services. Student Business Services will sign off and forward the documentation to Accounts Payable for review and processing.

Any project costs that may be advanced but later are disallowed by a sponsor or audit remain the responsibility of the PI. Expense advance expenditures must have adequate supporting documentation in adherence with RSP and Financial Services (FIN) policies and procedures.

An expense advance may be terminated by processing the final reimbursement request through Student Business Services. Remaining money in the fund is deposited with Cashiering Services.

For detailed instructions regarding how to close-out a sponsored project expense advance, see the Research Administration Web site.

Security of Sponsored Expense Advance Funds

Expense advance funds are not to be commingled with any other university or personal funds, (e.g., an employee checking account). It is recommended all personnel expected to handle the expense advance fund review related university policy and complete the cash handling training that is available online via the Financial Controls Web site.

The advance custodian must keep all expense advance funds and related documents in a secure, lockable cash box placed in a locking desk or cabinet. The following guidelines apply:

  • if a safe is available, the cash box should be placed in the safe whenever it is not being accessed. Keys and lock combinations should be restricted to the fund custodian


  • if in a remote location and a safe or locking device is unavailable, the fund custodian shall secure the funds in a safe area within the limited resources that may be available.

A reconciliation of the expense advance should be done every time an expense reimbursement is made, or at least on a monthly basis. The amount of cash on hand plus receipts/related documents should equal the expense advance total. If a discrepancy is noted, the organization manager or authorized signer of the account should be notified.

If the expense advance fund is lost or stolen, the fund custodian is responsible for filing a report with ASU’s Police Department (ASU PD). Insurance Services and Safety Services reviews all reports of lost or stolen cash to determine whether an insurance claim can be filed. Although Insurance Services and Safety Services receives copies of all cash loss reports from ASU PD, the fund custodian must also contact Insurance Services and Safety Services to determine the status of the theft claim or loss.

A new expense advance fund may be established after Student Business Services is satisfied that the fund custodian has implemented procedures to prevent further thefts. If the theft or loss does not qualify for insurance recovery, the amount of the theft or loss is charged to the fund custodian directly or to the employee’s departmental account, as decided on a case-by-case basis.

There are a number of tools available to a custodian who is traveling abroad. For more information on these options, see the Sponsored Project Expense Advance Forms & Guidance Packet.


For more information on human subjects in research, see:

  1. RSP 201-01, “Human Subjects in Research”


  2. the Financial Services Policies and Procedures Manual—FIN 421–05, “Human Subject Payments”

For more information on cash handling, payments to individuals for services, petty cash funds, and prohibited transactions, see the Financial Services Policies and Procedures Manual:

  1. FIN 305, “Deposits at University Cashiering Services”
  2. FIN 421–01, “Guest Lecturers, Consultants, and Other Independent Contractors”
  3. FIN 403, “Petty Cash Funds for State and Local Accounts”


  4. FIN 401–03,“Prohibited Transactions”

For more information about travel on sponsored projects, see:

  1. RSP 504, “Travel”


  2. the Financial Services Policies and Procedures Manual:FIN 501, “ASU Travel Policy”

Additional Information

For additional information on cash handling, see the “Cash and Check Receipting Procedures” on the Financial Services Best Practices Web page.

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