Sponsored project expenses should be paid by check or wire directly whenever possible. However, to ensure the efficient operation of an international research project on a sponsored award, project cash advances are sometimes required. Project cash advances are issued primarily to Tufts employees, and, on an exception basis, to subcontractors and consultants on sponsored projects. Such exceptions require the approval of the VP Finance & Treasurer or designee. It is essential that such approvals be prompt, and an initial approval can suffice for a series of payments.
Project advances are used to pay expenses incurred while conducting research activities abroad, such as the cost of supplies, interpreters, guides, consultants and data collectors. The Project Advance Form is prepared to request a project cash advance. The form is on the SPA and TSS web sites (see links under “Related Information” below). The amount of any project advance should be limited to an amount necessary to minimize the risk of loss. An advance should not exceed three months of anticipated expenditures.
Requesting an Advance
1. The Principal Investigator (PI) notifies the Department Research Administrator that a project cash advance is needed. The PI provides the Department Research Administrator with a breakdown of the cash advance based on the project budget and the period of time the advance will cover.
2. The Department Research Administrator reviews the advance request to ensure that anticipated expenses agree with the project budget and that there are sufficient funds to cover the advance.
3. The Department Research Administrator prepares the Project Advance Form using the appropriate account number (account 2349 should always be used), department and grant number.
4. The Project Advance Form is approved by a supervisor with budgetary authority, or, if the advance is over $25,000, by the Executive Administrative Dean
5. The Department Research Administrator forwards the completed Project Advance Form, along with supporting documentation as required (including a completed Wire Transfer Request form when a wire is requested) to Sponsored Programs Accounting (SPA). If the advance request is over $100,000 it must be approved by the Associate Vice Provost for Research. SPA will obtain this approval as appropriate.
6. The project advance form and supporting documentation are forwarded to TSS for processing after SPA has approved the request.
Security of Sponsored Cash Advance Funds
The Department Research Administrator will consult with Treasury Operations to determine the best method for making the funds available. This may involve establishing a separate bank account in the University’s name. The approval of the VP of Finance and Treasurer is required to establish a bank account in the University’s name and to designate authorized signers. Where it is not possible or practical to establish a separate bank account in the University’s name, establishing a separate personal bank account in the name of the recipient of the advance may be appropriate.
Using Cash Advances While Traveling
While traveling, the recipient of the cash advance should, whenever possible, obtain original, detailed receipts for all expenses paid from the advance. The traveler should carry a blank receipt book for those instances where vendors are unable to provide their own receipts. The receipt should include a description of the purchase, the dollar amount, the date of purchase, the vendor name and signature of the sales person.
In circumstances where acquiring receipts are not possible, the advance recipient shall maintain a log of incidental expenses. The log should provide the payee, date, approximate time, amount paid, description of the item, and a brief justification of the purchase. The log will serve as a substitute for receipts in these instances.
Maintaining Cash Safely
The recipient of a project advance must exercise prudence in safeguarding cash received and may be held responsible for any loss due to negligence. The recipient must keep all cash in a secure location, preferably in a safe or locked box. Access to the safe or locked box should be restricted to the recipient of the project advance. If either of these options is unavailable, the advance recipient shall secure the funds with the resources available. The recipient of an advance is required to submit a security plan along with advance requests greater than $5,000. The University maintains a relationship with SOS for consultation regarding security when traveling abroad (see link under “Related Information” below).
Reconciliation and Documentation of Cash Advance Expenditures
The recipient of the cash advance is responsible for providing the Department Research Administrator with prompt and regular reporting of expenditures made from the cash advance. The recipient will provide the Department Research Administrator with a detailed report, which includes a description of each expense, expense account numbers, department and grant numbers for each expense, together with the receipts. Reports and receipts must be submitted monthly within 45 days of the end of the month in which the expenses were paid. The Departmental Research Administrator will review the documentation received from the recipient to ensure compliance with Tufts and sponsor guidelines. When all the documentation is complete, it is forwarded to SPA for a second review and processing.
SPA may not release additional project cash advances until this policy has been complied with respect to a previous advance.
If a bank account is set up in the University’s name to manage project cash advances, the Department Research Administrator will monitor bank accounts established (obtaining online access if possible) and reconcile bank statements monthly. The Department Research Administrator will forward bank statements and reconciliations to SPA as part of the monthly documentation for the project advance reconciliation.
The recipient of the advance is responsible for repayment of any unused funds. The recipient will return funds to the University via a check made payable to “Trustees of Tufts College” and deliver it to the Departmental Research Administrator. The Departmental Research Administrator will forward the check to SPA for deposit. The School is responsible for any expenses not approved by SPA or documented by the recipient.