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Cost Allowability for Sponsored Charges

Please note: The Expense topics below are under review. Revised content will be highlighted when published. Please contact for assistance on urgent issues.

In determining whether it is appropriate to charge a given cost to a sponsored project, Northwestern follows the federal principles outlined in 2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance), including the Cost Accounting Standards contained therein, as well as specific terms and conditions of individual sponsored agreements.

For a given cost to be charged to a sponsored account, the cost must be reasonable, allowable, allocable, and consistently applied. Please see the Charging Sponsored Projects policy for more information about how these criteria are defined. Special circumstances may apply depending on the sponsor's terms and conditions. If you have questions regarding the allowability of a specific charge, please contact your Grant and Contract Financial Administrator (GCFA).

Tools and Templates for Best Practices

Developed by various units, the following tools facilitate the justification of charging sponsored projects.

A selection of the unallowable costs are listed below.

  • Advertising and public relation costs (with specific exceptions)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Alumni activities
  • Bad debts
  • Commencement costs
  • Contributions and donations
  • Entertainment
  • Fines and penalties
  • Goods and services for personal use
  • Housing and personal living expenses
  • Interest, fund raising and investment management costs
  • Lobbying
  • Memberships in country clubs, social, dining, or civic organizations
  • Marketing