Computers and Electronic Devices

As a recipient of Federal Funds, UM is required to adopt costing policies that conform per Federal rules and regulations.  The University's cost accounting practices are declared in the required filing of its Disclosure Statement (DS-2) to the audit agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The DS-2 defines costs that can be directly charged to sponsored programs as being allowable, allocable, reasonable, and consistently applied in like circumstances.  Costs that support sponsored research on an indirect basis are also defined.  Additional applicable Federal guidance in this area is provided in 2 CFR 200.453 of the Uniform Guidance, or OMB Circular A-21 and Circular A-110.

Personal computers

Typically, personal computers and software are considered to be general office supplies and are not normally allowable as direct costs unless the computer/software or electronic device is essential and allocable to the proposed research project. If a computer/software purchase is requested, include the following in the budget justification:

  • Detailed description regarding why the computer/software purchase is essential to complete the objectives of, and allocable to, the proposed project. 
    • Include quantity and unit price, if appropriate.
    • Explain how the cost is:
      • essential to the successful completion of your project
      • specific to the project and the proportionate benefit can be allocated to the project relatively easily and with a high degree of 

      • different from similar items/service routinely provided by your department/unit

  • Verification that the requested computer/software will be purchased in accordance with applicable cost principles.

If not documented in the proposal budget justification, a Cost Allowability Confirmation form (CAS Exception Request) will need to be completed and approved.

Such information will document that the purchase conforms to the cost principles for educational institutions described in  2 CFR 200.453 of the Uniform Guidance or, for ongoing awards, OMB Circular A-21. Costing guidelines specify that charges for computers and laptops must be:

  • Essential to the project;
    • The computer/electronic device must be essential for project activities and its use should be sufficiently tracked during the life of the project.
  • Allocable; and,
    • The principal use of the computer must directly support the purpose, goals, and activities of the funded project.
  • Reasonable.
    • There must be an informed, prudent decision regarding the cost, utility, and value to the project.