Payroll Expenses


Payroll expenses include salary and wages paid to an employee in relation to the level of effort the employee devotes on a Research Foundation grant or contract, plus the corresponding fringe benefit costs.  The rate for which fringe benefits is charged depends on the appointment type of the employee.  Click here to view the current fringe benefit rates.

An employee can be appointed to a RF grant or contract provided the person or position is outlined in the budget, there is sufficient funding to support the payroll expenses, and the dates of the appointment fall within the dates of the award.

Types of Appointments

Professional - A person employed in an executive, administrative, or professional position who is exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Nonprofessional - A person employed in a clerical, technical, or administrative position who is covered by the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Student - A graduate or undergraduate student performing research on a RF grant or contract.  Note that the employee must be registered as a full time SUNY student.

Summer Only - Assignments that occur between May 1 and September 30 and do not exceed four months in duration.  SUNY faculty employees are eligible for summer session employment with the Research Foundation only during periods that do not overlap with their academic year obligation.

Extra Service - Intra university consulting is assumed to be undertaken as a university obligation requiring no compensation in addition to full time base salary.  This principle also applies to faculty members who function as consultants or otherwise contribute to a sponsored agreement conducted by another faculty member of the same institution.  However, in some instances extra service may be considered provided that the following criteria are met and can be properly documented:

  • The work performed is clearly different from or in addition to the person's professional obligation,
  • The work performed is outside of regularly scheduled hours,
  • The work is across departmental lines or involves a separate or remote operating location,
  • The extra service is specifically provided for in the agreement or approved in writing by the sponsoring agency,
  • The payment conforms to and is properly authorized under SUNY and Research Foundation  policy, and
  • The employment complies with RF position titles and standards, as well as federal and state laws and regulations regarding tax information.

In accordance with federal guidelines and SUNY regulations, compensation for extra service must not exceed an amount equal to 20 percent of regular base salary rate in any academic year or 12-month period.  All university and sponsor approvals must be obtained prior to any commitments or work being performed.

Academic Fellowship - Nonwage payments in support of the recipient's academic study or fellow-initiated research and in recognition of the recipient's promise as a research or teaching scholar.  Fellowship awards administered by the Research Foundation on behalf of SUNY are for scholarly study or research by faculty members, postdoctoral scholars, and undergraduate and graduate students at a SUNY campus or at other locations in conjunction with SUNY academic programs.  Fellowships are allowed only when the purpose of the sponsored agreement is to provide training and the sponsoring agency has given prior approval.


Release Time - The process by which a faculty member is released from his/her academic duties to devote effort to a research grant or contract.  The grant or contract will reimburse the University for the portion of their released academic duties.  For more information, visit our release time appointment page on the tab above.

Labor Distribution

Labor Distribution (LD) is the process that distributes payroll charges/effort to the appropriate RF grants and contracts.  This function is distinct and separate from the payroll process that produces employee earnings.  A Labor Distribution Form should be utilized to extend an employee on the appropriate grants or contracts provided there are no payroll or HR changes being requested.  An Employee Change Form should be used to request payroll/HR changes, which can be found on the forms page for Research Foundation Human Resources.  A form to extend an employee's LD should be submitted two weeks prior to the conclusion of the previous charging instructions.

Payroll Suspense

It is critical that appropriate charging instructions are provided in a timely manner for all employees.  When an employee remains on payroll, but has no valid charging instructions, the employee's payroll charges will go into suspense.  In these situations, the program MUST act immediately to provide an appropriate account for covering the payroll expenses.  If the program is waiting for a grant or contract to be awarded, they can:

  • Request that an at-risk award be established (contact your Research Administrator in the Office for Sponsored Programs),
  • Charge the employee's payroll costs to a non-sponsored award (multiple sponsor, FRAP, Research Foundation incentive award) or
  • Remove the employee from payroll


It is not permissible at any time to allow an employee's charges to remain in suspense.  If no charging instructions are provided, Sponsored Funds Personnel will be notified that funds are no longer available to continue supporting the employee's appointment.


NSF salary limitation - The National Science Foundation now limits salary compensation for senior project personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year.  This limit includes salary compensation received from all NSF-funded grants.  This change moves away from NSF's previous concept of summer salary and allows for reimbursement of two months of salary per year whenever appropriate during the year.

NIH salary limitation - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) limit the amount of direct salary an individual may receive under an NIH grant.  For FY 2016, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113), signed into law on December 18, 2015, restricts the amount of direct salary to Executive Level II of the Federal Executive pay scale. The Executive Level II salary is currently set at $183,300, increasing to $185,100 effective January 10, 2016.

Payroll cost transfers- Click here to view our Cost Transfer Policy.

Nepotism - The University's nepotism policy states that federal laws under which federal funds are made available to the University contain specific requirements for the administration of these funds in order to preclude "conflict of interest" practices, that is, practices where there seems to be evidence that responsible officials have afforded their relatives preferential treatment in hiring and promotion.  University policy does not preclude the employment of two or more members of the same family.  However, an employee of the University may not officially approve nor recommend the appointment, reappointment, promotion, or salary adjustment of a relative.  Prior to employment, the appointment of a family member on a sponsored award must be disclosed to the sponsor.


Labor Distribution Form

Salary and Wage Cost Transfer Form

Release Time Appointments


Release time appointments are transactions by which a Research Foundation award reimburses the salary and fringe benefits paid to state funded faculty and staff devoting effort to research awards. These funds are transferred as payments on a monthly basis to the appropriate unit's state IFR account.


All release time appointments must adhere to the following:

  • The appointment should be for a SUNY faculty or staff member who specifically commits effort on a Research Foundation award for the specified percentage and time period
  • Sufficient funds must be available in the award to support the appointment
  • The appointment period on the request must fall within the period of the employee's SUNY appointment and within the award period of the Research Foundation project
  • The appointment must comply with all appropriate sponsor terms and conditions
  • Release time appointments should be requested within 90 days from the beginning of the appointment period. Any transactions submitted later than 90 days after the start of the period will be considered only on a case by case basis and only with proper justification. AMS reserves the right to reject any release time appointment which places the university at risk for an audit finding or disallowance


Release Time Appointment Form

This form can be used to request a new release time appointment, or to request a change in an existing appointment. In order to avoid any delays, please be sure the form is filled out completely (areas shaded in gray are for office use only). Original signatures are required on all release time appointment forms as follows:

  • The Employee who is being released,
  • The Principal Investigator, CO-PI, or other authorized signatory, AND
  • The Dean, Director, or Chair

Completed forms should be submitted to Labor Distribution, Award Management Services, MSC 216. If you have any questions regarding release time appointments, please contact our office by email at ( or by phone at 442-3196.

Effort Reports


Effort Reporting Project Newsletter April/May 2012


OMB Circular A-21 requires educational institutions to document the distribution of salaries and wages paid to employees performing services on federal, federal flow-through and cost-sharing awards.

The Research Foundation for SUNY has chosen the "after-the-fact activity records" method and are generated three times per year for the spring, summer and fall semesters.  This is a system of personnel activity reports that reflect an after-the-fact reporting of the distribution, by percentage, of an employee's total salary received as reportable compensation from the institution.  The report must be signed by the employee, principal investigator, or other responsible official to confirm that it represents a reasonable estimate of the compensated work performed by the employee during the period.

OMB Circular A-21 requires reporting of distribution of cost for professional staff each academic term. This report will:

  • represent an average distribution of the percentage of salary paid to an employee during the reporting period (called the effort period) for compensated activity that they are obligated to perform, which includes direct salary, cost share, IFR, or other institutional activities. 
  • show to what Project/Task/Award(s) the salary was distributed as well as the employee's assignment number and time period covered on that assignment.

Reading and Understanding the Printed Report

  • Project PI - The name of the Principal Investigator of the Project to which the majority of the employee's salary or wage was distributed.
  • Employee #/Name - The Employee # is an Oracle system generated number in the employee's record. The Employee name is the name of the employee tied to the "Certification of Salary Distribution" report.
  • Project Organization - The campus department of the Principal Investigator.
  • HR Organization - The department within the University that was entered into the employee's people record for that particular assignment.
  • Assn# - A person's assignment identifies his or her role and payroll at the University.
  • Begin Date - The start date of the salary distribution for a particular account within the effort reporting period.
  • End Date - The end date of the salary distribution for a particular account within the effort reporting period.
  • Source - This indicates the source of a particular distribution to an account. The item will display as one of the following: Pay (regular RF payroll), SUNY (SUNY IFR/Cost Sharing), or Adj (an adjustment that was processed on the particular assignment).
  • Project Number - The Oracle number assigned to the Project to which that salary was charged for the employee.
  • Project Name - An abbreviated name entered into Oracle to identify the Project.
  • Task Number - The Oracle number assigned to the Task to which that salary was charged for the employee.
  • Task Name - The name entered into Oracle to identify the specified Task.
  • Task Manager -  The name of the Principal Investigator assigned to a particular Task.
  • Award Number - The Oracle number assigned to the Award to which that salary was charged for the employee.
  • Award Name -  The title of the research
  • Expenditure Type - The expenditure category that was charged; e.g., SWG Grad Exempt for Salary & Wages for an Exempt Graduate Student.
  • Funding Source - The sponsor on the Award.
  • Distribution of Salary % - The distribution percentage that is calculated by totaling the salaries included in the employee's "Certification of Salary Distribution" reports for the period covered and deriving the percent of the total that each item represents

Effort Reporting Training

A self-paced course for effort reporting is available through the Research Foundation Learning Center titled Effort Reporting for Principal Investigators.  This course is strongly recommended for all PIs and staff who are responsible for certifying to effort reports.

The course objectives are to:

  1. Explain what effort reporting is and why it is important
  2. Identify appropriate certification documentation and effort calculations
  3. Comply with certification documentation timelines
  4. Understand your role and responsibilities (or those of a designee) when certifying effort reports

Please click this link for instructions on taking this course: Instructions for Accessing the RF Learning Center

If you have questions on the course content, contact us at

For technical assistance contact the Research Foundation Central Office at Customer Services or the RF Training Unit.