Compensate a Research or Survey Participant

Compensation for research/survey participation must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) when compensation exceeds $600 per calendar year. Participant payments more than $50 are tracked using the Social Security Number of recipients to ensure compliance with tax reporting requirements. Principal investigators or survey coordinators must maintain accurate records of participants and compensation provided, and notify participants of applicable tax implications.

Determine Payment Method:

Individuals, including VCU employees, students, and non-employees, who participate in VCU research or survey projects may be compensated through any of the below methods. These payment types meet different business needs, and may require additional processes to ensure compliance.

To determine which of the below payment methods best meets your business case, please refer to this payment method decision tree for compensating research participants and purchasing gift cards.

Complete the Participant Form Spreadsheet Where Required

The Participant Payment Form is required unless:

1) Payments/giftcards are equal to or less than $50.00 USD,
2) Participants are compensated through RealSource, or
3) Participants are compensated through the research prepaid card program

In all other instances, departments must first submit the “Participant Form” electronically through VCU Filelocker to Departments must the record the name, address, social security number, amount paid, and the payment method for all participant payments. This should be completed within 60 days the transaction for tax-reporting purposes. If a participant refuses to release social security information, select that option in the form and see step 2 below.

Actions Required if Participant Will Not Release SSN

Procurement Services will track payments to individuals with no Social Security which exceed the $600 threshold. Departments will be notified by Procurement Services if any payments meet these criteria.

If payments for participants without a SSN exceed the $600 threshold, in compliance with IRS regulations, the principal investigator must provide payment for the 28 percent backup withholding charge. The PI will be required to provide a 2, 9, or unrestricted index code to Accounts Payable.

Edit | Last updated: 03/22/2023