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.

Social Security Waiver Form

The Internal Revenue Service requires a 1099 to be filed for miscellaneous/non-employee compensation payments exceeding $600 in a single calendar year. To file a 1099, the Social Security Number (SSN) is necessary. University policy requires obtaining the SSN from participants being paid over $50 per study in a calendar year prior to participation. This waiver request is used to seek a waiver for collecting SSN's from research participants when payments are not likely to exceed $600 in a calendar year with compelling reasons to not to provide the required information, such as:

  • participants are of at risk population
  • participants are minors
  • participants have demonstrable hardship to providing SSN's

If approved, the waiver is only valid on a study by study basis and each study will require its own approved waiver.

Edit | Last updated: 02/13/2024