Compensate a Research or Survey Participant

Individuals, including VCU employees, students, and non-employees, who participate in VCU research or survey projects may be compensated through direct pay, petty cash, gift cards or recognition cards. Compensation for research/survey participation must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As such, notice must be provided to research participants about the tax implications of accepting compensation for participating in the research or survey. The principal investigator or survey coordinator must maintain all records regarding the participants.

Step by Step

Determine Compensation Method for Participants (Direct Pay, Petty Cash, Gift Card, Recognition Card)

Pay through Direct Pay:

  1. Determine if the Recipient is Set Up in Banner

    View Ensure Vendor is Set Up in Banner for instructions.

    if YES, then proceed to Step 2.

    if NO, department must have the recipient fill out a Research Participant Form and send it to so the participant can be set up in Banner. Allow at least 24 hours for Vendor Create to process the W-9 request and then check back in Banner to ensure the vendor has been set up.

  2. Complete Direct Pay Form for Each Participant

    Ensure the following information is entered on the Direct Pay Form:

    • Name - Insert full, legal name as it is listed in the Banner Financial System. Do not use abbreviations.
    • Banner ID (V#)
    • Address - Insert address as listed in Banner
  3. Submit Documentation

    Send Direct Pay forms to Accounts Payable upon conclusion of services with a copy of the Research Participant Form attached. Employees/students will receive payment directly to their payroll direct deposit account. Non-employees will receive a check mailed to the address in Banner.

Pay Using Petty Cash:

To be paid through petty cash, participants must complete a Research Participant Form and the department pays them with cash. The Research/Survey Participant Form serves as the department's documentation for petty cash replenishment

Give Gift Cards or Recognition Cards:

To be paid by gift card/recognition card, participants are encouraged to provide SSN, but not required. If participant will not provide SSN, see step #4 below.

  1. Understand Department Responsibilities:

    • Gift cards/recognition cards must not be charged against grant or state funds when purchased in advance of the services being rendered. Purchases of gift cards/recognition cards in advance must be charged to an index of 2-9 or an unrestricted local fund. If applicable, a JV to charge back a grant account must be completed within 60 days.
    • Under no circumstances should an individual purchase gift cards/recognition cards and request reimbursement.
    • The principal investigator, study coordinator, or designee has sole responsibility for safekeeping, maintenance and proper usage of the cards. Gift cards/recognition cards must be safeguarded and accounted for the same as cash. Upon receipt of the cards, a log of all the card numbers should be maintained. At a minimum, the log must include the card's unique number, card value, participant's name and address.
    • An inventory of cards cannot be kept in the department. Department should only purchase the number of cards that will be used in the current phase of the study. The principal investigator or study coordinator should verify cards and/or receipts on hand weekly. A written monthly reconciliation of cards and receipts or log should be prepared for internal records. The total of the documented receipts or log plus cards on hand must always equal the original disbursement amount.
    • Gift cards/recognition cards and supporting documentation are subject to review by Assurance Services and/or Treasury Services, similar to a petty cash account.
  2. Purchase the Gift Cards/Recognition Cards:

    Departments may use either of the two methods below to obtain a gift card/recognition card in advance of the services being rendered.

    • Purchase Order Departments must create a purchase order in eVA to the appropriate vendor, and submit the P.O. to Manager of Accounts Payable with a copy of the vendor invoice (printed from website). Accounts Payable will mail a check to the vendor and once the check is received by the vendor, vendor will mail gift cards to the department. Use of the P-card as a payment method is strictly prohibited.
    • Petty Cash Gift cards to retail vendors, such as Target, Best Buy, etc. may be purchased from on-site at retail locations using petty cash. Gift cards may be purchased using petty cash funds as these expenditures are not charged to the grant (or other indexes) until the petty cash fund is replenished. Petty cash fund documentation must include the original receipt of the gift card purchase.
  3. Participants Must Complete Research/Survey Participant Form and Department Must Submit for Tax-Reporting

    Send an electronic copy of the Research/Survey Participant Form and the purchase order/JV to once the research/survey is completed or within 60 days of date the card was purchased for tax-reporting purposes.

  4. Action Required if Participant Will Not Release SSN

    In circumstances where research subject participants will not provide their Social Security number but their participation in the study or survey is critical due to a unique population required for the study the following options may be offered. Please note that gift catalog items and gift certificates that do not exceed $50 are considered non-monetary compensation and therefore not IRS reportable.

    1. The participant may select a specific item from a gift catalog.
      Gift Catalog Ordering Process
      The Office of the Vice President for Research provided the following information:
      Departments can research and find their own vendor but we are working with a company called Select-Your-Gift (SYG) Company website:
      Company phone: (630) 954-1287
      Non-registered eVA vendor - RO2
      SYG Tax ID#: 363848345Ordering procedure:
      1. Go to the SYG website:
      2. Complete a "Paying by Credit Card Form (PDF)” or complete a "Credit Application
      3. Send SYG a copy of VCU's Commonwealth of Virginia sales and use tax certificate of exemption.
      4. Send to vendor to process: Once you are established with vendor you are ready to order.
        Shipping method: If you have a Federal Express account you can complete the shipping method section and provide your FEDEX account number to be charged or SYG will bill freight charges.
      5. Complete order form
      6. Under “Select your Letters and Seal” - please note quantity ordered beside the letter selection
      7. Fax completed form to 1-630-571-7110.
      8. Confirmation email will be received

      If your departments plan to exceed $10,000 per quarter (three months), complete a requisition for the review of purchasing.

    2. The participant may be offered a gift certificate for a specific item.
    3. The participant may be issued a gift card for participating but the following steps must be followed:
      1. Departments must submit the following “SSN Not Provided” spreadsheet electronically to for all payments to individuals that do not provide their SSN. Procurement Services will track payments to individuals with no Social Security number to monitor payments that may reach the $600 threshold. Departments will be notified by Procurement Services of any payments that meet these criteria and therefore will require backup withholding.
      2. If notified that payments will reach the $600 threshold, in compliance with IRS regulations, the principal investigator must submit to Accounts Payable an index, either 2-9 or an unrestricted local fund, to pay the 28 percent backup withholding that is required in the absence of a Social Security number.