Purchase, Use, and Disposition of Equipment on Sponsored Awards
All equipment with a per unit acquisition cost of $5,000 or more and an expected useful life of more than one year (as defined in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR 200.33) is recorded in GMU’s central inventory. The proposal budget should include the cost of the equipment as well as any shipping costs, required maintenance, or other associated costs. The budget justification should clearly document why the equipment is needed for the project and how it will be utilized to complete the project aims or scope of work. Federal funds should only be requested for equipment necessary to complete the project that is not already available at the university. Equipment purchases should typically be budgeted in the first year of the project period, purchasing items of equipment at the end of the period of performance is typically not allowable unless there are unique circumstances and adequate justification to do so. Any equipment purchased with sponsored funds is expected to be used to benefit the project. In some cases, planned purchases of large items of lab equipment may need to be reviewed by the Environmental Health & Safety Office at GMU to confirm that there is adequate space for installation and any required electrical or safety modifications can be accommodated.
Section 2 CFR 200.439(1)(2) of the Uniform Guidance states that expenditures for general purpose equipment are unallowable as direct costs on Federal awards. However, expenditures for special purpose equipment are allowable, provided they have prior sponsor approval when required. If the award budget includes equipment purchases, the award terms and conditions should be carefully reviewed to determine what the sponsor requirements are in terms of ownership, tracking, and reporting. Sponsor guidelines may be more restrictive than the Uniform Guidance requirements. The award terms and conditions and sponsor guidelines should be reviewed closely if the need to purchase an item that meets the definition of equipment arises during the project that was not included in the originally approved proposal budget. Some sponsors require prior approval for equipment purchases or significant changes to the budget. Equipment purchased with federal funds must be used only as authorized by the award. Special purpose equipment should only be charged to the award when it is necessary to fulfill the objectives of the project and the cost is reasonable, allowable, and allocable as defined by Uniform Guidance 2 CFR §200.403-405. GMU’s equipment procedures are applied uniformly to both federal and non-federally funded sponsored awards, but it is also important to know the specific requirements or restrictions that may apply for each non-federal sponsor.
Use, Management, & Disposition
The award document or agency guidelines typically state whether the title to purchased equipment vests with the recipient or with the sponsor. If the title vests with GMU, the university has ownership of the equipment and may retain the equipment at the end of the project with no further reporting required. When the title vests with the sponsor, equipment must be tracked and reported (typically on an annual and final basis), and GMU must request disposition instructions at the end of the project performance period. GMU can request to retain the equipment for use on other related research or future grants from the awarding agency. If approved, the title will be transferred to GMU and no further reporting is required.
The title to government furnished equipment (items provided by the sponsor to GMU, not purchased with sponsored funds) always vests with the government regardless of the dollar value of the items. Instructions for final disposition and return of equipment items are usually provided during the closeout of the award.
Regulations regarding the use and purchase of equipment vary depending on the sponsoring agency and the award mechanism. For grants, the award terms and conditions, agency guidelines, and terms of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200.33) should be followed. For contracts, guidelines regarding purchase and use of equipment can be found in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 52.245-1, contract terms, and agency guidelines.
Equipment Tracking & Management
Federal regulations require that GMU maintain a property management system that allows us to track and manage assets responsibly and accurately. The Fixed Assets Office in Fiscal Services is responsible for tracking and providing oversight of university equipment. Any equipment purchased on sponsored awards in which the title vests with the university becomes the property of George Mason University, not a department or employee, regardless of the source of funding used for the purchase. Faculty transferring to a new educational institution or wishing to loan equipment to collaborators at other institutions must follow university procedures regarding equipment. For more information on loans to external parties including the types of loans that are permitted and the required forms, please review the information under Fiscal Services, Transfer, Assign & Loan Equipment.
Faculty should work closely with their department and college research administrators and equipment liaisons to obtain approvals before initiating any loans or removing any items of equipment from campus facilities.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I am leaving the university and have an active sponsored award that I am transferring to my new institution. Can I take a piece of equipment that I purchased with funds from that award to my new institution?
The transfer of equipment may be allowable for active awards depending on the award terms and conditions and subject to university approval. Contact your Department Chair, Associate Dean for Research, and Department Research Administrator regarding any equipment that will need to be transferred to the new institution. PIs should work with Fiscal Services Fixed Assets Office, and also work with the Legal Affairs Office for an MOU reflecting that the transfer of any equipment is in “as-is” condition.
A subcontractor or collaborator on my project needs to utilize equipment purchased by GMU with grant sponsored funds. Can I loan the equipment to them for use on the project?
This type of loan is permissible in certain circumstances, but does require completion of the university property loan form and approval prior to the transfer of any items. Please refer to Fiscal Services, Transfer, Assign & Loan Equipment for additional information.
I want to take a piece of equipment from my lab or office to use at home, is this permissible?
Desktop PCs and other large items may be lent to faculty and staff for use at their homes or at alternate locations. This equipment is to be used for Mason business purposes only. Please refer to Fiscal Services, Transfer, Assign & Loan Equipment for additional information.
Additional GMU Resources: