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OMB Circular A-87, Attachment E

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Circular No. A-87

Attachment E



A. General
B. Definitions

1. Indirect cost rate proposal
2. Indirect cost rate
3. Indirect cost pool
4. Base
5. Predetermined rate
6. Fixed rate
7. Provisional rate
8. Final rate
9. Base period
C. Allocation of Indirect Costs and Determination of Indirect Cost Rates

1. General
2. Simplified method
3. Multiple allocation base method
4. Special indirect cost rates
D. Submission and Documentation of Proposals

1. Submission of indirect cost rate proposals
2. Documentation of proposals
3. Required certification
E. Negotiation and Approval of Rates
F. Other Policies

1. Fringe benefit rates
2. Billed services provided by the grantee agency
3. Indirect cost allocations not using rates
4. Appeals
5. Collections of unallowable costs and erroneous payments
6. OMB assistance

A. General.

  1. Indirect costs are those that have been incurred for common or joint purposes. These costs benefit more than one cost objective and cannot be readily identified with a particular final cost objective without effort disproportionate to the results achieved. After direct costs have been determined and assigned directly to Federal awards and other activities as appropriate, indirect costs are those remaining to be allocated to benefitted cost objectives. A cost may not be allocated to a Federal award as an indirect cost if any other cost incurred for the same purpose, in like circumstances, has been assigned to a Federal award as a direct cost.

  2. Indirect costs include (a) the indirect costs originating in each department or agency of the governmental unit carrying out Federal awards and (b) the costs of central governmental services distributed through the central service cost allocation plan (as described in Attachment C) and not otherwise treated as direct costs.

  3. Indirect costs are normally charged to Federal awards by the use of an indirect cost rate. A separate indirect cost rate(s) is usually necessary for each department or agency of the governmental unit claiming indirect costs under Federal awards. Guidelines and illustrations of indirect cost proposals are provided in a brochure published by the Department of Health and Human Services entitled "A Guide for State and Local Government Agencies: Cost Principles and Procedures for Establishing Cost Allocation Plans and Indirect Cost Rates for Grants and Contracts with the Federal Government." A copy of this brochure may be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office.

  4. Because of the diverse characteristics and accounting practices of governmental units, the types of costs which may be classified as indirect costs cannot be specified in all situations. However, typical examples of indirect costs may include certain State/local-wide central service costs, general administration of the grantee department or agency, accounting and personnel services performed within the grantee department or agency, depreciation or use allowances on buildings and equipment, the costs of operating and maintaining facilities, etc.

  5. This Attachment does not apply to State public assistance agencies. These agencies should refer instead to Attachment D.

B. Definitions.

  1. "Indirect cost rate proposal" means the documentation prepared by a governmental unit or subdivision thereof to substantiate its request for the establishment of an indirect cost rate.

  2. "Indirect cost rate" is a device for determining in a reasonable manner the proportion of indirect costs each program should bear. It is the ratio (expressed as a percentage) of the indirect costs to a direct cost base.

  3. "Indirect cost pool" is the accumulated costs that jointly benefit two or more programs or other cost objectives.

  4. "Base" means the accumulated direct costs (normally either total direct salaries and wages or total direct costs exclusive of any extraordinary or distorting expenditures) used to distribute indirect costs to individual Federal awards. The direct cost base selected should result in each award bearing a fair share of the indirect costs in reasonable relation to the benefits received from the costs.

  5. "Predetermined rate" means an indirect cost rate, applicable to a specified current or future period, usually the governmental unit's fiscal year. This rate is based on an estimate of the costs to be incurred during the period. Except under very unusual circumstances, a predetermined rate is not subject to adjustment. (Because of legal constraints, predetermined rates are not permitted for Federal contracts; they may, however, be used for grants or cooperative agreements.) Predetermined rates may not be used by governmental units that have not submitted and negotiated the rate with the cognizant agency. In view of the potential advantages offered by this procedure, negotiation of predetermined rates for indirect costs for a period of two to four years should be the norm in those situations where the cost experience and other pertinent facts available are deemed sufficient to enable the parties involved to reach an informed judgment as to the probable level of indirect costs during the ensuing accounting periods.

  6. "Fixed rate" means an indirect cost rate which has the same characteristics as a predetermined rate, except that the difference between the estimated costs and the actual, allowable costs of the period covered by the rate is carried forward as an adjustment to the rate computation of a subsequent period.

  7. "Provisional rate" means a temporary indirect cost rate applicable to a specified period which is used for funding, interim reimbursement, and reporting indirect costs on Federal awards pending the establishment of a "final" rate for that period.

  8. "Final rate" means an indirect cost rate applicable to a specified past period which is based on the actual allowable costs of the period. A final audited rate is not subject to adjustment.

  9. "Base period" for the allocation of indirect costs is the period in which such costs are incurred and accumulated for allocation to activities performed in that period. The base period normally should coincide with the governmental unit's fiscal year, but in any event, shall be so selected as to avoid inequities in the allocation of costs.

C. Allocation of Indirect Costs and Determination of Indirect Cost Rates.

  1. General.

    a. Where a governmental unit's department or agency has only one major function, or where all its major functions benefit from the indirect costs to approximately the same degree, the allocation of indirect costs and the computation of an indirect cost rate may be accomplished through simplified allocation procedures as described in subsection 2.

    b. Where a governmental unit's department or agency has several major functions which benefit from its indirect costs in varying degrees, the allocation of indirect costs may require the accumulation of such costs into separate cost groupings which then are allocated individually to benefitted functions by means of a base which best measures the relative degree of benefit. The indirect costs allocated to each function are then distributed to individual awards and other activities included in that function by means of an indirect cost rate(s).

    c. Specific methods for allocating indirect costs and computing indirect cost rates along with the conditions under which each method should be used are described in subsections 2, 3 and 4.

  2. Simplified method.

    • a. Where a grantee agency's major functions benefit from its indirect costs to approximately the same degree, the allocation of indirect costs may be accomplished by (1) classifying the grantee agency's total costs for the base period as either direct or indirect, and (2) dividing the total allowable indirect costs (net of applicable credits) by an equitable distribution base. The result of this process is an indirect cost rate which is used to distribute indirect costs to individual Federal awards. The rate should be expressed as the percentage which the total amount of allowable indirect costs bears to the base selected. This method should also be used where a governmental unit's department or agency has only one major function encompassing a number of individual projects or activities, and may be used where the level of Federal awards to that department or agency is relatively small.

      b. Both the direct costs and the indirect costs shall exclude capital expenditures and unallowable costs. However, unallowable costs must be included in the direct costs if they represent activities to which indirect costs are properly allocable.

      c. The distribution base may be (1) total direct costs (excluding capital expenditures and other distorting items, such as pass-through funds, major subcontracts, etc.), (2) direct salaries and wages, or (3) another base which results in an equitable distribution.

  3. Multiple allocation base method.

    • a. Where a grantee agency's indirect costs benefit its major functions in varying degrees, such costs shall be accumulated into separate cost groupings. Each grouping shall then be allocated individually to benefitted functions by means of a base which best measures the relative benefits.

      b. The cost groupings should be established so as to permit the allocation of each grouping on the basis of benefits provided to the major functions. Each grouping should constitute a pool of expenses that are of like character in terms of the functions they benefit and in terms of the allocation base which best measures the relative benefits provided to each function. The number of separate groupings should be held within practical limits, taking into consideration the materiality of the amounts involved and the degree of precision needed.

      c. Actual conditions must be taken into account in selecting the base to be used in allocating the expenses in each grouping to benefitted functions. When an allocation can be made by assignment of a cost grouping directly to the function benefitted, the allocation shall be made in that manner. When the expenses in a grouping are more general in nature, the allocation should be made through the use of a selected base which produces results that are equitable to both the Federal Government and the governmental unit. In general, any cost element or related factor associated with the governmental unit's activities is potentially adaptable for use as an allocation base provided that: (1) it can readily be expressed in terms of dollars or other quantitative measures (total direct costs, direct salaries and wages, staff hours applied, square feet used, hours of usage, number of documents processed, population served, and the like), and (2) it is common to the benefitted functions during the base period.

      d. Except where a special indirect cost rate(s) is required in accordance with subsection 4, the separate groupings of indirect costs allocated to each major function shall be aggregated and treated as a common pool for that function. The costs in the common pool shall then be distributed to individual Federal awards included in that function by use of a single indirect cost rate.

      e. The distribution base used in computing the indirect cost rate for each function may be (1) total direct costs (excluding capital expenditures and other distorting items such as pass-through funds, major subcontracts, etc.), (2) direct salaries and wages, or (3) another base which results in an equitable distribution. An indirect cost rate should be developed for each separate indirect cost pool developed. The rate in each case should be stated as the percentage relationship between the particular indirect cost pool and the distribution base identified with that pool.

  4. Special indirect cost rates.

    • a. In some instances, a single indirect cost rate for all activities of a grantee department or agency or for each major function of the agency may not be appropriate. It may not take into account those different factors which may substantially affect the indirect costs applicable to a particular program or group of programs. The factors may include the physical location of the work, the level of administrative support required, the nature of the facilities or other resources employed, the organizational arrangements used, or any combination thereof. When a particular award is carried out in an environment which appears to generate a significantly different level of indirect costs, provisions should be made for a separate indirect cost pool applicable to that award. The separate indirect cost pool should be developed during the course of the regular allocation process, and the separate indirect cost rate resulting therefrom should be used, provided that: (1) the rate differs significantly from the rate which would have been developed under subsections 2. and 3., and (2) the award to which the rate would apply is material in amount.

      b. Although this Circular adopts the concept of the full allocation of indirect costs, there are some Federal statutes which restrict the reimbursement of certain indirect costs. Where such restrictions exist, it may be necessary to develop a special rate for the affected award. Where a "restricted rate" is required, the procedure for developing a non-restricted rate will be used except for the additional step of the elimination from the indirect cost pool those costs for which the law prohibits reimbursement.

D. Submission and Documentation of Proposals.

  1. 1. Submission of indirect cost rate proposals.

    • a. All departments or agencies of the governmental unit desiring to claim indirect costs under Federal awards must prepare an indirect cost rate proposal and related documentation to support those costs. The proposal and related documentation must be retained for audit in accordance with the records retention requirements contained in the Common Rule.

      b. A governmental unit for which a cognizant agency assignment has been specifically designated must submit its indirect cost rate proposal to its cognizant agency. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will periodically publish lists of governmental units identifying the appropriate Federal cognizant agencies. The cognizant agency for all governmental units or agencies not identified by OMB will be determined based on the Federal agency providing the largest amount of Federal funds. In these cases, a governmental unit must develop an indirect cost proposal in accordance with the requirements of this Circular and maintain the proposal and related supporting documentation for audit. These governmental units are not required to submit their proposals unless they are specifically requested to do so by the cognizant agency. Where a local government only receives funds as a sub-recipient, the primary recipient will be responsible for negotiating and/or monitoring the sub-recipient's plan.

      c. Each Indian tribal government desiring reimbursement of indirect costs must submit its indirect cost proposal to the Department of the Interior (its cognizant Federal agency).

      d. Indirect cost proposals must be developed (and, when required, submitted) within six months after the close of the governmental unit's fiscal year, unless an exception is approved by the cognizant Federal agency. If the proposed central service cost allocation plan for the same period has not been approved by that time, the indirect cost proposal may be prepared including an amount for central services that is based on the latest federally-approved central service cost allocation plan. The difference between these central service amounts and the amounts ultimately approved will be compensated for by an adjustment in a subsequent period.

  2. Documentation of proposals. The following shall be included with each indirect cost proposal:

    • a. The rates proposed, including subsidiary work sheets and other relevant data, cross referenced and reconciled to the financial data noted in subsection b. Allocated central service costs will be supported by the summary table included in the approved central service cost allocation plan. This summary table is not required to be submitted with the indirect cost proposal if the central service cost allocation plan for the same fiscal year has been approved by the cognizant agency and is available to the funding agency.

      b. A copy of the financial data (financial statements, comprehensive annual financial report, executive budgets, accounting reports, etc.) upon which the rate is based. Adjustments resulting from the use of unaudited data will be

      recognized, where appropriate, by the Federal cognizant agency in a subsequent proposal.

      c. The approximate amount of direct base costs incurred under Federal awards. These costs should be broken out between salaries and wages and other direct costs.

      d. A chart showing the organizational structure of the agency during the period for which the proposal applies, along with a functional statement(s) noting the duties and/or responsibilities of all units that comprise the agency. (Once this is submitted, only revisions need be submitted with subsequent proposals.)

  3. Required certification. Each indirect cost rate proposal shall be accompanied by a certification in the following form:


    This is to certify that I have reviewed the indirect cost rate proposal submitted herewith and to the best of my knowledge and belief:

    1. All costs included in this proposal [identify date] to establish billing or final indirect costs rates for [identify period covered by rate] are allowable in accordance with the requirements of the Federal award(s) to which they apply and OMB Circular A-87, "Cost Principles for State and Local Governments." Unallowable costs have been adjusted for in allocating costs as indicated in the cost allocation plan.

    2. All costs included in this proposal are properly allocable to Federal awards on the basis of a beneficial or causal relationship between the expenses incurred and the agreements to which they are allocated in accordance with applicable requirements. Further, the same costs that have been treated as indirect costs have not been claimed as direct costs. Similar types of costs have been accounted for consistently and the Federal Government will be notified of any accounting changes that would affect the predetermined rate.

      I declare that the foregoing is true and correct.

      Governmental Unit: ________________________

      Signature: ________________________

      Name of Official: ________________________

      Title: _________________________

      Date of Execution: _________________________

E. Negotiation and Approval of Rates.

  1. Indirect cost rates will be reviewed, negotiated, and approved by the cognizant Federal agency on a timely basis. Once a rate has been agreed upon, it will be accepted and used by all Federal agencies unless prohibited or limited by statute. Where a Federal funding agency has reason to believe that special operating factors affecting its awards necessitate special indirect cost rates, the funding agency will, prior to the time the rates are negotiated, notify the cognizant Federal agency.

  2. The use of predetermined rates, if allowed, is encouraged where the cognizant agency has reasonable assurance based on past experience and reliable projection of the grantee agency's costs, that the rate is not likely to exceed a rate based on actual costs. Long-term agreements utilizing predetermined rates extending over two or more years are encouraged, where appropriate.

  3. The results of each negotiation shall be formalized in a written agreement between the cognizant agency and the governmental unit. This agreement will be subject to re-opening if the agreement is subsequently found to violate a statute, or the information upon which the plan was negotiated is later found to be materially incomplete or inaccurate. The agreed upon rates shall be made available to all Federal agencies for their use.

  4. Refunds shall be made if proposals are later found to have included costs that (a) are unallowable (i) as specified by law or regulation, (ii) as identified in Attachment B of this Circular, or (iii) by the terms and conditions of Federal awards, or (b) are unallowable because they are clearly not allocable to Federal awards. These adjustments or refunds will be made regardless of the type of rate negotiated (predetermined, final, fixed, or provisional).

F. Other Policies.

  1. Fringe benefit rates. If overall fringe benefit rates are not approved for the governmental unit as part of the central service cost allocation plan, these rates will be reviewed, negotiated and approved for individual grantee agencies during the indirect cost negotiation process. In these cases, a proposed fringe benefit rate computation should accompany the indirect cost proposal. If fringe benefit rates are not used at the grantee agency level (i.e., the agency specifically identifies fringe benefit costs to individual employees), the governmental unit should so advise the cognizant agency.

  2. Billed services provided by the grantee agency. In some cases, governmental units provide and bill for services similar to those covered by central service cost allocation plans (e.g., computer centers). Where this occurs, the governmental unit should be guided by the requirements in Attachment C relating to the development of billing rates and documentation requirements, and should advise the cognizant agency of any billed services. Reviews of these types of services (including reviews of costing/billing methodology, profits or losses, etc.) will be made on a case-by-case basis as warranted by the circumstances involved.

  3. Indirect cost allocations not using rates. In certain situations, a governmental unit, because of the nature of its awards, may be required to develop a cost allocation plan that distributes indirect (and, in some cases, direct) costs to the specific funding sources. In these cases, a narrative cost allocation methodology should be developed, documented, maintained for audit, or submitted, as appropriate, to the cognizant agency for review, negotiation, and approval.

  4. Appeals. If a dispute arises in a negotiation of an indirect cost rate (or other rate) between the cognizant agency and the governmental unit, the dispute shall be resolved in accordance with the appeals procedures of the cognizant agency.

  5. Collection of unallowable costs and erroneous payments. Costs specifically identified as unallowable and charged to Federal awards either directly or indirectly will be refunded (including interest chargeable in accordance with applicable Federal agency regulations).

  6. OMB assistance. To the extent that problems are encountered among the Federal agencies and/or governmental units in connection with the negotiation and approval process, OMB will lend assistance, as required, to resolve such problems in a timely manner.

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