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.

  3. Multiple allocation base method.

  4. Special indirect cost rates.

D. Submission and Documentation of Proposals.

  1. 1. Submission of indirect cost rate proposals.

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

  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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