Subrecipient vs Contractor Payment

Boston University faculty and staff carrying out research regularly collaborate with individuals who are not Boston University employees, and with companies and other institutions.

At the Proposal Stage of the award lifecycle, the pass-through entity holds the responsibility for deciding whether any given arrangement constitutes a subaward (carrying out an intellectually significant portion of the Federal award, creating a financial assistance agreement) or a contractor agreement (obtaining goods and services, creating a procurement relationship). You can find definitions and guidance by reviewing the Components of a Proposal Package and by speaking with your Sponsored Programs RA.

The type of the relationship will determine how the entity is paid by Boston University.

Making payments to subrecipients, contractors, and consultants

Research Related Payments to non-BU consultants and independent contractors

BU researchers often collaborate with people and companies outside of BU. The process to use when entering into an agreement for services depends on the nature of the services and the size and duration of the engagement. Please see information from Accounts Payable for complete guidance on these engagements.

Subrecipient Invoices (Reviewing and Processing)

Department Review of Subrecipient Invoice

The initial review of the subrecipient invoice is done by the PI and department administrator. The PI reviews the invoice to determine if sufficient technical progress has been made to justify payment of the subrecipient invoice. This review should include:

  • A brief review of the invoice, with special attention to the salary and wage costs invoiced;
  • A review of travel expenses to verify need for the travel during the billing period; and
  • A review of material and supply charges for reasonableness

Any problems should be brought to the attention of both the departmental administrator and the SP post-award research administrator responsible for the Subaward agreement.

Principal Investigator (or Co-PI) approval for the invoice is required. PI or Co-PI approval includes either a signature on the invoice or in instances where signatures are not available, an email evidencing the PIs or Co-PIs approval. Alternate signatures (e.g. department administrator, graduate research assistant, postdoctoral fellow, etc.) are not considered adequate.

Following review and approval, the department administrator completes and submits the online Subrecipient Invoice Disbursement Form, which includes the attached subrecipient invoice and the Principal Investigator’s approval.

Subrecipient Invoice Disbursement Form

All subrecipient invoices are processed through an online Subrecipient Invoice Disbursement Form.

The online Subrecipient Invoice Disbursement Form is accessible through the Forms page on the Accounts Payable website, just like the online Accounts Payable Disbursement Form. You can view the form here and see how it appears on the AP Forms webpage.

Approving and submitting the form
  • This form is completed and submitted by Departments and should include the subrecipient invoice and Principal Investigator or Co-PI approval as attachments.
  • The Principal Investigator or Co-PI approval includes either a signature on the invoice or email approval. PI’s do not need to sign the Subrecipient Invoice Disbursement Form.
  • The submission will route directly to your SP Post Award Research Administrator for approval, and thereafter to Accounts Payable for final processing. The submitter also will receive an email confirmation that will include a unique Source Document Number for more simplified tracking.
  • Use GL Account 517510 for SUBCONTRACTS <$25,000
  • Use GL Account 517520 for SUBCONTRACTS >$25,000


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Learn more about monitoring subawards with our available trainings and webinars.

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Your specific questions or situations may be addressed in our Ongoing Subaward Management FAQs.


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