University Research, Survey, and Other Research Related Incentives

Policies and Procedures

I. Introduction

The University may on occasion engage in research projects (including surveys) that involve the participation of students, employees, and/or private individuals.

In order to promote participation in a research study, and for the University to remain competitive in the research field, it may be necessary for participants to receive incentive payments in the form of cash or gift cards (“value-added card”). When cash or value-added cards are awarded, the University must comply with Internal Revenue Service tax regulations, federal, state and sponsor guidelines.


Research incentives in the form of value-added cards may be awarded to participants for a face value not to exceed $100.00 per instance. A request to purchase value-added cards must be approved in advance by the Dean and University Controller by means of a Travel Advance Request. Requests greater than $500 (in total) require the signature of the Provost.

 Tax Treatment of Gift Cards

The University must report the value of the card to both the participant and the IRS if the cumulative total amount per participant is $600 or more in the calendar year. The value of the card awarded will be reported on Form 1099-MISC. Value-added cards of any denomination are defined by the IRS as a cash equivalent, and are therefore considered taxable income to the participant. The IRS does not exempt “de minimis” amounts from taxable income that are made in the form of cash or cash equivalents, e.g., value-added cards. Individuals receiving value-added cards should consult their personal tax advisor. Value-added cards awarded to employees are also subject to reporting on Form 1099-MISC as long as participation in the study is not within the scope of their employment with the University.

The Principal Investigator or lead researcher is responsible for maintaining a Participant Log acknowledging receipt by the participant of the value-added card along with a completed IRS form W-9 for tax reporting purposes. The PI should also inform participants that they may be required to report such payments on their personal income tax returns. A copy of the Participant Log and Form W-9 must be attached to the Gift Card payment request and forwarded to Accounts Payable by the person conducting the research.

Rev. 10/11