Cash Advance F.A.Q.

Do I have to be traveling to qualify for a cash advance?

It is possible to get a cash advance even if you don't leave Chapel Hill, but it is more common to obtain a cash advance for funding research expenses while in travel status, especially outside of the U.S.

A cash advance may not be the most appropriate way to handle payment of research expenses, especially in Chapel Hill.  Please contact your account manager, Connie Padgett, or Tom Heath.

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How do I obtain a cash advance?

If you are a:

  • PI of a CPC grant, contact your account manager.  The account manager will need a budget for the cash advance and an estimated time of completion.
  • research assistant, ask the PI of the grant to contact the appropritate account manger with a budget for the cash advance and an estimated time of completion.
  • trainee, you must have a project approved and funded.  Information about funding opportunities are available from the training coordinator.  Please give a copy of your approved budget and an estimated time of completion to CPC's Travel Coordinator.

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What is the difference between a cash advance and a travel advance?

A travel advance can cover only your own travel expenses; a cash advance covers all other payments (e.g., payments to subjects and meals for interviewers). Either your travel advance or your cash advance can cover your own travel expenses incurred during fieldwork (e.g., bus fare between villages). The budget you submitted for this project may be of help. Before you leave, you should discuss particulars with your account manager or CPC's Travel Coordinator.

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If I obtain a cash advance, what are my responsibilities?

While you have the cash advance, you must take reasonable precautions to keep the funds safe. 

After the period covered by the cash advance, you must provide a record of the expenses made with the cash advance to the CPC Accounting unit.  This is required even if you spent the cash advance completely or exactly like you planned in your budget.

The manner of recordkeeping is up to you.  Pick a system that works for you.  You can simply keep receipts and statements or you can keep an accounting log along with your receipts. 

One of the most common mistakes is keeping partial receipts, partial logs, and partially overlapping receipts and logs.  Inconsistencies make the accounting very difficult.  Whatever method you use, be consistent using it.

If your research covers a substantial amount of time, organize your receipts and accounting regularly.  It is a daunting task to tackle weeks of receipts after you get back to Chapel Hill.

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What kind of receipts do I need?

You will need either receipts or statements for all services and items you purchase. Please provide the exchange rate. Receipts can be sales receipts or handwritten receipts that you have the provider/payee sign. If you cannot obtain a signature (e.g., because of language difficulties or distrust of the bureaucracy), then you can sign a statement saying that you incurred the expense but were unable to obtain a receipt. 

You can also log expenses for which you cannot readily get a receipt, such as bus or taxi fare.  You will need to sign this log before submitting it to CPC Accounting.

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Can I pay a person with money from the cash advance?

You cannot pay a salary or stipend to any individual inside the U.S. and not to a U.S. citizen working outside the U.S.  You may pay a salary or stipend to noncitizens working on your project in foreign countries, generally speaking, these will be research assistants, data collectors, or translators.

You may reimburse individuals for expenses using the cash advance provided you have proper documentation.

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If I give money to a research assistant to pay interviewers or other expenses, do I need receipts?

It is good to have a receipt for the advance from the research assistant. However, it is not sufficient documentation. You must obtain the receipts for the research assistant's expenses—the same documentation that would be required if you had paid out the funds yourself.

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How should I organize the receipts?

Keep receipts for similar items together in separate envelopes or folders. CPC Accounting reports the expenses to the university in these categories:

  • consultants (foreign nationals working outside the U.S. only)
  • supplies (photocopying, office supplies, gasoline for vehicle)
  • local travel for you or field staff (meals, local transportation, lodging—these items cannot overlap with travel expenses reported for you)
  • personnel costs (interviewers, drivers, translators; foreign nationals working outside the U.S. only)
  • communications (phone, fax, postage, shipping)
  • other (incentives, vehicle rental, vehicle repairs, fees for converting US$)

If you group the receipts, there will be less to organize later. After you return, total all the receipts for each category. You may have receipts in US$ as well as in the currency of the country of your research; please label them clearly.

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Is an accounting log required?

An accounting log is not required, but it can be helpful. One method is a simple list of expenditures. These are only suggestions; use whatever system works for you. 

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How do I close out my cash advance?

Submit your record of expenses including receipts to the account manager who helped you obtain the cash advance.

If your expenses total less than the advance you received, you will need to write a check for the difference--wait until the account manager notifies you the amount.

If your receipts total more than your advance, you may or may not be reimbursed the additional amount. This depends on the circumstances under which you obtained the cash advance. Please contact the account manager if you need clarification.

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