Paying Research Participants


Research projects require the use of many research subjects and what works best is the ability to compensate such people in cash or gift cards with as little administrative burden as possible. On the other hand, the University has a legitimate right to expect key information on these participants, and must follow certain guidelines to meet statutory requirements.

All payment information to participants will be collected for purposes of reporting to the IRS, if required. The University will issue a 1099MISC for a particular tax year if the participant’s total amount received is $600 or more from all non-employee payment sources received from the University.

The Principle Investigator (PI) or other University official must set up a process to ensure that all participant information is kept confidential and secured. Any breach must be reported immediately to his/her supervisor and then directly to the Vice President for Finance and Administration. In addition, all cash and/or gift cards held by the PI to pay participants must be kept in a secured place. It is the responsibility of the person who holds the cash and/or gift cards to ensure their security.

There remains a challenge with Canadian citizens taking part as research participants. Investigation continues on treaty issues to clarify this difficulty.

In order to meet both sets of expectations, we propose the following procedure to compensate research participants.


The Principal Investigator should determine the form of compensation: cash or gift card. Due to possible 403B reporting requirements for cash payments to Pacific University employees it is imperative that the PI reports the appropriate form of compensation.


The PI devises a plan for the amount of money required to pay for the participant pool and the dates by which the money needs to be available. The PI may request a ‘Cash Advance’ through Accounts Payable or pay out of pocket and submit a reimbursement request.

Advance :

  • The PI should work with their Department Admin to submit a check request for a Cash Advance through the Business Office.
  • Accounts Payable will provide the Research Participant Payment Form (RPPF) and a copy of this procedure with the advance check. An email will be sent to the PI with the excel spreadsheet on the day of check issue.
  • Participants may be paid after completing the RPPF and submitting to the PI. The RPPF provides the participant’s full name, ID number (for the Pacific University community), last 4 digits of their social security number and address.
    • The participant must sign the form. This paperwork will be used to substantiate the advance and will need to be submitted when satisfying the advance.
    • Note : Compensation information for current Staff, Faculty and Students of Pacific University will be sent to Payroll on a quarterly basis for review and processing.
  • Advances need to be satisfied with documentation when the study is complete or 8 weeks from the advance date (whichever is sooner) unless other arrangements have been made with Accounts Payable. Documentation includes the signed/approved Reimbursement Request form, the RPPF’s, receipts and all unused funds.
  • If in late June an advance is still outstanding, the PI will need to satisfy the advance with receipts and/or return of unused funds to Accounts Payable. The PI can then request an advance in July to continue the project.
  • The PI will be responsible for keeping a list of information on an excel spreadsheet, and ensuring that all required fields on the spreadsheet are filled in as needed. Once the study is complete, it is the PI’s responsibility to email the spreadsheet to Accounts Payable at As an example, the following pieces of information will be some of the fields that will be required:


    Type of Compensation
    Amount of Compensation
    Date Amount Received
    ID Number (if applicable)
    SSN (last 4 digits)

Reimbursement :

  • The PI should submit a Reimbursement Request to the Department Admin for review and approval.
  • The reimbursement request should be submitted when the study is complete.
  • The reimbursement should include the RPPF’s and all original receipts.
  • The PI will be responsible for keeping a list of information on an Excel spreadsheet and emailing to Accounts Payable (see #6 Cash Advance).

Gift Card:

The PI purchases gift cards, either submitting a request for an advance, reimbursement or Corporate Credit Card (if applicable). The PI should check with Accounts Payable prior to disbursing the gift cards to ensure proper documentation is obtained from the research participants. The same requirements listed above apply.

Note: Gift cards purchased with a Corporate Credit Card must be disbursed within the month purchased.