Procedure: Paying Research Participants at Pacific University


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 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 (PI) 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.




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.