Payment of Human Research Subjects

Payment Procedure

Researchers may provide up to a $50 incentive (cash, check or gift card) without requiring the participants social security number or FEIN. If a researcher is aware that a participant may be getting multiple participation payments of $50 or less that will cause the recipient to exceed the IRS annual limit of $600, then it is the researcher's responsibility to obtain a completed W-9 form from the participant. 


To provide participants a cash payment of $50 or less, a direct payment form must be completed by the faculty member, which means either the Principal Investigator (PI) or the PI's advisor if the PI is a student. On the direct payment form be sure to: 

  • Specify the number of participants and the amount paid to each (i.e. 10 participants at $20 each).
  • Include the statement: "A completed Research Participant Recipient Log will be submitted to the Business and Financial Services Office immediately upon completion of payment." 
  • Obtain the signature of the department's account administrator
  • Submit the form to the Business and Financial Services Office, Room 125, Administration Building.
Once the direct payment form is submitted and processed, an Automated Clearing House (ACH) electronic payment  is issued in the faculty member's name. The faculty member will use the money to pay the participants. Do not pay an individual until after they have fully completed participation in the research project


To pay participants $50 or less using a check, faculty member's must still complete a direct payment form. The procedural difference between a check and cash payment, is the faculty member needs to provide names and addresses for all participants along with the amount each participant should be paid. 


Federal law requires tracking of taxable payments to individuals, and so researchers are required to maintain a Research Participant Log that allows participants to record:
  • Name
  • Date of Payment
  • Reason for Payment
  • Amount of Payment
A Research Participant Log must be kept separate and confidential from all research project data until the log is submitted to the Business and Financial Services Office. The faculty member who receives the ACH payment or issued gift cards is responsible for submitting the completed log. The faculty member and/or PI will not keep any record of this information once the log is submitted.  

If the Business and Financial Services Office does not receive this information within 60 days of the payment, then the payment will be treated as a taxable payment to the faculty member.


The participant selection process must be explained in the research protocol to ensure friends are not being selected. In addition, the agreement narrative and budget must also describe if Appropriation 133 or 144 funds are being used for payment to research participants.


Any payment over $50 will require the use of a Payment to Individual Report (PIR) and a completed W-9 before a check payment can be released to a participant.

April 2001 Developed Collaboratively by Research Services and Business & Financial Services--Updated 12.18.2009, 11.25.2014, 10.2.2015