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Research Incentives: Cash and Gift Cards


Certain research projects involve human subjects. Any payments made to human subjects as an incentive to participate in research should follow state and university requirements.

Please also note that your proposed method of providing incentives to research participants, and any necessary procedures to accommodate the requirements below, must be submitted to and approved by the NC State Institutional Review Board (IRB) as part of its usual review of human subjects research.

General Guidance

  • Researchers must have IRB approval of the specific research protocol for which research incentives will be provided before payments may be arranged or gift cards are purchased.
  • Payment for research incentives can never be charged to state-appropriated funds. If funding authority allows, payments may be charged to F&A, ledger 5, ledger 6 and ledger 7 accounts.
  • University P-Cards and Marketplace may not be used for this process, per College policy.
  • Payments to NCSU employees may be taxable. This may have implications for tracking participants that may need to be discussed with the IRB.
  • Incentives can be in the form of cash or gift card.
  • For gift cards, researcher may request a cash advance to purchase or may use personal funds and seek reimbursement. Reimbursements will be allowed for reasonable and customary payment amounts. Contact the Research Office with any questions.

NC State Employees

You must collect a Non-Salary Compensation form for any subject who is also an NC State EHRA employee per Reg 05.15.03.  Complete the top-half of the form, as depicted in the image below.

On page two of the form, select “All Other Non-Salary Compensation” radio button and enter amount (no signatures required). 

Attach the Non-Salary Compensation forms to your Cash Advance Reconciliation package or your reimbursement request. 

Cash Advances

Per college policy, cash advances can be no more than $4000 and cannot be requested for more than 3 months.  If additional time is needed to run your study, a new cash advance request can be submitted with your reconciliation.  We recommend that you only request the amount you can reasonably use within the 3 month period.  As a reminder, the custodian is personally responsible for the funds and will have to repay the university if lost or stolen.

Step 1: Request the cash advance

Step 2: Run study

  • Researcher must get signatures from all recipients using the Receipt Record.  Remember to describe this process in your human subjects protocol that you submit to the IRB. Requiring signatures may have implications for subject confidentiality, so carefully consider these implications in your study design.

Step 3: Reconcile the cash advance

  • Complete a Cash Advance Reconciliation Form (GA081). GA081 must be signed by Researcher and Department Head.
  • Submit (1) signed GA081 (2) any unused cash (3) any non-salary compensation forms and (4) Receipt Record to CHASS Research.

Reimbursement Requests

  • Researchers who use personal funds for incentive payments can be reimbursed if IRB approval has been received and payment amounts are reasonable and customary.
  • Researcher must get signatures from all recipients using Receipt Record
  • Complete a Research Incentive Reimbursement Request form which must be signed by Department Head.
  • Submit (1) signed Research Incentive Reimbursement Request (2) any non-salary compensation forms and (3) Receipts Record to CHASS Research Office.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do we collect personal information of payment recipients?

When one or more payments totaling $600 or more are made to the same person in a calendar year, we will collect a Form W-9. Note that NC State will issue a Form 1099 to anyone who is paid $600 or more. However, the 1099 will not indicate that the recipient was a research subject.

Can I hold a drawing?

Random drawings may be allowable with IRB approval. Do not use the terms “lottery” or “raffle” as these terms suggest you pay into an opportunity for a larger payout. A random drawing requires no money from the recipient.

How much can I pay as an incentive?

Incentive payments should be reasonable and customary; should not be so large as to be coercive; and should be based in sound and defensible research practices.

Additional Resources