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Accounting Services

Paying Survey Participants

Oftentimes it is desirable to make payment to individuals for participating in information gathering for research projects. These small dollar payments are necessary to ensure that surveys or questionnaires are completed and returned.

Payments to individuals however, must be scrutinized because it is the University's responsibility to collect information as a recipient of Title IV funds (Financial aid), and for Internal Revenue and Franchise Tax reporting. In addition, the university is also under requirement to collect vendor information and must retain a Payee Data Record (204) form from all vendors.

To determine if the payment should be made through payroll, or the vendor process, an attempt is made using the following two examples (A and B) to illustrate which of the two processes should be used.

In example A, a student is to be paid $50 to walk around a neighborhood and ask questions of the residents of the neighborhood to gather information. This constitutes an employer/employee relationship since guidance and direction are given to the student on the information gathering process and he will be performing a specified job responsibility. In this example the student should be signed up as an employee and paid through the payroll process. If the student while walking the neighborhood to collect the information should trip and break a leg, he is considered on the job and is covered by workman's compensation insurance. In addition, if the student is a financial aid recipient, the payment is reported to the financial aid office through established procedures. The reason for this is that this payment (and other such amounts, on a cumulative basis) could effect the student's award.

In example B, the student is being paid to fill out the survey/questionnaire himself. This constitutes payment for services thus the student becomes a vendor. As a vendor, the requirement for a completed 204 form comes into effect. The accounts payable area will notify the financial aid office if the student is identified as a financial aid recipient. It will be campus policy, however, to not require the completion of a 204 form for survey participants paid nominal amounts.

Departments should attempt to correctly classify the type of payment to be made. This will determine the proper paperwork trail that is needed. Assistance in classifying the type of payment to be made may be received by calling Human Resources, or Accounting.

When departments determine that a student is to be performing responsibilities in a capacity that equates to an employee/employer relationship (as in example A), it is the department's responsibility to ensure that students are signed up through payroll, prior to employment actually beginning. Please contact the Payroll Office if you are not familiar with the proper procedure to follow.

When departments determine that a student is to be performing responsibilities in a capacity that equates to a vendor payment (as in Example B), the department may request establishment of a one time, temporary petty cash fund for the purpose of paying the survey participants. The "Petty Cash Fund/Change Fund Authorization" form can be found in Informed Filler, along with the procedures and regulations pertaining to petty cash funds.

Payment may be made to the survey participants directly. Information that must be turned in to close out the petty cash fund once participants are paid are:

  1. name of survey participant (typed or printed),
  2. survey participant's social security number, and
  3. original signature for each participant.

The survey participant form plus any unspent money must be turned in to the Accounting Office.