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Can you include books and/or professional society memberships in expenses under grants from agencies like NSF and NIH?

I've purchased lots of books under grants from DOE and the Air Force in the past, but I'm wondering if they're generally considered allowable. My quick searching uncovered the following:

I haven't found anything about allowability of professional society memberships.

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+50

The page you linked to in your question directly addresses memberships for NIH:

Dues or Membership Fees

Allowable as an F&A cost for organizational membership in business, professional, or technical organizations or societies.

Payment of dues or membership fees for an individual’s membership in a professional or technical organization is allowable as a fringe benefit or an employee development cost, if paid according to an established organizational policy consistently applied regardless of the source of funds.

I agree with your conclusion about books for NSF grants, and their page oddly doesn't list information about memberships. I would imagine that it could arguably fall under the section related to conference fees, but that's conjecture.

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I have occasionally bought books with NSF grant money. At the time, I was told, by the staff in charge of grant accounting, that books are an allowable expense provided they directly relate to the research being done under the grant.

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In my experience, professional society memberships generally fall into a gray area due to taxes. It is useful to split them into two categories. The first is where you get no financial benefits that offset the cost. The second is where membership gets you a discount for publication, meeting registration, or access to a journal.

In my experience the first cases is not allowable since it is considered a personal benefit and is tax deductible. I have never been able to charge these to any grant. The second case often results in fights with the finance office. They would prefer to charge the grant the extra money and not pay for membership. With a little bit of fighting, I have never had a problem getting them to pay the membership at the time of meeting registration when they can see the savings fully offsets the cost of membership (as it often does in my field). I have no idea what would happen if it was only a partial offset.

  • Well, obviously, if you get it paid by your employer, it would be fraud to deduct it from your taxes. – F'x Oct 5 '12 at 9:56

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