Human Subject Payments, How to Pay




Human subject payments are defined as cash and non-cash payments to individuals (subjects) for their participation and time commitment in a clinical trial or survey, etc.

Payment methods:

Petty cash: May be used for payments up to $25 per individual, per occurrence.

Check/Direct Deposit (via Direct Pay Request): Used for payments greater than $25 or when a check/direct deposit is desired.

Non-cash compensation:  Includes gift cards that are redeemable for tangible personal property.  Not subject to $25 limitation; however, the department is still responsible for tracking the amount of payments made to each payee during a calendar year.  (Note - Visa "cash cards" or similar stored cash-value cards do not meet this definition and are considered cash-equivalents.)

Applies to:

  • Current UNC Charlotte employee (non-student)
  • Current employee of other North Carolina state agency (non-student)
  • Student
  • Other individual

Note:  Refer to University Policy 601.8, "Appropriate Use of University Funds" to confirm if this is a permissible use of funds for your area. 

Rationale and other considerations:

  • Petty cash may be used to make payments to individuals participating as research subjects.  Cash payments may not exceed $25 per individual, per occurrence.  (Note - if a justifiable business need exists requiring the use of petty cash payments in excess of $25 per individual, per occurence, contact the Tax Office or the Research Compliance & Ethics office.)
  • Cash payments greater than $25 must be requested by submitting a Direct Pay Request (DPR).  This facilitates appropriate review and approval by Financial Services and helps ensure amounts paid are properly tracked for tax reporting purposes.
  • Non-cash compensation, such as gift cards redeemable for tangible personal property (e.g., gift cards for restaurants or for retailers such as Amazon and Target), may be given to research subjects as compensation and are not subject to the $25 per individual, per occurrence limit.  Please note this does not apply to Visa “cash cards” or other stored cash-value cards, which are considered cash-equivalents and are subject to the $25 per individual, per occurrence limit.
  • Regardless of payment method chosen, each college/department is responsible for tracking the total amount of human subject payments that each payee has received during a calendar year.  If combined payments to an individual total $600 or greater in a calendar year, or if the recipient is a foreign national/non-U.S. resident, the college/department must notify the Tax Office so that appropriate IRS reporting can be completed.
  • Note than an employee is treated the same as a non-employee when participating as a research subject as long as the service provided is outside the scope of his/her normal job responsibilities.  

How to do it:

  1. If using petty cash to make individual payments up to $25, you may contact your department's petty cash custodian to complete the payment. 
  2. If payment(s) to individuals will be greater than $25 per person, per occurrence, download the Direct Pay Request (DPR) form and complete according to the form instructions (link provided below).
  3. For non-cash compensation (e.g., gift cards for tangible personal property), use your department's gift cards procured for this purpose, or submit a DPR to request a check to purchase the gift cards desired.  Refer to "Gift Cards, How to Procure" guidance for additional information. 
Policies Procedures Forms / Links Training and Reference Materials
UP 101.18, Gifts, Awards, and Prizes
UP 601.8, Appropriate Use of University Funds
Procedures for Human Subject Payments Direct Pay Request (DPR) Form Expense account codes

Contact for additional questions:

Please refer to the contacts listed on the Tax office website, as well as the Research Compliance and Ethics office website