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Budgets and Indirect Costs

General budget guidelines


As of September 15, 2011, the Tri-Agencies’ regulations on minimum and maximum support levels no longer apply. CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC will also no longer restrict researchers from using some of their grant money to provide supplements to scholarship holders.

For all other sponsors, please refer to the granting agency guides at http://www.mcgill.ca/research/researchers/funding

University recommended minimum rates:

Notwithstanding, according to the McGill AMURE Collective Agreement the following minimum rates apply. However, the Research Director may offer a higher rate based on the specifics of the research situation and granting agency regulations.

Research Associates and Research Assistants:

As of June 1st, 2014:

  • Minimum rate for Research Assistants: $19.75 + mandatory benefits (see below)
  • Minimum rate for Research Associates: $22.75 + mandatory benefits (see below)

If the application of these minimum rates constitutes an increase of less than 1.7%, a 1.7% increase is applied to the employee’s current rate.

As of June 1st, 2015:

  • Minimum rate for Research Assistants: $21.00 + mandatory benefits (see below)
  • Minimum rate for Research Associates: $24.19 + mandatory benefits (see below),
    unless that constitutes an increase of less than 1.7%, in which case the minimum rates will be $21.53 and $24.79

All RA position can be either 35h or 40h (lunch hour not included). They can be hired full time or part time (less than 35 hours). 

Casual Research Assistants (typically students):

As of June 1st, 2014:

  • Minimum rate for undergraduate students: $12.70 + mandatory benefits (see below)
  • Minimum rate for graduate students: $13.97 + mandatory benefits (see below)

As of June 1st, 2015:

  • Minimum rate for undergraduate students: $12.91 + mandatory benefits (see below)
  • Minimum rate for graduate students: $14.90 + mandatory benefits (see below)

While the term Research Assistantship (RA) is sometimes used to describe any position held by graduate students or postdoctoral fellows whereby monies are paid for engaging in research, at McGill there is a clear distinction between providing funds paid to graduate students or postdoctoral fellows as Stipends and those paid for (true) Research Assistantships.

Stipends: Stipends are not be confused with Research Assistantships. Student stipends are fellowships; research assistantships are employment.

McGill has set a minimum stipend of $30,000 for postdoctoral scholars.

Student Stipends are monies paid to students (typically at the graduate level) from a professor’s grant for the purpose of allowing the student to further his/her own research/thesis or other program or academic requirement. Stipends are fellowships awarded to provide financial support to the student while he/she is completing his/her degree.

As noted in the Income Tax Act (IT-75R4), “this work is undertaken by the student because participation in it will assist the student in qualifying for a degree or other scholastic recognition in the field in which the research is being carried on.”

Such activity may include research collaboration with the supervisor or others, developing techniques and methodologies, or gaining knowledge of scientific or scholarly ideas or materials – as long as the objective is the student’s advancement toward educational goals for the desired degree.  Thus, to be awarded a stipend it is not necessary for the student’s work to be a part of the superior’s research or be carried out in collaboration with him/her.   

A Research Assistant's (RA) salary is an hourly wage for research work by a student that does not advance the student's own research/thesis or assist the student in progressing towards his/her degree. RA payments are processed via the Minerva HR Appointment form/POPS and are considered employment income and therefore subject to statutory governmental deductions.

However, graduate students at McGill cannot be employed more than 10 hrs/week on topics unrelated to their thesis work.

Also see McGill's Student Stipends website.

Government benefits /Institutional non-discretionary benefits

The employer's contribution should be included as a separate budgetary item.

Calculated as a percentage of salaries requested, the mandatory benefits and other associated costs to grants are: 

  • Association of McGill University Research Employees (AMURE)
    • Research Associates and Regular Research Assistants  (full & part time):
      • 25 - 28% in addition to salary (varies as a function of included benefits; includes vacation indemnity, designated paid holidays and authorized leaves)
    • Casual Research Assistants (students and non-students):
      • 19.6% in addition to salary  (includes up to 12% mandatory government benefits, 4% vacation indemnity, and 3.6% holiday indemnity)  *

Note per collective agreement: The vacation indemnity is equal to 4% or 6%, as defined in Article 22.06, and the holiday indemnity is currently 3.2% and will move to 3.6% from June 1st 2014 to the end of the collective agreement. Casual Employees paid over minimum rates as defined by agreement will receive the following economic increases: June 1st 2014: 1.7%; June 1st 2015: 1.7%.

  • Postdoctoral Fellows
    • Paid via stipends/ award payments that do not require mandatory benefit contributions beyond total contract amount
    • Financial information found here.
  • Graduate Students’ and Postdoctoral Fellows’ Stipends may include PGSS Health and Dental Insurance ($434/year) as a non-discretionary benefit.
    • If you choose not to pay this cost from your grant, your post-doctoral fellow or graduate student will assume the cost.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) - Effective January 1, 2013

Budget items that are subject to goods and services taxes must add *6.937%. This rate includes the Federal GST (*5%), Québec TVQ (9.975%), 67% rebate on the federal GST and 47% rebate on the Québec TVQ.

Further details are available from the McGill Financial Services Knowledge Base.

Purchase of goods & services ($100,000 and over)

According to the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), all purchases of $100,000 and over must be tendered publicly for a minimum of 15 calendar days. For more information, please consult McGill's Procurement website.

Contact Procurement as soon as the grant has been awarded and the specification of your requirements have been determined. Please note that 4-6 weeks advance notice to Purchasing is required.

Import and export of goods

For general information regarding import and export, please consult McGill's Procurement website.

Should you have specific questions regarding applicable duty or required forms to be completed when importing goods, you may contact Anna Gentile at Procurement at (514) 398-1720, or Sébastien Lavallée at Affiliated Custom Broker (McGill University’s customs broker), at (514) 288-1211, ext. 250.

Animal care

Consult the Manager of the local Animal Facility about per diem rates.

Exchange rates

Use current rates. Contact General Accounting for more information at (514) 398-3880.

Computing costs

Continuing users of the Computing Centre's facilities are advised to base their future estimates on previous costs. New clients should consult with Debra Simpson at (514) 398-7413. More information is also available here.

Budgeting a contract: key differences

When budgeting a contract, one prices rather than costs the work to be undertaken. This is one of the biggest differences between a grant, which only costs the work (direct plus indirect costs), and a contract (incorporates the full cost of carrying out the research or services).

In a contract, the detailed budget remains an internal document: the contractor is only to see the fixed or lump-sum price for the work.

For some projects, the price may be broken down into three or four amounts coinciding with various deliverables through the project's life, or alternatively, broken down by broad categories of expenses that are all-inclusive, such as labour, equipment, consumables and miscellaneous.

In addition to the direct and indirect costs of the research, a contract will also incorporate depreciation of equipment, direct administration charges, contingency and the salary of the Principal Investigator.

For more information on budgeting, please contact an OSR Grants and Agreements Officer.

Indirect costs

All research incurs indirect costs. The indirect costs of research are institutional costs that benefit and support research. These costs must be included in budget requests to external sponsors of research.

Indirect costs are difficult to attribute directly to a project, but they are nevertheless real and necessary for the conduct of research. They can include:

  • Use, maintenance and upgrading of building space, utilities and libraries;
  • central technical support of labs, offices, core and other facilities;
  • management and administration of research, finances, regulatory requirements and research compliance (i.e. research ethics, biohazards certification, animal care etc.);
  • hazardous waste disposal;
  • radiation and occupational safety and security; and
  • liability insurance.

This is how indirect costs (overhead) are handled at McGill University.

Quebec Government (Provincial)

A report on all research funded activities is submitted, on an annual basis, to SIRU (Système d’information sur la recherche universitaire). SIRU is a department under the jurisdiction of Le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie (MESRST). MESRST requires that all externally funded research include indirect costs. The university will be penalized by a reduction to the base operating budget when external research funds do not cover these costs. Certain sponsors have been accredited by MESRST indirect costs program. This means that the Quebec Government covers the indirect costs for these accredited sponsors.

The following links provide lists of MESRST accredited sponsors:

1) Gouvernement du Québec Agencies*
2) Organismes pourvoyeurs de fonds agrées*(accredited agencies)

*Note: Whenever indirect costs are allowed by these sponsors, they should be included in the proposed budget at the rate allowed by the sponsor (default rate is 15% for grants if no ceiling is indicated)

Canadian Government (Federal)

The Canadian Government also has an indirect costs (overhead) program based on research funded by NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC and Networks of Centres of Excellence (not all programs). Indirect costs should not be included in budget requests to these sponsors. For further information about the Canadian Government Indirect Costs program, consult the Research Support Fund Website

The Research Support Fund helps Canadian postsecondary institutions with the hidden costs of research. By alleviating the financial burden of expenses, such as lighting and heating, the program ultimately helps researchers concentrate on cutting-edge discoveries and scholarship excellence. The annual grant covers a portion of the total indirect cost across all McGill Faculties and affiliated hospitals. In 2012/2013 the university allocated the funds to crucial areas such as operation and maintenance of research equipment and facilities, library resources, research administration and financial support, compliance and management of Intellectual Property. For further information, please consult the following documents:


New rates for McGill University effective July 1, 2011.

The implementation of these rates will not affect grants and/or contracts that are funded or negotiated prior to July 1, 2011. 

If your research is not funded by the accredited sponsors of the Quebec Government or is not one of the Canadian Government agencies listed above you must include the following rate in your budget:

Funding category Rate of Indirect Costs
Grants and gifts for research/sponsored projects from provincial, Canadian, and foreign government agencies; international organizations and institutions; charitable organizations; foundations and not-for-profit organizations 15% or maximum rate allowed by sponsor as per written guidelines or as pre-negotiated by McGill University (please contact OSR for specific sponsor rates)
Grants and Contracts with U.S. Federal agencies (except NIH grants) 57% on direct salaries and wages, including fringe benefits (in accordance with McGill University’s DHHS Rate Agreement dated December 19, 2013).
National Institutes of Health (NIH) 8% on Total Direct Costs less equipment (in accordance with NIH Grants Policy Statement).
Grants and Contracts from industry 40% (Industry sponsored grants and contracts that are matched through Tri-Agency programs and accredited provincial programs - e.g. NSERC CRDs, NSERC Strategic Projects and Networks, Networks of Centres of Excellence etc will carry 25% indirect costs.)
Contracts with Canadian government agencies

If through Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) 65% on direct salaries and benefits, including fringe benefits; 2% on travel. Otherwise (not through PWGSC) 40% on total direct costs; or maximum rate allowed by sponsor as per written guidelines.

Service Agreements 40%
Clinical Trials 30%
Contracts with provincial and foreign government agencies; international organizations and institutions; charitable organizations; foundations and not-for-profit organizations 40% or maximum rate allowed by sponsor as per written guidelines or as pre-negotiated by McGill University (please contact OSR for specific sponsor rates).

 Please consult with the OSR in advance of finalizing your funding request if you are uncertain how or what to claim in this category.