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

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, 2015:

  • Minimum rate for Research Assistants: $27.32 + mandatory benefits (see below)
  • Minimum rate for Research Associates: $24.19 + mandatory benefits (see below),

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, 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.

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.

In order to maintain full-time status, a graduate student should not work more than 180 hours per term over 15 weeks with 12 hours per week as described in the the ecalendar.

Also see McGill's Student Stipends website.

Postdoctoral Fellows

As of January 1, 2017:
Postdoctoral fellows who are paid through McGill University research funds will be considered an employee.  This group will be classified as postdoctoral researchers.

The fact that postdoctoral fellows will now be recognized as employees means additional financial charges on funds of the researchers who employ them.  When a postdoctoral fellow is employed, the PI will have to pay the employer's portion of the employment taxes and benefits contributions.

For more details, please see the Q&A

Since the ratification of the new collective agreement, effective August 1, 2017, the following minimal salaries have been defined for Postdoctoral Fellows (the rates below, take into account wage increases):

December 31, 2017: $33,000 + benefits
June 1, 2018: $33,500 + benefits
June 1, 2019: $34,100 + benefits
June 1, 2020: $34,611 + benefits

The estimated benefits is 25% - 28% in addition to salary

Government mandatory contributions /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):
      • 20.33% in addition to salary  (includes up to 12.73% mandatory government contributions, 4% vacation indemnity, and 3.6% holiday indemnity)  *
    • Postdoctoral fellows:
      • Estimated benefits: 25% - 28% in addition to salary

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 3.6% to the end of the collective agreement.

Graduate Students receiving stipends:

  • Supplemental health and dental insurance: PIs may elect to pay/offset health and dental insurance for graduate students. The maximum permitted is $454.71 which is equivalent to McGill's Post-graduate Student's Society (PGSS) single-coverage insurance fee.
  • If you choose not to pay this cost from your grant, your post-doctoral fellow or graduate student will assume the cost.
  • Additional information can be found on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office (GPSO) website.


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.


U15 Statement on the Indirect Costs of Research

Déclarations de U15 sur les coûts indirects de la recherche


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


Quebec Government (Provincial)

In 2014/2015, the Quebec government implemented a reform on recovery of the full costs of research which is changing how institutions are compensated for indirect costs of research. The reform applies a simplified model where indirect costs now are allocated via two separate mechanisms: (i) Administration and other services: 27% on direct research support for eligible funding programs of FRQ (Fonds de recherche du Quebec - FRQ); and (ii) Research facilities: based on research space available for research. Indirect costs should not be included in budget requests to the FRQ (FRQNT, FRQSC, FRQS).  The indirect costs for Administration and other services (27%) will be added to the grant in the notice of award by FRQ and paid to the University at the same time as the grant.

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:


If your research is not funded by one of the Canadian Government agencies Tri-Agency (NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC), Fonds de recherche du Quebec (FRQ) or NCE,  you must include the following rate in your budget:

The new rates will become effective on March 1, 2017.

The implementation of these rates will not affect grants and/or contracts that are funded or negotiated prior to March 1, 2017.

Funding Category rate of indirect costs

Grants from government and not-for-profit organizations

27% on total direct costs or maximum rate allowed by sponsor

Contracts and agreements  with  government and not-for-profit organizations

27% on total direct costs 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, contracts, and agreements from industry and other for-profit organizations

40% on total direct costs (Industry sponsored grants and contracts that are matched through industry-partnered federal and provincial  programs - e.g. NSERC CRDs, Strategic Networks, Networks of Centres of Excellence, Quebec consortia, etc. carry 27% indirect costs.)

Clinical Trials



Indirect costs on gifts in support of research are negotiated by University Advancement


Grants and Contracts with U.S. Federal agencies (except NIH grants)

54% on direct salaries and wages, including fringe benefits (in accordance with McGill University’s DHHS Rate Agreement dated June 29, 2017).

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

8% on total direct costs except equipment (in accordance with NIH Grants Policy Statement).

Contracts through Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)

65% on direct salaries and benefits, including fringe benefits; 2% on travel.

Exceptions: For research grants totaling less than $100,000 per annum inclusive of indirect costs from the same not-for-profit sponsor, where the Principal Investigator (PI) is requesting a rate lower than McGill standard indirect costs rate, the PI submits a written justification to the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) and does not require any other approval.

All other requests for an exception to the indirect cost rates must be approved by the relevant Dean(s) and Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator (PI) to obtain all appropriate approvals/signatures.