Date Established: 7/1/1999
Date Last Updated: 9/7/2021
Vice President for Finance and Administration
This policy provides guidelines for the financial management of service centers to support:
The University at Buffalo (UB, university) allows service centers to recover the cost of providing goods or services by charging customers for actual goods or services provided, utilizing service center billing rates established in accordance with this policy. Pre-billing in advance of providing the goods or services is not allowable per federal guidelines. Established service center billing rates should be reviewed regularly, at least annually, by the service center manager and all changes in billing rates must be approved by:
The service center billing rate is the cost per unit of measure (UOM) used to recover the costs of the service center:
Budgeted Costs/Budgeted Unit of Measure (UOM) = Service Center Billing Rate
Budgeted costs are based on prior year costs or an estimate of the upcoming year’s costs. The UOM is the volume of work expected to be performed (e.g., labor hours, machine hours, CPU time, or other reasonable measurement). New service center billing rates should be based on a reasonable estimate of the costs to provide the services for the year and the projected volume for the year.
Service center billing rates should be calculated in each service center based on the university’s fiscal year.
For each type of service recharged to users, the department must maintain documentation of appropriate approvals and details of how the rate has been determined.
Service center billing rates should be calculated with guidance from Financial Management. Actual costs and service center billing rates should be reviewed for reasonableness by the service center manager at least annually and adjusted when necessary. Documentation supporting new service center billing rate calculations and required adjustments to existing rates must be submitted to Financial Management for review and approval. Complete the Service Center Questionnaire included with the Fee Approval Request Form.
If a service center provides multiple services and uses separate billing rates, all of the costs related to each service must be separately identified through a cost allocation process. Cost allocations should reflect the relative benefits each activity received from the cost. Categories of cost to be allocated include:
Per the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Uniform Guidance, Subpart E, §200.468(b)(2), service centers are required to review their rates no less than biennially.
A separate account should be established to record only service center receipts and expenditures to provide transparency and an audit trail for tracking and performance.
Income Fund Reimbursable (IFR) accounts should be established to record service center activity. Establishing a Research Foundation (RF), and/or University at Buffalo Foundation (UBF) account to record service center activity requires prior approval from Financial Management and the University Controller.
Internal users include academic, research, administrative, and auxiliary units whose originating source of funds is within or flows through the university. The originating source includes State, RF, UBF, and Faculty Student Association (FSA) funds. Internal users are billed an internal rate, based on allowable costs. Exception: Internal users, whose source of funds is industry-sponsored clinical trial funds flowing through the RF and require Institutional Review Board (IRB) services, are billed the external rate for IRB services.
External users are individuals or organizations whose originating source of funds is outside the university. External users include faculty and staff acting in a personal capacity. Affiliated hospitals and other universities are external users unless the university has subcontracted with them as part of a grant or contract, in which case they are an internal user. External users are billed an external rate.
All of the costs that contribute to the goods or services provided must be used in the development of service center billing rates and should reside in a service center account. The following cost components are commonly included in service center billing rates:
Salaries and Wages (Personal Service Regular (PSR))
The salaries and wages of all personnel directly related to a service center activity (e.g., lab technicians, machine operators) should be included in the rate calculation and charged to the service center operating account. If an individual works on more than one activity, the costs associated with that individual should be allocated to the activities based on the proportional benefit with the total benefit not to exceed 100 percent of an individual's time. This proportion may be determined by an effort or time study or based on a good faith estimate by service center management with an annual review for reasonableness.
The salaries and wages of administrative staff in direct support or management of a service center may be included in the rate calculation and charged to the service center operating account as long as the administrative staff cost is not included in the university’s indirect (facilities and administration (F&A)) rate charged to the federal government. Questions regarding costs included in the F&A rate should be directed to Financial Management. Administration costs benefiting more than one service center activity should be allocated to the benefiting services on a reasonable basis.
Fringe benefits related to State IFR, RF, or UBF salaries charged to the service center operating account should be included in the service center billing rate calculation. Because the university does not pay fringe benefits for salaries funded by state operating accounts, fringe benefits for these salaries may not be included in the service center billing rate calculation.
Materials and Supplies
The cost of materials and supplies needed to operate a service center should be included in the rate calculation and charged to the service center operating account.
If a service center sells products from an inventory or maintains an inventory of parts and supplies used in providing its services, inventory records must be maintained.
A physical inventory is required at least annually at the end of the fiscal year and reconciled to the inventory records by completing an inventory settlement. A physical inventory may be taken more frequently (i.e., quarterly) to improve accuracy. Transactions should not occur during the physical inventory, which may require a temporary closure of the facility.
Inventory valuations may be based on any generally recognized inventory valuation method (e.g., first-in-first-out, average cost) as long as consistency in the method is maintained. The service center must exclude costs attributable to inventory growth in calculating billing rates.
Equipment With a Purchase Price Equal To or Greater Than $5,000
Equipment with a purchase price equal to or greater than $5,000 cannot be entirely included as a cost in the year purchased when calculating service center billing rates. The cost of the equipment must be included in the service center billing rate as depreciation, using the straight-line method. Straight-line depreciation is calculated by dividing the original purchase cost of the equipment by its useful life. This ensures that users pay only for equipment cost associated with the usage in a given year.
Equipment Replacement Reserve
It is recommended that the funds recovered by depreciation included in the service center billing rate be set aside in a separate account as an equipment replacement reserve to fund the purchase of new equipment. At the request of the service center manager, Financial Management will establish an account to accumulate depreciation dollars. If additional funds are necessary to cover the cost of replacement equipment, other sources may be used. Surplus balances in the service center operating account must be used as carry forward adjustments and may not be used to purchase equipment.
Equipment Purchased With Federal Funds
Depreciation of equipment purchased by federally sponsored programs, whether or not title has reverted to the university, cannot be included in the service center billing rates. Where the university has agreed to cost-share a piece of equipment on a federal award, depreciation of the university-funded portion is not allowable in the service center billing rates.
Equipment Included In the University’s F&A Rate
The federal government cannot be charged for the depreciation of a piece of equipment both through a service center billing rate and through the university's indirect (F&A) rate. Financial Management will review equipment items included in the service center billing rate to confirm that the equipment is excluded from the university’s indirect (F&A) rate charged to federally sponsored programs.
Equipment With a Purchase Price Less Than $5,000
Equipment with a purchase price less than $5,000 is treated as an equipment expense.
|Equipment Purchase Price||Expense Time Period |
|$1 to $999||Expense the total cost in the year purchased|
|$1,000 to $4,999||Expense the total cost over a three year period |
Allowable conference expenses include facility rental, speaker fees, meal costs, and local transportation.
Other expenses that may be included in the service center billing rate include:
The OMB Uniform Guidance includes a list of considerations for selected items of cost. The list is not all-inclusive and failure to mention a particular item of cost is not intended to imply that it is either allowable or unallowable. Unallowable costs must be excluded from service center billing rates. The following list contains some of the costs that have been specifically identified in OMB’s Uniform Guidance as unallowable:
Internal university users should be charged the same rate for services provided. Alternate pricing structures (e.g., based on time-of-day, volume discounts, turn-around time) are acceptable, provided that they have a sound management basis, do not discriminate among users, and do not result in recovering more than the cost of providing the services.
If some users are not charged or are charged at reduced rates for the services, the non-subsidized or standard rate must be imputed in calculating the service center’s annual surplus or deficit. This is necessary to avoid having some users pay higher rates to compensate for reduced rates charged to other users.
The federal government does not object to charging external users a rate higher than the rate charged to internal users. However, revenues and costs associated with external users should be tracked separately to avoid the perception of overcharging.
Rates charged to external users may include:
External rates should not be significantly different than the prevailing rate for identical services provided by commercial organizations in the area.
Revenue from external users may have Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) implications.
All service centers must develop service center billing rates so that revenues offset costs over a reasonable period of time. The service center surplus or deficit for a given fiscal year generally should be carried forward as an adjustment to the service center billing rates for the following year or the next succeeding year.
Adjustments to service center billing rates for the completed fiscal year should be made only when material and reasonable.
During the rate development process, Financial Management will provide an annualized break-even pro-forma and will assist with reviewing the break-even analysis annually.
Amounts charged to external users in excess of the internal service center billing rate should be excluded when calculating the service center surplus or deficit.
Service centers must bill all customers for all services provided.
The service center may choose to provide a service to an internal group of users at no charge or at a lower rate than other users, however, the service center billing rate must be calculated for all internal users based on total service center expenses and total units of output.
The cost of the services used by the subsidized user group must be recorded to ensure that they are not inappropriately charged to other users.
The service center must ensure that the rate charged to this user group is consistent with that charged to others, including accounts ultimately charged to federal awards.
The university may choose to subsidize the operations of a service center. When billing rates are lower than cost, the resulting deficit cannot be carried forward as an adjustment to future billing rates.
|User||Payment Type |
|Internal User||Interdepartmental Invoice (IDI) |
Purchase Order (eReq)
|External User||Wire Transfer or ACH |
Electronic Payment (ePay, UBF Checkout)
Credit Card (requires prior approval)
Service centers receiving payments should ensure that the appropriate segregation of duties is maintained to safeguard funds and the university’s reputation as required by the Safeguarding Cash and Cash Equivalents Policy. For instance, a person who receives payments should not be the person who deposits payments or reconciles the account.
When staffing resources make segregation of duties difficult, compensating controls must be implemented to provide the appropriate checks and balances to detect errors, deter fraud, and prevent concealment of irregularities. Read about compensating controls in the Safeguarding Cash and Cash Equivalents Policy.
The service center manager must maintain rate development documentation. Documentation includes the actual costs of providing the service, units of service provided, billings, collections, and the annual surplus or deficit.
In accordance with OMB Uniform Guidance, original rate development documents must be retained for three years from the end of the fiscal year covered by the calculations. These documents are subject to external audit (e.g., federal, state, RF, other sponsors) and internal review
Service centers are established to provide specific technical or administrative services or goods that support the internal operating activities of the university. Service centers must provide services that are consistent with the university’s mission and the activities of the unit.
The cost of services provided by a service center must be charged directly to all users based upon actual use through a schedule of rates that recover costs. Service center billing rates should not differentiate among internal users (including federally sponsored activities) and must not exceed the actual cost of providing the goods or services.
Educational institutions must follow the requirements of OMB Part 200-Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards when developing service center billing rates and charging sponsored program accounts.
This policy applies to service center activities conducted through university accounts including State, RF, and UBF.
The unit of service provided by a service center. Examples of billing units include hours of service, animal care days, number of tests performed, or machine time used.
A meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium, workshop, or event whose primary purpose is the dissemination of technical information and is necessary and reasonable for successful performance.
The amount determined when costs exceed revenues for a given fiscal year.
An allocation of the cost of equipment over its useful life. Straight-line depreciation is calculated by dividing the original cost of the equipment by the estimated useful life.
Direct Operating Costs
Costs that can be specifically identified with a service including salaries, wages, and fringe benefits of university faculty and staff directly involved in providing the service, materials and supplies, purchased services, travel expenses, equipment rental, depreciation, and interest associated with equipment acquisitions.
An item of tangible personal property having a useful life exceeding one year.
The amount of funds accumulated and set aside to cover the cost of purchasing replacement equipment for the service center.
Organizations or individuals whose originating source of funds is outside the university. External users include faculty, staff, and students acting in a personal capacity. Affiliated hospitals and other universities are external users unless the university has subcontracted with them as part of a grant or contract, in which case they are an internal user. External users are billed an external rate.
The twelve month period used for accounting purposes; the university’s fiscal year is July 1 to June 30.
General University Service Fee (GUSF)
Fee charged against external revenue. The service fee is a flat rate charged across all entities on funds generated through the use of university faculty or staff time and/or use of university facilities.
Indirect (Facilities and Administrative (F&A)) Costs
The costs of administrative and support functions of the university including general administration and general expense, operations and maintenance, building and equipment depreciation, library expenses, and interest.
Internal Service Center Overhead
All costs that can be specifically identified to a service center, but not with a particular service provided by the center, such as the salary and fringe benefits of the director.
An academic, research, administrative, or auxiliary unit whose originating source of funds is within or flows through the university. The originating source includes State, RF, UBF, and Faculty Student Association funds. Internal users are billed an internal rate, based on allowable costs. Exception: Internal users, whose source of funds is industry-sponsored clinical trial funds flowing through the RF and require Institutional Review Board (IRB) services, are billed the external rate for the IRB services.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
The part of the executive branch of the federal government that assists the President in the development and implementation of budget, program, management, and regulatory policies.
An organization that provides a specific technical or administrative service that supports the internal operating activities of the university. Examples include but are not limited to lab analysis services, print and mail services, instrumentation shops, and animal care services. A service center recovers the cost of its operations through charges to users.
Service Center Billing Rate
The amount charged to a user for a unit of service calculated by dividing the total annual costs of the service center by the total number of billing units expected to be provided to users of the service for the year. See the Billing Rate Development Worksheet.
Service Center Management
Faculty or staff within a department that manage the financial or day-to-day operations of a service center, including the items listed in the responsibility portion of this policy (this does not include staff from the Financial Management).
Additional funding provided by a department or the university that assists in covering costs.
User who is charged at a lower rate or not charged at all.
Personal property that is expendable with a useful life of less than one year, and that cannot be classified as equipment.
The amount determined when revenues exceed costs for a given fiscal year.
Costs that cannot be included in calculating the cost of a service or activity.
Document issued by the Office of Management and Budget that establishes uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards to non-federal entities.
Unit of Measure (UOM)
Quantity at which the product or service will be billed.
Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT)
Taxes that result from income produced by the sale of goods or services to external users not substantially related to the university’s tax-exempt purpose.
The period of time over which a piece of equipment is expected to provide service.
|September 2021||Updated Service Center Internal Users to specify the exception that internal users, whose source of funds is industry-sponsored clinical trial funds flowing through the RF and require IRB services, are billed the external rate for these services. |
|December 2017 || |
Full review. Updated the policy to:
• Clarify the components included in the development and calculation of service center billing rates
|July 2015||Updated OMB Circular A-21 and A-110 references to reflect OMB Uniform Guidance references and requirements; the OMB Uniform Guidance has superseded these circulars.|
|March 2014|| |
• Removal of mandatory biennial (every two years) submission of the Billing Rate Worksheet
|August 2012|| |
• Addition of a clause stating that pre-billing in advance of a service is allowable
|May 2011|| |
• Change to the policy statement to include "actual services provided" as a criteria for invoicing