Reporting Participant Reimbursement

Davidson College researchers (faculty and staff) sometimes provide incentives to research participants in the form of gift cards, goods, or cash. 

The most typical reimbursements are:

  • Payment of about $10 for participation that lasts roughly an hour in a campus location;
  • Presentation of a gift card (physical or electronic), often between $3 and $10 depending on how long participation takes; this applies both to data collection on campus and electronic surveys (e.g., Qualtrics, MTurk through Amazon);
  • Offer of goods (e.g., school supplies, groceries) typically worth $3 to $50 depending on how long participation takes and cultural context (e.g., field research sometimes occurs abroad).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires the Controller's Office to report compensation to all individuals who receive more than $600 in a calendar year. However, providing the Controller's Office with the names of research participants would violate the confidentiality that researchers agree to provide for participants. Also, it is sometimes impossible to know the names (e.g., anonymous surveys).


The purpose of this policy is to enable researchers to protect the identity of research participants but, in the event of an external audit of the Controller's Office, have a provision for providing required documentation.


Researchers will keep receipts for four years in case Davidson College is audited and the researchers need to produce the receipts. Producing receipts in the case of an audit complies with information on consent forms that names will be disclosed only when "required by law."


In accordance with the Controller's Office procedures, researchers will provide receipts associated with participant incentives to their funding source (external grant, Faculty Study and Research, etc.). These might include receipts for bulk purchase of gift cards, paying Amazon to pay MTurkers, or cash withdrawals.  Researchers must provide the approved IRB protocol number along with the supporting documentation for the gift cards when documenting gift card purchases (e.g., through BoA Works).  

Researchers will maintain signed receipts from participants for four years in case Davidson College is audited (faculty will need to store these for students who will graduate; faculty who leave the college should turn such receipts in to their Department chair).

Administration of Policy

The director of The Office of Sponsored Programs in consultation with the chair of the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the Controller's Office shall oversee this policy and review it at least once every five years. Changes to this policy shall be made in accordance with the college's Policy on Policies.

Adopted: October 14, 2015

Amended: February 19, 2020