There are a number of things a Principal Investigator should be aware of when selecting, engaging, and compensating a consultant.
Selecting a Consultant
- Please refer to the Contractor vs. Employee presentation for a distinction between a contractor / consultant and a university employee.
- The Principal Investigator (PI) must determine, in conjunction with University Tax Services, that the individual obtained to do work for the project should be considered and paid as a consultant, as opposed to hiring the person as an employee. To facilitate the process the PI may complete and submit the Employee / Independent Contractor Questionnaire to University Tax Services for a determination.
- The consultant firm/individual must be able to utilize his/her/its own expenses until reimbursement is provided. DePaul University does not pay advances to consultants.
- The consultant firm/individual must have the capacity to assemble documentation for reimbursement (receipts, etc.) if expenses are to be covered and prepare an invoice to DePaul.
- Procurement for consultant services is subject to the policies of competition established by DePaul University. This means that consultant services anticipated to exceed $25,000 require three quotes.
- When selecting and engaging consultants, PIs should be aware of DePaul’s conflict of interest (COI) policies:
Conflicts of interest and Significant Financial Interests, as defined by these policies, must be reported in a timely manner so that strategies for appropriately managing any COIs can be developed and mutually agreed upon. For orientations to these policies, see ORS’ web-based training programs in grants management.
- Consultants from inside the United States must have a social security number and firms must have a Taxpayer Identification Number.
- If the consultant to be engaged is from outside the United States, take these steps before the work begins so that compensation and reimbursement can be processed:
- Ensure that the international visitor has a valid social security or ITIN number before entering the US.
- If the consultant has an ITIN number, the department needs to send the international visitor an 8233 form, available from the Payroll or Payment Office. A completed 8233 form, and copies of the passport and visa must be forwarded to the Payroll or Payment Office before the international consultant arrives in the US.
- If the consultant has no ITIN number, he/she can obtain one from the US Embassy in their country prior to departure. International visitors should check with the US Embassy in their country for advise on processing time, to ensure that the necessary documents are in order upon arrival in the US.
- If the consultant is unable to obtain a ITIN number from the US Embassy, they must complete a W-7 form and submit it to the Payroll Office for processing. There is a 30-day verification period before they will be considered for processing for an ITIN by the Social Security Administration, and processing the W-7 may take as long as 60 to 90 days. Therefore obtaining an ITIN number is recommended prior to arriving in the US.
- The PI must complete and submit a "Foreign National Information Form" available at the Payroll department in Financial Affairs.
If travel costs are to be reimbursed to the consultant, the Principal Investigator must ensure that the consultant is traveling in a manner compliant with the Fly-America Act. If the reimbursement is coming from a federal source and the consultant did not utilize an existing US flag airline, the expense will be considered unallowable and will not be reimbursed from the grant account.
Engaging a Consultant
While a sub-agreement may not be necessary to utilize the services of a consultant on a limited basis, it is nevertheless a essential to have some written parameters regarding expectations for all parties before the work begins. This is particularly true if the amount to be paid for services exceeds $500.
These parameters can be codified in a simple Letter of Agreement that includes:
- The scope of work to be done
- Deliverables to be submitted
- Either fixed amount to be paid, or a rate not to exceed a certain amount
- Method of payment (monthly, lump sum, upon submission of deliverable, etc.)
Visit the Office of the General Counsel website (requires authentication) to view a sample of a consultant agreement letter (the Professional Services Form Agreement).
The letter of agreement is signed by the Principal Investigator with a copy to the consultant and a copy for ORS files. If the Letter of Agreement exceeds $2,500, the PI will enter this information into e-Procurement for issuance of a Purchase Order.
Paying a Consultant
Once a consultant has completed his/her contribution, or at the time of a scheduled reimbursement, the Principal Investigator is to request an invoice for the compensation and/or the expenses to be reimbursed to the consultant. General rules for the payment of consultants are available here.
This invoice should include the following information:
- On letterhead if from an incorporated entity.
- The individual's Social Security Number (or ITIN) or the corporation's Taxpayer Identification Number.
- For compensation, a brief description of the services provided.
- For reimbursement, an itemization of the expenses and original receipts as supporting documentation.
- Payment instructions, preferably an address to mail the check. Bank account information for electronic funds transfer is also acceptable.