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Effort certification and travel

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Effort is required on a sponsored project in most instances when submitting a travel reimbursement to be paid from that sponsored project:

  • University of MN policy states that all 100-percent-time employees must have contributed effort on a sponsored project in order to be reimbursed for travel on that project. The effort must be certified or cost shared to the project during the effort period in which the travel occurs.
  • Employees less than 100 percent time and graduate students with less than 100-percent-time appointments are not subject to the effort certification requirement. The University has provided a work-around with the statement "This travel and related activities occurred outside of my University appointment time."

Please contact me if you have questions on when effort certification is necessary.

- Patti Combs, accountant

Effort certification reminder

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Effort certification, for those of you on sponsored projects, for the period 12/16/2013 to 6/15/2014 will be available 8/18/2014. All statements must be in approved status by 9/26/2014.

This effort period also brings the roll out of ECRT V. 4.5. This version is very similar in how it works but will look different than the prior version. Review the job aid and demo. Please contact me if you have any questions when certifying your effort.

-Patti Combs, accountant

Welcome to Patti Combs

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Patricia (Patti) Combs has been hired as the new Center accountant effective Monday, June 16, 2014. She received a degree in accounting from the University of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management. Patti comes to Extension with more than 25 years of University of Minnesota experience having worked both in the accounting and human resource functions. Her certified approver status and extensive knowledge of the University systems and both sponsored and non-sponsored processes will be a great asset for the Center and Extension Finance & Planning. Patti's current position is with the Department of Chemistry. Please help welcome Patti to the Center and Extension Finance & Planning teams.

-Rick Konkol, finance manager

Important accounting deadlines for fiscal year 2014 are coming up this month. View the deadlines and mark your calendar.

Finance questions after April 11

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After Clint Schoeck's departure on April 11 (see notice), questions related to non-sponsored activities route through Rick Konkol and questions related to sponsored activities route through Mary Ann Keddie or Extension Grants Management Team. Educators will work with the same regional support staff and EFS document approvals would flow: departmental (Rick) and sponsored (Mary Ann).

Reminder on program agreements

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Educators: Please be sure that you enter into appropriate agreements when you make arrangements to provide a program/service to an external entity in exchange for revenue. University policy requires these written agreements be in place to govern external sales transactions with non-University entities. Ultimately, the educator/initiator of the event is responsible for making sure these agreements are in place. Read the University policy on external funding sources and read more about the policy in Extension.

In many instances, you will use Extension's program agreement contract template to accomplish this. Find these forms and instructions for processing them.

Please feel free to contact me with questions regarding external funding sources.

-Clint Schoeck, accountant

Are you aware of the mileage rate change?

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The IRS announced changes in the standard business mileage rates for calendar year 2014. Beginning January 1, the standard business mileage reimbursement rate for personal vehicle use on approved University business decreased from 56.5 cents to 56 cents per mile. Business mileage incurred in 2013, but reimbursed in 2014, should be reimbursed using the 2013 mileage rates. The Employee Expense Worksheet, UM1612, (218 K DOC) has been updated to reflect the changes to the mileage rates. These forms are also available on the Extension Finance intranet.

For more information, read the Traveling on University Business policy, or contact me with questions.

-Clint Schoeck, accounting

Effort certification cycle one is complete

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Effort certification cycle one for fiscal year 2014, which covers June 17, 2013 to December 15, 2013, is complete. Faculty and staff who are paid on sponsored projects or companion cost-share accounts will be notified at the end of January to certify their effort statement. All effort statements should be certified by February 14, 2014.

Please carefully review the statements you are responsible for. Once effort has been certified, it is difficult to make historical financial corrections. The benefit of certifying effort is we have the opportunity to catch potential payroll errors. If you do not believe the information listed on the statement is accurate or complete, please inform me and I will work with you to resolve it.

View the certification tutorial video.

Read about the policy and procedure.

I serve as CFANS-Extension designated effort coordinator so please feel free to contact me with questions.
-Clint Schoeck, accounting

Justification on financial transactions

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Educators: please continue to improve your justification on financial transactions to ensure completeness, especially with financial transactions that involve sponsored funds (grants). All transactions that use sponsored funding must state how the transaction is specifically benefiting the grant objectives/deliverables per University policy. It is the educator's/PI's responsibility to provide this information at the outset to the support staff processing the financial transaction.

While many times the "direct benefit" may seem obvious, please be aware that the various preparers and approvers involved with processing the transaction are not familiar with your research/programming; please write your justification in a way so someone unfamiliar with your work can easily understand the benefit of the expense to the grant.

Examples of well written justifications
Justification: Attended the (name of conference) in (location) to disseminate results of research on (field of expertise); attended meetings with collaborators (identify). Benefit: Traveler has effort on grant and travel in order to disseminate research results for project outreach was submitted in the proposal and approved by sponsor.

Justification: Collaborative research initiative with (collaborator) located in (city, state); traveler has effort on grant and duties include planning collaborative project with (collaborator). Benefit: Start (type of work) project for the (project name). This (type of work) is directly related to achieving (grant objective).

-Clint Schoeck, accounting

Recommended: the mileage log

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As a reminder, all travel reimbursements need to clearly document your travel—the starting and stopping locations, the specific dates of travel, and purpose for traveling. The mileage log located in the Extension intranet finance and planning section is a great form to use to document this information. I encourage you to use this form if you are not doing so already.

-Clint Schoeck, accountant

Travel on Sponsored Projects

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In addition to the who, what, why, when, and where (5Ws) information that is required for all financial transactions, educators who request travel reimbursement from Sponsored Projects must provide specific justification on how the travel helped achieve the goals or objectives of the sponsored project per University policy.

Providing this information up front will help prevent delays in your reimbursement from both myself and the certified approver of the transaction.

A useful tip when writing your justification is to write the justification in a way that someone unfamiliar with your programming and research would understand why the travel was necessary.

-Clint Schoeck, accounting

Using professional services

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Many of the external services we use in CFANS-Extension are considered professional services. The University of Minnesota defines professional services as "customized services consisting of specialized intellectual or creative expertise based on personal skills or ideas of an individual(s) that are provided for a fee."

Professional services costing more than $3,000 must have the appropriate paperwork filled out and processed in the financial system before work begins. Please be proactive on these purchases and work with your support staff to determine what forms are needed before you have the vendor start work. The U of M policy on professional services can be found here.

-Clint Schoeck, accounting

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