Pop a Cap in Your Salary

Most people know by now that the NIH cap on compensated salary has been raised to $181,500, and that all new proposals should reflect this number in their budgets.  Budgets, though, have two distinct fields that rely on this number; what exactly do you do with it?

  1. The “Institutional Base Salary” field. You have your choice on how to handle this field.  You may enter the actual institutional base salary (even if over the current NIH salary cap) OR, if your investigator would prefer not to reveal actual salary, you can input the cap number ($181,500) and add  an asterisk (*).  If you use an asterisk, provide an explanation in the budget justification that the researcher has elected not to include actual salary information and a statement that the institutional base salary exceeds the salary cap (if applicable). If this option is selected, PIs must still submit one copy of the application to NIH that does include the institutional base salary. SPA prefers that you state the actual salary in your explanation if you elect not to include it in the budget worksheet, as this satisfies the requirement.
  2. The “Salary Requested” field. If your investigator is over the salary cap, your salary requested is the effort percentage multiplied by the salary cap.  For instance, if your investigator’s institutional base salary (note: do NOT include attachment or additional assignment amounts) is $200,000 and s/he will be devoting 10% effort to the project, your salary requested is [10% x $181,500] = $18,150.

This, of course, brings us to voluntary uncommitted cost sharing.  If your investigator is over the NIH salary cap, this means that his or her department must absorb the difference; this is known as mandatory cost share. Cost sharing must be requested and documented before the application is submitted, and the form can be found here.  To calculate how much your will need to request in cost sharing in a single year, you will need to determine the investigator’s institutional base salary (from Banner NBAJOBS screen) and the amount of effort the investigator will be devoting to the project:

[Non-Allowable Salary in a Year] = ( [Investigator Institutional Base] x [Investigator Project Effort] ) – ( [NIH Salary Cap] x [Investigator Project Effort] )

So, using the example numbers from above for an investigator with an institutional base of $200,000:

[Non-Allowable Salary in a Year] = ($200,000 x 10%) – ($181,500 x 10%)

= $1,850

Don’t forget to request the applicable fringes in each year as well; these are also considered to be above the NIH salary cap.  In our example above, we would request the department to pick up the the Wayne State University fringe rate 26.8% in addition to the salary over the cap.  Fringes, then, would be calculated as $1,850 x 26.8% = $495.80  The departmental cost share request for the year we just calculated, then, would be  $1,850 salary + $495.80 fringes, for a total amount of $2,345.80 in that year.  This downloadable spreadsheet may help you in your calculations; don’t forget to calculate each year of the project separately if you have included projected salary increases or adjustments in effort percentages in different years.

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