Subrecipient vs Contractor Classification

When entering into a relationship under a sponsored award, you need to determine the official classification of the relationship.

Before entering into a relationship with another entity for goods, services, or substantive work under a sponsored award to Tufts University, a determination must be made regarding the nature of the entity’s formal relationship with Tufts. This classification determines the type of legal agreement required to document the relationship, the allocation of responsibilities, and the appropriate application of indirect cost rates.

During the proposal phase or as prospective subrecipients are identified, the Subrecipient Determination Checklist may serve as a tool in making case-by-case determinations as to whether the party receiving the funds will serve in the role of a subrecipient or a contractor.  Please note that in determining whether a subrecipient or contractor relationship exists, the substance of the relationship is more important than the form of the agreement.

Note: Misclassification may result in delays of subaward processing and/or significant errors in F&A budget calculations.


A subaward is issued for the purpose of carrying out a portion of an award and creates an assistance relationship with the subrecipient.  Many of the factors listed below are present.

The Subrecipient:

  • Will be engaged to perform substantive, programmatic work (e.g. an important or significant portion of the research program or project)
  • Participates in designing or conducting the work
  • Is granted some element of programmatic control and discretion over how the work is carried out
  • May seek to publish or co-author results
  • Provides cost sharing or matching funds for which it is not reimbursed by Tufts
  • Personnel are identified as having a key role in Tufts proposal

*The University collects F&A on the first $25,000 of a subaward.


A contract is awarded for the purpose of obtaining goods and services for the non-Federal entity's own use and creates a procurement relationship with the contractor.  Many of the factors listed below are present.

The Contractor:

  • Is providing specified services in support of or ancillary to the research program or project
  • Has not participated significantly in the design of the work
  • Is not directly responsible for determining research or project results
  • Has little or no independent decision making in the design or conduct of the work being completed
  • Provides goods and services in the normal operations and markets these to a variety of customers (creating a procurement relationship)
  • Normally operates in competitive environment
  • Would not seek to publish or co-author results

*The University collects F&A on the entire amount of the contract.