Budget preparation & funds management

An accurate budget is essential for a successful project. If a project  is not fully costed, it may run out of funds before it ends, blowing timelines, reducing quality and letting down partners.

A good budget highlights the resources needed for an agreed outcome and either ensures those resources are provided, or opens avenues for discussing alternative approaches.

Tips

  • Use the research costing tool. This has accurate salaries incorporated, including for future years, as well as GST and other variables
  • For complex projects and tenders, cost each stage or phase separately
  • Consider all the resources needed: staff time, travel, consumables, transcription.
  • Be accurate – you can adjust margins in the costing tool to allow for uncertainty or risk. Changing the time required or number of an item only risks later confusion

Budget preparation guide & costing template

The comprehensive Research Budget Preparation Guide provides information to consider when preparing a research budget for a grant application, and for commercial and contract research.

For contract and commercial research, use the VU Contract and Commercial Research Pricing Template.

Managing research funds

Download Essential Rules for Managing Research Funds, our guide for researchers, deans, directors, finance staff and research administrators on managing research funding.

Travel & Living Away From Home

There are various reasons which will lead to researchers, from all levels of experience, having a budget to travel and live away from home as part of their work, for example undertaking a research project or a component of a research project funded by a grant, participating in meetings/conferences or a visiting fellow program.

Travel & Living Away From Home under 21 days

If your travel and living away from home is under 21 days either consecutively or staggered throughout the life of the project, refer to the ATO Reasonable amounts for travel expenses taxation determination to calculate your allowance.

Travel & Living Away From Home over 21 days

For over 21 consecutive days, the ATO does not permit the above rates to be used, and a Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA) must be applied for.

For assistance with making the initial assessment as to whether you are eligible to apply for LAFHA, please phone Palmina Fichera on +61 3 9919 4707 or email palmina.fichera@vu.edu.au.

In order to receive the LAFHA, you will need to satisfy the following eligibility conditions:

  1. You will need to maintain a home in Australia. To be accepted as maintaining a home in Australia, all of the following must apply:
    • You or your spouse must have an ownership interest in a home. Ownership interest includes a home that you own or rent.
    • The home must be available for your immediate personal use at all times while you are living away from it and
    • You will resume living at that home when you are no longer living away from home for the purposes of your employment with the University.
  2. Provide two declarations:
    • A declaration that you are living away from home and
    • A declaration that you will be incurring accommodation and food and drink expenses for which a LAFHA will be provided.

The LAFHA is made up of two components:

  1. Accommodation - this is the amount of accommodation expenses actually incurred by you during the period you will be living away from home. You will need to provide evidence for the full amount of spent. Lease agreements, credit card statements, bank statements etc. form a good basis of documentary evidence of the actual accommodation expenses incurred.
  2. Exempt Food Component - the University Policy is to provide you with an allowance for food and drink expenses based on the Commissioner's reasonable amount and no substantiation is required.

Under the current LAFHA rules, LAFHA can only be paid for a maximum period of 12 months to one location for a specific project. It may be paused if you return to your normal home after taking leave such as Annual Leave, Long Service Leave etc. but cannot exceed 12 months of payment.

This allowance is paid by People and Culture (HR).

Eligibility

If you don't qualify for LAHFA and exceed the 21 day limit, you will be paid an allowance through People and Culture, however this will be subject to PAYG withholding tax (income tax). If you are in this situation, please phone Steve Visevic on +61 3 9919 5071.

Further help

For further guidance on this topic, including how to budget for travel if you are going to use the LAFHA, please refer to the LAFHA Factsheet or contact the Taxation Accountant, Samira Hagos by phoning +61 3 9919 2236 or email samira.hagos@vu.edu.au.