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Eligibility of Membership Dues for FHWA/FTA Planning Funds

Eligibility of Membership Dues for FHWA/FTA Planning Funds

07/25/2006 01:50:38 PM, Revised 12/26/2014
Lorrie Lau
HQs Planning Memos and Guidance, Federal Highway Administration,

The clarification is to provide guidance on the use of FHWA and FTA State planning and research, metropolitan planning funds for membership dues in professional associations or other organizations.

This policy updates the previous subject guidance, issued on October 2, 2002 and July 25, 2006. The guidance below is based on the guidelines in 2 CFR Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

The basic guideline is that for a cost to be allowable, as either a direct or indirect cost, it must be necessary and reasonable for proper and efficient performance of the Federally funded program and must be assignable to the Federal program and other activities in accordance with the benefits received by those activities. In essence, a cost can be billed to a Federal award based on the relative benefits to the work being performed with the Federal funds versus other benefiting activities. (2 CFR § 200.403 - 405)

For organizations such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), which are multipurpose organizations that provide benefits to their members for more than just transportation planning, the membership dues need to be treated as an indirect cost or the dues must be allocated to all benefiting activities of the member agency on an equitable basis that considers the relative benefits to the federally funded transportation planning work.

In the case of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO), which is an organization that specifically serves the MPOs responsible for carrying out the metropolitan planning process required by title 23 U.S.C. and Chapter 53 of title 49, U.S.C., the eligible portion of the dues may be billed directly to FHWA/FTA funds if similar costs are billed directly to other benefiting activities.

Memberships in any organization or professional association must be in the name of the member agency and not in the name of an individual in order to be allowable (2 CFR § 200.454). In addition, in all cases the portion of the organization's dues that is used for lobbying is unallowable and cannot be billed to Federal funds as either an indirect or direct cost. In the case of non-profit organizations such as AASHTO, NARC, APTA, and AMPO, those activities that are considered to be lobbying and unallowable are identified in 2 CFR § 200.450 (copy attached). If these organizations do not notify their members of the portion of the dues that are for lobbying activities, the State DOT or MPO should request such information from the organization.


2 CFR § 200.450 Lobbying.

  1. (a) The cost of certain influencing activities associated with obtaining grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, or loans is an unallowable cost. Lobbying with respect to certain grants, contracts, cooperative agreements, and loans is governed by relevant statutes, including among others, the provisions of 31 U.S.C. 1352, as well as the common rule, "New Restrictions on Lobbying" published at 55 FR 6736 (February 26, 1990), including definitions, and the Office of Management and Budget "Governmentwide Guidance for New Restrictions on Lobbying" and notices published at 54 FR 52306 (December 20, 1989), 55 FR 24540 (June 15, 1990), 57 FR 1772 (January 15, 1992), and 61 FR 1412 (January 19, 1996).
  2. (b) Executive lobbying costs. Costs incurred in attempting to improperly influence either directly or indirectly, an employee or officer of the executive branch of the Federal government to give consideration or to act regarding a Federal award or a regulatory matter are unallowable. Improper influence means any influence that induces or tends to induce a Federal employee or officer to give consideration or to act regarding a Federal award or regulatory matter on any basis other than the merits of the matter.
  3. (c) In addition to the above, the following restrictions are applicable to nonprofit organizations and IHEs:
    1. (1) Costs associated with the following activities are unallowable:
      1. (i) Attempts to influence the outcomes of any Federal, state, or local election, referendum, initiative, or similar procedure, through in-kind or cash contributions, endorsements, publicity, or similar activity;
      2. (ii) Establishing, administering, contributing to, or paying the expenses of a political party, campaign, political action committee, or other organization established for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections in the United States;
      3. (iii) Any attempt to influence:
        1. (A)The introduction of Federal or state legislation;
        2. (B) The enactment or modification of any pending Federal or state legislation through communication with any member or employee of the Congress or state legislature (including efforts to influence state or local officials to engage in similar lobbying activity);
        3. (C) The enactment or modification of any pending Federal or state legislation by preparing, distributing, or using publicity or propaganda, or by urging members of the general public, or any segment thereof, to contribute to or participate in any mass demonstration, march, rally, fund raising drive, lobbying campaign or letter writing or telephone campaign; or
        4. (D) Any government official or employee in connection with a decision to sign or veto enrolled legislation;
      4. (iv) Legislative liaison activities, including attendance at legislative sessions or committee hearings, gathering information regarding legislation, and analyzing the effect of legislation, when such activities are carried on in support of or in knowing preparation for an effort to engage in unallowable lobbying.
    2. (2) The following activities are excepted from the coverage of paragraph (c)(1) of this section:
      1. (i) Technical and factual presentations on topics directly related to the performance of a grant, contract, or other agreement (through hearing testimony, statements, or letters to the Congress or a state legislature, or subdivision, member, or cognizant staff member thereof), in response to a documented request (including a Congressional Record notice requesting testimony or statements for the record at a regularly scheduled hearing) made by the non-Federal entity's member of congress, legislative body or a subdivision, or a cognizant staff member thereof, provided such information is readily obtainable and can be readily put in deliverable form, and further provided that costs under this section for travel, lodging or meals are unallowable unless incurred to offer testimony at a regularly scheduled Congressional hearing pursuant to a written request for such presentation made by the Chairman or Ranking Minority Member of the Committee or Subcommittee conducting such hearings;
      2. (ii) Any lobbying made unallowable by paragraph (c)(1)(iii) of this section to influence state legislation in order to directly reduce the cost, or to avoid material impairment of the non-Federal entity's authority to perform the grant, contract, or other agreement; or
      3. (iii) Any activity specifically authorized by statute to be undertaken with funds from the Federal award.
      4. (iv) Any activity excepted from the definitions of "lobbying" or "influencing legislation" by the Internal Revenue Code provisions that require nonprofit organizations to limit their participation in direct and "grass roots" lobbying activities in order to retain their charitable deduction status and avoid punitive excise taxes, I.R.C. §§ 501(c)(3), 501(h), 4911(a), including:
        1. (A) Nonpartisan analysis, study, or research reports;
        2. (B) Examinations and discussions of broad social, economic, and similar problems; and
        3. (C) Information provided upon request by a legislator for technical advice and assistance, as defined by I.R.C. § 4911(d)(2) and 26 CFR 56.4911-2(c)(1)-(c)(3).
      5. (v) When a non-Federal entity seeks reimbursement for indirect (F&A) costs, total lobbying costs must be separately identified in the indirect (F&A) cost rate proposal, and thereafter treated as other unallowable activity costs in accordance with the procedures of § 200.413 Direct costs.
      6. (vi) The non-Federal entity must submit as part of its annual indirect (F&A) cost rate proposal a certification that the requirements and standards of this section have been complied with. (See also § 200.415 Required certifications.)
      7. (vii)
        1. (A) Time logs, calendars, or similar records are not required to be created for purposes of complying with the record keeping requirements in § 200.302 Financial management with respect to lobbying costs during any particular calendar month when:
          1. (1) The employee engages in lobbying (as defined in paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section) 25 percent or less of the employee's compensated hours of employment during that calendar month; and
          2. (2) Within the preceding five-year period, the non-Federal entity has not materially misstated allowable or unallowable costs of any nature, including legislative lobbying costs.
        2. (B) When conditions in paragraph (c)(2)(vii)(A)(1) and (2) of this section are met, non-Federal entities are not required to establish records to support the allowability of claimed costs in addition to records already required or maintained. Also, when conditions in paragraphs (c)(2)(vii)(A)(1) and (2) of this section are met, the absence of time logs, calendars, or similar records will not serve as a basis for disallowing costs by contesting estimates of lobbying time spent by employees during a calendar month.
      8. (viii) The Federal awarding agency must establish procedures for resolving in advance, in consultation with OMB, any significant questions or disagreements concerning the interpretation or application of this section. Any such advance resolutions must be binding in any subsequent settlements, audits, or investigations with respect to that grant or contract for purposes of interpretation of this part, provided, however, that this must not be construed to prevent a contractor or non-Federal entity from contesting the lawfulness of such a determination.

2 CFR § 200.454 Memberships, subscriptions, and professional activity costs.

  1. (a) Costs of the non-Federal entity's membership in business, technical, and professional organizations are allowable.
  2. (b) Costs of the non-Federal entity's subscriptions to business, professional, and technical periodicals are allowable.
  3. (c) Costs of membership in any civic or community organization are allowable with prior approval by the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity.
  4. (d) Costs of membership in any country club or social or dining club or organization are unallowable.
  5. (e) Costs of membership in organizations whose primary purpose is lobbying are unallowable. See also § 200.450 Lobbying.
Updated: 12/29/2014
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