Recommended Criteria for Distinguishing between Gift/Contribution, Sponsored Contract/Grant and Educational Activity/Other Revenue
The classification of the revenue does not determine the central office (i.e., Office of Sponsored Programs or Alumni Affairs and Development in Ithaca, Office of Sponsored Research Administration or Office of External Affairs at Weill Cornell Medical College) with prime proposal and stewardship oversight. This is determined by the policies promulgated by those offices.
Occasionally, the university makes an agreement with an external entity to share the expenses of a particular activity. It might be more efficient or convenient for the department to initially pay all the expenses; however, the cost of that activity on the university’s books should only reflect its share of the expenses. In these situations, the funds received from the other party should be recorded as a reimbursement of expenses and not as revenue. Revenue should only be recorded as the result of revenue-generating activities, like providing a good or service.
In some cases, customers may pay before the unit provides a good or service for them; however, revenue should only be recorded in period when it is earned. Deposits (whether refundable or non-refundable) and early or pre-payments should not be recognized as revenue until the revenue-producing event has occurred.
The cash given to the unit is a liability because it represents an obligation the unit has to provide the good or service (and justify receiving the cash). When this occurs, deferred revenue or a deposit should be recorded.