Process Honorarium Payment

What is an Honorarium?

An honorarium is a one-time token gesture of appreciation for a special, non-recurring activity or event for which a fee is not legally or traditionally required. There is no contract, the fee is not set or negotiated by the recipient, and the honorarium may not be paid to a third party (corporation, business or partnership). If payment is negotiated and agreed upon, it is considered a contractual agreement, not an honorarium. The amount of an honorarium should not be set to compensate for lost fees, wages, or other opportunity costs incurred by the recipient. Professional Speaker Fees with a formal contract should be charged to 73215, Speaker Fees.

An honorarium may include consideration for travel expenses. Honorariums that exceed $2,000 should be first reviewed with your unit’s Chief Business Officer and/or the Purchasing Department (email purch1@gmu.edu) prior to making any commitments to a recipient. Honoraria payments are exempt from eVA procurement and may be processed through Accounts Payable with the Honorarium Payment Request. The completed form with supporting documentation can be sent to apforms@gmu.edu.

Traditional Honoraria

A traditional honorarium is paid to an individual who is not a Mason employee or current Mason student.

  • Traditional honorarium is typically paid to persons of scholarly or professional standing with the intent of showing goodwill and appreciation

Examples of Traditional Honoraria:

  • Payment to a guest speaker. A guest speaker is someone who is not a professional speaker for a career or business (professional speakers should be coded as a speaker, not an honorarium). They possess knowledge of a particular subject area and speak about that subject area to a group or organization with which he or she is normally not involved. Suggested Honorarium: $500-$750 plus travel costs
  • Payment for participation as a judge in a writing or photo contest. Suggested Honorarium: $50-$150 plus travel costs
  • Payment for participation in a panel discussion. Suggested Honorarium: $150- $300 plus travel costs
  • Payment for an author to discuss their book to a Mason group or organization: Suggested Honorarium: $250- $500 plus travel costs
  • Payment for participation in a one-hour panel, seminar or debate: Suggested Honorarium $250-$500 plus travel costs
  • Payment for a visiting scholar who traveled from an international location under an approved Visa- Suggested Honorarium: $500-$1,500 plus travel costs

Operational Honoraria

An operational honorarium is paid to an individual, who is not a Mason employee, for an activity that supports Mason operations.

  • Operational honoraria are typically paid to individuals (including current Mason students) with the intent of showing appreciation for participation in university education, research, or public service activities.

Examples of Operational Honoraria:

  • Payment for participation as a volunteer judge for the Patriot Games. Suggested Honorarium-$50-$100 plus travel costs
  • Payment to a volunteer swim official for a community swim event. Suggested Honorarium- $50-$100 plus travel costs
  • Payment for serving as a volunteer or an advisory board for a 6-month period which contributed to Mason’s mission- Suggested Honorarium- $250-$500

The following are examples of when honoraria are NOT appropriate: 

Payments requiring a signed contractPayments for a recurring activity or service
Payments being made against an invoicePayments for the services of a facilitator
Payments for performances including comedic, dramatic, musical or other similar artistic performancesPayments to professional motivational speakers who perform such services as a career and charge a fee to participate in the event
Payments to faculty, staff or student employees for their servicesPayments to foreign visitors (nonresident aliens) not approved to work in the United States

Processing Honoraria

Individuals receiving payments must have a Mason G#. To determine if the individual has a G# use the Vendor G Number lookup. If the individual does not have a G# a Substitute W-9 form, W-8BEN, or W-8BEN-E form must be submitted through the Vendor registration portal located, here: https://fiscal.gmu.edu/purchasing/do-business-withmason/. This step is required before submitting an honorarium payment request.

Taxation:

All honorarium payments, regardless of the dollar amount, to visitors who are U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service. U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents will receive an IRS Form 1099-MISC if the total payment is $600 or greater in any one calendar year. Non-U.S. citizens will receive an IRS form 1042-S and a thirty percent (30%) tax may be withheld from all payments unless the individual is eligible to claim a tax treaty exemption. The unit should consider the thirty percent tax when calculating the total payment amount of the honorarium. In some cases, it may be appropriate to increase the honorarium payment to absorb the tax assessment.

Required Documentation for U.S. Citizens/Permanent Residents
  1. The Independent Contractor Evaluation Form if the amount is $250 or greater
  2. Completed the Honorarium Payment Request form
  3. Letter of invitation and/or justification letter /a flyer showing the payee’s participation
  4. The completed form with supporting documentation can be sent to apforms@gmu.edu.   
Required Documentation for Foreign Nationals/Non –U.S. Citizens
  1. The Independent Contractor Evaluation Form if the payment amount is $250 or greater
  2. Completed the Honorarium Payment Request form
  3. Letter of invitation and/or justification letter / a flyer showing the payee’s participation 
  4. Detailed instructions are available at Honorarium Payments to Foreign Nationals
  5. IRS Form W-8 BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding
  6. Letter of invitation, stipulating the date and purpose of the activity and the amount of honorarium to be paid.
  7. Copies of the recipient’s immigration documents or the Statement for Services Performed Outside of the U.S., for details see Procedures for Honorarium Payments to Foreign Nationals.
  8. The completed form with supporting documentation should be sent to the International Tax Coordinator at inttax@gmu.edu for review and appropriate tax withholding calculation.
  9. The International Tax Coordinator will submit the request to Accounts payable after processing.