An early PTA allows you to open up a PTA prior to receipt of an award or while an award is being negotiated. This allows you to begin charging expenses to the project at the PIs risk.
When you request an early PTA, the PI must identify a guarantee PTA with unrestricted funds to cover the costs in the event that the award does not materialize.
Once the award is received, an early PTA becomes the project PTA. The project is already setup in SeRA. An early PTA can be requested in the SeRA system. If human, animal subjects or stem cells are involved, certification is required that protocols have been filed for review and that no expenses involving those activities will be incurred until the final protocol approval is granted.
What Not to Do
Do not charge early expenses to an unrestricted PTA when spending in advance of a fully executed award because it is very difficult to separate costs that benefit a sponsored project from other costs in an unrestricted PTA.
You would have to transfer the early expenses to the proper PTA once the award is executed, and provide careful documentation of how they benefit the project. Additionally, depending on how the expenses are incurred, the costs could be considered unallowable. The CAS (Cost Accounting Standards) language states:
The costs of any work project not contractually authorized, whether or not related to performance of a proposed or existing contract, shall be accounted for, to the extent appropriate, in a manner which permits ready separation from the costs of authorized work projects.
Do not use another sponsored PTA to fund expenses that you intend to move later. The expenses would be considered both unallowable and unallocable.