An honorarium is a payment given to a person – often a speaker – who provides services that do not normally require a fee. Honorariums are usually not included in other expenses such as those related to travel, accommodations and meals. Most companies and educational institutions have guidelines that establish a maximum honorarium amount. An honorarium payment amount is determined by factors that include the expertise of the featured speaker.
Review the educational status of academic speakers. For example, a graduate student would be ranked lower than an associate professor or fully-tenured professor. For noneducational institutions, determine the expertise level of the person who is providing services, such as a wedding officiant who has conducted 100 ceremonies versus one who has conducted only a handful.
Factor in the size and attendance figures of the event. For example, an academic speaker who is lecturing to a small class of 30 would receive less than a speaker who fills an auditorium of hundreds or thousands.
Take into account the location of the event and the distance the speaker or person who is providing services must travel. Some events may include people from foreign countries, which would increase the amount of the honorarium.
Obtain records of honorarium amounts that were paid for similar events. Precedents established in the past can help you gauge whether the figure you have in mind is fair. Some differences may exist when making this comparison, but it provides you with a number that you can revise upward or downward depending on some of the other determining factors such as experience level.
If the event takes place over several days or even a week, determine ahead of time whether you will pay the honorarium per day or as a package deal.
If you want to exceed the honorarium cap established by your company or educational institution, you will have to provide documentation to explain why the speaker deserves more than the maximum amount.
Advise people receiving an honorarium that the money is subject to all normal taxes as regular income, and that they should speak to an accountant or tax professional regarding federal income tax implications.