Temporary duty (TDY) allowances are paid to employees traveling on official business, interviewees performing pre-employment interview travel, employees who must interrupt official business travel to perform emergency travel as a result of an incapacitating illness or injury or a personal emergency situation, and threatened law enforcement/investigative employees and members of their family temporarily relocated to safeguard their lives because of a threat resulting from the employee’s assigned duties.
Employees are eligible for repayment of transportation expenses when performing official travel, including local travel. Reimbursable expenses include fares, rental fees, mileage payments and other expenses related to transportation.
Per diem is an allowance (also referred to as subsistence allowance) for lodging and meals and related incidental expenses for travelers on official government business. GSA annually prescribes rates for the contiguous 48 states, called CONUS. A separate rate, called OCONUS, is established for travel outside the contiguous states.
Generally you must have written or electronic authorization prior to incurring any travel expense.
There are three main requirements for using airlines:
- use contract carriers, when available;
- use coach class service, unless premium class or first class service is authorized; and
- use U.S. flag air carrier or (ship) service, unless use of foreign air carrier or (ship) is authorized.
Use of contract carriers
You generally must use a contract city-pair fare unless: space is not available; the contractor’s flight schedule is inconsistent with your agency’s travel policies; or in certain other circumstances including when another carrier offers a lower fare to the general public that, if used, will result in a lower total trip cost to the federal government (the combined costs of transportation, lodging, meals, and related expenses considered).
You may also use a non-contract fare such as a through fare, special fare, commutation fare, excursion fare or reduced-rate round-trip fare if your agency determines prior to your travel that this type of service is practical and economical to the government, and in the case of a fare that is restricted or has specific eligibility requirements, you know or reasonably can anticipate, based on the travel as planned, that you will use the ticket.
You may not use contract passenger service for personal travel.
The list of city-pairs is at www.gsa.gov—choose Travel, then Plan & Book.
Class of accommodation
For official business travel, both domestic and international, you generally must use coach-class accommodations. Exceptions are:
- No -coach-class accommodation is reasonably available. “Reasonably available” means available on an airline that is scheduled to leave within 24 hours of your proposed departure time, or scheduled to arrive within 24 hours of your proposed arrival time.
- When use of a class other than coach-class is necessary to accommodate a disability or other special need. A disability must be substantiated in writing by a competent medical authority. A special need must be substantiated in writing according to your agency’s procedures. If you are authorized to have an attendant accompany you, your agency also may authorize the attendant to use the same accommodations if you require the attendant’s services en route.
- When exceptional security circumstances require other than coach-class travel.
- When required because of agency mission.
Federal Travel Regulations detail conditions that must be met in order to use other than coach-class accommodations and agency approving officials have the responsibility to ensure that the conditions surrounding the request are reasonable and necessary given the circumstances of the travel and/or the cost of the travel.
Civilian employees of DoD and the Coast Guard are eligible for the TSA’s Pre-Check expedited screening program, available at more than 100 airports.
You may be authorized to use a government vehicle between places of official business, between such places and places of temporary lodging when public transportation is unavailable or its use is impractical; between such places and restaurants, drug stores, barber shops, places of worship, cleaning establishments, and similar places necessary for the sustenance, comfort, or health of the employee to foster the continued efficient performance of government business; or as otherwise authorized by your agency.
You are responsible for any additional cost resulting from unauthorized use of a government vehicle and you may be subject to administrative and/or criminal liability for misuse of government property.
You may use a privately owned vehicle (POV) for official travel when authorized by your agency and be reimbursed for mileage costs. Rates typically are set by calendar year but may change at other times in response to significant changes in fuel prices; see www.gsa.gov/mileage.
Reimbursable expenses include parking fees, ferry fees, bridge, road, and tunnel fees, and aircraft or airplane parking, landing, and tie-down fees. Non-reimbursable expenses include charges for repairs, depreciation, replacements, grease, oil, antifreeze, towage and similar speculative expenses.
Your agency must determine that use of a rental vehicle is advantageous to the government and must specifically authorize such use. You must book reservations through your agency’s electronic travel systems where available; when it is not available, you must book through your agency’s travel management center.
Employees are encouraged to rent from vendors that participate in the U.S. Government Rental Car Agreement program, which features pre-negotiated rates and automatic unlimited mileage and collision damage insurance. See www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/rental.cfm.
P.L. 115-34 of 2017 made the cost of ride-sharing services, formally termed “transportation network companies” and “innovative mobility technology companies,” to the list of “special conveyances” reimbursable when in the government’s interest for federal employees on official travel on the same basis as using taxi and similar services. The policy applies only when on travel.
Hours of work for travel
Rules in 5 CFR 550.112(g) determine hours of work for travel for both Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempt and nonexempt (covered) employees. Rules in 5 CFR 551.401(h) and 551.422 are also used to determine hours of work for travel for FLSA-nonexempt employees, so that the total number of hours of work for travel for nonexempt employees is the total determined under both laws.
In general, overtime hours are hours of work that are ordered or approved (or are “suffered or permitted” for nonexempt employees) and are performed by an employee in excess of eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a workweek. Official travel is hours of work if the travel is:
- outside the employee’s official duty station; and
- within the hours of the employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek, including regularly scheduled overtime hours (note that overtime hours should not be scheduled specifically to accommodate travel); or
- outside the hours of the employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek, is ordered or approved, and meets one of the following four conditions: it involves the performance of work while traveling (such as driving a truck); is incident to travel that involves the performance of work while traveling (such as deadhead travel in order to drive an empty truck back to the point of origin); is carried out under arduous and unusual conditions (for example, on unpaved roads; more arduous than heavy traffic, long distances, cold weather, etc.); or results from an event which could not be scheduled or controlled administratively by any individual or agency in the executive branch of government (such as training scheduled solely by a private firm or a job-related court appearance required by a court subpoena).
Comp time off for travel
Authority at 5 U.S.C. Chapter 55, section 5550(b) allows most federal employees to get compensatory time off for time they spend traveling for official purposes during off-duty hours. Senior Executive Service, Senior Foreign Service, Foreign Service officers, and non-appropriated fund employees are not eligible, nor are employees on intermittent work schedules, but part-time workers are eligible if they are not being paid for the travel time.
To qualify for this purpose, travel must be officially authorized. In other words, travel must be for work purposes and must be approved by an authorized agency official or otherwise authorized under established agency policies.
Travel status includes only the time actually spent traveling between the official duty station and a temporary duty station, or between two temporary duty stations, and the usual waiting time that precedes or interrupts such travel. For example, airline travelers generally are required to arrive at the airport at a designated pre-departure time (often one or two hours before the scheduled departure, depending on whether the flight is domestic or international).
Such waiting time at the airport is considered usual waiting time and is creditable time in a travel status. In addition, time spent at an intervening airport waiting for a connecting flight (for example, one or two hours) also is creditable time in a travel status, subject to exclusions for bona fide meal periods. In all cases, determinations regarding what is creditable as “usual waiting time” are within the sole and exclusive discretion of the employing agency.
Frequent Traveler Credits
Rules at 41 CFR s 301-10 and 301-53 allow federal travelers to keep for their personal use frequent traveler benefits earned while on official travel.
Under the policy, any promotional benefits or materials received from a travel service provider in connection with official travel may be retained for personal use if such items are obtained under the same conditions as those offered to the general public and at no additional cost to the government.
It is the responsibility of each traveler to communicate directly with a service provider to establish a frequent travel promotional benefits account. Any associated costs are to be paid by the traveler, and are not a reimbursable expense.
Employees on official travel may upgrade to first-class or premium-class seating at their personal expense, including through redemption of frequent flyer benefits.
Travel Charge Cards
In general, employees are required to use the government contractor-issued travel charge card for all official travel expenses unless the expense falls under an exemption created either by the General Services Administration or by their agency.
The following exemptions are common for those who have cards: expenses incurred at a vendor that does not accept the government contractor-issued travel charge card or that imposes substantial fees for using one; laundry/dry cleaning; parking; local transportation system; taxi; tips; meals when use of the card is impractical, for example, group meals or the card is not accepted; phone calls (when a government calling card is available for use in accordance with agency policy); individuals traveling on invitational travel; and new appointees.
The card may be used only for official travel related expenses. It is up to individual agencies to determine the discipline for use of cards for non-official purposes. Penalties may range from a reprimand to removal, depending on the seriousness of the offense and whether it was the first such incident involving an employee.
Travel advances are payable under certain conditions. You must file a travel claim which accounts for your advance after completion of your assignment, in accordance with your agency’s policy. If you are in a continuous travel status (for example, an auditor or inspector) or if you submit periodic reimbursement vouchers on an individual trip authorization, your agency may reimburse you the full amount of your travel expenses without any deduction of your advance until such time as you file a final voucher.
If the amount advanced is less than the amount of the voucher on which it is deducted, you will be reimbursed the net amount. If the advance exceeds the reimbursable amount, you must immediately refund the excess.
Per diem expense allowances
You are eligible for a per diem or actual expense allowance when you perform official travel away from your official station, incur per diem expenses on that travel and are in a travel status for more than 12 hours. Per diem expenses will be reimbursed by one of these methods:
- actual expenses; or
- reduced per diem rate.
The General Services Administration establishes the maximum CONUS (Continental United States) per diem rates for federal travelers (the Defense Department establishes the “OCONUS” or Outside Continental United States rates for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and U.S. possessions).
The rates are designed to provide a sufficient allowance for the traveler to stay at safe and comfortable rooms while on official business. The rates are set according to a survey of hotel and meal costs in locations regularly traveled to by government employees on official business. These generally are “two-star” and “three-star” hotels that are on a fire safety list (federal law encourages federal employees to stay at hotels meeting certain fire safety standards). GSA establishes the appropriate per diem allowance for each location, setting in-season and off-season rates whose dates vary locally for locations with distinct in-demand travel seasons.
Agencies have the authority to pay actual expenses of up to three times the established per diem rate where rates are not sufficient based on a specific need. The agency decides what may be approved as reimbursement of appropriate expenses incurred for occasional meals or lodging that are determined to be necessary and justified by the circumstances involved.
Rates under the lodgings-plus system vary according to where the travel occurs.
Your TDY location determines your maximum per diem reimbursement rate. If you arrive at your lodging location after 12 midnight, you claim lodging cost for the preceding calendar day. If no lodging is required, the applicable M&IE reimbursement rate is the rate for the TDY location.
If lodging is not available at your TDY location, your agency may authorize or approve the maximum per diem rate for the location where lodging is obtained.
Your per diem or actual expense entitlement starts on the day you depart your home, office, or other authorized point and ends on the day you return to your home, office or other authorized point.
You may stay in a lodging facility of your choice. You are encouraged to stay in lodging facilities that are “approved accommodations” for safety standards. To ensure that you are staying in an approved facility, given the best available choices and/or obtaining government discount rates, you are further encouraged to make lodging arrangements through your agency’s travel management service.
Use of GSA’s programs is recommended but not mandatory. The FedRooms program provides federal travelers on official business for stays up to 30 days with hotel rooms at or below per diem rates with flexible terms. It is operated through a partnership with a private company. FedRooms rates are available through all of the government’s preferred booking channels. For a list of current hotels or other information, call (800) 226-1741 or go to www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/gsa-lodging/fedrooms. That site also has information about a market research tool for planning meetings.
The Long Term Lodging program is designed for lodging needs of 30 days or more for temporary or permanent employee relocation or extended training in facilities that include apartment buildings and condominiums. See www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/gsa-lodging.
Actual Expense Reimbursement
Actual expense reimbursement is warranted when:
- lodging and/or meals are procured at a prearranged place such as a hotel where a meeting, conference or training session is held;
- costs have escalated because of special events;
- lodging and meal expenses within prescribed allowances cannot be obtained nearby; and
- costs to commute to/from the nearby location consume most or all of the savings achieved from occupying less expensive lodging.
Reduced Per Diem Rate
An agency prescribes a reduced per diem rate lower than the prescribed maximum when it can determine in advance that lodging and/or meal costs will be lower than the per diem rate; and the lowest authorized per diem rate must be stated in your travel authorization in advance of your travel.
Filing for Reimbursement
To be reimbursed, you must file a travel claim that includes an itemized list of expenses and other information required on the reimbursement form your agency uses. You must provide receipts for any lodging expense, except when you are authorized a fixed reduced per diem allowances, and for any other expense costing over $75. You must also list any leave taken and any non-duty points visited.
Relocation allowances are payable to civilian employees upon transfer from one official duty station or agency to another for permanent duty, and to those assigned to posts of duty outside the continental United States in connection with overseas tour renewal agreement travel and upon return to places of residence for the purpose of separation. Relocation allowances also are payable to new appointees, career appointees to the Senior Executive Service (SES), prior SES appointees who have elected to retain SES retirement benefits, and medical directors of Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers, upon their retirement and return to the place the individual has elected to reside.
Allowances are payable when: the transfer is in the interest of the government and is not primarily for the convenience or benefit of the employee or at his or her request; the transfer is to a new official station which is at least 10 miles from the old official station; and, in the case of a relatively short distance relocation, a determination of eligibility is made.
Note: P.L. 115-97 made taxable as ordinary income several forms of relocation payments that previously were not taxed, including payments for driving mileage, airfare and lodging expenses for en route travel to the new duty station; shipment of household items; and temporary storage of those items. However, under GSA Bulletin FTR 18-05, while agencies are to collect the taxes from employees’ pay they then are to reimburse them for “substantially all” of the increased tax liability. The guidance stresses that the reimbursements—through two other forms of relocation benefits, withholding tax allowances and relocation income tax allowances—are to be paid only for employees transferred in the interest of the government from one official station or agency to another for permanent duty. The law did not make taxable another relocation benefit, in which a relocation services company buys the residences of transferees and then sells them.
Allowances for Transportation and Temporary Storage of Household Goods and Professional Materials
Employees are eligible for transportation and temporary storage of their household goods when they are transferred, regardless of whether the official stations involved are within or outside the continental United States, are appointed to positions in which government transportation to the first official station is allowable, or are separated after completion of a period of service overseas.
The maximum weight of household goods that may be transported or stored at government expense is limited to 18,000 pounds net weight for all employees. There may be instances in which the weight of the professional books, papers, and equipment would cause an employee’s household goods shipment to be in excess of the maximum weight allowance. In such instances, the personally owned professional books, papers, and equipment may be transported to the new permanent duty station as an administrative expense of an agency (not chargeable to travel and transportation appropriations). Shipment of these items as an administrative expense would be instead of shipment as an allowance of the employee.
Allowances for Transportation or Emergency Storage of a Privately Owned Vehicle
An agency may authorize transportation of a privately owned vehicle to a post of duty or emergency storage. Each agency determines the conditions under which it will pay for transportation and emergency storage and the procedures a transferred employee must follow.
Only a passenger automobile, station wagon, small truck, or other similar vehicle that will be used primarily for personal transportation may be stored at agency expense. You may not transport or store a trailer, airplane, or any vehicle intended for commercial use.
Househunting Trip Expenses Allowance
The term “househunting trip” refers to a trip made by the employee and/or spouse to the new official station locality to find permanent living quarters to rent or purchase. “Living quarters” includes apartments, condominiums, and cooperatives in addition to townhomes and single family homes.
You are eligible for a househunting trip expenses allowance if you are an employee who is authorized to transfer, and in addition:
- both your old and new official stations are located within the United States;
- you are not assigned to government or other prearranged housing at the new official station; and
- your old and new official stations are 75 or more miles apart (as measured by map distance) via a usually traveled surface route.
New appointees, employees assigned under the government Employees Training Act and employees returning from overseas assignments for purposes of separation are not eligible for a househunting trip expenses allowance.
Your agency determines when it is in the government’s interest to authorize a househunting trip and the procedures you must follow if it is authorized.
Residence Transaction Allowance
The residence transaction allowance reimburses an employee for expenses in connection with the sale of one residence at his or her old official station, for purchase (including construction) of one dwelling at his or her new official station, or for the settlement of an unexpired lease involving his or her residence or a lot on which a mobile home used as his or her residence was located at the old official station. The allowance is payable if a permanent change of station is authorized or approved, the old and new official stations are located within the United States, and the employee has signed a service agreement.
Home sale expenses payable include:
- brokers’ fees and real estate commissions.
- other advertising, selling, and appraisal expenses.
- legal and related expenses.
- miscellaneous expenses including: FHA or VA fees for the loan application; loan origination fees and similar charges such as loan assumption fees and loan transfer fees.
Expenses incurred for settling an unexpired lease (including month-to-month rental) for residence quarters occupied by the employee at the old official station may include broker’s fees for obtaining a sublease or charges for advertising an unexpired lease.
Temporary Change of Station
A temporary change of station (TCS) means the relocation of an employee to a new official station for a temporary period while the employee is performing a long-term assignment, and subsequent return of the employee to the previous official station upon completion of that assignment. You are eligible if you are an employee who is directed to perform a long-term assignment at a temporary location, and you otherwise would be eligible for payment of temporary duty travel allowances.
Generally a TCS will be authorized when:
- you are directed to perform a long-term assignment at another duty station;
- your agency otherwise could authorize temporary duty travel and pay travel allowances, including payment of subsistence expenses;
- your agency determines it would be more advantageous, cost and other factors considered, to authorize a TCS; and
- you meet any additional conditions your agency has established.
If your agency authorizes a TCS, you do not have the option of electing payment of temporary duty travel allowances instead.
A TCS may last not less than six months nor longer than 30 months. If your assignment is cut short for reasons other than separation from government service, you will be paid TCS expenses.
If your assignment exceeds 30 months, your agency must permanently assign you to the temporary official station or return you to your previous official station. Your agency may not pay for nontemporary storage or property management services incurred after the last day of the thirtieth month. Your agency must pay the expenses of returning you and your immediate family and household goods to your previous official station unless you are permanently assigned to your temporary official station.
There is no required minimum distance between an official station and a long-term assignment location that must be met to qualify for a TCS.
If it authorizes a TCS, your agency must pay:
- travel, including per diem, for you and your immediate family;
- transportation and temporary storage of your household goods;
- transportation of a mobile home instead of transportation of household goods;
- a miscellaneous expenses allowance;
- transportation of a privately owned vehicle(s); and
- a relocation income tax allowance for additional income taxes you incur on payments your agency makes for your relocation expenses.
The same expenses will be paid in connection with your return to your previous official station at the end of the assignment.
Under FTR Amendment 2011-06, effective November 21, 2011, agencies may reimburse employees for storage of a POV when the employee is assigned a temporary change of station in support of military “contingency” operations, generally meaning combat-type operations.
Payment of TCS expenses stops if your temporary official station becomes your permanent official station.
Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance
“Temporary quarters subsistence expenses” or “TQSE” are subsistence expenses incurred by an employee and/or his or her immediate family while occupying temporary quarters. TQSE does not include local transportation expenses incurred during occupancy of temporary quarters.
You are eligible for a TQSE allowance if you are an employee who is authorized to transfer, your new official station is located within the United States, and your old and new official stations are 40 miles or more apart (as measured by map distance) via a usually traveled surface route. New appointees, employees assigned under the Government Employees Training Act and employees returning from an overseas assignment for the purpose of separation are not eligible for a TQSE allowance.
Your agency determines whether it is in the government’s interest to pay TQSE. If authorized, only you and/or your immediate family may occupy temporary quarters at government expense.
Use of a Relocation Services Company
If you are an employee who is authorized to transfer you may be eligible to use a relocation services company. Your agency determines eligibility. If authorized, your agency will pay the relocation services company’s fees and expenses for the services you are authorized to use. If your agency pays the relocation services company for actual expenses the company incurs on your behalf, payment to the company is limited to what you would have received under direct reimbursement provisions.
If you use a contracted-for relocation service that is a substitute for reimbursable relocation allowance, you will not be reimbursed for the relocation allowance as well.
Under 41 CFR 302-16, an employee transferred in the interests of the government is entitled to a miscellaneous expenses allowance to defray various costs associated with relocation, such as disconnecting and connecting appliances, cutting and fitting draperies and rugs moved from one residence to another, utility fees and deposits, forfeiture of non-reimbursable contracts, certain automobile-related costs, and similar costs. An employee transferring alone is entitled to a lump-sum of the lesser of one week of basic gross pay or $650, and one accompanied by a family is entitled to the lesser of two weeks of basic gross pay or $1,300. No documentation is required for those amounts. With supporting documentation, higher payments may be made within limits.
Travel and Relocation Appeals
If your agency denies your claim for reimbursement related to official travel, you must first follow your agency’s procedures for challenging disallowed claims. This may mean that you must file a new claim, providing full itemization for all disallowed items reclaimed, receipts for all disallowed items reclaimed that require receipts (except that you do not have to provide a receipt if your agency already has the receipt), a copy of the notice of disallowance and state the proper authority for your claim if you are challenging your agency’s application of the law or statute.
If after reconsideration by your agency your claim is still denied, you may submit your claim for adjudication to the Office of the Clerk, Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, by mail to 1800 F St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20405, in person or by courier to 1800 M Street, NW, 6th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax to (202) 606-0019. Phone (202) 606-8800, online www.cbca.gov. (Note: Information on an alternative dispute resolution procedure is at that site.)
The burden is on the claimant to establish the timeliness of the claim, the liability of the agency, and the claimant’s right to payment. The Board will issue the final decision on a claim based on the information submitted by the claimant and the agency.