Federal Travel and Transportation Policies
Federal Travel and Transportation Policies
Federal employee travel is governed by the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) published in Chapters 300 through 304 of Title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations by the General Services Administration (GSA). The FTR governs temporary duty travel allowances (Chapter 301); relocation allowances (Chapter 302); payment of expenses connected with the death of certain employees (Chapter 303); and payment from a nonfederal source for travel expenses (Chapter 304). Chapter 300 includes a general introduction and agency reporting requirements. The FTR is available in agency travel offices and at www.gsa.gov/ftr; revisions in the form of bulletins and amendments are under FTR & Related Files.
Expenses incurred at an employee’s official station not in conjunction with temporary duty (TDY) do not fall under the authority of the FTR; employees should adhere to their agency’s policies for reimbursement of such expenses. Employees having a question about their allowances and entitlements should contact their agency travel office. Procedures to appeal denied claims are in Section 3 of this chapter.
Federal Employee Travel Charge Card—The 1998 Travel and Transportation Reform Act (P.L. 105-264) generally requires federal workers to use government-issued cards to pay for most official travel expenses. The GSA SmartPay program provides the travel (as well as purchase, fleet, and combination) cards to agencies through contracts with charge card providers. See https://smartpay.gsa.gov.
Use of the travel charge card is not mandatory if vendors don’t accept the card or impose fees for making a charge, or if the agency otherwise determines that use of the card is not in its best interest. Agencies further have discretion to exempt employees if their use of the card would adversely affect the agency’s mission or put the employee at risk. See FTR 301-51.
Agencies may authorize employee use of automated teller machines for cash withdrawal while traveling on official business; employees are not authorized to use their cards for other purposes. Cardholders are expected to submit vouchers to their agency for all authorized travel-related expenses within five days after the travel is completed (or within 30 days if on continuous travel) and must pay their charge card bills in full within the established card billing cycle.
Travelers may aggregate official travel-related expenses incurred at the TDY location for authorized telephone calls, transit system fares, and parking meter fees, except that any individual expenses costing more than $75 must be listed separately.
Employees are reimbursed by their agencies for the allowable amounts of the charged expenses. The law requires agencies to reimburse employees quickly but also allows agencies to obtain personal financial records and garnishee salaries when employees are late in paying the credit card bills for undisputed charges.
In response to problems with abusive spending and delinquent payments, the Office of Management and Budget (in OMB Bulletin 02-05) and individual agencies have issued guidance regarding potential penalties for misuse of the cards and implications for delinquency. Travel card misuse can fall under failure to follow written instructions, conduct unbecoming a federal employee, or misuse of a governmental travel charge card; penalties can include dismissals, suspensions, formal counseling, alternative discipline, referrals to the employee assistance program for counseling, and formal reprimands. Other possible consequences for delinquent accounts are cancellation of the cards, negative reporting to national credit bureaus, and garnishment of pay.
Under 5 U.S.C. 5701, agencies must maintain controls over travel charge cards including periodically reviewing whether each card holder has a need for a card, checking their creditworthiness, training them in the proper use of the cards, and monitoring rebates and refunds. For travel charge cards whose costs are billed directly to the government, agencies must compare items on an employee’s travel voucher to items paid through a centrally billed account and must dispute unallowable or erroneous charges and seek resolution of such charges, among other controls. (Note: Many similar controls apply to agency-issued purchase cards.)
Under the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, Public Law 112-194, agency policies governing illegal, improper, or erroneous purchases made with a purchase card, convenience check, integrated card, or travel card must provide for penalties to include salary offset, for instances of personal liability, and disciplinary actions for the cardholder or approving official. Such actions “should include dismissal, as appropriate,” according to implementing guidance in OMB memo M-13-21 at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/information-for-agencies/memoranda.
Also under that law, agencies must verify that charges paid directly by the government are not also reimbursed to an employee and must submit requests to travel providers for refunds of fully or partially unused tickets and track the status of those submissions. Further, agency inspectors general must assess agency card programs at least annually, and each agency with more than $10 million in purchase card spending the prior fiscal year must issue semi-annual reports on any misuse and the disposition of those cases, including any disciplinary actions taken.
Also, under FTR Bulletin 14-09, agencies are to reduce risk of misuse of the cards, including for example by lowering the card’s spend value to a nominal amount except for periods in which the employee is on travel.
Travel training resources are at www.gsa.gov/travel/travel-training.
Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Requirements—The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-391) mandates that federal employees on travel must stay in public accommodations that adhere to certain safety requirements. The law also states that federally funded meetings and conferences cannot be held in properties that do not comply with the law.
A listing of hotels and motels meeting the guidelines and a form to report non-compliant properties is at http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/hotel.
e-Gov Travel Service—The e-Gov Travel Service (www.gsa.gov/travel/agency-services/egov-travel-service-ets) is a government-wide Web-based travel management service designed to be a one-stop, self-serve site for travel needs, including travel planning and cost estimating, travel authorization, reservations, claims and other services. Unless a waiver has been granted, employees other than those working for the Defense Department (see below) must use e-Gov Travel Service; waivers are limited to security reasons, accommodating a disability or other special need, or invitational travel.
Qualifying Family Members—Certain reimbursements are authorized based on the presence of immediate family members of the employee at the time he or she reports for duty at a new permanent duty station or performs other authorized travel. “Immediate family member” means:
• a spouse;
• a same-sex domestic partner meeting certain qualifications (see Domestic Partners in Chapter 8, Section 4) under conditions described below;
• children of the employee, of the employee’s spouse, or of the employee’s qualifying domestic partner who are unmarried and under 21 years of age or who, regardless of age, are physically or mentally incapable of self-support (qualifying children are: natural offspring; stepchildren; adopted children; grandchildren, legal minor wards, or other dependent children who are under legal guardianship of the employee, of the employee’s spouse, or of the qualifying domestic partner; and any unborn child(ren) born and moved after the employee’s effective date of transfer);
• dependent parents (including step and legally adoptive parents) of the employee, of the employee’s spouse, or of the employee’s qualifying domestic partner; and
• dependent brothers and sisters (including step and adoptive brothers and sisters) of the employee, of the employee’s spouse, or of the employee’s qualifying domestic partner who are unmarried and under 21 or who, regardless of age, are incapable of self-support.
FTR Bulletin 11-07 made the qualifying domestic partners of federal employees and the children, dependent parents, and dependent brothers and sisters of those partners eligible as immediate family members for these allowances: travel and transportation to a new duty station, temporary quarters, shipment and storage of household goods, transportation of privately owned vehicles, residence transaction expenses, services of relocation services contractors, home marketing incentive payments, and miscellaneous expenses allowances. Amendments to 41 CFR 300-3 in 2015 added a requirement that the couple be living in a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage and certify that they would marry if allowed by the laws of that jurisdiction. See FTR Amendment 2015-02 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin.
However, no domestic partners are eligible for house-hunting trip expense reimbursement, reimbursement for taxes incurred as a result of travel and relocation benefits, or travel and related expense payments from nonfederal sources.
DoD Personnel—The Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee administers the Joint Travel Regulations, which set per diem, travel and transportation allowances, relocation allowances, and certain other allowances for Defense Department civilian employees. With the exception of certain DoD civilian employees who are entitled to per diem, travel, and transportation allowances in accordance with Volume 6, State Department Foreign Affairs Manual, these regulations are the sole entitlement regulations for DoD components.
These rules, which in many ways mirror the GSA-set policies for other agencies, are at www.defensetravel.dod.mil.
Information on filing claims is at www.dfas.mil/civilianemployees/travelpay.html.
Also, instead of the e-Gov Travel Service, DoD employees use the Defense Travel System, https://dtsproweb.defensetravel.osd.mil/dts-app/pubsite/all/view.
Travel Restrictions—Office of Management and Budget memo M-12-12 imposed several restrictions on federal travel, including a mandated overall reduction in travel spending by 30 percent starting in fiscal year 2013 from 2010 levels. Agencies can exclude certain expenses from that requirement if they determine the reduction would undermine critical functions such as national security, diplomacy, health and safety, law enforcement or investigations.
Agencies also were ordered to take steps including: increasing employee sharing of rental automobiles and taxis when appropriate; ensuring that employees receive a per diem reimbursement only to the extent costs incurred were not reimbursed by another party; promoting the use of non-contract air carriers that would result in a lower total trip cost to the government; ensuring that where practicable employees arrange airfare in a manner that results in the lowest price available when traveling on domestic flights, including appropriately timing the purchase of airfare; and ensuring that agencies collect refunds for unused or only partially used airline tickets. The memo also imposed restrictions on conference sponsorship, hosting, and attendance.
FTR Bulletin 13-03 provided guidance on those policies and further ordered agencies to: ensure and justify that travel is necessary to accomplish the agency mission; consider the use of technologies such as teleconferencing in lieu of travel; consider all viable transportation options that could reduce the total trip cost; encourage travelers to become familiar with local transit systems to use for travel between meetings, lodging and other locations where business is being conducted; encourage employees to evaluate all available lodging options at or below the established per diem rates; and evaluate reduced per diems for temporary duty assignments greater than 30 days and evaluate cost effectiveness of a temporary change of station for TDY assignments greater than 180 days. FTR Bulletin 13-07 sets standards for agencies to use in comparing non-contract airfares with fares under the City Pairs program (see below).
Annual appropriations laws require an agency to report within 15 days to its inspector general or senior ethics official regarding any conference costing more than $20,000. In addition, agencies must make more detailed annual reports on conferences that cost more than $100,000. OMB memo M-13-05 further ordered agencies to apply increased scrutiny to spending on training, conferences and travel, and to ensure that such activities are conducted only to the extent they are the most cost-effective way to maintain critical agency mission operations. Later guidance provided instructions for officials responsible for controlling travel and conference spending, clarified that adjustments can be made to the spending limits for newly arising mission-critical travel needs, reminded agencies that approval authority for conference expenses can be delegated to lower level officials more familiar with the subject matter, and said that attendance at recurring events can be pre-approved without detailed review each time. See January 15, 2015 guidance at https://cfo.gov/controller-alerts and FTR Bulletins 14-02 and 14-08 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin; the OMB memoranda are at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/information-for-agencies/memoranda.
Extended Temporary Duty—If a temporary duty assignment lasts more than one year, allowances and reimbursements for travel expenses, plus all travel expenses that the government pays directly on your behalf in connection with the assignment, may be treated as taxable income to you. In that situation, your employing agency must reimburse you for “substantially all” of the income tax liability. See IRS Publication 463 at www.irs.gov/
publications and FTR Amendment 2014-01 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin.
Contact Point—GSA’s Travel Management Policy office is at 1800 F St., N.W., Washington, DC 20405, www.gsa.gov/travelpolicy.
Travel Costs and Allowances
Employees are furnished, or reimbursed for, costs of transportation in connection with official travel. This reimbursement includes authorized costs to and from carrier terminals and in some circumstances round-trip mileage between residence and office on the day of departure and day of return on official travel, and authorized transportation expenses incurred within or between temporary duty (TDY) locations.
“Official travel” is defined as travel under an official travel authorization from an employee’s official station or other authorized point of departure to a temporary duty location and return from a temporary duty location, between two temporary duty locations, or relocation at the direction of a federal agency. The official station is the location where an employee regularly performs his or her duties or, for an international traveler, the employee’s home or regular place of business.
In booking travel, the traveler should use the authorized travel management system: e-Gov Travel Service for civilian agencies or the Defense Travel System for DoD travelers, as described above.
For detailed policies in these areas, see FTR Chapter 301 at www.gsa.gov/ftr.
The general policy of the government is that less-than-premium-class accommodations shall be used for all passenger transportation. Under Office of Management and Budget memo M-08-07 (at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/information-for-agencies/memoranda), agencies must:
• require that premium class travel requests for all agency personnel, including senior-level executives, be approved by an individual at least at the same level as the traveler, or by an office designated to approve premium class travel;
• have internal guidance that explains when mission criteria and intent call for premium class accommodations;
• define what constitutes a rest period;
• require annual certifications of a disability, unless such disability is lifelong;
• restrict premium class travel for both temporary duty and permanent change of station travel (relocations) when the employee is not required to report to duty the following day; and
• prohibit blanket travel authorizations for premium class travel, unless the traveler has a certification of disability.
In addition, FTR Amendment 2009-06 strengthened requirements related to the authorization and use of premium class transportation accommodations by requiring more extensive reporting on premium class travel, including business class, for temporary duty travel and permanent change of station relocations. That amendment also required agencies to define what constitutes a rest period upon arrival, to issue internal guidance explaining when mission criteria and the intent of that mission call for premium class transportation accommodations, and require annual certifications for medical disabilities and other special needs accommodations. FTR Bulletin 2010-05 reminded agencies that they must report on all transportation accommodations that exceed a coach-class fare rather than only on the use of first-class accommodations, and provided instructions for complying with those requirements.
Under FTR Bulletin 2008-05, fees for individual employee memberships in registered and/or trusted traveler programs are not reimbursable expenses.
Transit Systems—Under FTR 301-10.190, you may use a transit system as a means of transportation in conjunction with official travel when such transportation is authorized and approved by your agency.
• At your official station—from your residence or other authorized point of departure, e.g., rail to airport; to your residence or other authorized point of return, e.g., airport to rail; from your residence to your office on the day you depart the official station on official TDY that requires at least one night’s lodging; or from your office to your residence on the day you return to the official station from an official TDY assignment that required at least one night’s lodging.
• At your TDY location—from the TDY transit system station(s) to your place of lodging or place of official business and return; to, from, and between your places of lodging and official business; between places of official business; or to obtain meals at the nearest available place when the nature and location of the official business or the lodging at a TDY location are such that meals cannot be obtained there (you must attach a statement or include electronic remarks with your travel voucher explaining why such transportation was necessary).
Taxis, Shuttles, and Courtesy Transportation—Policies mirroring those for transit systems apply to the use of taxis, shuttles and courtesy transportation as a means of transportation in conjunction with official travel (see FTR 310.10.420). If charges result from their use, the usual fare plus tip is reimbursable. Travelers are to use courtesy transportation service furnished by hotels/motels to the maximum extent possible as a first source of transportation between a place of lodging at the TDY station and a common carrier terminal. Tips for use of such services are reimbursable.
Ride-Sharing Services—Under P.L. 115-34, which put into law the terms of FTR Bulletin 16-05, federal agencies may reimburse employees on TDY (but not in or around the employee’s official duty station) for using ride-sharing services where it is permissible under local law and advantageous to the government for efficiency and cost effectiveness reasons. Such companies, formally termed transportation network companies and innovative mobility technology companies, are those that connect paying passengers with drivers for hire via websites or mobile applications or that that apply technology to expand and enhance available transportation choices, better manage demand for transportation services, or provide alternatives to driving alone.
By Air—The classes of available air accommodations are defined as “coach class” and “other than coach class.”
“Coach class” is defined as the basic class of accommodation by airlines that is normally the lowest fare offered, regardless of airline terminology used. Airlines might also refer to coach class in terms such as tourist class, economy class, or single class, when the airline offers only one class of accommodations to all travelers.
“Other than coach class” is defined as any class of accommodations above coach class, including:
• First class. The highest class of accommodation offered by the airlines in terms of cost and amenities.
• Business class. A class of accommodation offered by airlines that is higher than coach and lower than first-class, in both cost and amenities. This class may be referred to as business, business elite, business first, world business, connoisseur, envoy, or another term, depending on the airline.
Employees must travel by coach class unless their agency approves a higher class based on circumstances justifying their use, such as when no coach-class accommodation is reasonably available, when use of other than coach class is necessary to accommodate a disability or other special medical need, or when required by agency mission considerations or exceptional security circumstances. Under the Fly America Act, federal travelers generally are required to use U.S. flag air carrier service. Exceptions include when use of a foreign air carrier is determined to be a matter of necessity; the transportation is provided under a bilateral or multilateral air transportation agreement that meets certain standards; no U.S. flag air carrier provides service on a particular leg of the route; or in certain other exceptional circumstances as described in FTR 301.10-135. FTR Amendment 2009-02 contains further details, including information on pertinent air transportation agreements.
By Train—The policy mirrors that for air travel above except that in addition to those exceptions, agencies may authorize other-than-coach-class travel at government expense when coach-class train accommodations on a foreign rail carrier do not provide adequate sanitation or health standards.
By Ship—Travel by ship is authorized only for the lowest first-class accommodations unless the agency authorizes a higher class due to unavailability, a medical disability or other special medical need, exceptional security circumstances, or agency mission reasons.
Conference Travel—Agencies must “exercise strict fiscal responsibility” when choosing a site to conduct a conference, especially if the site might be considered extravagant in the public eye; also see Travel Restrictions, above. Under FTR Amendment 2006-02, advance payment of discounted conference fees may be treated as an allowable travel advance, and the reimbursement of the prepayment of “early bird” discounted registration fees to attend a conference or training seminar is allowed.
Indirect Route Travel—A federal traveler must use non-contract fare service (that is, a carrier not contracted by GSA to provide discounted tickets) for a portion of travel by indirect route which is for personal convenience. The traveler may not use either a Government Transportation Request or a travel charge card to procure transportation for indirect route travel, except when that indirect travel is authorized at government expense. Reimbursement is limited to the cost of travel by a direct route or on an uninterrupted basis.
City Pairs—All agencies except DoD follow the rules in 41 CFR 301-10, which generally require the use of contract air carriers for official air travel between certain city pairs for which GSA has negotiated fixed-price discounts below comparable commercial rates with no cancellation or change fees (see www.gsa.gov/citypairs). Employees must use the contract carriers when available unless they have an approved exception. DoD conforms to the Joint Travel Regulations, regarding contract air carrier use (see www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/travelreg.cfm).
GSA awards contracts for air transportation services for official government travel under the program, which makes airfares available to federal travelers at discounted rates. Both unrestricted, “walk-up” fares and capacity-controlled fares are offered. Capacity-controlled fares, available on a first-come, first-served basis, are restricted by the number of seats available at that reduced fare. Also, unrestricted contract fares are available to federal travelers in all markets. Discounts are generally greater in larger markets.
Other features of the program are one-way route fares, no advance purchase requirement, no minimum or maximum length of stay requirement, last-seat availability, fully refundable tickets, and no blackout periods. A search feature is at https://cpsearch.fas.gsa.gov.
Exceptions can be made to the general requirement to use city pairs when: space on a scheduled contract flight is not available in time to accomplish the purpose of your travel; use of contract service would require you to incur unnecessary overnight lodging costs which would increase the total cost of the trip; the contractor’s flight schedule is inconsistent with explicit policies of your agency with regard to scheduling travel during normal working hours; a non-contract carrier offers a lower fare to the general public that, if used, will result in a lower total trip cost to the government; cost effective rail service is available and is consistent with mission requirements; or smoking is permitted on the contract air carrier and the nonsmoking section of the contract aircraft is not acceptable to you. See FTR Bulletin 13-07 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin for policies governing the choice of a non-contract airfare over a city pairs fare on cost grounds.
Payment from a Nonfederal Source—Under FTR Chapter 304, agencies may accept payment from a nonfederal source (or authorize an employee to accept on behalf of the government) for the employee to attend a meeting or similar function which the employee has been authorized to attend in an official capacity on behalf of the employing agency. The employee’s spouse may accompany the employee if in the agency’s interest. The agency similarly may accept a waiver of the registration fee for employees who speak, serve on a panel or deliver a presentation at such an event in their official capacities. See Gifts from Outside Sources in Chapter 10, Section 5.
Under 31 U.S.C. 1353 (See FTR 301-2.1), meals provided by a nonfederal source in such a situation are considered a “payment in kind” to the agency, as opposed to a gift personally accepted by the employee. When an agency approves employees to accept meals from a nonderal source, the employees must deduct those meals from their meals and incidental expenses per diem from their travel vouchers, using the deduction amounts for the locality at www.gsa.gov/mie unless they are unable to consume the furnished meals because of medical requirements or religious beliefs or if they were unable to take part in a government-furnished meal due to the conduct of official business.
Note: If an employee attends a multi-day event on days the employee is not speaking, serving on a panel, or presenting, a registration fee waiver or discount for the days the employee merely attends the event is considered a payment in kind for reporting purposes.
Reimbursement is allowed by a nonfederal source for travel expenses of employees for speaking at events outside their official duties in circumstances similar to those for which reimbursement for speaking within their official duties is allowed. Generally, the agency must approve acceptance of such payment in advance of the travel and the employee or the agency:
• may accept payments other than cash from a nonfederal source for all official travel expenses to attend a meeting of mutual interest, or any portion of those travel expenses mutually agreed upon between the agency and the nonfederal source; and
• may not solicit payment for travel expenses from a nonfederal source to attend a meeting. Employees who are contacted directly by a nonfederal source offering to pay any part of their travel expenses to attend a meeting must inform their agency, so that the authorized agency official can determine whether to accept the payment.
An employee may not accept payments for travel that is not to attend a meeting under these rules. However, the employee may be able to accept payments of travel expenses from a nonfederal source under the following authorities:
• under 5 U.S.C. 4111 for acceptance of contributions, awards, and other payments from tax-exempt entities for nongovernment sponsored training or meetings (see 5 CFR 410);
• under 5 U.S.C. 7342 for travel taking place entirely outside the United States which is paid by a foreign government, where acceptance is permitted by your agency and any regulations which may be prescribed by your agency;
• under 5 U.S.C. 7324(b) when payment is for travel to be performed for a partisan rather than an official purpose in accordance with the Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. 7321-7326); and
• under ethical conduct regulations concerning personal acceptance of gifts.
Pre-Employment Interview Travel—5 U.S.C. 5706(b) authorizes agencies to reimburse certain pre-employment interview travel expenses of interviewees. Reimbursable expenses include most of the expenses payable to a federal employee traveling on official business. See FTR 301-75.
Travel Expenses of Federal Employees with Disabilities—FTR 301-13 authorizes payment of certain additional travel expenses necessarily incurred by an employee as a result of the employee’s disability or special physical need. Reimbursable expenses include the cost of specialized transportation to, from, and/or at the temporary duty location; cost of specialized services provided by a commercial carrier; cost of baggage handling; and cost of transporting or renting a wheelchair. Allowable expenses also include the transportation and per diem expenses incurred by a family member or other attendant who must travel with the employee to make the trip possible. Under FTR Amendment 2006-03, agencies may reimburse employees for the expenses of an attendant as a miscellaneous travel expense.
Baggage and Upgrade Fees—For airlines that charge additional fees for checked baggage, federal travelers are authorized reimbursement for all pertinent fees related to the first checked bag, which will be treated as a miscellaneous expense, under FTR 301-12. Federal agencies may also reimburse their employees for excess baggage (the second and subsequent checked bags) when the agency determines that those expenses were necessary and in the government’s interests. Travelers should verify their agencies’ current policies and procedures regarding excess baggage prior to traveling.
Generally, the use of upgraded/preferred seating options is considered a traveler’s personal choice and is at the traveler’s personal expense. An agency may authorize and reimburse the additional seat-choice fee according to internal agency policy. If you are authorized an upgraded seat choice because of disability or other special needs, an authorized attendant accompanying you (see above) may also be authorized the upgrade if the attendant needs to be close to you en route. Travelers should verify their agencies’ current policies and procedures regarding reimbursement for seat-choice options.
TSA Pre-Check—Defense Department and Coast Guard civilian employees are eligible for the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program of expedited preflight screening at many airports. Participants may use certain designated screening lanes and can keep their shoes or boots, light outerwear and their belts on during screening, can keep a laptop computer in its case, and can keep certain liquids and gels in their carry-on baggage. Expedited screening is not guaranteed and those in the program remain subject to additional screening measures used randomly, however. Eligible persons wishing to participate must enroll at www.defensetravel.dod.mil.
Rental Automobiles—Rental of an automobile is reimbursable only when the agency determines it is advantageous to the government and authorizes it. Travelers must book passenger vehicle reservations through their agencies’ electronic travel systems if available; if not available, they should book through their agency’s travel management office. Travelers must use the least expensive compact car available, unless an exception for another class of vehicle is approved. Exceptions may be allowed for reasons including medical disability or other special need, when additional room is needed to accommodate multiple employees on travel and/or a large amount of government material related to the travel, for safety reasons, or when a larger vehicle is available for the same or lower cost. Travelers are to refuel vehicles if possible prior to turning them in rather than purchasing pre-paid refueling options, and generally will not be reimbursed for fees associated with rental car loyalty points or the transfer of points charged by car companies.
Generally, the cost of theft, collision damage or personal accident insurance is not reimbursable. The exception is that when an automobile is rented for official travel in foreign areas, employees may be reimbursed for the cost of collision damage waiver or collision damage insurance, although not personal accident insurance, when rental or leasing agency requirements, foreign statute, or legal procedures that could cause extreme difficulty to government employees involved in an accident make such insurance necessary.
The government encourages employees who are authorized to use a rental vehicle to consider renting from a vendor that participates in the Defense Travel Management Office’s U.S. Government Rental Car Agreement, unless they are outside the continental United States and no agreement is in place for their temporary duty location. The advantages of renting a car through the program are that rental car agreements are prenegotiated, the agreement includes automatic unlimited mileage and collision damage insurance, and the rates established by the car rental agreement cannot be exceeded by the vendor. See www.defensetravel.dod.mil/Docs/CarRentalAgreement.pdf.
Employees are responsible for any additional cost resulting from the unauthorized use of a commercial rental automobile for other than official travel-related purposes.
See 41 CFR 301-10, FTR Bulletin 14-05 and FTR Amendment 15-03 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin.
Travel by Other Than Authorized Means—Employees who do not travel by the method of transportation authorized by their agency are responsible for any expenses above the cost of the authorized method. Travelers who have been authorized to travel via common carrier or rental car and who choose to use a privately owned vehicle (POV) instead will be reimbursed at the applicable POV mileage rate.
Telework Test Programs—The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 at 5 U.S.C. 5711 authorized the creation of agency telework travel expenses test programs subject to GSA approval. Under such programs, if a participating employee voluntarily relocates to a new official duty station, the employing agency can establish a number of occasional visits to the prior duty station before the employee is eligible for payment of expenses for travel there. Rules are at 41 CFR 300–90.
Federal employees may receive travel advances for cash transaction expenses (expenses that as a general rule cannot be charged and must be paid using cash, a personal check, or travelers check). These may include:
• meals and incidental expenses covered by the per diem allowance or actual expenses allowance;
• miscellaneous transportation expenses such as local transportation system and taxi fares, parking fees, ferry fees, bridge, road, and tunnel fees, and aircraft parking, landing, and tie-down fees;
• gasoline and other variable expenses covered by the mileage allowance for advantageous use of a privately owned automobile for official business; and
• other authorized miscellaneous expenses that cannot be charged using a government-issued charge card and for which a cost can be estimated.
For non-cash transaction expenses (such as lodging or common carrier), employees may receive advances only if:
• the travel charge card is not expected to be accepted;
• your agency has decided not to provide you a charge card;
• your agency determines that use of a travel card would not be feasible due to a transfer, particularly a transfer to another agency; or
• financial hardship would be incurred.
Frequent Traveler Benefits
Under 41 CFR 301-10 and -53, a federal traveler who receives a promotional item such as frequent flyer miles, upgrades, or access to carrier clubs or facilities received as a result of using travel or transportation services obtained at federal government expense, or accepted under 31 U.S.C. 1353, may retain the promotional item for personal use, if it is obtained under the same terms as those offered to the general public and at no additional cost to the federal government.
You may use frequent traveler benefits earned on official travel to obtain travel services for subsequent official travel assignments, or you may retain such benefits for your personal use, including upgrading to a higher class of service. However, promotional benefits or materials you receive from a travel service provider in connection with your planning and/or scheduling an official conference or other group travel (as opposed to performing official travel yourself) are considered the property of the government, and you may only accept the benefits or materials on behalf of the government and may use them only for official business.
You may use frequent traveler benefits earned on official travel to obtain travel services for subsequent official travel assignments; however, you may also retain such benefits for your personal use, including upgrading to a higher class of service. However, promotional benefits or materials you receive from a travel service provider in connection with your planning and/or scheduling an official conference or other group travel are considered the property of the government, and you may only accept the benefits or materials on behalf of the government and may use them only for official business.
It is your responsibility to communicate directly with a service provider to establish your frequent travel promotional benefits account and you are personally responsible for any associated costs.
You may not select a travel service provider based on whether it provides frequent traveler benefits. You must use the travel service provider for which your agency is a mandatory user. This includes contract passenger transportation services and travel management systems. You may not choose a travel service provider to gain frequent traveler benefits for personal use.
Employees generally must travel by coach class accommodations. However, you may upgrade your transportation class of service at your own expense. Therefore, as frequent traveler benefits may be retained for your personal use, you may use any frequent traveler benefits you have earned to upgrade your transportation class to premium service. The regulations governing upgrades to premium airline accommodations are at FTR 301-10.123-124. Your agency cannot pay for any upgrades, unless you meet one of the exceptions in those regulations. A denied boarding benefit (for example cash or a free ticket coupon) is not a promotional item for purposes of this policy. Travelers seeking further guidance should contact their supervisor or travel-approving official.
Tax Implications—Under IRS Announcement 2002-18, while such benefits are not deemed to be taxable income, they also may not be used for tax avoidance purposes, such as by converting them to cash or receiving compensation in the form of travel or other promotional benefits.
Generally, lodging reservations must be made through your agency’s travel management office, with first consideration given to facilities participating in government lodging agreement programs. See FTR 301-11.11.
FedRooms—In the FedRooms program, lodgings guarantee that a certain number of rooms will be available at or below the local per diem rate for stays of 29 days or less. FedRooms rates are available through all the government’s preferred booking channels and are for federal government and military personnel on official travel only. Ask for the FedRooms rate under the program booking code “XVU.” If you or your travel agent have contacted the hotel’s reservations department and asked for the FedRooms rate but are having trouble getting that rate, call (800) 226-1741.
FedRooms is not available in all locations. A listing of hotels and other information is at https://www.fedrooms.com.
Other lodgings services are:
• Long-Term Lodging—This program is for stays of 30 days or more, targeted to temporary or permanent relocation and extended training. Typical facilities include apartment or condominium type properties that may be furnished with amenities of a regular home.
• Emergency Lodgings—The Emergency Lodging Service provides temporary or emergency lodging accommodations in support of emergencies and/or disasters.
• Strategic Meetings Management—This service provides resources for organizing and managing meetings.
Information about these programs is at www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/gsa-lodging.
Lodging with Friends or Family—Traveling employees may receive reimbursement of certain costs incurred by family and friends in connection with the provision of such lodging. See 41 CFR 301-11.12(c). Office of Government Ethics regulations at 5 CFR 2640.203(d) permit employees to request such benefits and reimbursements for themselves notwithstanding financial conflict of interest policies in 18 U.S.C. 208.
Personal Lodgings—Under 41 CFR 301-11, agencies are not authorized to reimburse the lodging portion of per diem to travelers who stay in personally owned residences or other property such as recreational vehicles or campers.
Non-Conventional Lodgings—Under FTR 301-11.12(a)(4), agencies may reimburse employees for the costs of nonconventional lodging such as furnished apartments or condominium-type units when there are few or no conventional lodging facilities available in the area (for example, in remote areas) and in limited cases for long-term stays. Such facilities still must meet the requirements of the Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act.
When certain items have been authorized or approved by your agency, they will be reimbursed as a miscellaneous expense under FTR 301-12. Such expenses include, but are not limited to:
• certain baggage expenses;
• services of guides, interpreters or drivers;
• certain services of an attendant;
• use of computers, printers, faxing machines, and scanners;
• services of typists, data processors or stenographers;
• storage of property used on official business;
• hire of conference center room or hotel room for official business;
• official telephone calls/service, faxes, telegrams, cablegrams, or radiograms;
• lodging taxes;
• energy surcharge and lodging resort fees when such fees are not optional; and
• fees for travelers checks, money orders, certified checks and transaction fees for use of automated teller machines using a government-issued charge card.
In addition: laundry, cleaning and pressing of clothing expenses are reimbursable at an agency’s discretion for stays of at least four nights within the contiguous states; for foreign travel certain additional expenses are reimbursable as miscellaneous expenses, including commissions on conversion of foreign money, and certain passport, exit and other fees. An employee traveling on official business is to exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling for personal purposes.
Fees above Room Rates—Many conventional lodging properties, especially in tourist areas, charge fees variously termed “resort fees,” “amenity fees,” “urban destination fees,” “facilities fees” and “daily destination fees” among others. Agencies are to review such fees before authorizing reimbursement, as they can vary from simply covering internet access to including items that may be considered gifts, like tours or tickets. If authorized, the fees can be reimbursed as a miscellaneous expense.
In addition, non-conventional lodgings (see above) sometimes charge fees not standard in conventional lodging, such as “service fees” and cleaning fees. If such lodging is authorized, a service fee can be reimbursed as a miscellaneous expense. Per-stay cleaning fees should be divided by the total number of days the traveler occupied the accommodation and was entitled to per diem to determine a daily amount. That amount is then added to the base lodging cost to determine a total daily rate for the lodging. The total daily rate is to be reimbursed at or below the prevailing maximum lodging per diem rate for the location, unless the agency authorizes actual expense reimbursement. A fee charged for booking a reservation at such lodgings outside the E-Gov Travel Service generally is not reimbursable.
Also see FTR Bulletin 19-04 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin.
Tips—Tips related to meals, porters, baggage carriers and hotel staff are considered to be covered as part of the per diem meals and incidental expenses allowance. However, charges or tips for a taxi, shuttle service, courtesy transportation driver or valet parking attendant are separately reimbursable as miscellaneous expenses up to an amount your agency determines to be reasonable. See FTR Amendment 2012-01 at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin.
Note: Certain incidental expenses that are separately reimbursable under GSA policy are considered part of the standard meals and incidental expenses rate for Defense Department employees. These include automated teller machine fees, laundry expenses and transportation tips. However, if a traveler justifies spending more than the applicable per diem rate on incidental expenses averaged over the period, the approving official can authorize actual expenses. See www.defensetravel.dod.mil.
Telephone Calls at Added Cost—FTR 301-12 allows for the reimbursement of official telephone calls while in a travel status as a miscellaneous travel expense if such calls incur an extra charge. An agency may deem as official, within limits, calls to inform family members of safe arrival, change of itinerary or a daily check-in.
Taxes—A federal employee on official travel is obligated to pay all taxes unless the state or local authority assessing the tax provides a specific exemption. The per diem rates exclude lodging taxes; travelers must pay the taxes, when applicable, and file for reimbursement as a miscellaneous expense. Taxes for reimbursable lodging are deemed approved when lodging is authorized.
Generally, employees using privately owned transportation when it is advantageous to the government in performing official business travel will be reimbursed as follows:
• 57.5 cents per mile for privately owned automobile if no government-owned vehicle is available;
• 17 cents per mile if a government-owned vehicle is available but the employee chooses to use a privately owned automobile instead;
• $1.27 per mile for privately owned airplane (airplane nautical miles must be converted into statute miles); and
• 54.5 cents per mile for privately owned motorcycle.
These rates typically change early in each calendar year and also may change at other times due to variance in fuel prices. Current rates are at www.gsa.gov/mileage.
Additionally, parking fees; road, tunnel and bridge costs; and airplane parking, landing and tie-down fees may be authorized.
Under FTR Amendment 2005-05, if determined to be advantageous to the government, you may be reimbursed for mileage between your residence and office to a common carrier terminal, or from the residence directly to a common carrier terminal when on official travel requiring an overnight stay.
Use of Government Vehicles
Federal law requires that government motor vehicles be used only for official purposes, which include: 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 under 31 U.S.C. 1344.
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 must possess a valid state, District of Columbia, or territorial motor vehicle operator’s license and have a travel authorization specifically authorizing the use of a government-furnished automobile.
Home to Work Transportation—In addition to certain senior officials authorized for home-to-work transportation under 31 U.S.C. 1344(b), such transportation may be authorized for employees engaged in field work or faced with a clear and present danger, an emergency, or a compelling operational consideration. An agency may make these determinations in advance in order to have employees ready to respond in such cases.
Use of Portable Phones—GSA policy states that while individual agencies may set their own policies regarding the use of portable phones while driving in government-owned or leased vehicles, in general they should:
• discourage the use of hand-held wireless phones by a driver while operating motor vehicles owned or leased by the federal government;
• provide a portable hands-free accessory or a hands-free car kit for government owned wireless phones; and
• educate employees on driving safely while using hands-free wireless phones.
Generally, federal employees are not exempt from state and local laws governing operation of a motor vehicle, including those restricting the use of phones while driving.
Text Messaging—Under Executive Order 13513 of 2009, federal employees are barred from text messaging when driving government vehicles, or when driving privately owned vehicles while on official government business, and from using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving. Each agency has its own implementing policies, including provisions for disciplinary actions. Exceptions are allowed for certain employees, devices, or vehicles for protective, law enforcement, national security or emergency reasons.
Tobacco Use—Use of tobacco products is barred in GSA fleet vehicles, and individual agencies typically also prohibit the use of tobacco products in vehicles they own or lease.
Seat Belts—Under Executive Order 13043 of 1997, each federal employee occupying any seating position of a motor vehicle on official business, whose seat is equipped with a seat belt, must have the seat belt properly fastened at all times when the vehicle is in motion.
Government Aircraft—You may use government aircraft for official travel only when: no scheduled commercial airline service is reasonably available (that is, able to meet your departure and/or arrival requirements within a 24-hour period, unless you demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances require a shorter period) to fulfill your agency’s travel requirement; the cost of using a government aircraft is less than the cost of the city-pair fare for scheduled commercial airline service or the cost of the lowest available full coach fare if a city-pair fare is not available to you; you are required to use government aircraft for bona fide communications or security reasons, or exceptional scheduling requirements; or for space-available travel under certain circumstances.
Hours of Work for Travel
In limited circumstances, travel time may be considered hours of work. The rules on travel hours of work depend on whether an employee is eligible for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (see Chapter 1, Section 6). For FLSA-exempt employees (that is, employees not eligible for overtime under that law), the crediting of travel time as hours of work is governed under Title 5 rules—in particular, 5 U.S.C. 5542(b)(2) and 5544(a)(3) and 5 CFR 550.112(g) and (j). For those who are eligible for FLSA overtime pay, travel time is credited if it is qualifying hours of work under either the Title 5 rules or under 5 CFR 551.401(h) and 551.422.
For FLSA-eligible employees, time spent traveling is hours of work if the employee is required to travel:
• during regular working hours (the regularly scheduled administrative workweek);
• during travel (for example, by being required to drive a government vehicle as part of a work assignment);
• as a passenger on a one-day assignment away from the official duty station; or
• as a passenger on an overnight assignment away from the official duty station during hours on non-workdays that correspond to the employee’s regular working hours. (See 5 CFR 551.422(a).)
Under 5 U.S.C. 5542(b)(2) and 5 CFR 550.112(g), official travel away from an employee’s official duty station is hours of work if the travel is:
• within the days and hours of the employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek, including regularly scheduled overtime hours; or
• outside the hours of the employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek, is ordered or approved, and meets one of the following conditions: involves the performance of work while traveling (such as driving a loaded truck); is incident to travel that involves the performance of work while traveling (such as driving an empty truck back to the point of origin); is carried out under arduous and unusual conditions (for example, travel on rough terrain or under extremely severe weather conditions); or results from an event that could not be scheduled or controlled administratively (such as training scheduled solely by a private firm or a job-related court appearance required by a court subpoena).
An agency may not adjust an employee’s normal regularly scheduled administrative workweek solely to include travel hours that would not otherwise be considered hours of work.
Under 5 U.S.C. 5544(a), both General Schedule and Federal Wage System employees may be credited with compensable hours of work for return travel from an administratively uncontrollable event.
Compensatory Time Off for Travel—5 U.S.C. 5550 requires agencies to provide employees compensatory time off for time spent in travel status away from their official duty stations, to the extent the time spent in travel status is not otherwise compensable. This authority does not extend to commuting time. See Compensatory Time Off for Travel in Chapter 5, Section 1.
Commuting Time—For FLSA-covered employees, normal commuting time between home and work is not hours of work. (See 5 CFR 551.422(b).) However, commuting time may be hours of work to the extent that the employee is required to perform substantial work under the control and direction of the employing agency—that is, productive work of a significant nature that is an integral and indispensable part of the employee’s principal activities. The fact that an employee is driving a government vehicle in commuting to and from work is not a basis for determining that commuting time is hours of work.
Similarly, for FLSA-exempt employees, normal commuting time from home to work and from work to home is not hours of work. (See 5 CFR 550.112(j)(2).) However, commuting time may be hours of work to the extent that the employee is officially ordered or approved to perform substantial work while commuting.
Normal “home-to-work/work-to-home” commuting includes travel between an employee’s home and a temporary duty location within the limits of the employee’s official duty station. For an employee assigned to a temporary duty station overnight, it also includes travel between the employee’s temporary place of lodging and a work site within the limits of the temporary duty station.
If an employee (whether FLSA-covered or exempt) is required to travel directly between home and a temporary duty location outside the limits of the employee’s official duty station, the time the employee would have spent in normal commuting must be deducted from any hours of work outside the regularly scheduled administrative workweek (or, for FLSA-covered employees, outside corresponding hours on a non-workday) that may be credited for the travel time. (The travel time is credited as hours of work only as allowed under the applicable rules—for example, for an FLSA-covered employee, if the travel is part of a one-day assignment away from the official duty station.)