Taxes

Chapter 1
Pay

Section 1
Main Federal Pay Schedules and Systems

General Schedule

The General Schedule is the federal government’s main pay system that sets the pay rates for employees in most white-collar positions not at the senior executive or other senior levels. The General Schedule is composed of 15 grades, or salary levels. Each grade includes 10 steps through which employees advance based on satisfactory job performance and length of service. For all GS grades, the waiting periods to be advanced to each higher step (that is, qualifying for a “within-grade increase”) are as follows: 52 calendar weeks to be advanced to steps 2, 3, and 4; 104 calendar weeks to be advanced to steps 5, 6, and 7; and 156 calendar weeks to be advanced to steps 8, 9, and 10 (see 5 CFR 531.405). Performance-based “quality step increases” also are allowed. See Section 4 of this chapter.

Position classification standards, developed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), are the legal basis for determining the series and grade—and consequently the pay—for the majority of GS positions. In most cases, a GS employee’s basic pay reflects the pay rate specified for the position’s grade and step in the locality where the worker is employed. Disputes over the classification of a GS position that cannot be resolved within the agency can be referred to OPM by either the employee or the agency. OPM’s decision is final. See Position Classification Appeals in Chapter 10, Section 1.

General Schedule jobs commonly are referred to according to one of the “PATCO” (for professional, administrative, technical, clerical, and other) occupational categories:

Professional—Requires knowledge in a field of science or learning characteristically acquired through education or training pertinent to the specialized field, as distinguished from general education. The work of a professional occupation requires the exercise of discretion, judgment, and personal responsibility for the application of an organized body of knowledge that is constantly studied to make new discoveries and interpretations, and to improve the data, materials and methods.

Administrative—Involves the exercise of analytical ability, judgment, discretion, and personal responsibility, and application of a substantial body of knowledge, principles, concepts, and practices applicable to one or more fields of administration or management. While these positions do not require specialized education majors, they do involve the types of skills (analytical, research, writing, judgment) typically gained through a college level general education or through progressively responsible experience.

Technical—Involves work that is non-routine in nature and is typically associated with, and in support of, a professional or administrative field. Such occupations involve extensive practical knowledge gained through on-the-job experience or specific training less than by college graduation. Work in these occupations may involve substantial elements of the professional or administrative field but require less competence in the field involved.

Clerical—Involves structured work in support of office, business, field, or fiscal operations; duties are performed in accordance with established policies, experience or working knowledge related to the tasks to be performed.

Other—Occupations that do not fall into the above categories.

Supervisors of other GS employees ordinarily are classified at least one grade higher than those employees. However, this does not necessarily mean that supervisors will be paid more than each of their subordinates. Supervisory differentials are paid in some cases to keep the supervisor’s pay ahead (see Supervisory Differentials in Section 4 of this chapter).

Some white-collar employees below the senior levels are under pay banding—also called broad banding—systems. In such systems, several GS grades are combined into one, and the agency has greater leeway in setting starting salaries and increasing pay for various reasons, including for performance (see Pay Banding in Section 5 of this chapter). Pay banding systems are common in “demonstration projects” and other settings where exceptions to standard civil service rules apply (see Chapter 8, Section 7).

Federal Wage System

Blue-collar occupations comprise the trades, crafts, and manual labor (unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled), including foreman and supervisory positions entailing trade, craft, or laboring experience and knowledge as the paramount requirement.

The pay of the federal government’s blue-collar employees is set as an hourly rate under 5 U.S.C. 5343. The law requires that hourly rates for these Federal Wage System employees—also commonly called wage grade or prevailing rate—be adjusted in accordance with pay rates in local markets. The most common wage system schedule, for most non-supervisory workers, contains 15 grades. Each of the grades includes five steps, set at 4 percent increments.

If the employee’s performance is above unacceptable, advancement to the second step occurs after six months of employment, advancement to the third after an additional 18 months, to the fourth after an additional two years, and to the fifth after an additional two years.

Occupations often cover more than one grade level, and many occupations typically are represented at each grade. Differences in rates of pay among wage areas reflect the fact that the prevailing cost of labor varies by region.

The wage system’s prevailing rate determinations are made on the basis of surveys by a “lead agency”—the agency with the most blue-collar employees in an area, most commonly the Defense Department—of rates paid by private employers in each local wage area for work similar to that performed by federal wage employees. Wage schedule adjustments have been capped for many years through the budget process (since 2004, at the local General Schedule pay increase, including both across the board and locality pay adjustments; previously at the GS national average increase, including both components). Wage schedules are adjusted at different times of the year according to when the local lead agency conducts the annual wage survey in each individual wage area.

U.S. Postal Service

As an independent establishment, the U.S. Postal Service operates its own pay system that has two main salary structures plus additional specialized structures. The two main structures are the PS (Postal Service) structure, which covers bargaining unit personnel, such as most clerks and carriers, mail handlers, nurses and security personnel; and the EAS (Executive and Administrative Schedule) structure, which covers executives, professionals, supervisors, postmasters, technical and administrative employees, and other workers not covered by bargaining agreements. See Chapter 12, Section 3.

Executive Schedule, Congressional, and Judicial Pay

Salary levels of certain top officials of all three branches of government are linked. The Executive Schedule, which governs the pay of Cabinet officers and other top federal executives—almost all of them political appointees—is the basic underlying structure. It includes five levels which are, in descending order:

• Level I, Cabinet-Level officials;

• Level II, deputy secretaries of departments, secretaries of military departments, and heads of major agencies;

• Level III, undersecretaries of departments and heads of middle-level agencies;

• Level IV, assistant secretaries and general counsels of departments, heads of smaller agencies, members of certain boards and commissions; and

• Level V, administrators, commissioners, directors, and members of boards, commissions, or units of agencies.

Executive Schedule rates are used to establish certain salary limits for General Schedule employees, the Senior Executive Service, employees in senior-level and senior scientific and technical jobs, administrative law judges, and certain other highly paid positions. See the pertinent topics in this section.

The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 provided for an annual salary adjustment for leaders and members of the Senate and House of Representatives, the Vice President, individuals in positions on the Executive Schedule, and federal justices and judges. The adjustment is based on the percentage change in the wages and salaries (not seasonally adjusted) for the private industry workers element of the employment cost index (ECI), minus 0.5 percent, using the December indicator. It becomes effective at the same time as, and at a rate no greater than, the annual basic pay rate adjustment (that is, the across-the-board component only and not counting the locality pay component) for federal employees under the General Schedule. The adjustment cannot, however, be less than zero or greater than 5 percent. While the Ethics Reform Act sets the rate of the judicial pay adjustment, salary increases for justices and judges must be enacted separately.

While judicial raises require an annual authorization, the congressional and Executive Schedule pay raises are automatic unless Congress acts to prevent them—which has happened in most recent years. Although refusals to accept the raise primarily occur because of sensitivity over congressional pay, the linkage often has caused salaries of judges and Executive Schedule officials to be frozen as well. (Note: While Executive Schedule rates for salary cap purposes have increased in recent years, the actual rates payable to political appointees paid under the Executive Schedule have remained frozen at 2013 levels; the same has applied to the Vice President’s salary rate, which determines the cap on total compensation (see Aggregate Limit on Compensation in Section 2 of this chapter). Pay for members of Congress also has remained frozen, but pay for judges has increased.) The President’s salary is set by law, 3 U.S.C. 102, at $400,000 and cannot be changed during an incumbent’s term.

Senior Executive Service

The Senior Executive Service (SES) is a cadre of high-level supervisors, about nine-tenths of them career employees, the rest politically appointed or on temporary assignments. The SES pay system (see 5 U.S.C. 53 Subchapter VIII) features a pay range with a minimum rate of basic pay starting at 120 percent of the rate for grade 15, step 1, of the base General Schedule (not including locality pay). Agencies that demonstrate that their executive appraisal systems make “meaningful distinctions based on relative performance,” as certified by the Office of Personnel Management with concurrence by the Office of Management and Budget, may pay up to Level II of the Executive Schedule. Most agencies have that certification; for those that don’t, the cap is Level III of the Executive Schedule. SES employees are guaranteed not to suffer a reduction in pay if they transfer to an SES position in another agency where salaries are capped at the lower amount, if their salaries were above that level while at an agency eligible for the higher amount. Under Executive Order 13714 of 2015, an SES member generally must be paid more than any of General Schedule direct-report subordinates, including their locality pay but not including other forms of compensation such as recruitment or retention incentives.

SES members in an agency with a certified executive performance appraisal system also are subject to a higher aggregate compensation limit (that is, basic salary, plus performance bonus for career SES members, and other allowances and incentives) equivalent to the salary rate of the Vice President. Absent certification, the maximum is the rate for Level I of the Executive Schedule. See Aggregate Limit on Compensation in Section 2 of this chapter for details of the certification procedure and what forms of compensation are counted toward the total compensation cap.

SES members do not receive annual across-the-board or locality pay adjustments. Pay adjustments for SES members are based on the employee’s individual performance and/or contribution to the agency’s performance. See Chapter 8, Section 9.

SES members paid at a rate of basic pay equal to or greater than 86.5 percent of the rate for Level II are subject to certain additional post-employment restrictions. See Post-employment Restrictions in Chapter 10, Section 5.

Other High-Level Systems

Administrative Law Judges—ALJs hear and rule on disputes involving economic regulations, enforcement of actions brought by federal agencies against individuals or organizations, and claims for benefits. The large majority work at the Social Security Administration. While they are career federal employees, they operate under a system designed to protect their decisional independence from undue agency influence. See Special Recruitment, Hiring and Placement Programs in Chapter 8, Section 1 for policies on hiring.

The ALJ pay system consists of three levels, in descending order AL-1, -2 and -3; level 3 in turn is divided into six rates, A-F. ALJ positions are placed at levels AL-2 and AL-1 when they involve significant administrative and managerial responsibilities. The minimum rate for ALJ positions is 65 percent of Level IV of the Executive Schedule, and the maximum, including locality adjustments, is Level III.

An ALJ who is appointed and placed in level AL-3 must be paid at the minimum rate A, unless the ALJ is eligible for a higher rate, not to exceed the maximum rate F, because of

Chapter 1—Pay

General Schedule Base Pay Table

Step

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

GS-1

18,785

19,414

20,039

20,660

21,285

21,650

22,267

22,891

22,915

23,502

2

21,121

21,624

22,323

22,915

23,175

23,857

24,539

25,221

25,903

26,585

3

23,045

23,813

24,581

25,349

26,117

26,885

27,653

28,421

29,189

29,957

4

25,871

26,733

27,595

28,457

29,319

30,181

31,043

31,905

32,767

33,629

5

28,945

29,910

30,875

31,840

32,805

33,770

34,735

35,700

36,665

37,630

6

32,264

33,339

34414

35,489

36,564

37,639

38,714

39,789

40,864

41,939

7

35,854

37,049

38,244

39,439

40,634

41,829

43,024

44,219

45,414

46,609

8

39,707

41,031

42,355

43,679

45,003

46,327

47,651

48,975

50,299

51,623

9

43,857

45,319

46,781

48,243

49,705

51,167

52,629

54,091

55,553

57,015

10

48,297

49,907

51,517

53,127

54,737

56,347

57,957

59,567

61,177

62,787

11

53,062

54,831

56,600

58,369

60,138

61,907

63,676

65,445

67,214

68,983

12

63,600

65,720

67,840

69,960

72,080

74,200

76,320

78,440

80,560

82,680

13

75,628

78,149

80,670

83,191

85,712

88,233

90,754

93,275

95,796

98,317

14

89,370

92,349

95,328

98,307

101,286

104,265

107,244

110,223

113,202

116,181

15

105,123

108,627

112,131

115,635

119,139

122,643

126,147

129,651

133,155

13,6659

Note: This table is used as the basis for General Schedule locality pay rates; percentage figures are at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages. It also is used in calculating the minimum rates of pay for certain high-level positions. See Senior Executive Service and see Other High-Level Systems in Section 1 of this chapter.

Albany Locality Pay Table

Step

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

GS-1

1,885

22,617

23,345

24,069

24,797

25,222

25,941

26,668

26,696

27,380

2

24,606

25,192

26,006

26,696

26,999

27,793

28,588

29,382

30,177

30,972

3

26,847

27,742

28,637

29,532

30,426

31,321

32,216

33,110

34,005

34,900

4

30,140

31,144

32,148

33,152

34,157

35,161

36,165

37,169

38,174

39,178

5

33,721

34,845

35,969

37,094

38,218

39,342

40,466

41,591

42,715

43,839

6

37,588

38,840

40,092

41,345

42,597

43,849

45,102

46,354

47,607

48,859

7

41,770

43,162

44,554

45,946

47,339

48,731

50,123

51,515

52,907

54,299

8

46,259

47,801

49,344

50,886

52,428

53,971

55,513

57,056

58,598

60,141

9

51,093

52,797

54,500

56,203

57,906

59,610

61,313

63,016

64,719

66,422

10

56,266

58,142

60,017

61,893

63,769

65,644

67,520

69,396

71,271

73,147

11

61,817

63,878

65,939

68,000

70,061

72,122

74,183

76,243

78,304

80,365

12

74,094

76,564

79,034

81,503

83,973

86,443

88,913

91,383

93,852

96,322

13

88,107

91,044

93,981

96,918

99,854

102,791

105,728

108,665

111,602

114,539

14

104,116

107,587

111,057

114,528

117,998

121,469

124,939

128,410

131,880

135,351

15

122,468

126,550

130,633

134,715

138,797

142,879

146,961

151,043

155,126

159,208

2019 Federal Employees Almanac

Section 11
2019 Pay Tables and Schedules

Annual Salaries of Top U.S. Government Positions

Executive Schedule

President

$400,000 plus
$50,000 official expense allowance

Vice President

$243,500

Level I Cabinet Officers

$210,700

Level II

$189,600

Level III

$174,500

Level IV

$164,200

Level V

$153,800

Congressional Salaries

Senators, Representatives, Delegates to Congress

$174,000

President pro tempore of the Senate

$193,400

Majority leader and minority leader of the Senate

$193,400

Majority leader and minority leader of the House

$193,400

Speaker of the House of Representatives

$223,500

Judicial Salaries

Chief Justice of the United States

$267,000

Associate Justices of the Supreme Court

$255,300

Circuit Judges

$220,600

District Judges

$208,000

Judges, Court of International Trade,
U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Claims Court

$208,000

Senior Executive Service, Senior Level,
and Senior Scientific and Technical Salaries

Agencies with a Certified Performance Appraisal System

Minimum

Maximum

$126,148

$189,600

Agencies without a Certified Performance Appraisal System

Minimum

Maximum

$126,148

$174,500

Note: Rates shown for the Vice President and Executive Level positions are amounts used for setting pay caps as described in Section 2 of this chapter. Amounts actually paid to these officials are slightly lower.

General Schedule Pay Raises Since 1958

Effective
Date

Avg.
(%)


Amount of Increase


Authority

Jan. 1, 1958

10.00

10 percent for all employees, ceiling of $17,500

84-462, June 20, 1958

July 1, 1960

7.50

7.5 percent for all employees

85-568, July 1, 1960

Oct. 11, 1962

5.50

5.5 percent plus additional step for 1st 3 grades

87-793, Oct. 11, 1962

Jan. 1, 1964

3.90

3.9 percent for all employees

87-793, Oct. 11, 1962

July 1, 1964

4.20

4.2 percent for all employees

88-426, Aug. 14, 1964

Oct. 1, 1965

3.60

3.6 percent for all employees

89-301, Oct. 20, 1965

July 1, 1966

2.90

2.9 percent for all employees

89-504, July 18, 1966

Oct. 1, 1967

4.50

4.5 percent for all employees

90-206, Dec. 16, 1967

July 1, 1968

4.90

3 percent minimum, or 1/2 comparability

90-206, Dec. 16, 1967

July 1, 1969

9.10

Full comparability

H. Doc. 91-131

Dec. 27, 1969

6.00

6 percent for all employees

91-231, Apr. 15, 1970

Jan. 1, 1971

6.00

6 percent for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305.

Jan. 1, 1972

5.50

5.5 percent for all employees

92-210, Dec. 22, 1971

Oct. 1, 1972

5.14

5.1 percent for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1973

4.77

4.8 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1974

5.48

5.5 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1975

5.00

5 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1976

5.17

Increase from 4.24 percent to 11.83 percent

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1977

7.05

7.05 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1978

5.46

5.5 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1979

7.02

7.02 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1980

9.11

9.11 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1981

4.80

4.8 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Oct. 1, 1982

4.00

4 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1984

4.00

4 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1985

3.50

3.5 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1987

3.00

3 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1988

2.00

2 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1989

4.10

4.1 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1990

3.60

3.6 percent average increase for all employees

5 U.S.C. 5305

Jan. 1, 1991

4.10

4.1 percent average increase for all employees

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1992

4.20

4.2 percent average increase for all employees

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1993

3.70

3.7 percent average increase for all employees

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1994

3.09-5.62

No national raise; locality pay system began

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1995

2.28-4.28

2 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1996

2.05-2.82

2 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1997

2.24-4.66

2.3 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1998

2.44-6.52

2.3 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 101-509

Jan. 1, 1999

3.54-4.02

3.1 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 105-277

Jan. 1, 2000

4.69-5.59

3.8 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 106-58

Jan. 1, 2001

3.56-4.46

2.7 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 106-554

Jan. 1, 2002

4.52-5.42

3.6 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 107-67

Jan. 1, 2003

4.02-4.87

3.1 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 108-7

Jan. 1, 2004

3.89-5.35

2.7 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 108-199

Jan. 1, 2005

3.26-4.30

2.5 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 108-447

Jan. 1, 2006

2.25-5.62

2.1 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 109-115

Jan. 1, 2007

1.81-3.02

1.7 percent national raise plus locality pay

5 U.S.C. 5304(a)

Jan. 1, 2008

2.99-4.49

2.5 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 110-161

Jan. 1, 2009

3.52-4.78

2.9 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 110-329

Jan. 1, 2010

1.76-2.62

1.5 percent national raise plus locality pay

PL 111-117

Jan. 1, 2014

1.00

1 percent national raise; no locality pay

5 U.S.C. 5304(a)

Jan. 1, 2015

1.00

1 percent national raise; no locality pay

5 U.S.C. 5304(a)

Jan. 1, 2016

1.17-1.46

1 percent national raise plus locality pay

5 U.S.C. 5304(a)

Qualifying Life Events (QLEs) that

FEHB Enrollment Change that May Permit Change in FEHB Enrollment or Premium Conversion Election

Time Limits in which Change May Be Permitted

Code

Event

From Not Enrolled to Enrolled

Increase Enrollment Type*

From One Plan or Option to

Another

Cancel or Decrease
Enrollment Type**

When You Must File Health Benefits

Election Form With Your Employing Office

1I

Employee (or covered family member) enrolled in FEHB health maintenance organization (HMO) moves or becomes employed outside the geographic area from which the FEHB carrier accepts enrollments or, if already outside the area, moves further from this area.

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Upon notifying employing office of move

1J

Transfer from post of duty within a State of the United States or the District of Columbia to post of duty outside a State of the United States or District of Columbia, or reverse.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Within 60 days after arriving at new post

1K

Separation from federal employment when the employee or employee’s spouse is pregnant.

Yes

Yes

Yes

N/A

During employee’s final pay period

1L

Employee becomes entitled to Medicare and wants to change to another plan or option.

No

No

Yes

N/A

Any time beginning on the 30th day before becoming eligible

1M

Employee or eligible family member loses coverage under FEHB or another group insurance plan including the following: • Loss of coverage under another FEHB enrollment due to termination, cancellation, or change to Self-Only of the covering enrollment

• Loss of coverage due to termination of

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Within 60 days after loss of coverage

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