2012 Federal Employees Almanac
Chapter 11, Section 2: Relocation Allowances
- By Almanac Staff
- February 19, 2012
Employees generally are entitled to receive a relocation expenses allowance (see Chapter 302 of the Federal Travel Regulation at www.gsa.gov/ftr): upon an appointment to a first official duty station; when transferring from one official duty station to another permanent one at least 50 miles farther from the employee’s current residence than the old official station is from the same residence (agencies may grant exceptions from the mileage minimum when in the interests of the government); when performing travel in accordance with an overseas tour renewal agreement; or when returning to his/her place of residence after completion of a prescribed tour of duty for the purposes of separation from government service or separation from an overseas assignment for reassignment to the same or different government agency.
Others generally eligible are: employees transferred from the Postal Service to a federal agency (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 5721); student trainees assigned to any position upon completion of college work; overseas DoD Dependents Schools teachers; a career appointee to the Senior Executive Service (SES) as defined in 5 U.S.C. 3132(a)(4), and a prior SES appointee who is returning to his/her official residence for separation and who will be retaining SES retirement benefits; or an employee being assigned to a temporary duty station in connection with long-term assignment. Excluded are those transferred under the rules of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 or under the Central Intelligence Act of 1949, and certain others. See Federal Travel Regulation Part 302-1.2.
Covered expenses generally include: travel, including per diem, for the employee and immediate family; mileage reimbursement at an IRS standard rate for moving expense deductions; transportation and temporary storage of household goods; extended storage when it is necessary as approved by the agency; 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. Agencies may pay house-hunting trip expenses, temporary quarters subsistence expenses and reimbursement for property management services. In addition, there are limited special allowances available for certain groups of employees, such as new appointees and retiring members of the SES.
See General in Section 1 of this chapter for information about family members whose expenses are reimbursable under various relocation payment authorities.
You may begin your transfer or reassignment only after your agency has approved a travel authorization for you; you may not relocate until you have received that authorization. Certain benefits are not available to certain categories, as described below.
To help their employees relocate, agencies have the authority to enter into contracts with relocation companies.
Employees are required to sign a service agreement when transferring within or outside the continental United States or performing renewal agreement travel. The minimum periods of service are:
- within the continental United States for a period of service of not less than 12 months following the effective date of your transfer;
- outside the continental United States for an agreed upon period of service of not more than 36 months or less than 12 months following the effective date of transfer;
- DoD Dependent Schools teachers overseas for a period of not less than one school year as determined under Chapter 25 of Title 20, United States Code; and
- for renewal agreement travel a period of not less than 12 months from the date of return to the same or different overseas official station.
Expenses incurred at an employee’s official station not in conjunction with relocation do not fall under the authority of the FTR; employees should adhere to their agency’s policies for reimbursement of such expenses.
Test Programs-- Under 5 U.S.C. 5739, agencies may conduct, with GSA approval, programs to test innovative methods of reimbursing relocation expenses without seeking a waiver of general rules or authorizing legislation. Public Law 111-112 made the authority for these programs permanent. Check with your agency to see if such a program might affect you.
DoD Employees-- Relocation entitlements for civilian Defense Department employees are governed by the DoD Joint Travel Regulations, Volume 2, available in personnel and transportation offices and at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/travelreg.cfm. Those provisions generally parallel those under Chapter 302 of the Federal Travel Regulation described below.
Each DoD agency establishes eligibility criteria for its transferring civilian employees for the use of Defense National Relocation Program, which is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, phone (800) 344-2501, www.nab.usace.army.mil/dnrp.htm. Employees should contact their local human resources office to verify their eligibility.
DNRP provides general information on DoD relocation policy and services, or refers the employee to appropriate contacts for specific interpretation of policy and contract requirements. In addition, it assists the employee in selecting, planning, and scheduling relocation services, informs the employee of procedures for requesting relocation services, assists the employee in preparing and listing home for sale, assists the employee in finding temporary quarters, and provides other benefits.
DNRP Marketing Assistance is designed to help an employee actively market his or her home. A relocation specialist is assigned who will recommend listing brokers, make suggestions as to marketing strategy, assist in setting an offer price and identify any improvements that may expedite the sale. The Guaranteed Homesale Service is an alternative process available in certain circumstances under which the employee’s primary residence is purchased by the DNRP contractor at the current market value based on appraisals or a market-based offer, generally no more than $750,000. The Home Marketing Incentive Payment is a discretionary payment of up to $10,000 that the government may make to an eligible employee to encourage the employee to aggressively market and find a bona fide buyer for his or her residence resulting in a successful sale as part of the GHS program.
The Property Management Services program assists employees in renting out their homes. It assigns a local property manager acceptable to the employee, helps the employee develop a rental marketing strategy, and provides related services. The Destination Services program assigns a counselor to assist the employee regarding housing choices at the new duty station, including such services as mortgage counseling.
For purposes of relocation allowances, a new appointee is defined as: an individual who is employed with the federal government for the first time (including certain members of a presidential transition team); an employee who is returning to the government after a break in service (except an employee separated as a result of reduction-in-force or transfer of functions and is re-employed within one year after such action); or a student trainee assigned to the government upon completion of his/her college work.
Such individuals are eligible for: transportation of the employee and immediate family member(s); per diem for the employee only; transportation and temporary storage of household goods; extended storage of household goods; and transportation of a mobile home or boat used as a primary residence in lieu of the transportation of household goods. Agencies may at their discretion pay for shipment of a privately owned vehicle. Each agency establishes specific criteria for determining which new appointees qualify for payment of allowable relocation expenses.
A transferred employee is an employee who transfers from one official station to another. This may also include employees separated as a result of reduction-in-force or transfer of functions who are re-employed within one year after such separation.
For a transfer within the continental United States, relocation allowances that an agency must pay or reimburse are: transportation and per diem for the employee and immediate family member(s); miscellaneous moving expenses; transportation and temporary storage of household goods; extended storage of household goods if assigned to a designated isolated official station in the continental United States; relocation income tax allowance; sell or buy residence transactions or lease termination expenses; and transportation of a mobile home or boat used as a primary residence in lieu of the transportation of household goods (for transfers outside the continental United States, agencies may not pay for the latter two). Agencies may at their discretion pay for: house-hunting per diem and transportation for the employee and spouse only; temporary quarters subsistence expense; shipment of a privately owned vehicle; use of a relocation services company; property management services; and home marketing incentives (for transfers outside the continental United States, agencies may not pay for house-hunting trips or temporary quarters subsistence expenses but they may pay a foreign transfer allowance).
Other rules apply in other types of transfers. See FTR Part 302.101.
Temporary Change of Station
A temporary change of station (TCS) is the relocation to a new official station for a temporary period while performing a long-term assignment, and subsequent return to the previous official station upon completion of that assignment. You are eligible for a TCS when you are directed to perform a TCS at a long-term duty location, and you otherwise would be eligible for payment of temporary duty travel allowances.
The agency must pay: travel, including per diem, for the employee and immediate family; transportation and temporary storage of household goods; extended storage when it is necessary as approved by the agency; transportation of a mobile home instead of transportation of household goods; a miscellaneous expenses allowance; transportation of a privately owned vehicle(s); property management services; and a relocation income tax allowance.
An agency may at its discretion pay house-hunting trip expenses, temporary quarters subsistence expenses, and reimbursement for property management services.
Senior Executive Service Last Move Home
Agencies are authorized to pay limited "last move home" relocation allowances to eligible SES career appointees and employees who previously were career appointees and who elected to retain SES retirement benefits upon their retirement. Payment is limited to per diem for the employee only; transportation expenses of the employee and immediate family; transportation and temporary storage of household goods; and transportation of a mobile home or boat used as a primary residence in lieu of transportation of household goods.
To be eligible for this benefit, SES employees must be: moving to a location more than 50 miles from their last official duty station; eligible to receive an annuity for optional retirement; within five years of eligibility to receive an annuity for optional retirement; eligible to receive an annuity based on discontinued service retirement, or early voluntary retirement; or eligible to receive an annuity upon separation under the provisions of subchapter III of Chapter 83 (CSRS) or Chapter 84 (FERS) of Title 5, U.S.C., including an annuity based on optional retirement, discontinued service retirement, early voluntary retirement under OPM authorization, or disability retirement; and have not previously received or been authorized to receive "last move home" benefits upon separation from federal service for retirement.
Subsistence and Transportation Allowances
You are eligible for subsistence and transportation allowances for permanent change of station (PCS) travel if your agency specifically authorizes relocation expenses and you are: transferred (within or outside the continental United States); a new appointee (within or outside the continental United States); or an employee assigned to posts of duty outside the continental United States in connection with either overseas tour renewal agreement travel or return travel to places of residence for separation. Agencies must pay per diem, transportation costs and certain other travel expenses in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 5701-5709.
Your per diem for en route relocation travel between your old and new official stations will be at the standard CONUS rate. The number of authorized travel days is the actual number of days used to complete the trip, but not to exceed an amount based on a minimum driving distance per day determined to be reasonable by your agency--normally not less than an average of 300 miles per day.
With certain exceptions, the rules for temporary duty travel are used for payment of the travel expenses of your immediate family members. The maximum amount your spouse may receive if he/she accompanies you while you are performing PCS travel is three-fourths of your daily per diem rate. If your spouse does not accompany you but travels unaccompanied at a different time, he/she will receive the same per diem rate to which you are entitled. Per diem for your immediate family members cannot be authorized if you are: a new appointee; assigned to posts of duty outside the continental United States and returning to place of actual residence for separation; or being relocated under the Government Employees Training Act.
House-Hunting Trip Expenses
The term "house-hunting trip" refers to a trip made by the employee and/or spouse to your new official station locality to find permanent living quarters to rent or purchase. The term "living quarters" includes apartments, condominiums, and cooperatives in addition to townhouses and single family homes. You are eligible for a house-hunting 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 your 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 and employees assigned under the Government Employees Training Act are not eligible.
Your agency will authorize you to travel by the transportation mode(s) it determines to be advantageous to the government and pay for your transportation expenses by the authorized mode(s). If you travel by any other mode(s), your agency will pay your transportation expenses not to exceed the cost of transportation by the authorized mode(s).
To receive reimbursement for house-hunting trip transportation expenses you must itemize your transportation expenses and provide receipts. Your agency may authorize an advance of funds for your house-hunting trip expenses. You are in a duty status when you perform a house-hunting trip.
Temporary Quarters Subsistence Expenses
Temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) are subsistence expenses incurred by an employee and/or his/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 50 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.
You and/or your immediate family may occupy temporary quarters at government expense within reasonable proximity of your old and/or new official stations. Neither you nor your immediate family may be reimbursed for occupying temporary quarters at any other location, unless justified by special circumstances that are reasonably related to your transfer. Your agency will reimburse you for TQSE under the actual expense method unless it permits the "fixed amount" reimbursement method as an alternative. If your agency makes both methods available to you, you may select the one you prefer. See FTR Part 302-6.100 and Part 302-6.200 for how each is calculated.
For fixed amount TQSE reimbursement, you do not document your TQSE. For actual TQSE reimbursement, you must document your TQSE by itemizing each expense and providing receipts. Your agency may advance the amount of funds necessary to cover your estimated TQSE expenses for up to 30 days.
Transportation expenses incurred in the vicinity of the temporary quarters are not reimbursable.
The following are eligible for the transportation and temporary storage of household goods at government expense when a relocation has been determined to be in the interest of the government: an employee transferred between official duty stations, within or outside the continental United States (CONUS); a new appointee to his/her first official duty station within or outside the CONUS; an employee being returned to CONUS for separation from an outside CONUS assignment, after completion of an agreed upon period of services; an SES employee authorized last move home benefits; and an employee authorized a temporary change of station (TCS).
The maximum weight allowance of household goods that may be shipped or stored at government expense is 18,000 pounds net weight. For uncrated or van line shipments, a 2,000-pound allowance is added to the 18,000 pounds net weight allowance to cover packing materials for the shipment.
The initial period of temporary storage at government expense may not exceed 90 days in connection with any authorized household goods shipment. The household goods may be placed in temporary storage at origin, in transit, at destination, or any combination. However, upon your written request, an additional 90 days may be authorized by the designated agency official.
There are two authorized methods of transporting and paying for the movement of household goods--commuted rate and actual expense. Under the actual expense method, the agency assumes the responsibility for arranging and paying for the services. Under the commuted rate system you assume responsibility for arranging and paying for most of the related services.
An advance of funds may be authorized when the transportation of household goods and temporary storage is authorized under the commuted rate method.
Extended Storage-- Your agency may authorize extended storage of household goods when: you are assigned to an isolated duty station within CONUS; you are assigned to an overseas official station where your agency limits the amount of household goods you may transport to that location; you are assigned to an OCONUS (outside the continental United States) official station and your agency determines extended storage is in the public interest or cost effective to do so; or it is necessary for a temporary change of station.
Extended storage of household goods is not permitted for a career SES employee eligible for last move home benefits.
Transportation and Emergency Storage of a Privately Owned Vehicle
Transportation and emergency storage of a privately owned vehicle (POV) may be authorized at the agency’s discretion for an employee who is authorized to transfer to the post of duty, or a new appointee or student trainee assigned to the post of duty. When your agency authorizes transportation of your POV, it will pay for all necessary and customary expenses directly related to the transportation of the POV, including crating and packing expenses, shipping charges, and port charges for readying the POV for shipment at the port of embarkation, and for use at the port of debarkation. Your agency will pay all necessary storage expenses, including but not limited to readying the POV for storage, local transportation to point of storage, storage, readying the POV for use after storage, and local transportation from the point of storage. Insurance is at your expense, unless it is included in these expenses.
Only a passenger automobile, station wagon, light truck, or other similar vehicle that will be used primarily for personal transportation may be authorized to transport, and if necessary store under emergency circumstances. You may not transport or store a trailer, airplane, or any vehicle intended for commercial use.
You may receive advance funds not to exceed the estimated amount of the expenses authorized for transportation and emergency storage of your POV.
You are eligible for emergency storage of your POV when your POV was transported to your post of duty at government expense and the head of your agency determines that your post of duty is within a zone from which your immediate family and/or household goods should be evacuated.
Mobile Homes and Boats Used as a Primary Residence
If you are eligible for the transportation of household goods, you will be reimbursed for transporting a mobile home instead of a household goods shipment, not to exceed what the government would incur for the transportation of your household goods and 90 days temporary storage. To have a mobile home transported at government expense, you must certify that the mobile home will be used at the new official station as your primary residence and/or the primary residence of your immediate family. Allowances for overland transportation of a mobile home may be made only for transportation within the CONUS, within Alaska, and through Canada en route between Alaska and CONUS or through Canada between one CONUS point and another.
Allowances for transporting a mobile home (including mileage when towed by you) are in addition to the reimbursement of per diem, mileage, and transportation expenses for you and your immediate family member(s).
Allowable costs when transporting overland include: the carrier’s charge for actual transportation; ferry fares; bridge, road, and tunnel tolls; taxes, charges or fees fixed by a state or other government authority for permits to transport mobile homes in or through its jurisdiction; the carrier’s service charges for obtaining necessary permits; and charges for a pilot (flag) car or escort services, when required by state or local law.
When transporting over water, allowable costs include, but are not limited to: the cost of fuel and oil used for propulsion of the boat; pilots or navigators in the open water; a crew; charges for harbor pilots; docking fees incurred in transit; harbor or port fees and similar charges related to entry in and navigation through ports; and towing, whether in tow or towing by pushing from behind.
The mileage allowance when you transport a mobile home overland by other than commercial means (for example, by towing it behind a POV) is 11 cents per mile. This is in addition to the mileage allowance prescribed for driving the POV.
You are eligible to receive an allowance for expenses incurred in connection with your residence transactions (the sale of a residence at your old official station and/or the purchase of a residence at your new station) if you have signed a service agreement and are performing a permanent change of station where your old and new official stations are within the United States, or you transferred from an official station in the United States to a foreign area and are now transferring back to the United States, have completed your service agreement time period for your overseas tour of duty, and are assigned to an official station in the United States that is more than 50 miles from your last official station in the United States. New appointees and Government Employees Training Act appointees are not eligible.
To be reimbursed for expenses incurred in residence transactions, you must occupy the residence at the time you are notified of your transfer, unless your transfer is from a foreign area to an official station within the United States other than the one you left when you transferred out of the United States.
If you qualify for a residence transaction expense allowance, you may be reimbursed for: the expenses of selling your old residence and purchasing a new residence in the United States; or settlement of an unexpired lease at your old official station in the United States from which transferred to another official station in the United States or when assigned to a foreign post of duty; and expenses of purchasing a new residence in the United States upon return to the United States upon completion of the foreign tour of duty and the return is to a different official station, and is 50 miles distance from the official station which you transferred from.
You may receive reimbursement for the one residence from which you regularly commute to and from work on a daily basis and which was your residence at the time you were officially notified to transfer to a new official station.
Provided that they are customarily paid by the seller of a residence at the old official station or by the purchaser of a residence at the new official station, your agency will pay the following expenses within certain restrictions: your broker’s fee or real estate commission that you pay in the sale of your residence at the last official station, not to exceed the rates that are generally charged in the locality of your old official station; the customary cost for an appraisal; the costs of newspaper, bulletin board, multiple-listing services, and other advertising for sale of the residence at your old official station that is not included in the broker’s fee or the real estate agent’s commission; the cost of a title insurance policy, costs of preparing conveyances, other instruments, and contracts and related notary fees and recording fees; cost of making surveys, preparing drawings or plats when required for legal or financing purposes, and similar expenses; the costs of searching title, preparing abstracts, and the legal fees for a title opinion; and miscellaneous expenses in connection with the sale and/or purchase of your residence, provided they are normally paid by the seller or purchaser in that locality.
Other Housing Allowances
Use of Relocation Services Company-- You are eligible to use a relocation services company if you are an employee who is authorized to transfer and such transfer includes a residence transaction. Your agency will pay the relocation services company’s fees/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 the direct reimbursement provisions.
Home Marketing Incentive Payments-- Your agency determines when it is in the government’s interest to offer you a home marketing incentive, and the amount. The incentive payment may not exceed the lesser of 5 percent of the price the relocation services company paid when it purchased the residence from you, or the savings your agency realized from the reduced fee/expenses it paid as a result of you finding a bona fide buyer.
Property Management Services-- You are eligible for payment for property management services when you transfer in the interest of the government, and you and/or a member(s) of your immediate family hold(s) title to a residence which you are eligible to sell at government expense. New appointees, employees assigned under the Government Employees Training Act and employees transferring wholly outside the United States are not eligible.
Miscellaneous Expenses-- Miscellaneous expenses are costs associated with discontinuing your residence at your old official station, and/or establishing a residence at your new official station. These include but are not limited to: costs related to disconnecting/connecting appliances; equipment, or utilities, cutting and fitting rugs, draperies, and curtains; utility deposits or fees not offset by eventual refunds; medical, dental, and food locker contracts; private institutional care contracts (such as that provided for handicapped or invalid dependents only); registration, driver’s license, and use taxes imposed when bringing privately owned vehicles into certain jurisdictions; and certain costs related to the transportations of pets.
A transferring employee without an immediate family is entitled to a lump-sum miscellaneous expenses allowance of one week’s basic gross pay, up to $650, and an employee with an immediate family is entitled to a lump sum of two weeks’ basic gross pay, up to $1,300. If additional amounts are justified, with supporting documentation, expenses may be reimbursed up to one or two weeks, respectively, of basic pay up to the maximum salary rate for a General Schedule grade 13, step 10, position. See 41 CFR 302-16.
Relocation Income Tax Allowance
Payment of a relocation income tax allowance (RITA) is authorized to reimburse eligible transferred employees for substantially all of the additional federal, state, and local income taxes incurred by the employee, or by the employee and spouse if a joint tax return is filed, as a result of certain travel and transportation expense and relocation allowances which are furnished in kind, or for which reimbursement or an allowance is provided by the government.
Payment of the RITA also is authorized for income taxes paid to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. possessions. Payment of a RITA is authorized for employees transferred in the interest of the government from one official station to another for permanent duty. New appointees, employees assigned under the Government Employees Training Act and employees returning from overseas assignments for the purpose of separation are not eligible.
Within certain limitations, these types of expenses or allowances are covered: en route travel; household goods shipment; extended storage expenses; mobile home movement; house-hunting trip; temporary quarters; real estate expenses; miscellaneous expense allowance; and relocation services. Such expenses are covered by the RITA only to the extent that they are actually paid or incurred, and are not allowable as a moving expense deduction for tax purposes. Tables are published annually as an FTR Bulletin at www.gsa.gov/ftrbulletin.