When You Return from Travel

Upon return from official travel, you are required to submit a travel claim or voucher—an itemized statement of expenses incurred while on official travel.

175 When is a traveler required to submit a travel claim?

Under FTR section 301-52.7, travelers must submit a travel claim (voucher) within five working days after completion of the trip or period of travel or every 30 days if the employee is on continuous travel status. There is no exception to this rule; an agency may require submission within fewer days but not more.

176 What must a traveler provide with a travel claim?

A traveler must provide evidence of travel authorizations, including any necessary special authorizations, receipts for lodging regardless of the amount, and receipts for any other expense over $75.

177 What can a traveler do if a receipt is lost or misplaced?

The failure to furnish receipts as required must be fully explained on the travel voucher. Mere inconvenience in the matter of collecting receipts is not acceptable. In some cases, such as for a lodging receipt, the traveler may be able to obtain a duplicate receipt.

178 When are receipts required?

You must provide a lodging receipt regardless of the amount paid. You must also provide a receipt for any authorized expense over $75 or provide a reason acceptable to your agency explaining why you are unable to furnish the necessary receipts. Your agency may exempt an expenditure from the receipt requirement because the expenditure is confidential. However, your agency may require receipts for any amount.

179 How long should receipts be retained?

Receipts must be retained for six years and three months as prescribed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) (see or NARA Transmittal No. 22 dated April 2010).

180 If a traveler does not submit a receipt for an expense or lists an unauthorized expense on the voucher, can the agency disallow the expense? Can a traveler appeal the disallowance?

FTR section 301-52.8 provides the authority for an approving official to disallow an expense. The agency is required to provide the traveler a notice of the disallowance in writing (FTR section 301-52.9). A traveler may then request that the agency reconsider the disallowance (FTR section 301-52.10). If the claim is denied after reconsideration, the traveler may further challenge the disallowance to the CBCA (FTR section 301-52.11(g)).

181 A traveler’s travel voucher is often submitted by an agency-authorized alternate preparer. Is it legal for this individual to sign a traveler’s voucher?

The traveler’s electronic signature on the travel voucher certifies the accuracy of all items being claimed and also that each claim was used in conducting official business. The validity of a signed voucher or any part thereof is the responsibility of the traveler.

Although an alternate preparer may prepare, sign, and submit a travel claim on a traveler’s behalf, the traveler is still required to “certify that the claim is true and correct to the best of his/her knowledge and belief, and that payment or credit has not been received by him/her.” Any falsification of an item in your claim may be considered action to defraud the government. Should this occur, you forfeit reimbursement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2514 and you may be subject under 18 U.S.C. 287 and 1010 to a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years or both.

182 How are “constructive costs” calculated?

The FTR and the JTR permit employees to travel by a means other than the mode the government determines is in its best interest. However, if an employee chooses to travel by an alternate means, an agency is not required to reimburse all of the employee’s actual expenses. Rather, an agency may pay the employee’s travel expenses up to the “constructive total” the agency would have incurred had the employee used the transportation mode most advantageous to the government.

For example, in GSBCA 15109-TRAV, In the Matter of Russell E. Yates (November 30, 1999), a computer engineer for NASA in Houston, Texas, was temporarily assigned to perform software testing in Tampa, Florida, from March 15 to March 19. The agency determined that traveling by air was the “most advantageous form of transportation to the government.” Despite this finding, Yates chose to drive to Tampa in his motorhome.

He departed Houston on March 13, arrived in Tampa on March 14, completed his TDY, and returned to Houston on March 19. While in Tampa, Yates stayed in his motorhome at a mobile home campground.

NASA reimbursed Yates his transportation costs up to the cost of roundtrip airfare between Houston and Tampa. In addition, the agency reimbursed his meal and incidental expenses according to the applicable per diem rate for Tampa. The agency, however, reimbursed him the actual cost of the mobile home campground fees rather than the constructive cost of a hotel room. Yates appealed to the GSBCA, arguing that he was entitled to estimated hotel costs.

The board agreed and, as part of its published opinion, established a formula for calculating constructive costs. The GSBCA explained that when an employee chooses to travel by a mode other than the means of transportation most advantageous to the government, agencies must calculate the employee’s travel costs in two separate ways. First, the agency should determine the allowability of the various components of an employee’s travel claim using the standard application of FTR section 301-70.105(a). The agency should then total the allowable costs. Second, the agency should determine the total constructive cost of the employee’s travel had he/she traveled by the method of transportation deemed to be in the government’s best interest.

After computing the totals, the agency should compare them. If the total of costs determined in the standard fashion to be allowable is greater than the total of the constructive costs, the agency should limit reimbursement to the latter figure.

183 If a traveler has a contractor-issued government travel charge card, what is the required method for reimbursement?

Travelers who are issued an individually billed account (IBA) for a contractor-issued government travel charge card must use split pay (disbursement) to pay all government travel charge card expenses when submitting a voucher for reimbursement of travel and travel-related expenses. Cardholders are responsible for paying all charges and fees associated with the IBA travel charge card in full by the billing due date whether or not the cardholder has been reimbursed by the agency.

184 What is “split pay” or “split disbursement” and how can an exemption be obtained?

Split disbursement is the process of dividing a travel voucher reimbursement between the charge card vendor and the traveler. The balance owed to each is sent directly to the applicable party.

Section 4.4 in Appendix ? of OMB Circular A-123 states in part that “where individual cardholders are responsible for making payments to the charge card vendor, charge card managers are required to implement split disbursement and salary offset procedures for travel charge card programs.” Under Section 4.4.3 in Appendix B, “agencies may request exemptions when they determine that the cost of implementing split disbursement and/or salary offset exceeds the benefits. Agency heads must request such exemptions from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in writing, and provide the reasons therein.”

185 What authority requires the use of split disbursement, which is not required by the FTR?

Although it appears that FTR section 301-70.708(h) does not require the use of split disbursement, agencies are required to comply with OMB Circular A-123, Appendix B. Appendix B, which applies to all executive branch departments and agencies, mandates split disbursement for travel charge cardholders unless an agency has an approved waiver or exemption.

186 What happens if a traveler is late paying the charges on his/her IBA?

Cardholders are required to make payment for all undisputed charges on their travel charge card bill in full by the statement billing due date (25 to 30 days after the closing date on the billing statement). The due date is printed on the bill. Failure to pay the monthly bill in a timely manner may result in the loss of charging privileges. If the cardholder’s card is suspended, he/she will be unable to use it until the bank receives payment. If the cardholder’s card is canceled due to non-payment, the delinquency may be reported to credit bureaus, referred to collection agencies, or lead to other collection actions. The cardholder may not be eligible to receive a new card account.

Upon written request from the bank, the agency may collect, from the employee’s disposable pay, any undisputed delinquent amount that is owed to the issuing bank.

187 What is disposable pay?

Disposable pay is is the part of the employee’s compensation remaining after the deduction of any amounts required by law to be withheld. These deductions do not include discretionary deductions such as savings bonds, charitable contributions, etc. Deductions may be made from any type of pay (e.g., basic pay, special pay, retirement pay, incentive pay).

These deductions do not include discretionary deductions such as savings bonds, charitable contributions, etc. Deductions may be made from any type of pay you receive from your agency, including basic pay, special pay, retirement pay, or incentive pay.

188 What is the maximum amount an agency may collect from an employee’s disposable pay?

As set forth in Public Law 105-264, 112 Stat. 2350 (October 19, 1998), the maximum amount your agency may deduct from your disposable pay is 15 percent each pay period, unless you agree in writing to a larger percentage.

189 What can an IBA cardholder do if he/she notices an erroneous charge?

Under the SmartPay2 Master Contract, as an IBA cardholder, you are responsible for payment of the activity on your travel charge card. If you notice an erroneous charge, contact your bank immediately to dispute the charge and follow the procedures outlined in your agreement. Your bank will issue you a temporary credit for the disputed amount until a determination is made whether or not it is a valid charge.

If you do not follow the procedures outlined in your agreement, the charge may be considered “undisputed.” If you do not pay the undisputed amount, your travel charge card may be suspended or canceled. The bank may also initiate collection action for the undisputed charge. If your travel charge card is canceled due to non-payment, the delinquency may be reported to credit bureaus as stated in question #186. The bank is under no obligation to reissue you another travel charge card.

190 Is an agency required to reimburse a traveler who refuses reimbursement?

Yes. Per diem is authorized under 5 U.S.C. 5702, and FTR section 301-11.3 requires that either the daily allowance (per diem) or actual and necessary expenses be paid for expenses incurred while traveling on official business. However, an employee is not required to accept reimbursement according to GSBCA 15057-TRAV, which states in part: “we know of no way to force an employee to accept reimbursement for travel costs.” It should also be noted that although a traveler has six years and three months to file a claim, the traveler is required to file a claim in accordance with FTR section 301-52.7 and agency policy. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action for failure to follow agency policy, which is based on the FTR and 5 U.S.C. Chapter 57.

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