Pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget, the rate at which federal employees are reimbursed for using their personal vehicles on government business will rise to the highest level ever next month.
The mileage reimbursement rate will increase from 44.5 cents to 48.5 cents per mile effective Feb. 1, according to a General Services Administration announcement Monday.
This mirrors the new standard mileage rate announced late last year by the Internal Revenue Service for calculating the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. By law, the GSA rate for reimbursing federal employees cannot exceed the IRS one.
GSA also is legally required to conduct yearly studies on the costs associated with travel and operation of privately owned vehicles. The agency is supposed to consult with the Transportation and Defense departments and federal employee organizations in determining the rate.
The National Treasury Employees Union, one of the largest federal labor unions, called on GSA earlier this month to "end internal delays and approve an increase." In a November letter to NTEU President Colleen Kelley, GSA Administrator Lurita Doan said a rule would be published in the Federal Register no later than Jan. 1 regarding the mileage rate.
Kelley said GSA's announcement Monday came only after her second letter, which reminded the agency of the need to act so that employees who use their own automobiles on the job would not keep paying the difference out of their own pockets.
"This action … should have been taken much earlier," Kelley said. "Federal employees face the same costs as those in the private sector, including rising gas prices, and they deserve the same rate increase on the same timetable."
The 2006 rate change -- a 4-cent decrease -- took effect on Jan. 1 of that year. But previous rate changes have come later in the winter. In 2005, the 3-cent increase in the rate did not take effect until February, and in 2002, a 2-cent increase took effect on Jan. 21.