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New rule relaxes restriction on travel gifts

Federal employees can more easily accept free meals, lodging and transportation when they are on business travel, under a revised government travel regulation.

Federal employees can more easily accept free meals, lodging and transportation when they are on business travel, under a revised government travel regulation.

Under long-standing rules, federal travelers can let outside groups, such as conference organizers, pay for their travel expenses to meetings. The rules have generally required travelers to get their agency's approval before accepting such offers.

The revised rule still requires travelers to get preapproval for travel paid by an outside group. But now travelers can accept additional gifts after they arrive at an event.

For example, a federal traveler who is speaking at a conference gets approval before heading to the conference to allow the meeting organizers to pay for his airfare. When the traveler arrives at the conference, he learns that the organizers are also paying for speakers' accommodations and meals. Under the revised rule, the traveler can accept those additional gifts, as long as he notifies his agency within seven days of the end of his trip. The traveler, however, could not accept payment for his hotel room from anyone but the meeting organizers who paid for the airfare.

There are still numerous restrictions on the types of meetings and types of expenses for which federal employees can accept travel gifts. Chapter 304 of the Federal Travel Regulation lays out the rules that federal travelers must follow.

The General Services Administration announced the revision to the preapproval rule in the March 17 Federal Register.