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Proposed Rule Seeks to Save Money on Government Travel

GSA wants to categorize ATM fees incurred during government travel as incidental expenses to limit reimbursement amounts.

Government travelers would be limited in how much they could recoup in fees related to automatic teller machine transactions under a new proposed rule from the General Services Administration.

ATM fees incurred on official government travel would be treated as incidental expenses rather than more general miscellaneous expenses under a draft rule published in the Federal Register on Friday. The Federal Travel Regulation caps reimbursements for incidental expenses at $5 per day.

GSA is seeking to modify the FTR to save the government money. The change “will increase the government’s ability to project travel costs, improve cost control, and simplify rules of official travel,” the Jan. 8 proposed rule stated. Congress and the Obama administration have told agencies they need to cut travel costs. The government currently treats as incidental expenses such costs as fees and tips for porters, hotel staff, and baggage handlers.

The Defense Department made a similar change in October 2014. Under the Joint Travel Regulations, incidental travel expenses now include laundry, baggage tips and ATM fees rather than being treated as separate, reimbursable items. That new policy also required certain expenses, including cell phone use, to be treated as “mission-related” rather than “travel-related” and paid for outside the travel system. 

Defense estimated in an Oct. 1, 2014 memo that the changes would save an estimated annual $15.6 million in miscellaneous expenses from an overall annual expenditure of $348 million in that category.

GSA’s proposed rule related to the FTR also would clarify the reimbursement guidance on laundry, cleaning and pressing of clothing expenses, which still would be treated as miscellaneous expenses under the change. The proposed new language simply says, “Your agency may reimburse the expenses incurred for laundry, cleaning, and pressing of clothing as a miscellaneous travel expense for TDY [temporary duty] within CONUS [contiguous United States].”

Those interested in submitting comments to the proposed rule should do so by March 8.

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