GSA officials are looking to update their 2011-era lump sum reimbursement figures to a new, periodically refreshed model.

GSA officials are looking to update their 2011-era lump sum reimbursement figures to a new, periodically refreshed model. the_burtons / Getty Images

GSA could soon update some relocation expense reimbursement caps more regularly

It’s been more than a decade since the agency updated the maximum amounts of payments for miscellaneous relocation expenses that don’t require itemized receipts.

The General Services Administration indicated Monday that it plans to begin updating more frequently the maximum amount a relocating federal employee can receive to offset miscellaneous moving expenses without itemized documentation.

Currently, when a federal employee undergoes a temporary change of station or is otherwise transferred to a different region, they have two options to get the government to cover miscellaneous expenses, such as connecting and disconnecting appliances, utility fees and non-refundable deposits or changing vehicle registrations or obtaining a new driver’s licenses. They can receive a smaller lump sum, or they may elect to receive “actual expenses,” wherein the maximum amount the federal worker ultimately receives may be larger, but the fed must provide itemized receipts and then be reimbursed.

But the gulf between the two payment methods has grown over the last decade. While both methods calculate these payments based on one or two weeks’ worth of base pay—depending on whether the federal worker has immediate family members relocating with them—the caps for lump sum payments, already lower than the itemized reimbursement method, are flat numbers that have not been updated since 2011. By contrast, the cap on itemized reimbursements for miscellaneous relocation expenses is perennially tied to the GS-13 Step 10 level of the General Schedule pay scale.

In 2024, the maximum amount federal workers could be reimbursed for miscellaneous relocation expenses with itemized receipts $2,106.40 for single employees and $4,212.80 for employees with immediate family members. Contrast that with the lump sum cap of $650 for single feds and $1,300 for those with immediate family.

In a proposed rule scheduled for publication in the Federal Register Tuesday, GSA officials proposed removing the lump sum payment method from federal travel regulations, making it easier to adjust the maximum amount more frequently. Instead, the amounts would be published in FTR bulletins, akin to how GSA updates its reimbursement rates for per diem and travel mileage each year. The process for determining the cap on itemized reimbursements would remain unchanged.

“Agencies are advised that the relocation [miscellaneous expense allowance] lump sum amounts are expected to increase since they were last updated in 2011,” GSA wrote. “Therefore, after publication of the final rule, GSA will publish a FTR bulletin to change the relocation MEA lump sum amounts, with projected increases, from $650 to $750 for an employee without immediate family members relocating with them and from $1,300 to $1,500 for an employee with immediate family members relocating with them.”

In future years, GSA said it would base potential increases in lump sum relocation expense allowances to increase on “changes to the Consumer Price Index.” The agency said it estimates that the governmentwide cost of the change to amount to $3.1 million over the next decade.

GSA is accepting comments on its proposal between now and March 24.