B-171027, DEC. 7, 1970

B-171027: Dec 7, 1970

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AT LEAST TO THE EXTENT THAT IT APPEARS THAT A SPECIAL BENEFIT IS CONFERRED. MAY BE PROVIDED ON A REIMBURSABLE BASIS AND THE AMOUNT REIMBURSED REFUNDED TO THE APPROPRIATION FROM WHICH PAYMENT FOR THE SERVICES IS MADE IS ANSWERED IN THE AFFIRMATIVE WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEES OF THE CONGRESS WILL BE ADVISED OF THIS FACT. CUSTOMS SERVICES ARE PROVIDED AT AIRPORTS IN THE UNITED STATES DESIGNATED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF 49 U.S.C. 1509(B) AS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS OF ENTRY OR AS LANDING RIGHTS AIRPORTS WITHOUT REIMBURSEMENT OF SALARIES OR EXPENSES OF THE CUSTOMS OFFICER EXCEPT FOR OVERTIME OR SUNDAY OR HOLIDAY SERVICES MADE REIMBURSABLE BY THE CUSTOMS OVERTIME LAWS (19 U.S.C. 267 AND 1451).

B-171027, DEC. 7, 1970

INTERNATIONAL PORT OF ENTRY - 'USER CHARGES' STATUTE LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY OUTLINING GAO'S AFFIRMATIVE OPINION THAT 31 U.S.C. 483(A), THE "USER CHARGES" STATUTE HAS APPLICATION TO THE SERVICES OF A CUSTOMS OFFICER UPON THE TEMPORARY DESIGNATION OF THE COMMUNITY AIRPORT AT GLACIER PARK, MONTANA, AS AN INTERNATIONAL PORT OF ENTRY. 31 U.S.C. 483(A), THE "USER CHARGES" STATUTE, CLEARLY CONTEMPLATES THAT THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE BENEFIT OF SERVICES, RENDERED BY THE GOVERNMENT ESPECIALLY FOR THEM, SHOULD PAY THE COSTS THEREOF, AT LEAST TO THE EXTENT THAT IT APPEARS THAT A SPECIAL BENEFIT IS CONFERRED. THE QUESTION WHETHER THE SERVICES OF A CUSTOMS OFFICER AT GLACIER PARK AIRPORT TO FACILITATE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS BETWEEN CANADA AND THE U.S. MAY BE PROVIDED ON A REIMBURSABLE BASIS AND THE AMOUNT REIMBURSED REFUNDED TO THE APPROPRIATION FROM WHICH PAYMENT FOR THE SERVICES IS MADE IS ANSWERED IN THE AFFIRMATIVE WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEES OF THE CONGRESS WILL BE ADVISED OF THIS FACT.

TO MR. SECRETARY:

WE REFER TO THE LETTER DATED OCTOBER 8, 1970, REFERENCE CC 192 33.31G, FROM THE ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY REQUESTING AN OPINION CONCERNING REIMBURSEMENT UNDER 31 U.S.C. 483A, THE "USER CHARGES" STATUTE, FOR THE SERVICES OF A CUSTOMS OFFICER UPON THE TEMPORARY DESIGNATION OF THE COMMUNITY AIRPORT AT GLACIER PARK, MONTANA, AS AN INTERNATIONAL PORT OF ENTRY.

CUSTOMS SERVICES ARE PROVIDED AT AIRPORTS IN THE UNITED STATES DESIGNATED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF 49 U.S.C. 1509(B) AS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS OF ENTRY OR AS LANDING RIGHTS AIRPORTS WITHOUT REIMBURSEMENT OF SALARIES OR EXPENSES OF THE CUSTOMS OFFICER EXCEPT FOR OVERTIME OR SUNDAY OR HOLIDAY SERVICES MADE REIMBURSABLE BY THE CUSTOMS OVERTIME LAWS (19 U.S.C. 267 AND 1451). THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES GIVING RISE TO THE QUESTION OF REIMBURSEMENT HEREIN ARE SET FORTH IN THE LETTER OF THE ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY AS FOLLOWS--

"THE COMMUNITY AIRPORT AT GLACIER PARK, MONTANA, AT PRESENT DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE SUFFICIENT TRAFFIC TO WARRANT DESIGNATION OF GLACIER PARK AS AN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT OF ENTRY. THE COMMUNITY BELIEVES, HOWEVER, THAT IF CUSTOMS FACILITIES WERE AVAILABLE TRAFFIC WOULD SOON JUSTIFY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FACILITIES. MOREOVER, BOTH COMMERCIAL INTERESTS AND PRIVATE AIRCRAFT OWNERS FLYING TO CANADA AND DESIRING TO RETURN TO GLACIER PARK ARE REQUIRED TO ENTER THE UNITED STATES AT GREAT FALLS, MONTANA, ADDING FROM 30 TO 60 MINUTES TO THE FLYING TIME. THESE FLIGHTS WOULD USUALLY HAVE AN ADVANTAGE WEATHERWISE IF THEY WERE ABLE TO GO UP THE WEST SIDE OF THE DIVIDE TO ENTER CANADA AND RETURN THE SAME WAY. THE COMMUNITY HAS UNDERTAKEN TO REIMBURSE CUSTOMS AT LEAST IN PART FOR THE COST OF STATIONING A CUSTOMS OFFICER AT GLACIER PARK AIRPORT TO FACILITATE THESE FLIGHTS. IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT SERVICES WOULD BE REQUIRED ONLY ON A PART- TIME BASIS AS MOST OF THE TRAFFIC OCCURS OVER WEEKENDS AND A WAE EMPLOYEE COULD PROVIDE THE NEEDED SERVICES. AFTER A TRIAL PERIOD A FINAL DETERMINATION WOULD BE MADE WHETHER TO PROVIDE SERVICES AT GLACIER PARK ON THE SAME BASIS AS IS NORMAL WITH LANDING RIGHTS AIRPORTS."

THE COMMUNITY OF GLACIER PARK HAVING REQUESTED THE SERVICES CONTEMPLATED AND HAVING UNDERTAKEN TO REIMBURSE THE CUSTOMS SERVICE FOR AT LEAST A PORTION OF THE COST THEREOF BECAUSE OF THE SPECIAL BENEFIT IT WILL DERIVE FROM THE SHORTER FLIGHT TIMES INVOLVED AND THE MORE FAVORABLE WEATHER CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED IN FLIGHTS ON THE WESTERLY SIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, THE QUESTION SUBMITTED IS WHETHER THE SERVICES MAY BE PROVIDED ON A REIMBURSABLE BASIS AND THE AMOUNT REIMBURSED REFUNDED TO THE APPROPRIATION FROM WHICH PAYMENT FOR THE SERVICES IS MADE.

WE ARE OF THE OPINION BOTH ASPECTS OF THE QUESTION CALL FOR AN AFFIRMATIVE ANSWER. AS INDICATED IN OUR DECISION TO YOU OF JULY 22, 1968 (48 COMP. GEN. 24), REFERRED TO IN THE LETTER OF THE ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY, 31 U.S.C. 483A, THE "USER CHARGES" STATUTE, IS BROADLY COUCHED WITH RESPECT TO THE APPLICATION OF THE STATED REIMBURSEMENT POLICY, AND CLEARLY CONTEMPLATES THAT THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE BENEFIT OF SERVICES RENDERED BY THE GOVERNMENT ESPECIALLY FOR THEM SHOULD PAY THE COSTS THEREOF, AT LEAST TO BE EXTENT THAT IT APPEARS THAT A SPECIAL BENEFIT IS CONFERRED. CF. 48 COMP. GEN. 262 (1968). NO REASON IS PERCEIVED TO PRECLUDE THE REIMBURSABLE ARRANGEMENT CONTEMPLATED.

AS TO THE DISPOSITION OF THE MONEYS COLLECTED FROM THE COMMUNITY OF GLACIER PARK, WHAT WAS STATED IN OUR DECISION OF JULY 22, 1968, WOULD ALSO BE APPLICABLE HEREIN. IN VIEW OF 19 U.S.C. 1524, PROVIDING THAT RECEIPTS FOR REIMBURSABLE CHARGES WHICH HAVE BEEN PAID OUT OF ANY APPROPRIATION FOR COLLECTING THE REVENUE FROM CUSTOMS SHALL BE DEPOSITED AS A REFUND TO SUCH APPROPRIATION, THE CHARGES COLLECTED FROM THE COMMUNITY FOR THE SERVICES RENDERED MAY BE DEPOSITED AS A REFUND TO THE APPROPRIATION FROM WHICH SUCH CHARGES WERE PAID, WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE APPROPRIATION COMMITTEES OF THE CONGRESS WILL BE ADVISED OF THIS FACT.