B-236516, Feb 23, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 287

B-236516: Feb 23, 1990

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CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Residence transaction expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility An employee who is transferred back to his former duty station is entitled to only those real estate expenses which he incurred prior to notice of the retransfer and those which cannot be avoided. Peterson's claims because it determined that the sale and purchase of the residences were not incident to his retransfer back to his former duty station. Peterson was stationed at the Naval Plant Representative Office at Hercules. When he was transferred to Davis Montham Air Force Base. Peterson was transferred back to Utah to the Air Force Plant Representative Office. He was authorized real estate expenses incident to each transfer.

B-236516, Feb 23, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 287

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Residence transaction expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility An employee who is transferred back to his former duty station is entitled to only those real estate expenses which he incurred prior to notice of the retransfer and those which cannot be avoided. Warren L. Shipp, 59 Comp.Gen. 502 (1980), amplified.

Howard L. Peterson-- Real Estate Expenses for Two Transfers:

This responds to a request for an advance decision from the Department of the Air Force concerning a claim for real estate expenses paid by an Air Force employee, Mr. Howard L. Peterson, for the sale and purchase of residences incident to two transfers of official duty station. /1/ The agency denied Mr. Peterson's claims because it determined that the sale and purchase of the residences were not incident to his retransfer back to his former duty station, and we concur.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Peterson was stationed at the Naval Plant Representative Office at Hercules, Inc., in Clearfield, Utah, when he was transferred to Davis Montham Air Force Base, Arizona, effective January 17, 1986. The following year Mr. Peterson was transferred back to Utah to the Air Force Plant Representative Office, at Morton Thiokol, Inc., in Brigham City, Utah. He was authorized real estate expenses incident to each transfer.

At the time Mr. Peterson was transferred back to Utah in February 1987 he had not yet sold his residence in Clearfield, Utah. Shortly thereafter he accepted an offer to sell that house, and he claimed $4,680 in real estate expenses incident to that sale. On May 1, 1987, Mr. Peterson purchased a residence in Roy, Utah, approximately 4 miles from his old residence in Clearfield, for which he claimed $1,285.50 in real estate expenses. The agency determined that these real estate transactions were not incident to the transfer and denied both claims, citing to our decision in Warren L. Shipp, 59 Comp.Gen. 502 (1980).

OPINION

We held in Shipp that an employee who is retransferred to a former duty station is under the same obligation to avoid unnecessary expenses as an employee whose transfer is canceled. An employee whose transfer is canceled must mitigate costs and is entitled only to those real estate transaction expenses which were incurred prior to notice that the transfer was canceled and those which cannot be avoided. Thus, in Shipp we held that an employee who is transferred back to the former duty station is entitled to reimbursement for only those expenses that the employee was legally obligated to pay at the time the employee was notified of the transfer back to the former duty station. /2/

Mr. Peterson argues that he was not retransferred to his former duty station in Clearfield, but that he was transferred to a new duty station in Brigham City. Therefore, he concludes that the Shipp decision does not apply to him and that he should be reimbursed the claimed real estate expenses. We disagree with that conclusion.

Although Mr. Peterson argues that Clearfield and Brigham City are different duty stations, the agency points out that they are only 30 to 40 miles apart (near Ogden, Utah) and that Mr. Peterson would not have been entitled to relocation expenses if he had been transferred directly from Clearfield to Brigham City. /3/ Therefore, when he was transferred back to Utah, he had an obligation to avoid further expenses in connection with the disposition of the residence he had occupied while working at Clearfield and the purchase of a new residence. Shipp, supra.

Accordingly, we hold that Mr. Peterson is not entitled to payment for real estate expenses which he incurred after notice of his transfer back to Utah.

/1/ The request was submitted by Wylie O. Tindle, an authorized certifying officer, Headquarters, Air Force Accounting and Finance Center, Denver, Colorado.

/2/ See Robert T. Celso, 64 Comp.Gen. 476 (1985), where we limited the holding in Shipp to those instances where the employee is retransferred within the 2-year period for claiming real estate expenses.

/3/ See Federal Travel Regulations, para. 2-1.5b(1) (Supp. 1, Sept. 28, 1981), incorp. by ref., 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-7.003 (1987).