B-244721, Dec 17, 1991

B-244721: Dec 17, 1991

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We have consistently held that telephone installation charges. Are not allowable as subsistence expenses since such charges are one-time fees and not ordinarily included in the price of a room. Padgett: This decision is in response to a request from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Padgett was transferred from Pittsburgh. Was authorized temporary quarters for up to 90 days. Padgett incurred cable and telephone installation charges which were disallowed by the OSM Division of Financial Management. Padgett's reclaim for these charges was referred to us by OSM with the recommendation that they be reimbursed. The authority for reimbursement of subsistence expenses to an employee occupying temporary quarters in connection with a permanent change of station is contained in 5 U.S.C.

B-244721, Dec 17, 1991

DIGEST: An employee seeks reimbursement of telephone and cable television installation charges incurred while occupying temporary quarters in connection with a permanent change of station. We have consistently held that telephone installation charges, as opposed to telephone user fees, are not allowable as subsistence expenses since such charges are one-time fees and not ordinarily included in the price of a room. Similarly, while cable television rental charges may be reimbursed if ordinarily included in the price of a hotel or motel room in the area, the one-time charge for installation would not be a reimbursable temporary quarters subsistence expense.

Guy V. Padgett:

This decision is in response to a request from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), United States Department of the Interior, regarding the reclaim of Mr. Guy V. Padgett for reimbursement of telephone and cable television (TV) installation charges incurred while occupying temporary quarters in connection with a permanent change of station. For the reasons stated below, we find that these costs may not be paid.

The record indicates that Mr. Padgett was transferred from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Casper, Wyoming, and was authorized temporary quarters for up to 90 days. While in temporary quarters, Mr. Padgett incurred cable and telephone installation charges which were disallowed by the OSM Division of Financial Management. Mr. Padgett's reclaim for these charges was referred to us by OSM with the recommendation that they be reimbursed.

The authority for reimbursement of subsistence expenses to an employee occupying temporary quarters in connection with a permanent change of station is contained in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724a(a)(3) (1988). The regulations implementing the statute provide that such an employee shall be reimbursed for "actual subsistence expenses incurred provided these are incident to occupancy of temporary quarters and are reasonable in amount." 41 C.F.R. Sec. 302-5.4 (1990).

In general, fees for services are allowable as subsistence expenses if ordinarily included in the price of a room in the area. See, e.g., Patrick T. Schluck, B-192723, Feb. 14, 1979. However, we have consistently held that telephone installation charges, as opposed to telephone user fees, are not allowable as subsistence expenses. David E. Nowak, 65 Comp.Gen. 805 (1986); Harold R. Fine, B-224628, Jan. 12, 1988; Michael D. Duffy, B-168384, Feb. 19, 1975. In David E. Nowak, 65 Comp.Gen. at 806, notwithstanding the employee's characterization of the claimed fee as a telephone user charge, we observed that it was not a monthly charge but rather a one-time fee for work on a particular day. Therefore, it was a phone installation charge, and reimbursement was denied. Further, we note that the analogous regulations enumerating expenses that qualify as lodging costs for calculating per diem allowances for employees on temporary duty include monthly telephone fees but specifically exclude installation charges. 41 C.F.R. Sec. 301-7.9(a)(1) (1990). See also Harold R. Fine, B-224628, supra, at 7.

With respect to the cost of cable TV installation, in Patrick Schluck, B-192723, Feb. 14, 1979, we stated that we had no objection to reimbursing an employee in temporary quarters for a cable TV rental fee provided that this service was "ordinarily included in the price of a room in the area concerned." See also 52 Comp.Gen. 730 (1973). Similarly, the above-cited analogous regulations regarding lodging costs for determining per diem allowances while on temporary duty include cable TV user charges if "ordinarily included in the price of a hotel or motel room in the area concerned." 41 C.F.R. Sec. 01 7.9(a)(1). See also Kevin L. Mendenhall, B-223239, Apr. 2, 1987. However, although cable TV rental charges may be allowable as subsistence expenses, the cost of cable TV installation is a one-time fee not ordinarily included in the price of a hotel or motel room. Therefore, we do not regard cable TV installation costs as properly reimbursable temporary quarters subsistence expenses.

Accordingly, we find that Mr. Padgett's reclaim for reimbursement of telephone and cable TV installation charges must be denied.