Claim for Reimbursement of Escrow Fees and Charge for Shipment of Automobile

B-201009: Apr 16, 1981

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A decision was requested as to the propriety of paying a claim for reimbursement of an escrow fee paid in connection with the sale of a residence and a charge for shipment of an automobile. Both charges were incurred in connection with an employee transfer. The employee sold his residence by means of a real estate contract whereby the purchaser agreed to pay the purchase price in installments. Incident to that contract, the employee entered into an escrow agreement which involved an escrow fee. The agency had denied payment of the escrow fee on the basis that it was a finance charge and could not be reimbursed under Federal travel regulations. The employee contended that it was not a finance charge since it was not imposed by a creditor as incident to the extension of credit. GAO concluded that the escrow costs could not be reimbursed since the escrow agreement existed for the seller's convenience and did not relate directly to the sale. Because of health considerations, the employee and his family traveled by air to his new duty station and shipped the family's car by commercial carrier. The arrangement had been approved by his supervisor and the personnel office, but his travel orders were not amended to provide for this arrangement. The agency denied reimbursement of the shipping cost on the basis that there was no authority to pay for transportation of vehicles incident to transfers within the continental United States. Accordingly, the claim of the employee may not be certified for payment.