Request for Pro Rata Reimbursement of Real Estate Expenses

B-204046: Aug 27, 1981

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A request was made concerning the propriety of issuing payment on a reclaim voucher submitted by an employee of the Forest Service. The amount claimed represented additional real estate expenses previously claimed by the employee incident to the sale of a 30-acre tract of land related to his tranfer. In its original determination, the employee's agency was advised that the 30-acre tract could reasonably be divided into three 10-acre homesites and that the purchaser of the property intended to divide the acreage up in that manner. Agency officials therefore concluded that, under applicable regulations, the employee was entitled to only one-third of the amount he had originally claimed. In his present claim, the employee contended that the person who had bought the land from him had not actually split it into three 10-acre homesites and that the entire tract could actually support only one homesite. He suggested that an erroneous assessment of the land's potential use had been used as the basis for the partial disallowance of his original claim. Additionally, the employee argued that his actual use of the land when he owned it should determine whether all or part of the land was reasonably related to his residence site. Since he used the land solely for his own personal residence, the employee argued that he should be reimbursed for his expenses incurred in selling the entire tract. GAO held that it is the responsibility of the employing agency to make the initial determination as to what portion of the land reasonably relates to the residence site and as to the amount of the claimed expenses allowable for that portion. In making that determination, agency officials should have and did take the potential future use of the land into consideration. Thus, GAO held that the officials properly and prudently determined that only one-third of the tract reasonably related to the employee's personal residence. Further, GAO held that the fact that the employee did not personally subdivide the 30-acre tract of land when he owned it does not in itself support a conclusion that the entire tract was reasonably related to the maintenance of his residence. Additionally, since the employee has submitted no evidence proving that the agency's opinion and determination was in error, there was no basis for disturbing the agency's determination.

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