Request for Decision Regarding Laundry Expenses

B-203857: Dec 15, 1981

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An advance GAO decision was requested as to what constitutes a reasonable amount that an employee may be reimbursed for laundry and dry cleaning expenses under the actual subsistence expenses method. An employee on a temporary duty assignment was authorized actual subsistence expenses. In support of his claim for actual subsistence expenses, the employee submitted an itemization for each day's claimed expenses. The agency questioned a claim for laundry expenses which it found to be clearly unreasonable and requested the employee to provide some justification for the claimed amounts. The employee provided a brief statement that his normal laundry needs would increase the amount substantially. An employee is entitled to reimbursement for only reasonable expenses incurred incident to a temporary duty assignment. Travelers are required to act prudently in incurring expenses. GAO has consistently held that it is the responsibility of the employing agency to make the initial determination as to the reasonableness of the claimed expenses. GAO will overturn the agency's determination only where it is found that the agency's determination is clearly erroneous, arbitrary, or capricious. The burden is on the employee to prove that the agency's determination is defective. In cases where the agency has not made a determination concerning the reasonableness of a claim, GAO normally returns the claim to the agency for initial agency determination. In this case, while the agency determined that the claimed amount was unreasonable, it did not make any determination concerning what amount it considers reasonable. For this reason, GAO returned the case to the agency for a determination as to what constitutes reasonable laundry expenses.