B-206779 L/M, SEP 29, 1982, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-206779 L/M: Sep 29, 1982

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GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION: THIS LETTER IS TO DRAW YOUR ATTENTION TO A CHANGE IN THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FTR. FPMR 101-7) WHICH WE FEEL IS NEEDED. ARE NOT REIMBURSABLE. ALTHOUGH THIS RESULT IS REQUIRED UNDER THE FTR AS PRESENTLY WRITTEN. WE THINK THAT A REGULATORY CHANGE OF THE FTR SHOULD BE MADE TO ALLOW REIMBURSEMENT OF THESE EXPENSES WHICH EMPLOYEES ARE AT TIMES FORCED TO INCUR. IS NOT ONE THAT IS MANDATED BY THE LAW. RATHER IS A RESULT IMPOSED BY THE PRESENT WORDING IN THE FTR. WHICH THE ADMINISTRATOR OF GENERAL SERVICES IS AT LIBERTY TO CHANGE. SINCE WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY HELD THAT THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL CANNOT EXPAND THE FTR'S BY CONSTRUCTION. FOR BANKS TO CHARGE THOSE WHO ARE NOT THEIR REGULAR CUSTOMERS FOR CASHING UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CHECKS WHICH HAVE BEEN ISSUED TO THOSE EMPLOYEES AS TRAVEL ADVANCES.

B-206779 L/M, SEP 29, 1982, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

PRECIS-UNAVAILABLE

MR. WILLIAM MCDADE, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION:

THIS LETTER IS TO DRAW YOUR ATTENTION TO A CHANGE IN THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FTR, FPMR 101-7) WHICH WE FEEL IS NEEDED. IT CONCERNS THE REIMBURSEMENT OF CHECK CASHING COSTS INCURRED FOR CASHING UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CHECKS FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES WITHIN THE UNITED STATES.

IN A RECENT COMPTROLLER GENERAL DECISION, WAYNE J. HENDERSON, ET AL., B-206779, AUGUST 31, 1982, COPY ENCLOSED, WE HELD THAT EMPLOYEES' CHECK CASHING COSTS INCURRED INCIDENT TO THEIR CASHING TRAVEL ADVANCE CHECKS WHILE ON TEMPORARY DUTY ASSIGNMENTS WITHIN THE UNITED STATES, ARE NOT REIMBURSABLE. ALTHOUGH THIS RESULT IS REQUIRED UNDER THE FTR AS PRESENTLY WRITTEN, WE THINK THAT A REGULATORY CHANGE OF THE FTR SHOULD BE MADE TO ALLOW REIMBURSEMENT OF THESE EXPENSES WHICH EMPLOYEES ARE AT TIMES FORCED TO INCUR.

THE RESULT IN WAYNE J. HENDERSON, ET AL., ABOVE, IS NOT ONE THAT IS MANDATED BY THE LAW, BUT RATHER IS A RESULT IMPOSED BY THE PRESENT WORDING IN THE FTR, WHICH THE ADMINISTRATOR OF GENERAL SERVICES IS AT LIBERTY TO CHANGE. PARAGRAPH 1-9.1C(2) OF THE FTR, SEPTEMBER 28, 1981, ALLOWS AS A MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSE, CHECK CASHING COSTS OF GOVERNMENT CHECKS ISSUED FOR THE REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL EXPENSES OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. SINCE WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY HELD THAT THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL CANNOT EXPAND THE FTR'S BY CONSTRUCTION, AND PARAGRAPH 1 9.1C(2) SPECIFICALLY LIMITS REIMBURSEMENT OF SUCH CHECK CASHING COSTS WHEN INCURRED IN TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, WE HELD THAT THESE COSTS COULD NOT BE PAID WHEN INCURRED FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES WITHIN THE UNITED STATES.

IT APPEARS TO BE AN ESTABLISHED PRACTICE IN CERTAIN REGIONS IN THE UNITED STATES, HOWEVER, FOR BANKS TO CHARGE THOSE WHO ARE NOT THEIR REGULAR CUSTOMERS FOR CASHING UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CHECKS WHICH HAVE BEEN ISSUED TO THOSE EMPLOYEES AS TRAVEL ADVANCES. EMPLOYEES IN A CONTINUOUS TEMPORARY DUTY STATUS MAY NOT BE ABLE TO RETURN TO THEIR RESIDENCES WHERE THEY COULD AVAIL THEMSELVES OF THE PRESUMABLY FREE CHECK CASHING SERVICES AT THEIR OWN BANKS. THEY ARE THUS REQUIRED TO PAY FEES TO THE BANKS IN THEIR TEMPORARY DUTY LOCATIONS FOR CASHING THEIR TRAVEL ADVANCE CHECKS. AT PRESENT THE EMPLOYEES MUST PAY FOR THE CHECK CASHING COSTS OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS. IT SEEMS TO US, HOWEVER, THAT THESE COSTS ARE LEGITIMATE AND NECESSARY TRAVEL EXPENSES WHICH EMPLOYEES ARE REQUIRED TO INCUR DUE TO THEIR OFFICIAL ASSIGNMENTS. SEE 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5706 (1976).

SINCE WE CAN THINK OF NO POLICY REASON TO DENY THE REIMBURSEMENT OF THIS TYPE OF EXPENSE FOR TRAVEL PERFORMED WITHIN THE UNITED STATES WHILE ALLOWING IT FOR TRAVEL PERFORMED OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, WE URGE YOU TO ISSUE A CHANGE IN PARAGRAPH 1-9.1C(2) SO AS TO ALLOW REIMBURSEMENT OF CHECK CASHING COSTS FOR UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CHECKS ISSUED FOR THE REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL EXPENSES WITHIN THE UNITED STATES.

WE NOTE THAT THIS SITUATION IS ANALOGOUS TO THAT IN B-166894, MAY 27, 1969, WHEREIN WE DENIED REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE COST OF PURCHASING TRAVELER'S CHECKS FOR TRAVEL WITHIN THE UNITED STATES. WE SO HELD BECAUSE THE REGULATIONS AT THAT TIME ALLOWED REIMBURSEMENT OF THIS COST WHEN INCURRED INCIDENT TO OVERSEAS TRAVEL BUT AN ALLOWANCE WAS NOT SIMILARLY STATED IN THE REGULATIONS FOR TRAVEL WITHIN THE UNITED STATES. SUBSEQUENTLY, THE TRAVEL REGULATIONS WERE AMENDED SO AS TO ALLOW REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVELER'S CHECKS COSTS IN CONNECTION WITH OFFICIAL TRAVEL WITHOUT REGARD TO WHERE THE TRAVEL WAS PERFORMED. ACCORDINGLY, REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE COST OF PURCHASING TRAVELER'S CHECKS MAY NOW BE MADE FOR TRAVEL BOTH WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES. PARAGRAPH 1-9.1.B-1. OF THE FTR.

IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, WE RECOMMEND THAT THE FTR BE AMENDED SO AS TO EXPRESSLY ALLOW REIMBURSEMENT OF THE COST OF CASHING GOVERNMENT CHECKS FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES INCURRED FOR TRAVEL BOTH WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.