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He may not be reimbursed since such payment is not authorized by the cited statutory provision and guidelines issued by OPM. The fact that agency officials erroneously advised the employee of his entitlement to reimbursement does not estop the government from repudiating such advice since it was contrary to statute. Because he was given erroneous advice by agency officials that he was entitled to reimbursement of real estate expenses. Keller was reassigned under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act from Yakima. He was authorized the full entitlements normally associated with a permanent change of station. A miscellaneous expenses allowance payable when movement of household goods is involved.

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B-252055, May 28, 1993

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL Relocation Residence transaction expenses Reimbursement Eligibility Employee purchased a residence in connection with his assignment under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA), codified at 5 U.S.C. Sec. 3375 (1988). He may not be reimbursed since such payment is not authorized by the cited statutory provision and guidelines issued by OPM. Federal Personnel Manual, ch. 334, sec. 1-7c, Dec. 1, 1983. The fact that agency officials erroneously advised the employee of his entitlement to reimbursement does not estop the government from repudiating such advice since it was contrary to statute.

Ms. Sandra Inglefield Payments and Collection Section Bureau of Reclamation United States Department of the Interior 7201 West Mansfield Avenue Denver, Colorado 80235-2228

Dear Ms. Inglefield:

We refer to your letter dated January 7, 1993, with enclosures, reference D-7733, in which you forwarded the request of Mr. Charles R. Keller, an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, for reimbursement of real estate purchase expenses incurred incident to his Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignment. Based on applicable law and regulation, your division denied reimbursement of those expenses, but Mr. Keller requests our consideration of his claim as an exception to the statutory and regulatory provisions and the decisions of this Office, because he was given erroneous advice by agency officials that he was entitled to reimbursement of real estate expenses.

In March 1992, Mr. Keller was reassigned under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act from Yakima, Washington, to Salmon, Idaho, for a period of at least 2 years. He was authorized the full entitlements normally associated with a permanent change of station, including reimbursement of the costs of purchasing a residence. Mr. Keller purchased a residence in Salmon. However, upon submission of his travel voucher, Bureau officials denied that portion of his relocation expenses incurred in connection with the residence purchase.

Under the applicable provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 3375(a), certain expenses ordinarily associated with permanent changes of station may be paid to an employee incident to an intergovernmental assignment. These include travel and transportation for the employee and members of his immediate family, transportation and storage of household goods, temporary quarters subsistence expenses, and a miscellaneous expenses allowance payable when movement of household goods is involved. However, neither the statute nor the implementing guidelines issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), authorize reimbursement of the costs of selling or purchasing a residence In fact, the OPM guidelines specifically state that "[A]llowable relocation expenses do not include the costs of selling or purchasing a residence."[1] In accordance with these provisions, we have recognized that IPA assignments do not entail reimbursement for real estate expenses.[2]

The fact that Mr. Keller was erroneously advised by Bureau of Reclamation officials that he was entitled to reimbursement of expenses incurred in the sale and purchase of a residence incident to his IPA assignment, does not establish any basis for us or the agency to authorize reimbursement of such expenses contrary to applicable statutory and regulatory provisions.[3]

Accordingly, the agency's disallowance of Mr. Keller's claim for the expenses incurred in the purchase of a residence, incident to his IPA assignment was correct and is sustained.

Mr. Keller has also expressed concern about reimbursement of real estate costs associated with the termination of his IPA assignment (selling his Salmon residence) and transfer to a new assignment (purchasing a new residence). In this regard, we have been informally advised by Bureau officials that it is contemplated that, upon completion of his IPA assignment, Mr. Keller will be returned to his permanent duty station and a transfer, if any, would occur later. Upon termination of his IPA assignment, Mr. Keller will be entitled to the same limited change-of- station allowances paid at the time of his initial assignment to the IPA location.[4] Any subsequent change of official station normally would include reimbursement of real estate expenses for the sale of a residence at the old duty station and purchase of a residence at the new duty station.[5]

1. Federal Personnel Manual, ch. 334, sec. 1-7c, Dec. 1, 1983.

2. See Ronald C. Briggs, 64 Comp.Gen. 665 (1985); William T. Burke, B-207447, June 30, 1983.

3. See Federal Crop Insurance Corp. v. Merrill, 332 U.S. 380 (1947); Utah Power and Light Co. v. United States, 243 U.S. 389 (1917); Kalinowski v. United States, 151 Ct. Cl. 172 (1960); cert. denied, 368 U.S. 829 (1961); Joseph Pradarits, 56 Comp.Gen. 131, 136 (1976); 44 Comp.Gen. 337 (1964); Jesse Jackson, Jr., B-251559, Mar. 31, 1993.

4. See Briggs, supra.

5. See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724a(a)(4)(A) (1988).

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