Barry McVay's FEDERAL CONTRACTS DISPATCH
DATE: January 19, 2000
FROM: Barry McVay, CPCM
SUBJECT: Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) Amendment 90; Mandatory Use of the Travel Charge Card
SOURCE: Federal Register, January 19, 2000, Vol. 65, No. 12, page 3053
AGENCIES: General Services Administration (GSA)
ACTION: Final Rule
SYNOPSIS: The July 16, 1999, interim rule that amended the FTR to implement the requirements of Public Law 105-264, the Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998, enacted October 19, 1998, regarding the required use of the travel charge card, collection of amounts owed, and reimbursement of travel expenses, is finalized with changes.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The FTR is Chapters 300 through 304 of Title 41 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). This final rule amends Chapter 301, Temporary Duty (TDY) Travel Allowances.
EFFECTIVE DATE: The provisions of this final rule are effective July 16, 1999. The provisions of this final rule governing official travel apply to official travel performed after February 29, 2000, or upon the issuance of agency implementing regulations, whichever occurs first.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sandra Batton, Travel and Transportation Management Policy Division, 202-501-1538.
SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION: In Public Law 105-264, paragraph (a) of Section 2, Requiring Use of the Travel Charge Card, requires the Administrator of General Services to issue regulations requiring "federal employees [to] use the travel charge card established pursuant to the United States Travel and Transportation Payment and Expense Control System, or any federal contractor-issued travel charge card, for all payments of expenses of official government travel." In addition, paragraph (e) of Section 2 requires the Administrator to issue regulations on reimbursement of travel expenses and collection of delinquent amounts upon written request of a federal travel charge card contractor.
On July 16, 1999, GSA issued an interim rule which amended FTR Part 301 to implement these requirements and requested comments. Comments were received from twenty-two federal agencies, seven unions and other organizations representing employees, fifty-two federal employees, and one bank. Based on those comments, GSA has finalized the interim rule with changes.
The following are the main provisions of the final rule, with changes between the interim and final versions indicated in brackets ("[ ]"):
- FTR Part 301-51, Paying Travel Expenses, states that "you are required to use the Government contractor-issued travel charge card for all official travel expenses unless you have an exemption" (FTR 301-51.1, What is the required method of payment for official travel expenses?). However, FTR 301-51.2, What official travel expenses and/or classes of employees are exempt from the mandatory use of the Government contractor-issued travel charge card?, states the following are exempt by the Administrator of General Services from the mandatory use requirement: "(a) expenses incurred at a vendor that does not accept the government contractor-issued travel charge card; (b) laundry/dry cleaning; (c) parking; (d) local transportation system; (e) taxi; (f) tips; (g) meals (when use of the card is impractical, e.g., group meals or the Government contractor-issued travel charge card is not accepted); (h) phone calls (when a government calling card is available for use in accordance with agency policy); (i) an employee who has an application pending for the travel charge card; (j) individuals traveling on invitational travel; and k) new appointees." [The interim rule exempted the following only: "(1) laundry/dry cleaning; (2) parking; (3) local transportation system; and (4) taxi and tips."] In addition to these exemptions, FTR 301-51.3, Who in my agency has the authority to grant exemptions from the mandatory use of the Government contractor-issued travel charge card?, states that the head of the agency or designee has the authority to grant exemptions.
EDITOR'S NOTE: FTR 301-51.7, What are the consequences of using the Government contractor-issued travel charge card for non-official travel purposes?, states that agencies "may take appropriate disciplinary action." While several comments suggested that GSA provide specific guidelines on appropriate disciplinary action, GSA declined because it believes "each agency, not GSA, should set the level of action to take..." Nevertheless, in the introductory material to the final rule, GSA has provided an example of one agency's disciplinary actions:
- FTR Part 301-52, Claiming Reimbursement, now contains the following provisions:
- Agencies must pay a proper travel voucher within 30 calendar days after submittal (FTR 301-52.17, Within how many calendar days after I submit a proper travel voucher must my agency reimburse my allowable expenses?).
- The agency must notify the claimant within seven calendar days of any errors in the travel voucher (FTR 301-52.18, Within how many calendar days after I submit a travel voucher must my agency notify me of any error that would prevent payment within 30 calendar days after submission?).
- The claimant must be paid a late payment fee if the agency fails to reimburse within 30 calendar days (FTR 301-52.19, Will I receive a late payment fee in addition to the amount due me if my agency fails to reimburse me within 30 calendar days after I submit a proper travel voucher?).
- Any late fee must be calculated using the "prevailing Prompt Payment Act interest rate" plus "an amount equivalent to any late payment charge that the card contractor would have been able to charge you had you not paid the bill" (FTR 301-52.20, How are late payment fees calculated?).
- [The computed late fee must exceed $1.00 to be paid by the agency (FTR 301-52.21, Is there a minimum amount the late payment fee must exceed before my agency will pay it to me?).]
- [Late payment fees are considered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be "in the nature of interest," so the agency will not report late payment fees on a Form W-2 as income, but will report the payments "in accordance with IRS guidelines (FTR 301-52.22, Will any late payment fees I receive be reported as wages on a Form W-2?).]
- [The agency will report the payment of "an amount equivalent to any late payment charge that the card contractor would have been able to charge you had you not paid the bill" to the IRS on a Form W-2 as additional wages (FTR 301-52.23, Is the additional fee, which is equal to any late payment charge that the card contractor would have been able to charge had I not paid the bill, considered income?).]
- Travelers are required to pay their travel card bills by the due date (FTR 301-52.24, Does mandatory use of the Government contractor-issued travel charge card change my obligation to pay my travel card bill by the due date?). [This section was previously FTR 301-52.21, Does this change my obligation to pay my travel card bill by the due date?]
- FTR Part 301-54, Collection of Undisputed Delinquent Amounts Owed on Behalf of the Contractor Issuing the Government Contractor-Issued Individually Billed Travel Charge Card, was added by the interim rule. It contains the following provisions:
- The government may collect any undisputed delinquent amounts owed to a government travel charge card contractor from disposable pay (FTR 301-54.1, Is my agency allowed to collect undisputed delinquent amounts that I owe to a Government travel charge card contractor?).
- An agency must provide a written notice before collecting an undisputed delinquent amount, allow the inspection of records, allow a review within the agency of its decision to collect, and provide the traveler an opportunity to come to an agreement with the charge card contractor (FTR 301-54.100, Are there any due process requirements with which my agency must comply before collecting undisputed delinquent amounts on behalf of the charge card contractor?).
- An agency may not collect undisputed delinquent amounts for which the traveler has been reimbursed unless the traveler has not submitted a proper travel claim within the timeframe requirements of FTR 301-52.7, When must I submit my travel claim (5 days after completion of travel; every 30 days if on continuous travel), and there are no extenuating circumstances (FTR 301-54.101, Can my agency initiate collection of undisputed delinquent amounts if it has not reimbursed me for amounts reimbursable under the applicable travel regulations?) [the requirement that the traveler submit a timely travel claim and that there be no extenuating circumstances is added].
- The agency may deduct up to 15% of disposable pay unless the traveler agrees to a larger amount (FTR 301-54.102, What is the maximum amount my agency may deduct from my disposable pay?).
- The interim rule added Subpart H, Policies and Procedures Relating to Mandatory Use of the Government Contractor-Issued Travel Charge Card for Official Travel, to FTR 301-70, Internal Policy and Procedure Requirements. Essentially, it is a restatement of FTR Part 301-51 from the agencies' viewpoint. The interim version is finalized with minor editorial changes, and the changes that were made to FTR 301-51.2 are made to the corresponding FTR 301-70.704, What expenses and/or classes of employees are exempt from the mandatory use of the Government contractor-issued travel charge card?.
- In FTR Part 301-71, Agency Travel Accountability Requirements, the interim rule added FTR 301-71.208 through FTR 301-71.211, which correspond to FTR 301-52.18 through FTR 301-52.21, restated from the agencies' viewpoint. Besides making minor editorial changes, the final rule redesignates FTR 301-71.211 as 301-71.214, and adds FTR 301-71.211 through 301-71.213, which correspond to the added FTR 301-52.21 through 301-52.23.
- FTR Part 301-76, Collection of Undisputed Delinquent Amounts on Behalf of the Contractor Issuing the Government Contractor-Issued Individually Billed Travel Charge Card, was added by the interim rule. FTR 301-76.1, FTR 301-76.2, and FTR 301.76-100 through FTR 301-76.103 contain the same answers as in FTR Part 301-52 but from the agencies' viewpoint. (FTR Part 301-76 has one section that has no counterpart in FTR Part 301-52: FTR 301-76.101, Who is responsible for ensuring that all due process and legal requirements have been met? ("You [the agency] are responsible for ensuring that all requirements have been met."))
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barry McVay at 703-451-5953 or by e-mail at BarryMcVay@FedGovContracts.com.
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