U.S. General Services AdministrationOffice of Governmentwide PolicyHandbook forRelocating Federal Employees

Relocating Federal EmployeesHandbook forRelocating Federal EmployeesSummer 2011ForewordThe General Services Administration (GSA), Office ofGovernmentwide Policy, is pleased to issue this relocationhandbook for Executive Branch employees. GSA developedthis Handbook to help Federal employees understand therelocation process and how their own particular circumstancesfit into the Federal method of conducting relocation.To enhance readability, we have chosen to provide very fewcross-references between this handbook and the FederalTravelRegulation (FTR) (available at However, theFTR is written in a plain language, question-and-answer formatthat we hope makes it easy to find what you need there.This is one of three relocation guidance documents publishedby GSA. The other two are: “Relocation Policy Guide for Federal Civilian Agencies” “Glossary of Acronyms and Terms for Federal CivilianRelocation”We have not sought in this handbook to define every term usedhere; please refer to the Glossary for definitions. Also, in thishandbook, “you,” “your,” “I,” and their variants refer to theemployee.Please note that this is not a regulatory document. Chapter302—Relocation Allowances of the FTR (41 Code of FederalRegulations 302 or 41 CFR 302) contains the actual rules forrelocation of Federal civilian transferees. The FTR and not thisguide is the controlling source for rules governing Federalcivilian relocations.1

Relocating Federal EmployeesTable of ContentsPART 1.I.II.III.IV.PART 2.V.VI.VII.VIII.IX.PART 3.GENERAL INFORMATIONFOR ALL RELOCATIONSIntroductionEmployee Roles and ResponsibilitiesLimitations on Whether theGovernment Will Pay for RelocationService Agreements3455INFORMATION ONTYPES OF RELOCATIONSCategories of Relocation:Temporary Change of Station (TCS)and Permanent Change of Station (PCS)Categories of Relocating Employees:New Appointee andTransfereeBenefits and Limitations for New AppointeesBenefits and Limitations forTransfereesBenefits and Limitations for SpecialTypesof PCS Relocations778910INFORMATION ABOUTSPECIFIC RELOCATION BENEFITSX.XI.XII.XIII.Transportation of PeoplePer DiemHousehuntingTrip (HHT)Temporary Quarters SubsistenceExpenses (TQSE)XIV.Transportation andTemporary Storageof Household Goods (HHG)XV.Extended Storage of HHGXVI. Transportation and Storage ofa Privately Owned Vehicle (POV)XVII. ResidenceTransactionsXVIII. Use of a Relocation Services Company (RSC)XIX.Home Marketing Incentive PaymentsXX.Allowance for Property Management ServicesXXI.Miscellaneous Expenses Allowance (MEA)XXII. Taxes on Relocation Benefits213131415161718182223242528

Relocating Federal EmployeesPART 1.GENERAL INFORMATIONFOR ALL RELOCATIONSI.Introduction(a) What is the purpose of this guide?This guide is intended to assist you in preparing for relocation.It should help you identify the benefits you are entitled to andwhat options you have. It should also help you when talking toyour agency and/or agency contracted counselors aboutaspects of your relocation that depend on your agency’sspecific relocation policies.(b) What are the limitations of this guide?Please note that this is not a regulatory document. Chapter302—Relocation Allowances of the FederalTravel Regulation(FTR) (41 Code of Federal Regulations 302 or 41 CFR 302)contains the actual rules for relocation of Federal civiliantransferees. The FTR and not this guide is the controllingsource for rules governing Federal civilian relocations.The FTR creates a framework which prescribesGovernmentwide requirements. However, the FTR leavesmany relocation questions and answers up to the agencies, soyou must consult your agency-specific policies to reach acomplete understanding of the rules that apply to yourparticular relocation.(c) Does this guide help me if my relocation is governedby the Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR) foruniformed services or the Department of StateStandardized Regulations (DSSR) for Foreign Serviceofficers?No, if your move is under the auspices of the JFTR or DSSR,this guide will not help you. You'll need to consult with DoD3

Relocating Federal Employeesand/or DOS, as these relocations and the rules governing themare outside of GSA's authority.(d) Does this relocation guide help me if I am under theJoint Travel Regulations (JTR) as a Department ofDefense civilian employee?Yes, it does because the FTR is the operating authority for theJTR. However, you must consult the JTR and DoD for specificpolicies related to your relocation.II. Employee Roles and Responsibilities(a) What standard of care must I exercise in incurringexpenses?While relocating, you must exercise the same care in incurringexpenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling onpersonal business.(b) Will the Federal government cover all my expensesand remove all my inconveniences in the relocation?No, because no relocation policy can or should cover all of theexpenses or remove all of the inconveniences that might beinvolved in a relocation. The assumption is that you understandthis and have weighed the professional and personal optionsinvolved when you accepted the relocation.(c) Am I expected to be a participant in my relocation?Yes, you are expected to be an active participant in all phasesof your relocation. A successful relocation involves apartnership among the agency, contractors, and the employeebeing relocated. During a relocation, you will have theopportunity to keep costs low and service high by involvingyourself in the various aspects of a relocation.(d) What is my responsibility if I relocate often andchoose to rent or lease a residence?You have a responsibility, if you think you might be relocating inthe future, to minimize costs for the Government by requestingplacement of a “cancellation clause” in any rental or leaseagreement that you sign. This is a clause that negates anypenalties if the Government relocates you to a new permanentduty station. This is something that is good for you, because itwill make everything easier when leaving, and it will4

Relocating Federal Employeesdemonstrate that you are making a good effort to limit futurerelocation costs.III. Limitations on Whetherthe Government Will Pay for Relocation(a) Did your job announcement specifyrelocation entitlements would be paid?To qualify for relocation benefits, your vacancy announcementmust have addressed whether or not relocation benefits wouldbe provided. Relocation is not something that can be decidedor negotiated after you have accepted a new position.(b) What is the standard for determining whether or notthe Government will fund my relocation?For the Government to authorize a relocation, it must be in theGovernment’s interest and not primarily for your convenience.(c) What is the purpose of my relocation?The purpose of your relocation is to place you into a specificjob rapidly and easily so that you may quickly function in yournew job for the benefit of the Federal government.(d) What if the relocation is primarily for my convenience?The FTR does not authorize any relocation at Governmentexpense that is made primarily for your convenience.Relocations are conducted in the best interest of theGovernment.IV. Service Agreements(a) What is a service agreement?A service agreement is a written agreement between you andyour agency that is required by statute. You sign it, as does anagency representative. It states that you will remain in theservice of the Government (not a particular agency) for aspecified period of service and that you are receiving no otherfunds from any other source Federal or non-Federal in payingfor the relocation. Under statute and the FTR, this period ofservice must be at least 12 months following effective date oftransfer. Your agency has the option of setting this period ofservice between 12 and 36 months under certaincircumstances.5

Relocating Federal Employees(b) Must I sign a service agreement priorto receiving any relocation benefits?Yes, you must sign a service agreement prior to receiving anyrelocation benefits.(c) If I violate my service agreement, will I be penalized?Yes, if you violate a service agreement (other than for reasonsthat are beyond your control and accepted by your agency), youwill have incurred a debt due to the Government. You mustthen reimburse all costs that your agency has paid towardsyour relocation expenses, including any withholding taxallowance (WTA) and relocation income tax allowance (RITA).(d) Do I violate my service agreement if I retire before theexpiration of my service agreement?Yes, unless the agency approves the retirement as acceptable.(e) Do I have to sign a service agreement for a SeniorExecutive Service (SES) last move home relocation?No, you do not need to sign a service agreement for an SESlast move home relocation.6

Relocating Federal EmployeesPART 2.INFORMATION ONTYPES OF RELOCATIONSV. Categories of Relocation:Temporary Change of Station (TCS)and Permanent Change of Station (PCS)(a) What is a TCS?ATCS is relocation from one official work site to another, andthen back to the original official work site, within a period of 6to 30 months. While nearly all Government relocations arepermanent changes of station, the authority for a temporarychange of station exists for use in the proper situations andwhen determined to be in the best interest of the Government.New appointees and several other narrowly defined categoriesare not eligible forTCS.(b) What is a PCS?A PCS is the transfer of an employee from one official worksite to another or the assignment of a new employee to theirfirst assignment site on a permanent basis.The majority ofGovernment relocations are PCS.VI. Categories of Relocating Employees:New Appointee and Transferee(a) What is the definition of a new appointee?A new appointee is a person hired by the Government for thefirst time, an employee who has returned to Government aftera break in service (with certain exceptions), or a studenttrainee assigned to the Government upon completion ofcollege.7

Relocating Federal Employees(b) What is the definition of a transferee?A transferee is a person officially transferred from one officialwork site to another or an employee separated as a result ofreduction in force or transfer of functions who is re-employedwithin one year after such separation.VII.Benefits and Limitations for New Appointees(a) What are my relocation benefits if I am a newappointee, moving for the first time, to a continentalUnited States (CONUS) work site and relocation hasbeen authorized?Relocation benefits for new appointees are limited. ForCONUS relocations, your benefits are: Transportation of you and your immediate family; Per diem only for you while traveling; Transportation and storage of household goods (HHG); Extended storage when assigned to an isolated officialwork site, pursuant to FTR Chapter 302-8; Transportation of a mobile home or boat used as aprimary residence instead of a HHG shipment; and ***Shipment of a privately owned vehicle (POV).*** Items are at the discretion of the agency and are not mandatory(b) What are myrelocation benefits if I am a new appointee relocating to a work site outside thecontinental United States (OCONUS)?If you are a new appointee relocating OCONUS, you areauthorized: Transportation of you and your family Per diem for only you while traveling Transportation and temporary storage of HHG; Extended storage of your HHG, pursuant to FTRChapter 302-8; and ***Payments for temporary quarters and otherallowances.*** Items are at the discretion of the agency and are not mandatoryVIII. Benefits and Limitations for Transferees(a) What are my relocation benefits if I am a transferee?If you are a transferee, you may be authorized more extensivebenefits than those of the new appointee class listed above.8

Relocating Federal EmployeesWhether the transfer is OCONUS or CONUS, your benefitsmay include: Transportation and per diem for you and your immediatefamily; Miscellaneous moving expenses (subject to FTR Part302-16); Transportation and temporary storage of your HHG; Shipment of a POV; and Relocation income taxes allowance (RITA).(b) What residence transaction benefits will I bereimbursed for as a transferee relocating in CONUS?Your agency will reimburse you for the allowable costs that youincur, up to a maximum of ten percent of the actual sale pricefor your residence at your old official work site and up to fivepercent of the actual purchase price for your residence at yournew official work site.(c) What benefits depend upon my agency policy for atransferee relocating to a CONUS location?Depending upon your agency policy, you may be reimbursedfor: A househunting trip (HHT) including per diem for youand your spouse; Temporary quarters subsistence expense (TQSE); Shipment of up to 2 POVs; Use of a relocation services company (RSC); Home marketing incentives; Property management services expenses in lieu ofselling your home at your old official work site, pursuantto FTR 302-15.17; and Transportation of a mobile home/boat, if applicableunder FTR part 302-10.(d) What benefits depend upon my agency policy for atransferee relocating to an OCONUS location?This varies greatly depending upon whether your agency usesthe FTR or has chosen to adopt the Department of StateStandardized Regulations (DSSR) for OCONUS foreignmoves. Other benefits you may receive under the FTR,depending upon your agency policy are: Shipment of a POV;9

Relocating Federal Employees A foreign transfer allowance;Property management services for your residence atyour last official work site; and Extended storage of your HHG when necessary,pursuant to FTR Chapter 302-8.Under the DSSR, you may also receive aTQSE. If this isapplicable to your relocation, please contact DOS for guidance.For relocations to Alaska and Hawaii your agency may allowthe use of a RSC and/or home marketing incentives.IX. Benefits and Limitationsfor Special Types of PCS Relocations(a) Senior Executive Service (SES)1. What are my relocation benefits as an SES employee?As an SES employee, you are entitled to the same relocationbenefits as any other new appointee or transferee dependingon your status as a transferee or a new hire.2. As an SES employee, how do I qualify forthe last move home benefit?To qualify for a last move home benefit as an SES employee,you must be a career SES employee who transferred oraccepted a geographical reassignment from one official worksite to another in the Government’s interest at Governmentexpense for permanent duty. Other more complicatedqualifications for relocation benefits may exist in special cases.For these cases you should check with your agency humanresources office or the FTR 302-3.304 through 302-3.307.3. If I am an SES career employee who qualifies forlast move home, what are my relocation benefits?You are authorized to receive: Transportation of you and your immediate family to theplace in CONUS that you have elected to reside; Per diem for only yourself while traveling; Transportation and temporary storage of HHG; Transportation of a mobile home or boat used as aprimary residence instead of an HHG shipment; ***Shipment of a POV; and10

Relocating Federal Employees ***Transportation of a mobile home/boat, if applicableunder FTR part 302-10.*** Items are at the discretion of the agency and are not mandatory(b) Return from OCONUS for SeparationWhat are my benefits if I am returning from OCONUS forseparation to my residence of record?When returning from OCONUS for separation at yourresidence, the benefits you are authorized to receive are: Transportation of you and your family Transportation and storage of HHG Per diem for you only; and ***Shipment of a POV.*** Items are at the discretion of the agency and are not mandatory(c) Assignment under the Government Employees TrainingAct (5 U.S.C. 4109)What are my relocation benefits if I am assigned under theGovernment EmployeesTraining Act (5 U.S.C. 4109)?If you are assigned relocation under 5 U.S.C. 4109, themaximum benefits you may be authorized are: Transportation for yourself and immediate family; Per diem for yourself while relocating; and Shipment and temporary storage of your HHG.Please note that agencies have the authority to pay all, some,or none of these benefits under this Act, depending on whetherit is determined to be a PCS move or not.(d) Tour Renewal Agreement TravelWhat are my benefits if I serve a complete tour OCONUS andsign for another full OCONUS tour?If you finish a full tour at an OCONUS post, not includingAlaska or Hawaii, and agree to serve another tour at the sameor a different OCONUS post, your benefits are transportationfor yourself and immediate family from post to your home ofrecord and then on to the next assignment, plus per diem foryou only during this travel to and from post.Alaska and Hawaii are more problematic because, to beguaranteed tour renewal travel, you had to be serving prior toSeptember 9, 1982. If your tour began after that date, youragency must determine whether tour renewal travel is meritedfor recruiting and retention.11

Relocating Federal EmployeesIf your agency follows the Department of State guidelines setforth in the DSSR, these benefits may be different. The DSSRdiffers from the FTR in many respects because it is designedfor Foreign Service officers and concentrates on overseaspostings.12

Relocating Federal EmployeesPART 3.INFORMATION ABOUT SPECIFICRELOCATION BENEFITSX. Transportation of People(a) Are my family and I always authorized transportationto the new post while relocating?Yes, if the Government authorizes relocation, it will pay fortransportation of you and your family to the new official worksite.The one exception is an unaccompanied tour to a foreignpost of duty; then, only you are authorized transportation.(b) Is the reimbursement rate for my driving a POV in aPCS the same as the rate for using a POV for temporaryduty travel (TDY)?No, the rate for using a POV during a PCS is not the same asthe rate for using a POV forTDY. The rate for using your POVduring a PCS is the same as the Internal Revenue Service ratefor using an automobile for moving purposes.XI. Per Diem(a) What is per diem?Per diem is the daily amount that your agency will reimburseyou for lodging, meals and incidental expenses.(b) Do I always receive per diem for myself whilerelocating?Yes, if the Government authorizes relocation, you will alwaysreceive per diem for yourself while being transported to thenew official work site. Your family may or may not beauthorized per diem depending upon the type of relocation andwhether you are a new appointee or a current employee beingtransferred.13

Relocating Federal Employees(c) What is the per diem rate for the travel to the newofficial work site?For the trip from the old to the new official work site located inCONUS, per diem is at the standard CONUS rate establishedby GSA. For OCONUS work sites, per diem will be at therates established by the Department of Defense for nonforeign OCONUS locations and the rate established by theDepartment of State for foreign OCONUS sites.XII.Househunting Trip (HHT)(a) Is a HHT a mandatory benefit?No, this is a discretionary item. Your agency will determinewhen it is in the Government’s best interest to authorize you aHHT and the procedures you must follow if it is authorized.(b) If my agency authorizes a HHT, may I take all of myimmediate family at Government expense?No, only you and/or your spouse may travel on a HHT atGovernment expense.(c) May my spouse and I each take a separate HHTs?Yes, however, your reimbursement will be limited to the costthat would have been incurred if you and your spouse hadtraveled together on one round trip.(d) What transportation expenses will my agency pay?Your agency will authorize you to travel by the transportationmode(s) (e.g., airline, train, or privately owned automobile) itdetermines to be advantageous to the Government. Youragency will pay for your transportation expenses by theauthorized mode(s). If you travel by any other mode(s), youragency will pay your transportation expenses not to exceed thecost of transportation by the authorized mode(s).(e) May I use the HHT to help me decide whether or notto accept the transfer?No, you may not. The purpose of a HHT is to help an employeewho has accepted an assignment locate housing to make thetransition easier and to reduce overall costs for theGovernment. Your agency cannot authorize an HHT until afteryou have accepted the new position, signed a serviceagreement, and have a reporting date.14

Relocating Federal EmployeesXIII. Temporary Quarters Subsistence Expenses(TQSE)(a) Do I always receive a TQSE benefit?No, your agency determines when it is in the Government’sinterest to authorize you aTQSE and the procedures you mustfollow if it is authorized.(b) Who may occupy temporary quarters at Governmentexpense?Only you and/or your immediate family may occupy temporaryquarters at Government expense.(c) May my immediate family and I occupy temporaryquarters at more than one location?Yes, you can. For example, if you must vacate your home at theold official work site and report to the new official work site,and your family remains behind until the end of the school year,you may need to occupy temporary quarters at the new officialwork site while your family occupies temporary quarters at theold official work site.(d) What is the rule concerning where my immediatefamily and I may occupy temporary quarters?You and/or your immediate family may occupy temporaryquarters at Government expense within reasonable proximityof your old and/or new official work sites. Neither you nor yourimmediate family may be reimbursed for occupying temporaryquarters at any other location, unless justified by specialcircumstances that are reasonably related to your transfer. Youmust vacate your old residence prior to claimingTQSE.(e) What types of TQSE exist?There are two types ofTQSE: actual expense and lump sum(fixed amount).All agencies offer actual expenseTQSE, which is based uponthe standard CONUS per diem with deductions based uponthe number of days inTQSE. The maximum number of daysyou can be in actual expenseTQSE is 60 days. Your agency mayauthorize up to an additional 60 day extension for acceptableextenuating circumstancesLump sumTQSE (fixed amount) is based upon a reduction ofthe locality per diem rate but can only be offered for a15

Relocating Federal Employeesmaximum of 30 days. Some agencies offer lump sum only forperiods of less than 30 days. For you to receive lump sumTQSE, your agency must offer it to you, and you must chooseto accept it.XIV. Transportation and Temporary Storage ofHousehold Goods (HHG)(a) What is my mandatory benefit for the transportationand storage in transit of HHG?Unless you are going to an OCONUS, isolated CONUS or afurnished space at your new location where there is limitedroom to fit the maximum amount of HHG, your agency isrequired to pay for shipment of up to 18,000 pounds net weightand for storage in transit (SIT) SIT is limited to 60 days initiallywith an additional 90 days upon agency approval withextenuating circumstance. If you are limited by defined postconditions to less than this weight, the balance can be storedin extended storage at Government expense. The employee isfinancially responsible for any HHG amount over the 18,000pounds net weight.(b) May the 18,000 pounds net weight limitation beincreased?No, the 18,000 pound HHG net weight limitation is mandated bystatute and cannot be exceeded.(c) What must I do if professional books, papers andequipment (PBP&E) cause me to exceed the 18,000 poundsHHG net weight?If your agency agrees that your PBP&E are required for you toaccomplish your government job, the PBP&E is generallyconsidered to be part of the 18,000 pounds net limit. However, ifthe PBP&E weight causes your lot to be more than thestatutory limit, then your agency may choose to transport any ofyour preapproved PBP&E that is over the18,000 pounds net thatis necessary for your Government job as an administrativeexpense.(d) Should my family and I sort through our HHG prior to arelocation?It is always a good idea to sort through your belongings prior tomoving. In any relocation, moving only the items that you and16

Relocating Federal Employeesyour family truly want and need could help eliminate anypayment for exceeding the weight limit for the shipment.Moreover, even if you are well under the 18,000 net weightlimitation, you will be acting as a prudent employee by savingoverall costs for the Government.(e) Must my relocation orders specify that HHG betransported from the specified origin to destination?Yes, your orders will specify the origin and destination of themove. You may choose to add extra pick-ups or change theorigin or destination of the HHG shipment. However, theGovernment will only reimburse you for the equivalent cost ofmoving one lot of up to 18,000 pounds net from your old officialwork site to your new official work site.(f) Must I use the method selected by my agency fortransporting my HHG, transporting PBP&E, and storagein transit?No, you do not have to use the method selected by youragency, and you may pursue other methods. However, yourreimbursement should be limited to the actual cost incurred,not to exceed what the Government would have incurred usingtheir method of shipment. Contact your agency on theirspecific guidance if you choose to select a different method oftransportation. Also, please note that any reimbursement forstorage over 30 days is taxable income to you.XV. Extended Storage of HHG(a) When may extended storage of my HHG beauthorized?Your agency may authorize extended storage of HHG in lieu ofshipment under the following circumstances:1. ATCS;2. When you are assigned to an isolated official work sitewithin CONUS;3. An OCONUS official work site where your agencylimits the amount of HHG you may transport to thatlocation; or4. An OCONUS official work site for which your agencydetermines extended storage is in the Government’sinterest or is cost effective to do so.17

Relocating Federal Employees(b) Is the SES employee on last move home authorizedextended storage?No, extended storage of HHG is not permitted for a career SESemployee using their last move home benefits.XVI. Transportation and Storage of a PrivatelyOwned Vehicle (POV)Is the transportation and emergency storage of my POV amandatory relocation benefit?No, the transportation of your POV in connection with a PCSand emergency storage of your POV incident to an evacuationfrom your duty assignment are not mandatory benefits. Thesebenefits depend upon agency policy and are within agencydiscretion.XVII. Residence Transactions(a) Am I eligible to receive an allowance for expenses incurredin connection with my residence transactions (e.g., selling myold home and/or buying a new one)?You are eligible to receive an allowance for expenses incurredin connection with your residence transactions if you havesigned a service agreement and you are performing a PCSwhere:1. Your old and new official work sites are within theUnited States; or2. You transferred from an official work site in the UnitedStates to a foreign area, and you are now transferringback to the United States.If your transfer falls into the first category above, then:You must be in conformance with the distance test guidelinesin Internal Revenue Service Publication 521, Moving Expenses.The distance test is met when the new official station is atleast 50 miles further from your current residence than the oldofficial station is from the same residence. For example, if theold official station is 3 miles from the current residence, thenthe new official station must be at least 53 miles from thatsame residence in order to receive relocation expenses forresidence transactions.The distance between the officialstation and residence is the shortest of the commonly traveledroutes between them.The distance test does not take intoconsideration the location of a new residence.18

Relocating Federal EmployeesIf your transfer falls into the second category above, then youmust also:1. Have completed your service agreement time period foryour overseas tour of duty.(b) Who is not eligible to receive an allowance forexpenses incurred in connection with residencetransactions?You are not eligible to receive an allowance for expensesincurred in connection with residence transactions if you are anew appointee or an employee assigned under the GovernmentEmployeesTraining Act (5 U.S.C. 4109).(c) To be reimbursed for expenses incurred in residencetransactions, must I occupy the residence at the time I amnotified of my transfer?Yes, to be reimbursed for expenses incurred in your residencetransactions, you must occupy the residence at the time you arenotified of your transfer. More precisely, you may receivereimbursement for the one residence from which you regularlycommuted to and from work on a daily basis and that was yourresidence at the time you were officially notified by competentauthority to transfer to a new official work site. The onlyexception to this rule is that you may be reimbursed forresidence transaction expenses if your transfer is from aforeign area to an official work site within CONUS other thanthe one you left when you transferred OCONUS.(d) To be reimbursed for expenses incurred in myresidence transactions, must I commute from theresidence that I purchase?Yes, for the Government to pay for a residence transaction, itmust be incident to the move. The residence that you purchasemust be one from which you will commute to the new officialwork site on a daily basis. You are not entitled to move to adifferent house in the same general area just because a newjob has relocation benefits.(e) A

The purpose of your relocation is to place you into a specific job rapidly and easily so that you may quickly function in your new job for the benefit of the Federal government. (d) What if the relocation is primarily for my convenience? The FTR does not authorize any relocation at Govern