340.8 - Actual Subsistence Expenses
OPR: Admin/Financial Management
1. Purpose. This chapter outlines the USGS policy, criteria, and approval procedures governing the authorization of and reimbursement for actual subsistence expenses incurred in the course of official travel.
2. Policy. Authority for reimbursement of actual and necessary subsistence expenses incurred during official travel is based upon the entitlement to per diem (SM 340.7) and the determination by the Assistant Director for Administration that the authorized maximum per diem allowance would be inadequate to cover the actual and necessary expenses of the traveler.
A. Allowable Expenses. Actual subsistence expense reimbursement may be allowed for the same types of expenses that are covered by the per diem allowance in SM 340.7 provided such expenses are determined to be actual and necessary expenses incident to the particular travel assignment.
B. Prudent Traveler. An employee traveling on the actual subsistence expense basis is expected to exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business and expending personal funds. Excess costs, circuitous routes, delays, or luxury accommodations and services unnecessary or unjustified in the performance of official business are not acceptable under this standard. Employees will be responsible for excess costs and any additional expenses incurred for personal preference or convenience.
3. Conditions Warranting Authorization or Approval of Actual Expenses.
A. Travel assignments involving special or unusual circumstances. Travel on an actual subsistence expense basis may be authorized or approved for travel assignments within and outside CONUS when the applicable maximum per diem rate (see SM 340.7) is inadequate due to special or unusual circumstances. The maximum per diem rate, although generally adequate, may be insufficient for a particular travel assignment because the actual and necessary subsistence expenses are unusually high due to special duties or because subsistence costs have escalated temporarily during special events. Actual subsistence expense reimbursement shall not be authorized or approved when the actual and necessary subsistence expenses exceed or are expected to exceed the applicable maximum per diem allowance by only a small amount. Since lodging costs constitute a major portion of the subsistence expenses, travel on an actual expense basis may be authorized or approved for travel when, due to special or unusual circumstances, the lodging costs absorb all or nearly all of the applicable maximum per diem allowance. Examples of travel assignments or situations that may warrant authorization or approval of actual and necessary expenses include but are not limited to the following:
(1) The employee attends a meeting, conference, or training session away from the official duty station where lodging and meals must be procured at a prearranged place (such as the hotel where the meeting, conference, or training session is being held) and the lodging costs incurred, because of these prearranged accommodations, absorb all or practically all of the applicable maximum per diem allowance.
(2) The travel is to an area where the applicable maximum per diem allowance is generally adequate but subsistence costs have escalated for short periods of time during special functions or events such as missile launching periods, international or national sports events, world's fairs, conventions or natural disasters.
(3) Based on a situation described in (2), above, affordable lodging accommodations are not available or cannot be obtained within a reasonable commuting distance or the employee's temporary duty point and transportation costs to commute to and from the less expensive lodging facility consume most or all of the savings achieved from occupying less expensive lodging.
(4) The employee, because of special duties of the assignment, necessarily incurs unusually high expenses in the conduct of official business, such as to procure superior or extraordinary accommodations including a suite or other quarters for which the charge is well above that which he/she would normally have to pay for accommodations.
(5) The employee necessarily incurs unusually high expenses incident to his/her assignment to accompany another employee in a situation as described in (4), above.
B. Situations Requiring Reimbursement for Occasional Meals and/or Lodging. Although lodging and/or meals are furnished without cost (or at a nominal cost) for a particular assignment, the employee may necessarily incur expenses for occasional lodgings and/or meals. A traveler may be approved for reimbursement of appropriate expenses incurred for occasional meals and lodging that are determined to be necessary and justified by the circumstances involved. The actual expense allowable may not exceed the lodging or individual meal allowance established for the location or 150 percent of those amounts if special or unusual circumstances are involved.
4. Maximum Daily Rates and Reimbursement Limitations. The maximum amount of reimbursement for actual subsistence expenses that may be authorized or approved for each calendar day or fraction thereof is as provided in A and B, below.
A. Travel Within CONUS.
(1) Maximum Daily Rates. For travel within CONUS, the maximum daily rate for subsistence expenses shall not exceed 150 percent of the maximum per diem rate (rounded to the next higher dollar) prescribed in SM 340.7 for the travel assignment location.
(2) Reimbursement Limitation. When the actual subsistence expenses incurred during any one day are less than the maximum daily rate authorized, the employee shall be reimbursed only for the lesser amount. Expenses incurred and claimed (including those for fractional days) shall be reviewed and allowed only to the extent determined to be necessary and reasonable. Reimbursement for meals and incidental expenses shall not, under any circumstances, exceed 150 percent of the M&IE rate applicable to the temporary duty location.
B. Travel Outside CONUS.
(1) Maximum Daily Rates. For travel outside CONUS, the maximum daily rate for subsistence expenses shall not exceed the amount prescribed by the Departments of Defense and State, respectively, for nonforeign areas as set forth in (a) or (b), below, whichever is greater:
(a) 150 percent of the applicable maximum per diem rate (rounded to the next higher dollar).
(b) $50 plus the applicable maximum per diem rate.
(2) Reimbursement Limitation. When the actual subsistence expenses incurred during any one day are less than the maximum daily rate authorized, the employee shall be reimbursed only for the lesser amount. Expenses incurred and claimed (including those for fractional days) shall be reviewed and allowed only to the extent determined to be necessary and reasonable. Reimbursement for meals and incidental expenses generally should not exceed 50 percent of the maximum daily rate authorized under (1), above.
C. When Lodging is Procured Through Use of An Agency Purchase Order. When actual subsistence expense reimbursement is authorized or approved and lodging is furnished to the employee at no cost through use of purchase order, the traveler shall not be authorized or reimbursed for other subsistence expenses that will, when combined with the cost of lodging furnished, exceed the maximum daily rate authorized under A or B above.
5. Authorization or Approval.
A. Requests for Authorization or Approval of Actual Expense Reimbursement. It is the employee's responsibility to request authorization or approval for actual subsistence expense reimbursement when conditions appear to warrant such reimbursement and to furnish appropriate justification to support the request.This request will be in memorandum form and will include the name of the traveler, location and dates of travel, a justification for the increase, and the required amount of the increase. The request should be sent through the Chief, Office of Financial Management to the Assistant Director for Administration and must have the recommended approval of the division administrative officer. When there are several travelers from a division attending a meeting, the division should coordinate all requests so that only one request per division is forwarded to the Assistant Director for Administration.
B. Prior Authorization of Actual Expense Travel. Requests for approval to claim actual subsistence expenses will be submitted prior to the travel period and the travel authorization will include the following statement under item 11: "authorized actual expenses not to exceed $ per day". Since the majority of travelers make reservations at the hotel/motel where they will be lodging, a need for an increase to the per diem amount should be apparent prior to departure on the trip. In an emergency situation an increase may be approved after the trip.
6. Documentation of Actual Expenses on the Voucher.
A. Itemization. When travel is authorized or approved on an actual subsistence expense basis, the employee shall itemize on the travel voucher each expense for which reimbursement is claimed on a daily basis. Meals must be itemized separately; i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those expenses that do not usually accrue on a daily basis, such as laundry and cleaning and pressing of clothing may be averaged over the number of days that actual expenses reimbursement is authorized or approved.
B. Receipts. Receipts shall be required for lodging, regardless of amount, and individual meals when the cost is over $25. The provisions of SM 340.7 covering double occupancy apply to this part.
7. Mixed Travel (per diem and actual subsistence expense) Reimbursement. Only one method of reimbursement is authorized for any given calendar day. Determination of the method to be used is outlined below:
A. Generally, when actual expense reimbursement is authorized or approved for a particular temporary duty location, and is the only reimbursement system involved, the partial day of travel to and from that location also will be on an actual expense basis. However, if the enroute travel to or from the actual expense location entails more than 1 day, either actual expense reimbursement or per diem may be authorized. This is determined by whichever method is administratively advantageous and commensurate with the expenses expected to be incurred by the traveler.
B. If actual expense reimbursement authorized for particular locations is intermingled with per diem at other locations in a single trip, either within or outside CONUS, the method of reimbursement for each calendar day will be determined by the traveler's location at midnight (e.g. if an employee has been authorized actual expense reimbursement for Boston, MA and on Wednesday the employee travels from temporary duty in Denver, CO to Boston, reimbursement for Wednesday will be the actual expense method). When an employee has been authorized both actual expenses and per diem in a single trip, the final day of the trip (the day the employee returns to either his/her residence or office) will be claimed the same method as the preceding day.
8. Interruption of Subsistence Entitlements. The provisions of SM 340.7 are applicable to interruptions of per diem entitlements (leave and nonworkdays, return to official station for nonworkdays, indirect route or interrupted travel, and illness or injury or a personal emergency situation) shall apply to travel on actual subsistence basis.