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Office of Allowances
 

Office of Allowances

Post Allowance (COLA)


Post Allowance:
Commonly referred to as the "cost-of-living" allowance, this is an allowance based on a percentage of "spendable income," i.e. money you can really put your hands on to spend on goods and services. The amount varies depending on salary level and family size. The post allowance is calculated by comparing costs for goods and services in 11 categories - including food (consumed at home or in restaurants), tobacco/alcohol, clothing, personal care items, furnishings, household goods, medical services, recreation, public transportation, vehicle-related expenses, and household help - to the cost of those same goods and services in Washington, D.C.

The Office of Allowances determines a ratio between the average cost of goods and services at the foreign post to costs in Washington, D.C.  We then evaluate expenditure patterns between the foreign location and Washington, D.C. to establish an overall cost index, which may be adjusted biweekly for exchange rate fluctuations.  If the overall cost of goods and services at a foreign post, taking into account expenditure patterns, is at least 3% above the cost of the same goods and services in the Washington, D.C. area, we establish a post allowanc
e. Se
e DSSR section 220 for further information.


WHAT'S NEW:

Administrative Updates to Post Allowance (COLA) (09/2016)


2016 Post Allowance Updates Revisions to the Retail Price Schedule (08/2016) (Intranet ONLY)


MORE INFORMATION:


COLA Tips
*Guidance for Management Officers, Employees & Family Members, and Price Collectors for completing Living Pattern Questionnaires and Retail Price Surveys

COLA Price Collector App Overview

Why You Can't Figure COLA in the Grocery Store

*PowerPoint Presentation on how Post Allowance is determined

COLA Calculator
*Calculate the amount of COLA annually and biweekly

Exchange Rate Impact Calculator


FORMS:
Note: All posts are required to submit Retail Price surveys via eAllowances (Intranet ONLY). The forms are, however, commonly used by price collectors to record prices for subsequent entry into eAllowances.

DS-1996
 (09/2016) - Living Pattern Questionnaire (PDF or myData version/Intranet ONLY)
*Completed Living Pattern Questionnaires can be mailed to the Office of Allowances address located on our Contact Us page.
**Open the myData version with Cerenade Filler

DS-2020 (05/2017) - Retail Price Schedule (RPS) Part 1 (Outlet Report) and Part 2 (Living Pattern Questionnaire Summary) (
PDF or myData version/Intranet ONLY)
**Open the myData version with Cerenade Filler

DS-2020 (10/2016) - Retail Price Schedule (RPS) Part 3 Retail Prices (PDF or myData version/Intranet ONLY)
**Open the myData version with Cerenade Filler

DS-2020i
 (4/2016) - Instructions for Completing the DS-2020 RPS Parts 1-3 (PDF or myData version/Intranet ONLY)
**Open the myData version with Cerenade Filler


LINKS:

Post (Cost of Living) Allowance Rates

Allowances by Location
 
*To view Reporting Schedule select Allowances by Location and enter your post name

Survey Status by Post 
(Intranet ONLY)


QUESTIONS:

FAQ 
- Post (Cost of Living) Allowance

Post Allowance -
 Diplopedia (Intranet ONLY)

Foreign Service Assignment Notebook

For Standardized Regulation interpretation:
 AllowancesO@state.gov