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Frequently Asked Questions 
Foreign Transfer Allowance

 

QUESTIONS: 

1. Q: In section 241.2a it states that required removal or installation by host country law of auto parts (such as tinted windows) was now an allowable expense under the Miscellaneous Expense portion of the Foreign Transfer Allowance. At post, this happens all the time. If someone were to have to remove their tinted windowing would that be an allowable expense? If the cost of removing the window tinting is more than the FTA, will the cost be reimbursed if you itemize your expenses? 

A: If the removal of tinted windows is required by the host country's law then, yes, it is an allowable expense under the miscellaneous expense portion of the foreign transfer allowance. If the amount,  including other allowable expenses, is above the flat amounts (no itemization, no receipts required) then you will itemize for all expenses claimed and must be able to show receipts or other acceptable evidence of payment. The maximum reimbursed will be according to DSSR 242.1b for actual expenses above the flat amounts.  The flat amount is the lesser of the following:  for an employee transferring without family, $750 or one week's salary; for an employee transferring with family, $1,500 or two weeks' salary. If the employee chooses to itemize, the maximum reimbursed is the lesser of the following: for an employee transferring without family, one week of the employee's salary or one week of the GS-13 step 10 salary (without locality pay); for an employee transferring with family, two weeks of the employee's salary or two weeks of the GS-13 step 10 salary (without locality pay).
2. Q: Can family members leave 10 days earlier than the employee from Washington to the foreign post, and claim 10 days of pre-departure. Then when the employee follows them, can s/he also be reimbursed 10 days of pre-departure? 
A: Only ten days are allowed for the entire family. That is if the family uses all ten then there is zero left for the employee. However, the days may be split for example, family can use five; employee uses five; or family uses three and employee uses seven. In most instances the number of days cannot exceed ten.  See DSSR 242.3c for exceptions to the ten day maximum. 
3. Q: Can the ten days that we are authorized be broken up, or do they need to be consecutive? We may want to stay in another family member's area for a couple of days. 

A: They do not need to be consecutive days. The ten days may be anywhere in the U.S , however, your final departure must be from your U.S. post of assignment.  Note:  Agency-implementing regulations may be more restrictive than the Government-wide Standardized Regulations and require the ten days be within proximity of the U.S post of assignment.  Reimbursement for predeparture subsistence expenses is always based on a percentage of the employee's U.S. post of assignment per diem rate (not on a percentage of the per diem of where you stay).  See DSSR 242.3a, DSSR 242.3b, and DSSR 960 FTA Worksheet for calculations and detailed explanations.  

4. Q: Do the ten days of pre-departure subsistence have to be exactly the last ten days I am in the United States ? 

A: The ten days of pre-departure subsistence from a U.S. post of assignment do not need to be the last ten days, however, you must commence your pre-departure subsistence no more than 30 days after vacating permanent quarters.

5. Q: In the Foreign Transfer Allowance subsistence expense portion, what is the difference between the "Partial Flat Rate Method" and the "Total Actual Subsistence Method"?
 

A: The agency implementing regulations should state which method is being used to reimburse the employee.  State Department as an agency has chosen to offer its employees only the Partial Flat Rate Method of reimbursement.  Under the Foreign Transfer Allowance, the calculation of reimbursement for either method is always based on the employee's U.S. post of assignment per diem rate. 

Partial Flat Rate Method: Agencies may allow employees to be reimbursed an actual lodging amount (excluding lodging tax) up to the lodging portion of the employee's U.S. post of assignment per diem rate and a flat amount based on the meal and incidental expense portion of the employee's U.S. post of assignment per diem rate. In addition to these amounts, agencies may allow for employees to be reimbursed separately for taxes imposed on the actual lodging expenses or allowable lodging maximum, whichever is less. Receipts are required for only lodging if this method is used.

Total Actual Subsistence Method: Agencies may also allow only reimbursement for documented costs up to a maximum based on the employee's U.S. post of assignment per diem rate (no breakdown between lodging and meal and incidental expense portions for this calculation). Receipts are required for lodging and a certified statement (without receipts unless required by agency) is required for daily meals, laundry and dry cleaning. Lodging tax may be reimbursed separately. 

6. Q: What are the FTA expense portions and where may I find more information on each element?
A:  The miscellaneous expense portion can either be a lump sum amount or itemized actual expenses up to limits. (DSSR 242.1)

The wardrobe expense portion if transferring across one or two zones.  Note:  Not all agencies pay a wardrobe allowance; check agency implementing regulations.  (DSSR 242.2)

The pre-departure subsistence expense portion depends on family size and children's ages and is only from a U.S. post of assignment to a foreign post of assignment.  (DSSR 242.3)

The lease penalty expense portion may be granted when penalties are incurred if you must "break" your residence lease owing to your transfer date (either from a U.S. post or between foreign posts if under the Living Quarters Allowance program).  Note:  lease penalty applies to only residence lease -- not car or cell phone leases. (DSSR 242.4)
The pet shipment and required quarantine expense portion assists in getting family pet(s) from the U.S. post to a foreign post or between foreign posts.  (DSSR 242.5)

7. Q: Can I now get the Wardrobe Expense Portion when I transfer from the Continental U.S. or Hawaii ?

A: Prior to the DSSR amendment effective 4/9/2023 the Wardrobe Expense Portion was allowed only if an employee transferred across two transfer zones.  With only three transfer zones worldwide and the Continental U.S. and Hawaii classified as zone 2 an employee could not get the Wardrobe Expense Portion if transferring either into or out of the Continental U.S. and Hawaii.  With the DSSR amendment, if an employee transfers from the continental U.S. or Hawaii (zone 2) to a zone 3 or a zone 1 they are now eligible for the Wardrobe Expense Portion.   (DSSR 242.2). 

Foreign posts' transfer zones are classified as 1 (average temperature "cold"); 2 (average temperature "moderate"); or 3 (average temperature "hot"), and are listed in DSSR 920, column number 4 entitled "transfer zone".  The non-foreign area and continental U.S. transfer/climate zones and amounts (depending on one or two zone transfers and with or without additional family members) are listed at DSSR 242.2.  

Note:  see agency implementing regulations to see if agency pays this allowance.


See DSSR 960 FTA Worksheet for additional explanations and calculations.


Last updated 04/30/2023