Thursday, November 15, 2012

Travel Costs - Excess Over Maximum Per Diem

FAR 31.205-46, Travel Costs, requires that, except in special and unusual situations, costs incurred by a contractor for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses shall be considered to be reasonable and allowable only to the extent that they do not exceed on a daily basis the per diem rates in effect as of the time of travel as set forth in the Federal Travel Regulations (for the lower 48), the Joint Travel Regulations (Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories and possessions) and State Department Regulations (foreign travel).

What, according to FAR are the "special and unusual" situations  that would justify travel costs in excess of those limits? There are four.

  1. Lodging and/or meals are procured at a prearranged place such as a hotel where a meeting, conference or training session is held.
  2. Costs have escalated because of special events (missile launching periods, sporting events, World's Fair, conventions, natural disasters; lodging and meal expenses with prescribed allowances cannot be obtained nearby; and costs to commute to/from the nearby location consume most or all of the savings achieved from occupying less expensive lodging
  3. Because of mission requirements
  4. Any other reason approved within your organization.

FAR further requires a written justification for use of the higher amounts and this justification must be approved by an officer of the contractor's organization or designee to ensure that the authority is properly administered and controlled to prevent abuse. This approval justification must be retained as part of the contractors documentation to support actual costs. Also, receipts for expenditures greater than $75 must be retained as part of the documentation package.

Finally, whenever the actual expense method is used the amounts allowable under Government contracts can never exceed 300 percent of the maximum per diem rates specified in the JTR/FTR/State Department regulations.

Note, FAR 31.205-46 requires other documentation in connection with travel costs. We will discuss that tomorrow. In the meantime, contractors should ensure that their policies for justifying and documenting the incurrence of travel costs in excess of the maximum per diem amounts line up with these requirements. Failing to do so risks subsequent disallowance and perhaps penalties.

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