Travel Authorization (TA) and Cost Estimating:

The first step to planning for official government travel, or travel performed at the direction of a Federal agency under an official travel authorization, is to determine:

  • The purpose of the trip,
  • Length of time you will be on travel,
  • Destination(s),
  • Dates of departure and return, and
  • Whether a vehicle is needed while at your destination.

Note: Account holders traveling locally and not under an official travel authorization may use their GSA SmartPay Travel Account for local travel expenses only when expressly authorized by agency/organization-level policy.

Next, fill out a Travel Authorization (TA), the official authorization to take the trip.

The TA will need to be signed by your supervisor and routed for other necessary approvals. In order to complete the TA, you will need:

  • Transportation Fares
  • Lodging Expenses
  • Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE)
  • Actual Expenses
  • Training and Conference Attendance Fees

Transportation Fares for air, privately-owned vehicles or train transportation:

  • Airline: GSA negotiates special reduced rates with airline companies called the GSA City Pair Program (CPP). Rates and schedules are listed at
  • Privately-Owned Vehicles (POVs): Mileage rates for using POVs are listed at
  • Train Transportation: Check with your Travel Management Company (TMC) for train transportation fares and information.

Lodging Expenses :

  • Lodging rates vary by time of year and location. To find out the per diem rate for the area you will be traveling, go to https://
  • State Tax Exemption: Depending on the type of account you are using and the state where you are traveling, you may be tax exempt. If you are traveling to a state which does not grant tax exemptions for your type of account, taxes are reimbursable by your agency. Before leaving for travel, visit the GSA SmartPay website or contact the state directly for information about tax exemption and to obtain any state tax exemption forms (if required) and other related state tax information.

Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE):

Actual Expenses: In situations where normal per diem rates are not sufficient to cover costs, actual expenses are allowable. This method of reimbursement must be approved ahead of time on your TA. (For additional information, refer to FTR 301-11.303, Actual Expense).

Training Events/ Forum Attendance: Special rates may apply for federal government attendance at training events/ forums. All fees must be indicated on your TA and approved ahead of time. Advance payment of a forum or training registration fee may be reimbursed as soon as your TA has been approved and after you have submitted the proper travel claim/voucher for the expenses incurred. Refer to FTR 301-74 Conference Planning for more information.

Let’s walk through an example of how to build a travel estimate using the tools provided in this training.

Sam is stationed in Richmond, Virginia and has received an assignment requiring travel to Dover, Delaware in March, 2018. Sam will drive to Delaware Monday morning and return Friday afternoon requiring 4 nights of lodging and 5 days of M&IE. He will be using his IBA Travel Card to pay for all travel related expenses. The first thing Sam does is visit to determine the per diem rate for his lodging and M&IE. For March 2018 the rates are $93 per night for lodging, and $51 per day for M&IE for Delaware. Remembering that on the first and last travel day, Federal employees are only eligible for 75 percent of the total M&IE rate, he notes that M&IE will only be $38.25 for his first and last travel days after viewing the M&IE Breakdown . Next he visits the GSA SmartPay Smart Tax page to see if IBA cards are tax exempt in the state of Delaware. They are! Sam downloads a copy of the required tax exemption form to take with him and makes note of the phone number for the main POC for Delaware Tax Information. Next he visits to determine the mileage for use of his privately owned vehicle. For 2018 its $.535 per mile. Sam estimates the distance to his destination on 204 miles and makes note that he receives mileage for both to and from his destination for a total of 408 miles. Finally Sam has all the information he needs and is ready to calculate his totals.





$93 x 4 nights



($51 x 3 days) + ($38.25 x 2 days)


Transportation (POV)

$.535 x 408 miles





Training Conference Fee



Sam’s total trip expense estimate is $819.78

New to GSA SmartPay 3: GSA SmartPay Tax Advantage Travel Card Accounts are new product offerings that combine an Individually Billed Account (IBA) and Centrally Billed Account (CBA), providing a means to obtain tax exemption automatically at the point of sale for rental cars and lodging charges.

Travel Individually Billed Accounts (IBAs) are the most common travel account, issued directly to the employees by the customer agency/ organization to be used to pay for official travel and travel-related expenses. IBAs may only be issued to federal employees or employees of Tribes or Tribal Organizations. IBAs may be used for local travel only if authorized by written policy of the agency/ organization. Agencies/ organizations reimburse employees only for authorized and allowable expenses. Account holders are directly responsible for all purchases charged to the IBA account. Payment may be made directly by the account holder, agency/ organization, or in the form of a split disbursement in accordance with agency/ organization policy

Travel Centrally Billed Accounts (CBAs) are established by agencies/organizations for official travel charges and official travel-related expenses. Agencies/organizations generally use the Travel CBA to purchase common carrier transportation tickets for employee official travel through third-party arrangements, such as the GSA E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) for civilian agencies, the Defense Travel System (DTS) for the Department of Defense or permissible equivalent travel system. Agencies/organizations may also make purchases through travel management centers, commercial travel offices, and through other government contracts

When using the new Tax Advantage Travel Card Account, charges for rental cars and lodging will be automatically billed to a CBA for payment, taking advantage of the Government’s CBA tax exemption status for those types of accounts. Charges for other travel-related purchases such as meals and incidentals are billed to the IBA portion of the account, will still incur tax, and the individual traveler will still be liable for payment to the bank for those charges.

Travel cards may have three different designs:

Travel Card Image, Tax Advantage Card Image, Integrated Card Image

GSA SmartPay Travel Account Prefixes include

  • Visa: 4486, 4614, 4716
  • MC: 5565 and 5568

The Sixth Digit Identifies Billing Type:

Note:  6th digit identifiers for IBAs apply to the Travel business line only.

IBA Travel Card image


Sixth Digit:

Billing Type:
Individually Billed


CBA Travel Card Image


Sixth Digit:

Billing Type:
Centrally Billed


GSA SmartPay Tax Advantage Card Image


Sixth Digit:

Billing Type:


Why is it important to understand your type of travel account?

  • The first reason is tax exemption. All GSA SmartPay CBAs should be exempt from state taxes. Federal government travelers using the GSA SmartPay IBAs may be exempt from state taxes in select states. It is your responsibility as an account holder to review and understand the state tax policy for your state and have all necessary forms or information prepared before traveling.
  • The second reason is liability:
    • IBA Accounts: Liability for all charges rests with the individual account holder. If the account holder fails to pay his/her account on a timely basis, the bank may suspend or cancel the account and assess late charges and fees. If the bank cancels an account due to delinquency, the bank may report that information to credit bureaus and the information will appear on the account holder’s personal credit report. Also, the bank can pursue debt collection to obtain repayment of the charges. The agency/organization is never responsible or legally liable for the account.
    • CBA Accounts: The Federal Government accepts liability only for those proper charges made by an authorized centrally billed account holder using the account, but is not liable for any unauthorized use. Unauthorized use means the use of an account by a person, other than the account holder, who does not have actual, implied or apparent authority for such use and from which the account holder receives no benefit. When the centrally billed account has been used by an authorized account holder to make an unauthorized purchase, the Government is liable for the charge and the agency is responsible for taking appropriate action against the account holder.
    • Tax Advantage: Because the Tax Advantage Travel Account is a combination of both IBA and CBA, the liability will be determined by the type of purchase. If the purchase is an IBA, then the liability falls on the account holder (see IBA accounts). If the purchase is a CBA, then the liability falls on the Government (see CBA accounts).

How would someone check tax exemption status? Here is a typical example:

Jo is planning an official government trip to the GSA SmartPay Forum in Orlando, FL. During the planning stages for the trip, she checks the GSA SmartPay website to find out more information about tax exemption in the state of Florida. She checks the website and confirms that she has a GSA SmartPay IBA Travel Account because the first four digits are “4486” and the 6th digit is a 4. She also knows that yes, IBAs are tax exempt in the state of Florida. She reviews the instructions and required forms needed and prepares them ahead of her trip. She also notes the main point of contact for the Florida Department of Revenue in case any specific questions or issues come up. Jo books the hotel room and follows up with a call to verify that the hotel is compliant with the state’s tax exemption policy. If not, she gives herself plenty of time to find another hotel that does.