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Card/Account Holders and Approving Officials Travel Training

Lesson 5: Planning for the Trip

How do I complete a Travel Authorization (TA)?

The first step to planning for official government travel is to determine:

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

Please note that card/account holders traveling locally and not under an official travel authorization may use their GSA SmartPay® Travel card/account for local travel expenses only when expressly authorized by agency policy.

Next, fill out a Travel Authorization (TA), which serves as 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, please collect the following information:

Transportation Fares

  • Airline: GSA negotiates special reduced rates with airline companies under the GSA City Pair Program (CPP).
  • Privately-Owned Vehicles (POVs): Mileage rates for using POVs are updated annually.
  • Train Transportation: Check with your Travel Management Company (TMC) for train transportation fares.

Lodging Expenses

  • Daily lodging rates vary by time of year and location.
  • State Tax Exemption: Depending on the type of account you are using and the state where you are traveling, your expenses may be tax exempt. If you are traveling to a state which does not grant tax exemption 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 tax exemption information and to obtain any state tax exemption forms, if required.

Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE)

  • The per diem allowance for M&IE is reimbursable; however, rates vary based on location.
  • On the first and last travel days, federal employees are only eligible for 75% of the total M&IE rate for their temporary duty travel location (not their official duty station location).
  • The M&IE Breakdown shows the breakdown by meal for travel in the continental U.S.

Actual Expenses

Training Event/Conference Attendance

  • Special rates may apply for federal government attendance at training events/conferences.
  • All fees must be indicated on your TA and approved ahead of time.
  • Advance payment for a 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 2023.
  • Sam will drive to Delaware on Monday morning and will return on Friday afternoon. This requires four nights of lodging and five days of M&IE.
  • Sam will be using his Individually Billed Account (IBA) travel card to pay for all travel-related expenses.
  • Sam determines the per diem rate for his lodging and M&IE.
  • For March 2023, the rates are $98 per night for lodging and $59 per day for M&IE for Delaware.
  • Remembering that on the first and last travel day, federal employees are only eligible for 75% of the total M&IE for their temporary duty travel location, he notes that M&IE will only be $44.25 for his first and last travel days after viewing the M&IE Breakdown.
  • Next, he visits the GSA SmartPay website and determines that IBA cards are tax exempt in Delaware.
  • Sam downloads a copy of the required tax exemption form to take with him and makes note of the phone number for Delaware tax information.
  • Next, he determines the mileage for use of his POV. For 2023, the mileage reimbursement rate per mile is $0.655. Sam estimates the distance to his destination at 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.
Lodging$98 x 4 nights$392
M&IE($59 x 3 days) + ($44.25 x 2 days)$265.50
Transportation (POV)$0.655 x 408 miles$267.24
Training/Conference Fee$0$0

Sam’s total trip expense estimate is $924.74.


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