Appropriations Law

Generally, GSA performs reimbursable work for other Federal agencies using the authority of provided by 40 U.S.C. § 592(b)(2) or 31 U.S.C. § 1535 (the Economy Act). GSA’s authority to obtain payments for the work it provides to others Federal agencies on a reimbursable basis is 40 U.S.C. § 581(g).

PBS uses the authority provided by 40 U.S.C. § 592(b)(2) to perform reimbursable work in property within the jurisdiction, custody and control of PBS. PBS uses the authority provided by the Economy Act to perform reimbursable work in property that is not within the jurisdiction, custody and control of PBS, as well as all Department of Defense RWAs.

The customer agency may obligate its funds when PBS signs and accepts the RWA in accordance with the Recording Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1501, but the customer agency usually does not know to obligate its funds until it receives the Acceptance Letter and signed RWA from PBS. PBS’s signing and acceptance of the RWA, that acceptance being recorded in RETA, and the Acceptance Letter being sent, should happen almost simultaneously.

The funds are obligated to PBS when PBS accepts the RWA and the customer records that obligation in their own accounting system for the scope of work intended to be delivered by PBS. Transfer of the funds takes place when PBS incurs expenditures, bills the customer, and the customer agency makes payment to reimburse PBS for those expenditures.

The customer agency’s obligation of its funds occurs once PBS accepts the RWA and notifies the customer of acceptance (via the Acceptance Letter). PBS’s obligations of those funds occur as PBS signs contracts to deliver the scope of work identified on the RWA throughout the duration of the project.

As a matter of policy, PBS does not begin RWA projects prior to receiving the full amount of funding needed to complete the project from the customer agency. Only planning, requirements development, and cost estimating services can be performed by PBS before an RWA is accepted. These services are considered the cost of doing business and are reimbursed by the fees associated with the reimbursable program. At no point should PBS require a customer agency to submit a $0 RWA to develop requirements or estimate costs.

Annual appropriation: An appropriation that is available for obligation only during a specific fiscal year. This is the most common type of appropriation. It is known as both a "fiscal year" or "annual" appropriation, and remains available to liquidate obligations properly chargeable to that account for five fiscal years after the period of availability expires. Multiple year appropriation: An appropriation that is available for obligation for a definite period of time in excess of one fiscal year, and remains available to liquidate obligations properly chargeable to that account for five fiscal years after the period of availability expires. No-year appropriation: An appropriation that is available for obligation for an indefinite period. A no-year appropriation is usually identified by appropriation language stating that funds are, "to remain available until expended." Please reference this house.gov website for more information.

No, customer agencies receive direct appropriations for Rent. As a result, providing an RWA to pay for Rent could augment the customer agency’s appropriation. Thus, PBS cannot facilitate the use of an RWA as a funding source for Rent, as customers receive directly appropriated funds for that purpose.


Bona fide need is a fiscal law requirement established in 31 U.S.C. § 1502 specifying that a time-limited appropriation can be obligated only to meet a legitimate need arising in (or in some cases arising before but continuing to exist in) the fiscal year for which the appropriation was made. In other words, an agency cannot use current year funds for a future year’s need.

PBS’s role in checking the bona fide need is to make sure that the customer agency’s need for the goods or services aligns with the timing of its appropriation, making sure the customer can document and define the need so as not to allow current year funds to be “banked” for future year needs, and ensuring that the contract can be awarded within a reasonable amount of time. PBS’s role is to ensure that projects are fully defined and funding is appropriately spent.

Yes, PBS can accept an RWA for nonseverable services and begin the work in the next fiscal year because the customer’s bona fide need for the work exists when the RWA is accepted (i.e., in September). Bona fide need refers to the timing of the need and not the timing of the expenditure. If the customer needs the project, could use the project today, and can define the need for the project today, then the Bona Fide Needs rule has been satisfied.

RWA Policy

Funding of the same scope of work for a nonseverable service over several fiscal years. More specifically, incremental funding is defined as using time-limited funds (annual or multiple year funding) or mixed fund types such as annual or multiple year funding and funding that is available until expended (no-year funds) from multiple fiscal years to fund a nonseverable service, such as construction.

No. Fiscal law and GSA and DoD policy prohibit incremental funding, regardless of fund type.

The entire funding to support the estimate for the scope of work must provide for a discrete and fully functional project deliverable (that is, a complete phase or stage of the project or essentially a severable component of the scope of work for the nonseverable service).

Ensure each RWA fully funds the associated scope of work and is for a discrete deliverable (i.e. other RWAs have not already been accepted for the same scope of work).

No, PBS cannot issue a Request for Proposal or Request for Price (RFP) prior to accepting an RWA. It is not unusual to seek market prices when developing an RFP, however a contractor cannot be given information that will assist it with bidding or preparing a proposal. For a lease, the lessor can solicit estimates.

PBS must ensure that no additional obligations are placed against the RWA. PBS will then close out the RWA (rather than cancelling it) and bill the client agency for the costs already incurred.

Several regions process RWAs through their regional centralized mailboxes found here under the “Submitting an RWA to GSA” section. Ultimately, any GSA associate may receive an RWA and he or she should forward it to the regional centralized mailbox, RWA Manager, or appropriate GSA POC.

No, accepting an RWA funded with expired funds that was submitted by a customer agency but never officially accepted by PBS by signing the RWA violates the Recording Act (31 U.S.C. § 1501) which states that an amount shall be recorded as an obligation only when supported by written evidence of a binding agreement between 2 agencies that was executed before the end of the period of fund availability. Since PBS did not sign and accept this RWA during the period of fund availability, there was no binding agreement or basis for the customer agency to obligate the funds. If the customer agency continues to desire the project, the RWA with the expired funds should be returned to the customer agency unaccepted and the customer agency should submit a new RWA using funds that are currently available for new obligations.

Yes, PBS can accept phased RWAs, but each phase must include a discrete and fully functional project deliverable and be fully funded.

RWAs are a type of IAA. Upon acceptance by PBS, the RWA is the document used by PBS to obligate the funds on behalf of the requesting agency. As such, PBS then becomes the servicing agency and the funds are recorded on the requesting agency’s accounting records as an obligation. If there is a separate memorandum of agreement, or IAA, PBS requires that it be attached to the RWA Form 2957 as a supplement to, but never in lieu of, the RWA. In any event, PBS always requires an RWA to be submitted when a customer agency is requesting work to be performed by PBS, as the servicing agency, under either 40 U.S.C. § 592(b)(2) or the Economy Act.

RWA Amendments and Antecedent Liabilities

An RWA should be amended for cost increases that are attributable to work within the scope of the original RWA or for new scope when added in the same fiscal year the original RWA was accepted. A new RWA is required for work that is outside the scope of the original RWA if we are in a later fiscal year than the one in which the original RWA was accepted.

They are required whenever the any of the following fields change: authorized amount, customer fund year, customer fund type, customer fund expiration, customer Fund Certifying Official email address, or GSA-PBS Approving Official email address.

Personal Property

Yes, but the RWAs must fall into the specific guidelines and rules outlined by the Stand Alone Option for Furniture Acquisition (SOFA) program.

No. It is attached to the structure so it is not considered personal property.

90 Day “Reasonable Time” Restrictions

GSA’s Acquisition Policy requires that PBS re-obligate customer agency funds within 90 days after acceptance, unless a schedule is in place at the time of RWA acceptance that details when the obligation will take place. This is to ensure the Bona Fide Needs rule is not broken and that PBS is accepting funds for projects that customer agencies truly need.

Customer agency funds must be re-obligated by PBS within a “reasonable time” after acceptance of the RWA. 90 days is a standard applied by PBS. Contracting time should be built into the schedule, so if 90 days to obligate is not realistic, then the schedule should be reviewed with the customer prior to RWA acceptance.

5 Year Liquidation Period

The timing of availability of an appropriation means an agency is given funds through an appropriation and those funds must be obligated within a specific time period. If an agency is given a $1M annual appropriation for the current fiscal year, this means the agency has until the end of the fiscal year to obligate that $1M. If the agency obligates $1M to PBS on an RWA, and PBS has re-obligated the customer agency’s funds within a reasonable time, then PBS has up to 5 fiscal years from the end of the customer’s obligational authority (the end of this fiscal year in this case) to incur all obligations and to liquidate (expend) the obligations incurred. (See 31 U.S.C. § 1553). PBS is required, by law, to incur its obligations within a reasonable time, as detailed in the “reasonable time” questions.

The customer’s obligational authority is determined by the type of appropriation it receives from Congress. For an annual appropriation, the customer’s obligational authority expires at the end of the fiscal year in which it was received. For a three-year appropriation, it expires at the end of the third year after the funds were received. PBS must re-obligate customer agency funds within a reasonable time as specified in the RWA or within 90 days from acceptance of the RWA. PBS can liquidate funds obligated to it by the customer for up to 5 fiscal years after the customer’s obligational authority has expired.

No. For annual funding, the customer only has 1 fiscal year to obligate those funds to PBS. (See 31 U.S.C. § 1502). PBS then has up to 5 fiscal years, if necessary, to obligate to contractors and liquidate those obligations (See 31 U.S.C. § 1553).

No. The 5 year liquidation period clock does not start until the customer’s obligational authority expires. (See 31 U.S.C. §§ 1552 - 1553).

The funds are sent back to the customer agency who must return the funds to the Treasury. The customer agency may be able to obligate currently available funds in accordance with 31 U.S.C. § 1553(b) if the customer wants to continue with the project and also to cover any costs PBS may have incurred that were not yet billed.

The five year liquidation rule from 31 U.S.C. § 1552 does not apply to no-year money. No-year funds are generally marked for specific projects and normally remain available until they are expended, thus never really “expiring” unless Congress withdraws or rescinds the funding. That said, projects exceeding five years in duration are not common and require heightened review and scrutiny.

Remaining Funds at Closeout

If there are funds remaining on an RWA at the end of a project, PBS must send a Closeout Letter to the customer so the customer can de-obligate the funds on its books and determine any further availability or potential use of any remaining funds.

No. If funds are remaining on an RWA, then the RWA should be closed and notice should be given to the customer identifying the remaining balance that should be de-obligated.

If the customer de-obligates funds, then it is up to their Fund’s Certifying Official to reprogram and recertify the funds. If it comes back to PBS as an RWA, then PBS has to view it as a new project. If the obligational authority of the funds has expired, PBS will reject the RWA.

Not at completion, but at financial closeout PBS should return any remaining funds to the customer and let the customer agency decide what to do with the funds.

RWAs without any financial activity and all R-type RWAs (regardless of financial activity) may be canceled, but RWAs with any financial activity (except for R-types) will follow the substantial completion process. PBS will collect any remaining expenses incurred prior to early completion and then allow the customer to de-obligate the remainder.

Economy Act & Department of Defense RWAs

For goods and severable services, PBS must accept the RWA, award a contract, and the contractor must begin performance for the requested goods or services prior to the end of the fiscal year. For nonseverable services, PBS must accept the RWA and award a contract for the requested services prior to the end of the fiscal year.

The DoD procedures are different as a result of DoD-specific policies.

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