Frequently Asked Questions, Per Diem
- What is per diem?
- How do I find the per diem rate for (city/county, state)?
- What is the difference between non-standard areas (NSA) and standard CONUS locations?
- How are the CONUS per diem rates set for NSAs?
- How does GSA set boundary lines for where per diem rates apply?
- How can a CONUS non-standard area (NSA) receive a special review?
- How can I request the establishment of a new NSA?
- What if a city is not listed on the CONUS Per Diem website?
- Can hotels refuse to honor the per diem rate to federal government employees and federal government contractors?
- Is the hotel’s GOV rate the same as the federal per diem rate?
- Are lodging taxes included in the CONUS per diem rate?
- Are taxes and gratuity (tips) included in the Meals and Incidental (M&IE) expense rate?
- What is considered an incidental expense?
- How often is a study conducted on the M&IE expense rates?
- What is the M&IE reimbursement rate during the first and last travel day?
- Can I combine the lodging and M&IE per diem rates (“mix and match”) in order to get a nicer hotel room or spend more on meals?
- Do I need to provide receipts?
- What do I do if there are no hotels available at per diem?
- Do I receive a meal reimbursement for day travel away from my regular duty station?
- How much per diem can I pay a contractor?
- How much can a trucker deduct for meals per day?
What is per diem?
Per diem is the allowance for lodging (excluding taxes), meals and incidental expenses. The General Services Administration (GSA) establishes per diem rates for destinations within the lower 48 Continental United States (CONUS). The State Department establishes the foreign rates (for example, Canada, Spain, Japan). The Department of Defense (DOD) establishes non-foreign rates which includes Alaska, Hawaii, and all U.S. Territories. For more information on non-foreign rates, visit DOD's Per Diem, Travel, and Transportation Allowance Committee at www.defensetravel.dod.mil and foreign rates can be found at http://aoprals.state.gov.
How do I find the per diem rate for (city/county, state)?
Please visit www.gsa.gov/perdiem to find the rates. Click on the state you need to view that state's rates or enter the location in the search box. Even though some cities are listed for your lookup convenience, not all cities can or will be listed, so look for the county where you will be working. To look up the county, visit explorer.naco.org. If the city or county you are looking for is not listed on the GSA per diem rate page, then the standard FY19 CONUS rate of $94 for lodging and $55 for meals applies.
What is the difference between non-standard areas (NSA) and standard CONUS locations?
Non-standard areas (NSAs) are frequently traveled by the federal community and are reviewed on an annual basis. Standard CONUS locations are less frequently traveled by the federal community and are not specifically listed on our web site. The FY19 standard CONUS per diem rate is $94 for lodging, $55 for meals and incidental expenses.
How are the CONUS per diem rates set for NSAs?
Per diem rates are set based upon contractor-provided average daily rate (ADR) data of local lodging properties. The properties must be fire-safe and have a FEMA ID number. The ADR is a travel industry metric that divides room sales rental revenue by the number of rooms sold. All rates are evaluated to ensure that they are fair and equitable in the GSA and Office of Management and Budget approval process. For more detailed information, visit the Factors Influencing Lodging Rates page.
How does GSA set boundary lines for where per diem rates apply?
5 U.S.C § 5702 gives the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) the authority to establish the system of reimbursing Federal employees for the subsistence expenses (lodging, meals, and incidentals) of official travel. The law governs how GSA sets rates today, and allows the GSA Administrator to establish locality-based allowances for these expenses with a reporting requirement back to Congress. The law was established to protect Federal employees by fairly reimbursing them for travel expenses. In addition, if a Federal employee cannot find a room within the established per diem rates, the travel policy allows the agency to reimburse the actual hotel charges up to 300 percent of the established per diem rates.
The per diem program has several standards that it follows in its systematic structured per diem methodology. The first level is having a “standard rate” that applies to approximately 85 percent of counties in the continental United States.
It is GSA's policy that, if and when a Federal agency, on behalf of its employees, requests that the standard rate is not adequate in a specific area to cover costs of travel as intended by the law, GSA will study the locality to determine whether the locality under study should become a “non-standard area.” If the study recommends a change, a change will be implemented as deemed appropriate. GSA has implemented a process to review and update both the standard and non-standard areas annually.
The standard "boundary line" for where non-standard areas apply is generally one county. This is the case for approximately 85 percent of the non-standard rates that GSA sets. However, in some cases, agencies have requested that the rate apply to an area larger than one county, such as a metropolitan area. In a very small number of cases, an agency can and has requested that a rate apply to just a city and not the entire county. In some rural areas, a rate sometimes applies to more than one county due to lack of an adequate data sample to set a rate otherwise.
GSA uses the Federal Information Processing Series (FIPS) code standard for its apply areas. While GSA often uses ZIP codes to select hotel data samples, the apply area is coded by a FIPS code, unless a Federal agency only wants the rate to apply to certain ZIP codes. These codes are managed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to ensure uniform identification of geographic entities through all federal government agencies.
How can a CONUS non-standard area (NSA) receive a special review?
In order for GSA to conduct a "special" review of a non-standard area (NSA) during the current fiscal year, a Federal Agency Travel Manager or an equivalent individual in grade or title must submit a signed letter on agency letterhead or stationery stating that the present per diem rate is inadequate. The request should contain the following information:
- The geographical areas you want us to study, especially ZIP codes.
- The property names (including addresses, ZIP codes, and rates) where your federal travelers stay while on temporary duty travel and those properties (including addresses, ZIP codes, and rates) that will not honor the federal lodging per diem rate.
- The number of times actual expenses were used and/or federal travelers had to use another lodging facility to stay within the maximum allowable lodging per diem rate, which resulted in additional transportation expenses (rental car, taxi) being incurred.
All valid requests postmarked no later than 12/31 will be eligible for this review. All valid requests received after 12/31, but before 4/1 will be evaluated during the following fiscal year's annual review cycle. After all the requirements are submitted, GSA will obtain updated data from our contractor to determine whether a per diem rate should be increased, decreased or remain unchanged. We will conduct no more than one "special" review for a particular NSA annually.
Letters should be sent to: Per Diem Team Leader, Travel Management Policy (MTT), General Services Administration, 1800 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20405. For more direct service, please also scan and email your request (a signed letter on agency letterhead must be attached) to email@example.com.
How can I request the establishment of a new NSA?
The procedure and the request deadline are the same as FAQ #6. However, requests received after 3/31 will not be included in the following fiscal year's annual review cycle because the annual review will have already begun.
What if a city is not listed on the CONUS Per Diem website?
If a city is not listed, check to ensure that the county within which it is located is also not listed. Visit the National Association of Counties website at explorer.naco.org to determine the county a destination is located in. If the city is not listed, but the county is, then the per diem rate is the rate for that entire county. If the city and the county are not listed, then that area receives the standard CONUS location rate, which in FY19 is $94 for lodging and $55 for meals and incidental expenses.
Can hotels refuse to honor the per diem rate to federal government employees and federal government contractors?
Hotels are not required to honor the federal per diem rates. It is each property’s business decision whether or not to offer the rate. Hotels also may or may not choose to extend the rate to other individuals, such as government contractors.
Is the hotel’s GOV rate the same as the federal per diem rate?
Hotels sometimes offer a "GOV" rate, which might be different than the federal per diem rate. If it is higher, you need to receive approval for actual expense prior to travel in order to receive full reimbursement. It is the traveler’s responsibility to know the federal per diem reimbursement rates, and should not assume a GOV rate is the same as the federal per diem rate. See the FTR Chapter 301, Subpart D-Actual Expense and follow your agency's guidelines.
Are lodging taxes included in the CONUS per diem rate?
Lodging taxes are not included in the CONUS per diem rate. The Federal Travel Regulation §301-11.27 states that in CONUS, lodging taxes paid by the federal traveler are reimbursable as a miscellaneous travel expense limited to the taxes on reimbursable lodging costs. For foreign areas, lodging taxes have not been removed from the foreign per diem rates established by the Department of State. Separate claims for lodging taxes incurred in foreign areas not allowed. Some states and local governments may exempt federal travelers from the payment of taxes. For more information regarding tax exempt status, travelers should visit the State Tax Forms page.
Are taxes and gratuity (tips) included in the Meals and Incidental (M&IE) expense rate?
Yes, the meals and incidental expense (M&IE) rate does include taxes and tips in the rate, so travelers will not be reimbursed separately for those items.
What is considered an incidental expense?
The Federal Travel Regulation Chapter 300, Part 300-3,under Per Diem Allowance, describes incidental expenses as: [F}ees and tips given to porters, baggage carriers, hotel staff, and staff on ships.
How often is a study conducted on the M&IE expense rates?
A M&IE study has traditionally been conducted every three to five years. Based upon the recommendations of the Governmentwide Travel Advisory Committee, GSA began reviewing rates every three years starting in FY2016. The rates were updated for FY2019, and range from $55 for the standard CONUS rate, and between $56 - $76 for the NSA tiers.
What is the M&IE reimbursement rate during the first and last travel day?
On the first and last travel day, Federal employees are only eligible for 75 percent of the total M&IE rate for their temporary duty travel location (not the official duty station location). For your convenience, the M&IE breakdown page has a table showing the calculated amount for the "First and Last Day of Travel."
Can I combine the lodging and M&IE per diem rates (“mix and match”) in order to get a nicer hotel room or spend more on meals?
For federal employees, the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) does not make a provision for “mixing and matching” reimbursement rates. The lodging per diem rates are a maximum amount; the traveler only receives actual lodging costs up to that maximum rate. Therefore, there is no “extra” lodging per diem to add to the M&IE rate. Likewise, the M&IE per diem cannot be given up or transferred to lodging costs. See FTR §301-11.100 and §301-11.101 for more information.
Do I need to provide receipts?
For any official temporary travel destination, you must provide a receipt to substantiate your claimed travel expenses for lodging and receipts for any authorized expenses incurred costing over $75, or a reason acceptable to your agency explaining why you are unable to provide the necessary receipt (see Federal Travel Regulation §301-11.25).
What do I do if there are no hotels available at per diem?
You may ask your agency to authorize the actual expense allowance provision. The Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) §§301-11.300 through 306 notes that if lodging is not available at your temporary duty location, your agency may authorize or approve the maximum per diem rate of up to 300% of per diem for the location where lodging is obtained. You should also ensure you have checked www.fedrooms.com to confirm there are no rooms available at per diem in the area where you need to travel.
Do I receive a meal reimbursement for day travel away from my regular duty station?
According to the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR), travelers are entitled to 75% of the prescribed meals and incidental expenses for one day travel away from your official station if it is longer than 12 hours. Please see FTR §301-11.101.
How much per diem can I pay a contractor?
GSA establishes per diem rates and related policies for federal travelers on official travel only, and cannot address specific inquiries concerning the payment of contractors. If the contractor is on a federal contract, check with the contracting officer to see what is stated in their contract. Contractors should also check the travel regulations of their company.
How much can a trucker deduct for meals per day?
GSA establishes per diem rates, along with its policies for federal employees on official travel only. Truck-related questions should be addressed either to the Department of Transportation (www.dot.gov) or the Internal Revenue Service (www.irs.gov).