GSA Response to NTEU on Mileage Reimbursement
5/9/08: In March of this year, NTEU wrote to GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, asking that she make the mileage reimbursement rates federal employees receive for government use of their privately owned automobile retroactive to the first of the year. Review her response by clicking here, Doan Response.
Each fall the Internal Revenue Service (as a matter of tax policy, not as an employer) makes a survey of fuel and other costs to determine the maximum tax-exempt mileage reimbursement employers may offer employees. This new rate takes effect the first of the year. After the first of the year, GSA makes a separate discernment on whether this maximum rate will be applied to federal employees. In practice, GSA has long matched the rate set by IRS. However, by making a separate determination and by waiting to make that determination until after the IRS rate takes effect, federal employees miss out on a rate adjustment for weeks or months into the new year. When the wait has been brief and inflation has been low, this might be tolerable. However this year, with skyrocketing gas prices and an inability to issue the new rate until March 19, NTEU asked that the 2008 rate be made retroactive to January 1, 2008.
Administrator Doan made no defense of the fact that federal employees were being reimbursed at less than their actual costs during the period in question. She simply stated the retroactivity would have a cost for the federal government. On that point she is right, but her policy is saving the federal government money by having NTEU members paying for government business out of their own pocket. NTEU is very dissatisfied with her response.
On a positive note, she did indicate that GSA is asking for legislative authority to allow the IRS rate be immediately applied to federal employees, resolving this problem once if enacted. NTEU will be lobbying Congress to act quickly on this legislation. While Doan’s support for this legislative change gives evidence that there is no purpose to this year’s almost three month delay in increasing the reimbursement rate, continuing the discussion with her will not be a part of NTEU’s effort as subsequent to her letter, she resigned as head of GSA. NTEU will work with other parties at GSA and the Hill in seeking the necessary change.