What are GSA rates?
The General Services Administration (GSA) is a government agency in the United States that manages government buildings, real estate, and property.
Why does this matter to you as a travel tech?
Because they also set rates for your lovely tax free stipends!
The GSA rate is the maximum about of tax-free money you can receive for housing, food and incidentals. It will vary based on location, so it’s important to look at these rates before you accept an assignment!
If you want to look at the rates for your next assignment, take a look at the GSA website.
How to Search for Rates
From the link, you can search for city and state to find your per diem rates.
For example, let’s say we want to take a travel assignment in Atlanta, Georgia. Just fill in the appropriate information in the search box.
It should look like this…
Now just hit the Find Rates button!
We will see both a lodging and meals section.
Curious what all of the columns and associated values mean?
Let’s start with lodging:
Continuing with our Atlanta, GA example we see that there is a dollar amount for each month.
You might be thinking… How in the heck am I supposed to afford housing with such a small rate per month?
The good news is this is a DAILY rate.
Therefore, in this example, if we were to find housing in Atlanta, GA in October of 2021 you should be getting $163 PER DAY. This, of course, is only tax free if you are already renting a room/apartment or have a mortgage because you to may have to prove to the IRS that you are duplicating your housing expenses.
In this example, we should be receiving $1141 per week in housing to meet the maximum per diem rate set by the GSA rate for this location.
I always encourage fellow travelers to look at the housing options in their area. Since you will mostly likely be looking for furnished places, those rates can be higher and you need to confirm the assignment makes financial sense.
Let’s take a look at meals:
The main focus for the duration of your contract should be the M&IE Total as this will be your daily food allowance. Typically this amount is paid out for each day that you work.
So, if you’re working a 5 days a week then you will take the M&IE total and multiply by 5 to give yourself a maximum per paycheck.
In this example, we should be receiving a maximum of $74 for each day that we work. Therefore, for a five day work week, you can just tack on an extra $370 of tax free money to your paycheck. Of course, this will help cover for meals, but you can save extra money by cooking your own food. Then you can pocket the rest of that cash tax free!
Check Your Paycheck
As an aside, I highly recommend that you check your paycheck every week!
Let’s say that you pick up a Saturday shift to help out… Well, that’s an extra day worked and you absolutely should be receiving meal per diems for that day. i.e., You need to get paid for 6 days of meals instead of 5 days.
New to Travel Work?
Visit our entire travel work series here.
Did you know about GSA rates before you started traveling? Reach out in the comments below!