Isolated Posts and Government Housing Directive

Vacation Travel Assistance

The purpose of this document is to respond to frequently asked questions on the Vacation Travel Assistance provisions of the IPGHD and provide useful guidance to departments in administering this provision.

When reading the questions and answers below, please refer to the referenced sections in the Isolated Post and Government Housing Directive (IPGHD) posted on the National Joint Council (NJC) website.

Q1.What is a VTA?

A1. The Vacation Travel Assistance (VTA) is a benefit provided to employees to assist them and each applicable dependant in travelling away from the isolated post. Employees must request the VTA in writing to their deputy head. As indicated in subsection 3.6.5, there is no requirement to travel or take leave to receive the VTA payment. However, where travel does not occur, the VTA is a taxable benefit.

Q2. How many VTAs can an employee request in a fiscal year?

A2. The number of VTAs will depend on the Environment Allowance level of the isolated post. Eligible employees living in an isolated post which is classified as a level 1, 2 or 3 for the Environment level can request one VTA per fiscal year. The VTA can be requested at any time during the fiscal year once the rates are published on the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) website.

Eligible employees living in an isolated post which is classified as a level 4 or 5 for the Environment Allowance can request two VTAs per year. The first VTA covers the period from April 1st to September 30th and is based on the rate established effective April 1st. The second covers the period from October 1st to March 31st and is based on the rate established effective October 1st. They must be requested separately during those timeframes. (Reference subsections 3.4.1 and 3.4.2)

Employees receive the full rate provided they worked at the isolated post for the full period. If not, the amount is pro-rated to reflect the period of time worked at the isolated post.

Q3. How are the rates for the VTA established?

A3. The VTAs are established by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The process for establishing the rates is as follows:

  1. The list of isolated posts is reviewed and updated as required.
  2. The Government of Canada travel service provider (HRG) is contracted to obtain the commercial airline rates.
  3. The rates obtained are based on a return full fare economy class airfare, for travel from the isolated post (IP) to the point of departure. The point of departure as defined in the Directive means Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Moncton, Halifax, or St. John's, whichever of these places is the nearest to the headquarters of an employee by the most practical route and means of transportation. Government rates are not used for the purpose of establishing the VTA rates.
  4. Upon receipt of the available airline routings and rates from HRG, TBS reviews the information provided and selects the rate which will apply for each isolated post based on the following criteria:
    1. ease of travel (most direct routing, fewest connections possible, no other modes of transportation such as driving or ferries when possible, etc.); and
    2. most economical
  5. Approval of the rates is sought within TBS.
  6. An HR notice is sent to Designated Departmental Coordinators and rates are posted on the TBS website.

Q4. Are taxes included in the VTA rates which are posted on the TBS website?

A4. The fares published on the TBS website do not include Goods and Services Tax (GST), provincial or territorial sales tax. Departments are responsible for adding the taxes to the VTA rate which is established. The payment excludes airport fees, departure taxes, NAVCAN surcharges, travel agent fees, and other miscellaneous fees. (Reference subsection 3.6.1).

Q5. Why is there a difference between the VTA rate which is provided and the actual cost of the ticket purchased?

A5. The rates for the VTA are established based on the rate provided for travel on April 1st, or October 1st if applicable, of every year as outlined in question 3 above. Airline fares can fluctuate on a daily basis, depending on a number of factors (traveler volume, fuel prices, time of day, industry changes, regulatory changes, etc.). This explains why there is often a difference between the established VTA rates and the actual cost of an airfare at a particular point in time in a particular isolated post. As a result, VTAs can either be more or less than the air fares in place at the time of the employee’s travel. It is important to remember that the intent of the VTA is to provide assistance to travel away from post. It may not cover all costs incurred.

Q6. How should the table listing the VTA rates on the TBS website be read?

A6. An excerpt from the 2018 rates is copied below and includes three examples of isolated posts.

Isolated Post

EA Classification of post

Adult Fare (in $)

Child Fare (when applicable in $) Child is 12 years of age and under

Entitlement to Lower KM Rate per employee to (location)

Entitlement to Travel Expenses of $100 per person each way, if travel distance is 250 km or over one way

Desmarais (Wabasca)

(Alberta)

2

Drive

Drive

Edmonton

Yes

Berens River

(Manitoba)

3

418

338

N/A

N/A

Burnt Islands

(Newfoundland)

 4

 926

926

Stephenville

Yes

 

The first column of the table indicates the isolated post. Posts may be added or removed based on the criteria established in Part II of the IPGHD. The second column indicates the Environment Allowance (EA) classification level for each isolated post. This will confirm the number of VTAs applicable as outlined in question 2.

The first element to determine is whether the isolated post has an airport or not.

If the isolated post does not have an airport, the table will show a location in the fifth column. The payment for the posts which do not have an airport will be the airfare between the nearest airport and the point of departure as reflected in the table plus the return lower kilometric rate between the post and the nearest airport. In addition, where the distance between the post and the nearest airport OR between the post and the point of departure is 250 km or more, the employee and dependant(s) will each receive $200 for miscellaneous expenses, $100 each way.

If the isolated post has an airport, N/A will appear in the fifth column and the payment will be the airfare between the post and the point of departure as reflected in the table to which GST and provincial or territorial sales tax if applicable must be added. Where available, a child fare will be provided for children who are 12 years of age and under.

Where the most practical and direct means of reaching the point of departure is by road, the return lower kilometric rate for the driving distance between the post and the point of departure is provided. In addition, where the distance between the post and the nearest airport OR between the post and the point of departure is 250 km or more, the employee and dependant(s) will each receive $200 for miscellaneous expenses, $100 each way.

See the explanation below of how the VTA is calculated for each location.

Example 1 – Desmarais, Alberta

For this location, the most practical and direct means of reaching the post is by road. Since the employee must drive from Desmarais to Edmonton, the VTA for the employee will be based on the return lower kilometric rate for the driving distance between the isolated post (Desmarais) and the point of departure (Edmonton). Since the distance between the Desmarais and Edmonton is more than 250 km, the employee and each dependant are also eligible to miscellaneous expenses of $100 per person each way, $200 total.  

The VTA which would be issued to the employee is therefore the return lower kilometric rate for travel between Desmarais and Edmonton and $200 ($100 each way) for the employee and each dependant (reference subsections 3.6.3 and 3.6.4).

Employee with three dependants (spouse, 13 year old, 12 year old)

Provision

Amount

Return lower kilometric rate for the distance of travel between Desmarais and Edmonton (328 km X 20 cents X 2 = $131.20)

     

$131.20

Miscellaneous expenses for employee

$200    

Miscellaneous expenses for spouse

$200    

Miscellaneous expenses for 13 year old dependant

$200    

Miscellaneous expenses for 12 year old dependant

$200    

Total VTA issued to employee

$931.20

 

Example 2 – Berens River, Manitoba

For this location, the most practical and direct means of reaching the post is by plane. The table indicates both adult and child airfares because the airline provides a child fare for children of 12 years of age or less. A kilometric rate is not applicable because there is an airport at the isolated post.

The VTA which would be issued to the employee is $418 for the employee and any dependant who is over 12 years of age plus applicable taxes and $338 for any dependant who is 12 years of age or under plus applicable taxes.

Employee with three dependants (spouse, 13 year old, 12 year old)

Provision

Amount

Airfare for employee

$418    

Applicable taxes (Manitoba – 13%)

$54.34  

Airfare for spouse

$418    

Applicable taxes (Manitoba – 13%)

$54.34 

Airfare for 13 year old dependant

$418   

Applicable taxes (Manitoba – 13%)

$54.34

Airfare for 12 year old dependant (applicable child rate)

$338   

Applicable taxes (Manitoba – 13%)

$43.94

Total VTA issued to employee

$1798.96

 

Example 3 – Burnt Islands, Newfoundland

For this location there is no airport at the post. Employees must drive to the nearest airport which is in Stephenville. Burnt Islands is less than 250 km from Stephenville.

The table indicates the same airfare in the adult fare and in the child fare column because the airline does not provide a child fare. Given that the airport is not at the isolated post, an amount for the return lower kilometric rate for the driving distance between Burnt Islands and Stephenville is added to the amount. Finally, given that the distance between Burnt Islands and Stephenville is less than 250 km, there is no entitlement to miscellaneous expenses of $200 per person.

The VTA which would be issued to the employee is the return lower kilometric rate for the distance of travel between Burnt Islands and Stephenville and the amount of $926 plus applicable taxes for the employee and each dependant.

Employee with three dependants (spouse, 13 year old, 12 year old)

Provision

Amount

Return lower kilometric rate for the distance of travel between Burnt Islands and Stephenville (191 km X 21.5 cents X 2 = $82.13)

  

$82.13 

Airfare for employee

$926    

Applicable taxes (Newfoundland and Labrador - 15%)

$138.90

Airfare for spouse

$926    

Applicable taxes (Newfoundland and Labrador - 15%)

$138.90

Airfare for 13 year old dependant

$926    

Applicable taxes (Newfoundland and Labrador - 15%)

$138.90

Airfare for 12 year old dependant (no child rate applicable)

$926    

Applicable taxes (Newfoundland and Labrador - 15%)

$138.90

Total VTA issued to employee

$4341.73