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Pay & Leave Pay Administration

Fact Sheet: Special Rates - Changes in Documentation

This document provides information to agency human resources (HR) specialists regarding changes OPM has made in the documentation of special rates on Standard Form (SF) 50, Notification of Personnel Action, and in the Central Personnel Data File (CPDF).

The documentation changes flow from recent changes in law and regulation. (See section 301 of the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004, Public Law 108-411, October 30, 2004, and implementing regulations that took effect on May 1, 2005.)

The changes described below have been previously communicated to agency HR system and payroll processing officials. Changes #1 and #2 are already in effect. Change #3 will become effective no later than October 2006.

Change #1 - Termination of Underlying Special Rates

By law, an employee's special rate must be terminated if the employee is entitled to a higher locality rate of pay. Thus, even if such an employee is covered by a special rate table that shows an underlying special rate (i.e., a special rate that is less than an applicable locality rate), that special rate is not used for any purpose as far as that employee is concerned. (Because special rate tables can cover multiple locations with different locality rates, a special rate may be higher than the corresponding locality rate in some locations, but not in others.) OPM has informed agencies that records for such employees should not have a special rate "pay rate determinant" (PRD) code (5, 6, E, or F) and should not have a special rate table identification (SRTID) code. [Exception: Until Change #3 takes effect in October 2006, agencies may continue to use SRTID code 0491 for law enforcement officers (LEOs) receiving LEO special base rates at grades 3 through 10 under section 403 of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990.] The underlying special rate should not be reported in the Basic Pay field (blocks 12A and 20A on the SF 50); instead, the employee's General Schedule (GS) base rate (or special law enforcement officer (LEO) base rate, if applicable) should be reported in the Basic Pay field.

In summary, an employee should have a special rate PRD code and an SRTID code only if (1) the employee is covered by a special rate table and (2) the applicable special rate exceeds any other pay rate to which the employee is entitled (e.g., a locality rate). In this transition period, we request that agency HR specialists take extra steps to ensure that these new instructions regarding underlying special rates are followed. We note that an employee's entitlement to a special rate must be reexamined at the time of any personnel action that might affect that entitlement, such as a general adjustment in locality rates and/or special rates, a geographic move, a step increase, a promotion, or other change in position.

Change #2 - Reporting Special Rates as Base Plus Supplement

In the past, special rates were viewed as a rate of basic pay replacing the corresponding GS base rates of pay. Under current law and regulations, a special rate is viewed as consisting of a base rate (GS rate or LEO special base rate) and a special rate supplement-similar to the base-plus-supplement concept we have long used for locality rates. In other words, special rate employees have the same base rates as non-special rate employees, but have a different supplement.

The Basic Pay field (blocks 12A and 20A on the SF 50) for a special rate employee should contain the applicable GS base rate or, if applicable, LEO special base rate (for LEOs at grades 3 through 10). As before, the special rate is reported in the Adjusted Basic Pay field (blocks 12C and 20C on the SF 50). The value of the special rate supplement is the difference between the special rate and the base rate (i.e., the difference between Adjusted Basic Pay and Basic Pay). The amount of the special rate supplement should be reported in the "Locality Adj." block on the SF 50 (blocks 12B and 20B) in the same manner as locality pay.

Change #3 - New "GL" Pay Plan Code for Employees

Receiving LEO Special Base Rates

No later than the first pay period beginning on or after October 1, 2006, any General Schedule employee entitled to an LEO special base rate at grades GS-3 through GS-10 should be assigned a "GL" pay plan code instead of a "GS" pay plan code. OPM will no longer describe the LEO special base rates as a type of special rate; thus, (1) the special rate table identification code of 0491 will no longer be used, and (2) an employee's entitlement to LEO special base rates will no longer be a basis for assigning pay rate determinant (PRD) codes reserved for special rate employees (5, 6, E, and F). The GL pay plan code will identify a General Schedule employee's entitlement to LEO special base rates. If a GL employee also is entitled to a special rate under 5 U.S.C. 5305 (or similar authority) that exceeds the employee's corresponding locality rate (or LEO special base rate, for locations outside the 48 contiguous States), the agency will assign the appropriate special rate PRD code (5, 6, E, or F) and special rate table identification code.

Please note that when a law enforcement officer with a GL pay plan code is promoted to a GS position at grade GS-11 or higher, the officer's pay plan code should be changed to GS.

For more information, go to pay administration rules for GS employees.

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