Payment Obligations

Necessary Systems, Codes, and Accounts for Obligation Management

Section 2025—Requesting Treasury Appropriation Fund Symbols and Titles

Fiscal Service, in collaboration with OMB and the relevant administrative entity, establishes and assigns, amends, suspends, unsuspends, discontinues, and re-activates account symbols and titles. Treasury Appropriation Fund Symbols (TAFS) represent, by entity and bureau, individual appropriations, receipts, and other fund accounts. Fiscal Service posts appropriations or spending authorizations granted by the Congress to these accounts. Entities will also report these accounts to Treasury and OMB.

Fiscal Service establishes new TAFS according to TFM Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 1500 Section 1525.

These accounts are collected and published in the Federal Account Symbols and Titles (FAST) Book, which is updated periodically throughout the year.

Section 2050—Basic Disbursement Requirements

2050.10—General Requirements

The following requirements apply to all disbursements, whether in cash, checks, or electronic payments, that are issued on the U.S. Treasury or designated depositary banks for authorized and lawful payments and/or refunds of amounts collected:

  • Must support disbursements with sufficient information on the disbursement vouchers, or on documents attached to them, to enable the audit of the transactions of certifying and disbursing officers, as required by law,
  • Should mark vouchers or voucher schedules and supporting documents systematically, or manually when applicable, to prevent duplicate payments and to avoid mutilation, overwrite, inadvertent deletion, or destruction, and
  • If an original invoice has been lost or destroyed, the federal entity must obtain a duplicate from the original submitter of the invoice to support the voucher or voucher schedule. Then, the federal entity may process the voucher or voucher schedule through regular disbursement channels provided it places on or attaches to the duplicate invoice a full explanation as to the circumstances of the loss or destruction of the original invoice and a statement indicating that steps have been taken to prevent duplicate payment.

Note: Federal entities should be particularly alert to the possibility of duplicating payments whenever they:

  • Have delayed payments for extended periods of time after the due date,
  • Have received duplicate copies of invoices from vendors as follow-up claims and/or have submitted invoices or bills to more than one federal entity location for payment, or
  • Have received adjusted invoices after they have made payments.

2050.20—Cash Advances – Establishing Procedures for Cash Advances

It is the responsibility of grantor federal entities to monitor the cash management practices of their recipient organizations to ensure that federal cash is not maintained by them in excess of immediate disbursing needs. Federal entities must establish systems and procedures to assure that balances are maintained and commensurate with immediate disbursing needs, excess balances are promptly returned to the Treasury; and advance funding arrangements with recipient organizations unwilling or unable to comply are terminated.

Procedures established by federal entities should:

  • Specify that all contractual arrangements with recipient organizations provide that advance payments will be made only at times and in amounts necessary to meet immediate disbursing needs. This figure is calculated by the federal entity and should be reviewed quarterly. Federal entities should conduct independent annual reviews of the balances to ensure only amounts necessary to meet immediate disbursing needs are maintained. The results of the review should be shared with Treasury,
  • Monitor recipient organizations, and base evaluations on cash payments and not on accrued liabilities,
  • Require, except where specifically prohibited by law, all interest earned by recipient organizations on advances from federal funds be remitted to the federal entity. The federal entity will promptly return the funds to the Treasury, and
  • Immediately upon determination that an expenditure of advance funds is disallowable in accordance with the contractual arrangement, the federal entity should notify the recipient and require the return of such funds. Under no circumstances should funds be returned more than 30 days from the date of the notification by the federal entity.

2050.30—Preventing Payments Not Covered by an Appropriation or Continuing Resolution

Excluding payrolls in certain circumstances (see subsection 2045.20), the responsibility for preventing payments not covered by an appropriation or a continuing resolution rests with the federal entity certifying the payment. It is the responsibility of the federal entity’s CO to ensure that payments certified to disbursing officers are not improper. It is not the disbursing officer’s responsibility to investigate the date of the underlying obligation of certified scheduled payments.

2050.40—Payrolls – General

Responsibilities for the head of each federal entity include the following:

  • Establishing and maintaining an adequate payroll system, or
  • Using a payroll service provider with a system for covering pay, leave, and allowances, as a part of the system of accounting and internal control required by the Accounting and Auditing Act of 1950 (31 U.S.C. 3513). This system must conform to the principles, standards, and related requirements prescribed by the Comptroller General.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Department of Labor (DOL) issue regulations related to payroll voucher preparation.

2050.50—Payroll Creation

A disbursing officer who knows an obligation was incurred when funds were not available may not disburse a certified payment voucher. This circumstance can arise particularly in the case of payrolls when it is obvious that the time of obligation occurred after the appropriation or continuing resolution lapsed. Therefore, when annual appropriations have not been enacted and there is no continuing resolution under which obligations can be legally liquidated, disbursing officers should not knowingly release payrolls that extend beyond the period provided for in the appropriation or continuing resolution. The inclusive dates of a pay period serve as prima facie notice to disbursing officers of the date on which the obligation was incurred. Disbursing officers should not knowingly release payrolls for any pay period extending beyond or commencing after the expiration date of an appropriation or a continuing resolution, unless the chargeable appropriation is a no-year or unexpired multiple-year appropriation.

2050.50a—Payrolls Processed for the Entire Pay Period

Sometimes the expiration date of an appropriation or a continuing resolution does not coincide with the end of a pay period. Disbursing officers may not release payrolls that include salaries and wages earned beyond the expiration date of the appropriation or continuing resolution.

2050.50b—Payrolls Processed for a Portion of a Pay Period through the Expiration Date

Disbursing officers should make the usual advance release of payroll payments only to cover salaries and wages earned through the expiration date of an appropriation or a continuing resolution.

2050.50c—Payrolls for Pay Periods After the Expiration Date

For any partially covered pay period and all subsequent pay periods, federal entities should process payrolls for salaries and wages earned beyond the expiration date of an appropriation or a continuing resolution as usual. Disbursing officers may prepare payments for such payrolls and may hold them for immediate release upon approval of an appropriation or continuing resolution.

2050.60—Claims for Deceased Employees

In 1996, the procedures and forms to be used to process claims for deceased federal employees were transferred from GAO to OPM. In the “Determination with Respect to Transfer of Functions Pursuant to Public Law 104-53,” dated June 28, 1996, the Acting Director of OMB delegated this and other transferred functions to other federal entities. See 31 U.S.C. 3702 and 5 U.S.C. 5583 for claims involving federal civilian employees’ compensation and leave, and settlement of deceased employees’ accounts.

2050.70—Payee Information

Federal entities should uniformly follow the rules below in connection with the designation of the payee or payees of government payments.

2050.70a—Payments to Individuals

In all cases, use the first name, middle initials, if any, and surname of the payee. Omit punctuation marks except for the use of commas to set off the names of more than two payees.

2050.70b—Payments to Joint Accounts

Federal entities should carefully distinguish between using the term “joint” and “several” accounts in situations such as trust estates, decedents’ estates, trustees, executors, and administrators of the accounts.

Where two or more individuals are jointly entitled to receive the payment, the voucher should include all names as payees. Use the word “and” before the name of the last payee. Where the account is not a joint account but is held by two or more individuals, use “or” before the name of the last payee.

Note: Do not under any circumstances designate the word “estate” as the payee, for example, “Estate of A., deceased.” When the particular estate has only one trustee or one personal representative, designate the individual by name as the payee in that representative capacity, for example:

  • “T., trustee u/w of A., deceased” (in the case of a testamentary trust),
  • “T., trustee u/d from A. dated (date of trust indenture)” in the case of the transfer of the ownership of property between living persons (such as, inter vivos trust), and
  • “E., executor of the Estate of A. deceased” or “A., administrator of the Estate of B., deceased” (in the case of a decedent’s estate).

If the estate has several trustees or personal representatives, designate all trustees, administrators, or executors by name in their representative capacities as joint payees, for example, “A., B., and the X Trust Company, trustees u/w of D., deceased,” etc.

2050.80—Corporate Trustee or Executor in Receivership or in the Hands of the Local Banking Department

The federal entity should make the payment payable to the liquidating officer (Receiver, Secretary of Banking, Commissioner of Banking, etc.) as payee. The names of the corporate trustee or executor and the estate should appear in such designation, for example, “Secretary of Banking, in possession of the business and property of the X Trust Company, trustee u/w of D.” (This form varies according to the designation given the proper liquidating officer under the local law.)

The federal entity CO must be furnished a certified copy of the grant-of-letters testamentary, the will, or trust indenture stating that the intended payee is duly appointed, qualified, and acting trustee or executor. In instances where the administration of the estate is closed and the trustee or personal representative has been discharged, designate the legatees, distributees, or beneficiaries entitled to receive the payment in question as joint payees. The CO must be furnished first with a certified copy of the decree of distribution or other proper evidence from the court having jurisdiction of the particular estate showing the persons entitled to receive payment.

2050.90—Guardians of Minors

Because of differences in local law, there is no all-inclusive rule to determine the guardian to whom payment should be made. Some states require the guardian of the estate of a minor to be someone other than the guardian of his/her person, while others combine both functions in the same individual. The local law must be examined in each case. The CO must be furnished with a certified copy of the appointment that the particular individual is authorized to receive the payment on behalf of the individual’s ward.

The designation of the payee may be in many forms, depending on the circumstances of the particular case. The following are three examples:

  • “G., guardian of M., a minor”,
  • “G., guardian of the estate of M., a minor”, or
  • “G., guardian of the person and estate of M., a minor”.

These examples are not all-inclusive. In every case, designate the guardian according to title under the local law. Ordinarily, parents or persons standing in place of parents (loco parentis) are not entitled to receive payments on behalf of their minor children. This question also is one of local law. Where the appointment of a guardian is not required and payment may properly be made to the parent, designate the payee in the following form: “F., father of M., a minor.”


As in the case of guardians of minors, the designation in this class of cases is governed by the local law according to the title given the representative, for example:

  • “C., conservator of the estate of X., incompetent”,
  • “A. and B., committee for X., incompetent”, and
  • “G., guardian of X., incompetent,” etc.

As proof of authority to receive payment, the CO should require a certified copy of the appointment.


When there has been a change in the corporate name as a result of a merger, consolidation, or other proceeding, and a certificate verifying such a change has been obtained from the proper state official, the federal entity should draw the voucher for payment in the new name.

The federal entity should draw the voucher to the order of the successor company where it is established that:

  • The original claimant has been dissolved,
  • Its assets have been distributed to the new company, and
  • The liquidating trustees have been discharged.

Where a company has been dissolved and its affairs are being liquidated by liquidating trustees, the designation depends on the local law. In most jurisdictions, the corporation continues for the purposes of liquidation, and it may be proper to designate the corporation rather than the liquidating trustees as the payee. No hard and fast rule can be established to cover all such cases. Federal entities should refer any uncertainties or doubts concerning the payee to be designated to the proper legal officer of the department or establishment for consideration.

2050.120—Unincorporated Associations

Federal entities should make the vouchers payable to the order of the associations, using their official names. They should draw partnership vouchers in the firm’s name. Federal entities should refer any doubts as to form to the proper legal officer of the department or establishment for special consideration.

When establishing a new federal entity relationship with Fiscal Service there needs to be a new obligation management relationship established. Obligations represent orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during an accounting period that will require payment during the same, or a future, period.

Confirm or Obtain an ALC

A four- or eight-digit Agency Location Code (ALC) which uniquely identifies each federal entity that reports payments and collections is required for a federal entity to obtain a Treasury Account Symbol. An ALC is like a bank account number and must appear on all documentation sent to Fiscal Service to ensure proper reporting.

See TFM Volume I, Part 2, Chapter 3300, Section 3320, for more information on ALCs

See TFM Volume I, Part 4A, Chapter 3000, for more information on payment-related activities.

See TFM Volume 1, Part 4, Chapter 6000, for information about checks symbols

Establishing Agency Relationship Make sure you have an active account or create an account

See TFM Volume I, Part 1, Chapter 2000: Financial Operations Startup Procedures For New Federal Entities

Intergovernmental Agreements – IAA, third party processing

For more about establishing an agency relationship visit the TFX Scheduling Payments page

Do Not Pay (DNP)

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