I see and hear a lot of myths and misinformation about military allowances – everything from Tricare giving every spouse one free plastic surgery to some mythical 51% custody rule for service members to receive BAH to bonuses being taxed at a high rate. But the misinformation that makes me the craziest is about Personally Procured Moves (PPM), the official name of what is commonly called a DITY, or Do It Yourself move.
Generally, the misinformation I hear about DITY moves says something like, “You’ll make so much money! We made $6,000 on our last DITY move!”
Now, you can make money off of a DITY move, especially if you can keep your costs down with recycled packing materials and literally doing it all yourself. But most of those huge sums that people quote include a lot of allowances that you’ll get on any move, whether you have the military move all your stuff or not.
All service members and their families are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements for their PCS moves, including:
- temporary lodging (TLE in the continental US, TLA outside the continental US)
- Monetary Allowance in Lieu of Transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage), almost always in the continental US, or actual transportation for other locations
- per diem for travel days, whether traveling by personally owned vehicle or government-provided transportation such as flying
- Dislocation Allowance, in almost all cases
The only thing different with a DITY move, or a partial DITY move, is that you’ll also be given an allowance based upon the weight of the items that you moved and the distance covered. In general, you are paid 95% of the amount it would have cost the military to have the professional movers move you. (Note: you may be eligible for higher payment rates due to the COVID moving backlog.) That payment covers whatever expenses you incur: boxes, rental truck and/or trailer, help with packing or loading or unloading or unpacking, insurance, etc. If you have money left over after you pay those expenses, that is your profit – and it is also considered taxable income.
“Scheduling” Your DITY Move
Even DITY moves need to be scheduled with the military. Go to Move.mil and watch the tutorial on how to set up a DITY/PPM move within the Defense Personal Property System. You should also call or visit your installation’s personal property office to make sure that you understand the process and the reimbursement amounts. You don’t want to screw this up!
The Logistics of Moving
You are responsible for the packing, moving, and unpacking of your things. You can truly Do It Yourself, or you can hire people to do it for you, or some combination thereof. You can hire out whatever portion you want – packing, loading, drive, unloading, unpacking – but you get paid the same amount regardless of who does the work and how much they charge.
If you don’t own your own trailer, you’ll need to rent a truck, or use a service like UPack, or hire a full-service moving company. You will obtain your own packing supplies (often available free on Facebook!), and pack your own things, or hire someone to pack for you. If you hire a truck, you’ll probably drive it yourself, either towing your other car or having someone else drive it. You’ll unload the truck, or hire someone to help, and unpack yourself, or hire someone to help.
The military knows how much weight you’ve moved, and therefore how much to pay you, by the weight tickets that you submit for your payment.
The different branches have slightly different requirements for weight tickets, and they can change, so be sure to check with your personal property office if you plan to do a DITY move. As of the time of this publication, 6 July 2020, here are the rules for weight tickets:
Air Force: FULL and EMPTY weight tickets obtained at either the origin, destination, or a combination thereof.
Army: FULL and EMPTY weight tickets obtained at either the origin, destination, or a combination thereof.
Coast Guard: EMPTY and FULL weight tickets must be obtained at origin.
Navy and Marine Corps: We’ve got some conflicting guidance on this. Per Move.mil, the Navy and Marine Corps require EMPTY and FULL weight tickets at origin plus a FULL weight ticket at destination – yes, that’s 3 tickets. However, per the Naval Supply Systems Command website, the Navy has only required two weight tickets since April 2018. This is a great example of why you need to check with your personal property offices to get the exact guidance for right now. I recommend these types of questions be asked via email so that you get the responses in writing. (I’ve submitted this question to my contact at NAVSUP but I don’t have an answer yet.)
Keeping Track Of The Paperwork
DITY moves require extra paperwork and receipts, particularly when you go to file your income tax return. You’ll need weight receipts to get reimbursed by the military (requirements may vary by branch). Then, because DITY reimbursements are taxable income, you’ll need all your expense receipts to deduct from your income. (Pro tip: Keep an envelope, or a folder, or a large zip-top bag for your receipts, and also take a picture of each receipt and upload it to your email, Google Drive, or OneDrive ASAP.)
Save receipts for packing materials, rental equipment, tolls, and any other expenses.
Filing The Paperwork
You have 45 days from the scheduled start date to file your claim. Contact your personal property office to learn their procedure for filing for payment. You will need weight tickets, vehicle registration, and additional documentation that may depend on the details of your specific move.
The reimbursement for weight and distance is a taxable payment, and taxes should be withheld from your payment. However, you can reduce the amount of your withholding by submitting your eligible receipts for your expenses when you make your travel claim. You’ll also need those receipts when you file your tax return, as active duty military members are still able to deduct qualified moving expenses.
You’ll need to file an IRS Form 3903 to account for your eligible expenses and the payments, and any amount of payment that exceeds your expenses will be taxable income. This may impact your eligibility for credits such as the Earned Income Credit or education credits, or any other tax issue that is impacted by income levels.
You find the W-2s for your move on MyPay separate from your regular W-2s – be sure you get them all before you file the taxes the next year.
Consider A Partial DITY
One of the easiest ways to get some of the benefits of a DITY move without as much work is to do a partial personally procured move. With a partial DITY, you separate your move into two parts. The government movers take care of the things you don’t want to move, and you get reimbursed for the portion that you move. A partial DITY is a good solution if you aren’t sure that you want to do a full DITY or if you have certain items that you want to move yourself.
A partial DITY doesn’t need to include trucks or hiring help or even boxes. You can use your personal vehicle(s), that you’re already moving, and get the required weight tickets. Most of us move with pretty full vehicles anyway, might as well make a little money off of it. And if you happen to throw in your safe or a couple of boxes of books or whatever, you might make a little more money off that partial DITY.
The Pros Of A DITY Move
An early reader commented that it sounded like I am against DITY moves. That’s not entirely accurate – I am strongly against this false idea that you’re going to make thousands upon thousands of dollars off of a DITY move. And I want everyone to make sure that they understand exactly what they are doing, the risks, responsibilities and rewards, and especially the tax situation. For many younger military families, any profit made off a DITY move is going to eat into their Earned Income Tax Credit, which isn’t helpful if the reason they chose a DITY move was to make money.
But money is not the only reason to do a DITY move. Many people prefer the control of packing their own things, or being able to schedule their moves on the exact days that they want to move, or if they are worried about going overweight on their government move. And you can make money, especially for longer distances or if you’re really good at keeping your costs down.
DITY moves are a good option for different situations, but they are a lot of work and they may or may not make money. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help you decide if a DITY is right for you, and make the process a lot less frustrating and less painful.
If you have some examples of how much money you’ve made, or not made, on your DITY/PPM, I’d love if you’d share them in the comments. Plus any other information that would be helpful for future readers of this article! Thanks!
Do you want to know more about your military pay and benefits?
Things change fast around here! Keep up-to-date with email alerts about the topics that are important to you!