Whether by choice or by no-other-choice, many military families choose a Personally Procured Move (PPM) when they PCS. These are commonly called DITY or Do It Yourself move.
I see and hear a lot of myths and misinformation about PPMs. Generally, the misinformation I hear about PPM says something like, “You’ll make so much money! We made $6,000 on our last PPM!” Now, you can make money off of a PPM, especially if you can keep your costs down. This might include recycled packing materials and literally doing it all yourself. (It also helps if you already own a trailer.) But those huge sums that people quote often include a lot of allowances that you’ll get on any military move.
But money isn’t the only issue here. PPMs are emotionally and logistically challenging. But it can be rewarding to have your stuff under your control the whole time. Having the right information can make it easier to decide what’s right for you.
Military Moving Allowances
All service members are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements for their PCS moves. These include:
- 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 PPM is that you’ll be given an allowance based upon the weight of the items that you moved and the distance covered. You are paid 100% of the amount it would have cost the military to use contracted movers. (Note: It used to be 95%. It was raised during the COVID backlog, and then made “permanent.” As permanent as anything ever is with the DoD.) That payment covers whatever expenses you incur: boxes, rental truck and/or trailer, help you hire, 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 Personally Procured Move
Even PPM needs to be scheduled 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!
If you are doing a partial PPM, you’ll schedule two moves in DPS.
The Logistics of Moving
You are responsible for the packing, moving, and unpacking of your things. 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.
How To Keep Your Costs Down
Because you’re not getting reimbursed dollar-for-dollar for your expenses, it is important to make sure that you keep costs down whenever possible. This includes finding used packing materials (clean!!), doing as much work yourself as you can manage, and finding an economical way to move your items. You also want to minimize any storage costs along the way.
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 PPM move. I’m listing the currently published requirements but they may change. Don’t trust me on this!
FULL and EMPTY weight tickets obtained at either the origin, destination, or a combination thereof.
FULL and EMPTY weight tickets obtained at either the origin, destination, or a combination thereof.
EMPTY and FULL weight tickets must be obtained at origin.
Navy and Marine Corps:
Forever, the Navy and Marine Corps required 3 weight tickets. However, per the Naval Supply Systems Command website, the Navy now only requires TWO weight tickets: “You must obtain an empty and full weight ticket either at origin or destination or any combination.” That change has been advertised since 2018, so I feel like it is probably really, actually the rule.
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. Or at least print out that flyer, linked above, and pop it into your moving binder.
There used to be a great search feature to find weight scales, before Move.mil was shut down. I’ll keep looking for a replacement. In the meantime, the internet is your friend. Or ask at your personal property office.
Keeping Track Of The Paperwork
PMM 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 PPM 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 Personally Procured Move
One of the easiest ways to get some of the benefits of a PPM without as much work is to do a partial personally procured move. With a partial PPM, 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 PPM is a good solution if you aren’t sure that you want to do a full PPM or if you have certain items that you want to move yourself.
A partial PPM 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 PPM.
Is it a Reimbursement, Or Is It Not?
Ah! Trick question!
I used to get really riled up about the term reimbursement when applied to PPM moves. I thought (and still sort-of think) that it confuses people. Folks think that they’re going to turn in their receipts and be paid the full amount of their expenses plus some magic number for their effort. And that’s just not the case. As we discussed above, you are paid the amount that it would have cost the government to contract a move for your distance and your weight. In my mind, that’s a monetary allowance, not a reimbursement.
On the flip side, you don’t get this payment if you haven’t done something, and presumably incurred some cost to do it. You have to move your stuff to get paid. In that sense, it absolutely is a reimbursement. It might be a partial reimbursement, or it might be a reimbursement that exceeds your actual costs. But there’s some accounting for the payment.
Most allowances don’t require that there be an associated action or incurred expense. Dislocation allowance just happens when you PCS – you don’t have to spend anything to receive it. You don’t have to eat to receive Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Now, there are allowances that do require expenses, like Overseas Housing Allowance. So how do you decide about that?
But the fact is that the DoD calls it a reimbursement. And after thinking about it more, I don’t hate that as much as I used to. But people need to understand that reimbursement doesn’t mean that you’re being reimbursed for your actual expenses.
The Pros Of A Personally Procured Move
An early reader commented that it sounded like I am against PPM. 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 PPM. And I want everyone to make sure that they understand exactly what they are doing. This includes the risks, responsibilities and rewards, and especially the tax situation. For some younger military families, any profit made off a PPM is going to eat into their Earned Income Tax Credit. that’s not helpful if the reason they chose a PPM was to make money.
But money is not the only reason to do a PPM. Sometimes, you can’t get government movers scheduled. Many people prefer the control of packing their own things or scheduling their moves on their schedule. A PPM can help if you are worried about going overweight on their government move.
PPM are a good option for different situations. Heck, sometimes they are the only option. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help avoid frustration.
If you have some examples of the pros and cons of doing a PPM, plus any tips or tricks, 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!
Let me help you keep up-to-date on your military pay and benefits! Subscribe now for my newsy emails, which come about once every two weeks.
Leave a Reply