At the end of each year, readers start asking me if they can burn off their unused annual leave. In the first group are employees who have excess leave that will be lost when the new leave year begins. If it’s too late to schedule that leave, those employees might wish to donate it instead to an agency leave sharing program for the benefit of fellow feds who have used up their paid leave due to a medical or other emergency and who need yet more time off to address the situation.

The second group consists of employees who plan to retire and would like to have an extended vacation before going out. Is there anything wrong with that? they ask. Yes, there is.

According to OPM, while an employee has the right to use annual leave for vacations, rest and relaxation, and personal business, it is subject to the right of the supervisor to schedule the time at which it can be taken. As a rule, it wouldn’t be in your supervisor’s best interest to have you filling a position but doing no work while there’s work to be done. And if you are planning to retire, your agency can’t hire a replacement until you are off the rolls.

Even if your supervisor is willing to let you burn off your leave, a Comptroller General ruling nixes that idea. B-46683, 24 Comp. Gen 511 states that “terminal annual or vacation leave may not be granted immediately prior to separation from the service in any case where it is known in advance that the employee is to be separated from the service.”

That doesn’t mean that you can’t take a few days off before the end of the year or before you retire. You can, with the approval of your supervisor. However, for your supervisor to approve it, the amount you request needs to be reasonable. Even then, most agencies will require that you be at work on the day you retire in order to complete the processing needed to separate you from the service.