FOIA Fee Categories, Schedule, & Waivers

FOIA Fee Categories

A fee is not charged if the charges for processing the request are less than or equal to the cost of routine collection and processing of the fee. Therefore, if the total of charges due for processing a request is $25 or less, no fee will be charged. If the estimated fee for search or duplication charges exceed $25 the requester shall be notified, unless the requester has stated in the FOIA request an amount sufficient to cover the estimated fees. The following is a chart of the four specific categories and chargeable fees:

Category Chargeable Fees
Commercial Use Requesters Search, Review and Duplication
Educational and Non-commercial Scientific Institutions Requesters Duplication (excluding the cost of the first 100 pages)
Representatives of the News Media Duplication (excluding the cost of the first 100 pages)
All Other Requesters Search and Duplication (excluding the cost of the first 2 hours of search and 100 pages)
 

FOIA Fee Schedule

The Department of Commerce, under the Department's FOIA regulations, 15 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 4.11(c)(1) and c)(2), applies the following fee schedule:

Service Rate
(i) Manual Search Actual salary rate of employee involved, plus 16 percent of salary rate.
(ii) Computerized search Actual direct cost, including operator time.
(iii) Review of records Actual salary rate of employee involved, plus 16 percent of salary rate.
(iv) Duplication of records:  
(A) Paper copy reproduction $.08 per page.
(B) Other reproduction (e.g., converting paper into an electronic format (e.g., scanning), computer disk or printout, or other electronically-formatted reproduction (e.g., uploading records made available to the requester into FOIAonline)) Actual direct cost, including operator time.
 

For additional information about fee categories and fees, see 15 CFR § 4.11.


Requesting FOIA Fee Waivers

Any FOIA requester may request that the Department of Commerce waive all fees associated with the request. The request for the fee waiver must be submitted in writing with the FOIA request. (See the Department's FOIA regulations at 15 C.F.R. § 4.11(l) which describes the process and standards the Department uses to review fee waiver requests.)
Fee Waiver Guidance

Any FOIA requester may request that the Department of Commerce waive all fees associated with the request. The request for the fee waiver must be submitted in writing with the FOIA request. (See the Department's FOIA regulations at 15 CFR § 4.11(l) which describes the process and standards the Department uses to review fee waiver requests.)

The FOIA Office considers fee waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. The Department of Commerce will make its fee waiver determinations based upon the information accompanying your FOIA request, addressing the following 6 factors:

Factor 1. The subject of the request: Whether the subject of the requested records concerns "the operations or activities of the government." The subject of the requested records must concern identifiable operations or activities of the federal government, with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote.

Factor 2. The informative value of the information to be disclosed: Whether the disclosure is "likely to contribute" to an understanding of government operations or activities. The disclosable portions of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities in order to be "likely to contribute" to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either a duplicative or a substantially identical form, would not be as likely to contribute to such understanding when nothing new would be added to the public's understanding.

Factor 3. The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the public is likely to result from disclosure: Whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to "public understanding." The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester's expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public will be considered. It will be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.

Factor 4. The significance of the contribution to public understanding: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute "significantly" to public understanding of government operations or activities. The public's understanding of the subject in question, as compared to the level of public understanding existing prior to the disclosure, must be enhanced significantly by the disclosure. The FOIA Office will not make value judgments about whether information that would contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government is "important" enough to be made public.

Factor 5. The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. The FOIA Office will consider any commercial interest of the requester or of any person on whose behalf the requester may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. Requesters will be given an opportunity in the administrative process to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.

Factor 6. The primary interest in disclosure: Whether any identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure that disclosure is "primarily in the commercial interest of the requester." A fee waiver or reduction is justified where the public interest standard is satisfied and that public interest is greater in magnitude than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. FOIA Offices ordinarily will presume that when a news media requester has satisfied the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return will not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.

Questions and Comments

Send Questions or Comments on the Commerce Open Government program to eFOIA@doc.gov.

 

Office of Privacy and Open Government
Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Page last updated: October 28, 2016