FOIA Fees and Waivers
FOIA Fee Categories
The FOIA allows certain fees to be charged to certain types of requesters; it also provides for waivers or reductions in fees. The fee schedule is provided in SECNAVINST 5720.42F. The FOIA requires that requesters be placed into one of the below categories for fee purposes:
Commercial - Requesters who seek information for a use or purpose that furthers their commercial, trade, or profit interest are considered commercial requesters. Commercial requesters pay all fees for search, review and duplication.
Educational Institution – Institutions of education, including preschools, elementary or secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, qualify as educational institutions. The records must be sought for scholarly research. Educational Institutions pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.
Non-Commercial Scientific - A non-commercial scientific institution is operated solely for conducting scientific research. The records must be sought in furtherance of scientific research. Like educational requesters, these requesters pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. The first 100 pages are provided at no cost.
News Media - A representative of the news media is a person actively gathering news for an entity organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. News media pay only duplication fees, unless it is determined that fees are waived or reduced in the public interest. Again, the first 100 pages are provided at no cost.
All Other Requesters - This category includes all requesters who do not fit into any of the other listed categories. Requesters in this category are assessed search and duplication fees, however the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two search hours are provided at no cost.
In order to process a FOIA request, requesters must set a fee limit on the amount that they are willing to pay. If it is anticipated that fees will exceed the fee limit set by the requester, or if in processing the request, fees begin to exceed the requester’s fee limit, the requester will be contacted. It is recommended that the requester indicates the maximum amount of fees that they are willing to pay with their initial request.
Fee Waivers can be granted if disclosure of the information is in the public interest. Public interest is defined as information which significantly enhances the public's knowledge of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. The following factors are weighed in making a fee waiver determination:
- Requester's ability to disseminate the information to the public.
- Requester's expertise in the subject area of the request and ability and intention to disseminate the information to the public.
- How disclosure of the requested documents would significantly contribute to the public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.
- Who in the public would be benefited?
- The current level of public attention to the general subject to which the information relates (newsworthiness).