Welcome to MuckRock's Freedom of Information Act appeal guide!

Each entry provides background and context about an exemption to the public records laws in all fifty states, as well as federal FOIA. Read more about United States of America's public records law or explore all our expert FOIA guides. Have a public records appeal or information on an exemption we should include? Consider sharing your knowledge with everyone by donating your FOIA appeal language.

High Fees

Also known as Fee Waiver 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(viii)(I).

Thank you to JPat Brown and Emma Best for contributing to this entry. This guide is for informational purposes only, is general in nature, and is not legal opinion nor legal advice regarding any specific issue or factual circumstance.

In many circumstances, agencies are allowed to assess fees for requests. However, these fees are constricted based on the number of pages released, the type of requesters, and the speed with which the agency responds.

Example Appeals

If you are a media requester, the request is under 5,000 pages in responsive documents, and the agency misses it’s statutory 20-day deadline (or 10-day extension if they request it), the agency is prohibited from assessing many kinds of fees, and must waive fees completely for media, educational, and non-profit scientific requesters in many cases. Read more.

I am appealing this assessment of duplication fees, as 1) the time limit was not met, 2) I am a representative of the news media, and 3) the request is under 5,000 pages and no other exceptions are applicable.

Consider OIP guidance here: https://www.justice.gov/oip/oip-guidance/prohibition_on_assessing_certain_fees_when_foia_time_limits_not_met

"The basic rule is that when the agency fails to comply with any of the FOIA’s time limits, no search fees may be charged to “all other” or “commercial use” requesters and no duplication fees may be charged to requesters in preferred fee categories, i.e., representatives of the news media, and educational or noncommercial scientific institutions. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(viii)(I)."

Please begin processing my request.


Proper Use

Allowing agencies to recoup some of the actual costs associated with processing the request, pursuant to restrictions on the types of fees assessable depending on the status of the requester.

Improper Use

Fees without an articulated basis or fee assessments that do not take into account the requester category.