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Copying Charges for Public Records

This page provides guidance on what fees and charges local governments in Washington State may impose for public records requests and includes examples of fee schedules.


Overview

No fee can be charged if a requestor wants to inspect the records on-site at the agency or if the agency provides the records via a publicly available weblink. If, however, the agency provides the requestor with copies of public records, the agency can charge for those copies pursuant to its adopted fee schedule. An agency does have the discretion to waive any copying charges pursuant to adopted rules. 

For a good overview of charges, see this one-page summary of the fee charges allowed by the PRA prepared by Nancy Krier of the Washington Attorney General’s Office.


Allowable Charges

Agencies have two options for charging for copies of public records:

  1. Agencies can charge the actual cost incurred for providing copies by adopting a statement of costs (after holding a public hearing).
    • For hard copies - Actual cost includes the cost of paper, the per page cost for use of agency copying equipment, the cost of postage or delivery charges and the container used for delivery.
    • For electronic copies - Actual cost includes the cost of electronic production or file transfer of a record, the use of cloud-based storage and processing service, and the transmission of records in electronic format, including the transmission charge and the media device used for delivery. As well, staff time to copy and send the requested public records may be included in the agency’s actual costs. An agency cannot charge for staff time to collect, review, or redact records for production (except in limited circumstances of redacting body camera video recordings for certain requestors. See RCW 42.56.240(14), RCW 42.56.070(7).
  2. Alternatively, if agency policy establishes that calculating actual costs would be unduly burdensome, then the statutory default charges in RCW 42.56.120 can be charged:
    • 15 cents/page for photocopies or printed electronic copies
    • 10 cents/page for records scanned into electronic format
    • 5 cents for every four electronic files or attachments uploaded to an email, cloud storage service, or other electronic delivery system
    • 10 cents/gigabyte for transmitting records electronically
    • The actual cost of digital media device, container used to mail the copies, and the actual postage or delivery charge.

Agencies  have the option to charge a flat fee of up to $2 as an alternative to actual or default costs if the agency reasonably estimates and documents that the costs are equal or more than $2.

Deposits and Charging in Installments

One effective tool to ensure the agency recovers its copying costs is to require the requestor make a deposit in the amount of 10% of estimated copying costs prior to copying the records.

Another effective tool is to produce records in installments and charge for each installment as it is provided. See RCW 42.56.120(4).


Examples of Copying Charges 

The following are examples of charges adopted in response to 2017 legislation, now contained in RCW 42.56.070(7) and RCW 42.56.120.


Last Modified: March 05, 2019