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Clarifying Notary Commission Ownership


(UPDATED 11-18-14) Many companies pay for their employees to become Notaries, including the application and training fee, the cost of the surety bond, Notary stamp and other necessary supplies. However, this investment can create confusion for Notaries and employers alike over who owns or controls the commission and how it is to be used.

Regardless of who pays for a commission, it belongs to the individual Notary, not the employer. When performing notarizations, the Notary employee is acting as a public official. While state laws differ slightly, the following points clarify the general issues surrounding the employer/notary relationship.

Tools of the office: Many employers incorrectly believe they should be able to control, or at least have access to, their Notary employees’ stamps and journals. These are the tools of the Notary office, and the Notary must control and safeguard them at all times. If they are stored at the office, they must be kept in a place only the Notary can access. (However, please see the exceptions for Arizona and Oregon laws regarding journals when a Notary leaves employment below.)

Notary fees: Most states don’t have statutory rules about who keeps fees charged for Notary services. Typically, a written agreement between a Notary and the employer is the best way to clear up confusion. Under certain conditions an employer can collect the fees for notarizations performed by a Notary employee. For example, in California, a private employer who purchases the notarial supplies and bond of an employee can make a voluntary mutual agreement to receive fees for notarizations performed during business hours.

Following the law: Many employers who do not understand the purpose and protections of notarization push their Notary-employees to perform improper or illegal acts — an issue that dramatically increases legal risks to the public, the company and to the Notary. State law and ethical practices always take precedence over employer requests. For example, an employer cannot ask you to ignore personal appearance or state ID requirements for clients.

Notarizing outside of work: Notary commissions are granted to a person as an individual, even if their employer paid for the supplies and commission fees. A Notary must follow any agreement made with their employer while at work, but the employer does not have the right to prohibit them from notarizing outside of work hours.

The following states explicitly prohibit Notaries or employers of Notaries from limiting notarial services to customers or clients in their Notary laws:

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii (except for Notaries in government service)
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • New Mexico

Post employment: Some businesses falsely believe that they retain the commission when an employee leaves. A Notary’s obligation is to the state and public, not the employer, and the journal and seal stamp depart with the Notary.

There are two exceptions: Arizona allows Notaries working under limited circumstances to keep two journals — one for public records and one for nonpublic records protected by the attorney-client privilege or that are confidential pursuant to state or federal law. The journal containing nonpublic records is the property of the employer and, if the Notary leaves that job, the employer may keep the journal containing only nonpublic entries.

Oregon Notaries may sign an agreement with an employer allowing the employer to keep the Notary’s journal if the Notary leaves the employer’s service. The Notary must keep a copy of the agreement. Apart from these exceptions, an employer may not take possession of a Notary’s seal and journal or give them to another employee, even if the employer paid for the tools or the Notary quits or is fired.

It is a good idea for companies to create clear, consistent Notary polices that conform with state law, and make sure managers and Notary employees understand them.


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05 Aug 2015

stupid box won't close

National Notary Association

07 Aug 2015

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08 Aug 2015

I'm commissioned in California. My job paid for my notary and after i was commissioned i asked about my fees and was told that because they paid for everything I am not able to charge them any fees. They did not explain this to me prior & I only did it because i was under the impression I would be making more money from it. Can they do this? What if I pay them them back for everything to make them whole? Can I charge a fee then?

National Notary Association

11 Aug 2015

Hello. An employer who purchases the notarial supplies and bond of an employee-Notary may make a voluntary, mutual agreement with the Notary to remit all notarial fees collected to the fund from which the employee-Notary is paid (CA GC Section 8202.7). The statute reads: "A private employer, pursuant to an agreement with an employee who is a notary public, may pay the premiums on any bond and the cost of any stamps, seals, or other supplies required in connection with the appointment, commission, or performance of the duties of such notary public. Such agreement may also provide for the remission of fees collected by such notary public to the employer, in which case any fees collected or obtained by such notary public while such agreement is in effect shall be remitted by such notary public to the employer which shall deposit such funds to the credit of the fund from which the compensation of the notary public is paid."


02 Oct 2015

I am a PA Notary working for a municipality. If I ask the municipality to reimburse me for my renewal, supplies, bond, etc. am I able to notarize outside of work and collect fees. Also, most of my notarial work for the municipality is for the government officials for work related forms (acknowledgment of Chairman's signature on government forms). Do I need to collect the fee from the municipality or is there no charge involved as the fee would be paid from and deposited back to the same account?

National Notary Association

02 Oct 2015

Hello. PA Notary law does not specifically address employers restricting employee hours of notarization or collecting Notary fees. In general, if state law does not address this issue, the NNA recommends the Notary and employer work out a mutually agreed policy regarding charging or waiving of Notary fees for work-related notarizations (note that any Notary fees charged must comply with the fee schedules set by PA law.) However, the commission belongs to the employee and an employer may not restrict a Notary from performing notarial services for the public outside of business hours. For more information, please see this article:

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