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Notary Bulletin

Should Notaries Accept Tips And Gratuities?

paying-fee-resized.jpgUpdated 11-15-21. In most states, the maximum fees Notaries can charge are set by law. But what if a signer pays you the fee for the notarization, and then offers you a few extra dollars as a tip for good service? Or what if a signer offers you drinks or a meal?

Many Notaries who have been offered tips or other gratuities and have contacted the NNA because they were unsure if they could accept them or not. Here are some guidelines to help you:

1.  The safest choice is don't accept tips for Notary services.
2. Never accept more than the maximum fee allowed by your state.
3. Do not accept non-money gifts from customers.
 

1. The safest course is to avoid accepting extra tips when performing Notary services.

State Notary laws generally do not directly address whether Notaries can or cannot accept tips in addition to the maximum notarization fees. While your state statute may be silent, it’s important to remember the Notary’s central role in providing impartial services.

Accepting compensation above and beyond the maximum fees for the notarial act, travel or other ancillary services allowed by law could be seen as improper influence, even if it seems at the time like the signer has no ulterior motives. For example, suppose a customer regularly provides you with tips, and then later asks you to ignore a problem with his identification during a notarization. When you refuse he could say, “But I’ve always tipped you in the past; can’t you just overlook the small discrepancy with my ID”?

To avoid any appearance of impropriety, the safest course is to politely refuse any extra compensation offered to you, other than the maximum fee allowed by law for the notarial act and any ancillary fees such as for travel. 

2. You should never accept more than the maximum fee allowed by your state.

If you are in a state that sets a fee schedule such as California, Florida or Texas, remember that the fee you receive for your services may not exceed what you’re allowed to charge for a notarization. In these states, if someone pays your fee and then offers an additional tip, you must turn down the tip if the total amount you would receive is more than state law permits. Nevada is very clear on this matter. Its fee statute prefaces the maximum fees for notarizations and travel by saying, “… a notary public may charge the following fees and no more” (NRS 240.100[1]).

Accepting tips is less clear-cut in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky where Notary fees are not set by state law. While technically there is not a maximum fee for notarizations, Notaries in these states should exercise restraint by not accepting gratuities for their services. Arkansas, Iowa and Kansas caution Notaries by saying that fees should be “reasonable.”

Maine does not set a maximum statutory fee, but the state’s Notary Public Handbook recommends that Notaries establish their own fee schedule “… so that persons seeking their services will have some predictability or assurance on the fee.”

Even if your state allows you to charge any amount you choose, the best ethical choice would be to stick to a reasonable fee for your Notary services and decline any additional money offered more than this fee.

3. You should not accept non-monetary gifts or gratuities from customers.

What about gifts such as free movie passes or sports tickets in appreciation? Can you accept those? Some Notaries might think these types of gifts are different from accepting money. While a movie pass isn’t money in the sense that we can use it to spend on goods and services that we choose, it is still a financial perk that has the potential of compromising your impartiality, especially if the gift-giver wants special treatment during a notarization at some point. Just like money tips, the recommended ethical practice for other types gifts and gratuities is not to accept them.

Guiding Principle II-A-3 of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility of 2020  recommends Notaries should not accept any gifts, gratuities or donations.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

 

 

 

View All: Best Practices

22 Comments

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Vincent Nello

18 Nov 2019

Nothing to add

Linda D

18 Nov 2019

Your information for Texas in incorrect.

National Notary Association

19 Nov 2019

Hello. Could you please clarify what specific information you are referring to? Thanks.

Jon Roe

21 Nov 2019

I really don't get your concern. If someone offers me extra money for a notarization and then asks for an extra benefit of some sort, the answer is "no." What's so difficult about that? Also who is reporting to who how much money I charge? Also, if I travel to do a notarization and the person offers me extra money, why can't I just say it's a travel fee. Just to be clear, the only notarizations I have ever done are in this office and I've never charged a fee for any of them. Not saying I would or wouldn't accept extra money; just playing devil's advocate. I work in CA where tips are not allowed. Thanks.

Christine Phipps

07 Dec 2020

This is same rule for court reporters who may be notaries to issue oaths in most states. Neutral unbiased positions in legal proceedings like notaries and court reporters cannot accept gifts aka incentives.

Cyd

07 Dec 2020

I was taken aback by your comments here as I am one of the Notaries who have called with the question of accepting gifts after a service. I was told by a member of your call team that they did not see any problem with accepting , to consider myself lucky and go ahead. Evidently there is still a lot of debate on this matter even within the NNA.

National Notary Association

08 Dec 2020

Hello. Can you tell us the name of the person you spoke with, or what department they work in? The information you were given during your call was not correct. Please follow the guidelines in the article above.

Marguerite Nicely

07 Dec 2020

What is the fee for a notarization in Arizona. Some charge 2.00 and others charge 10.00

National Notary Association

11 Dec 2020

Hello. The fees that Arizona Notaries may receive or advertise are as follows (ARS 41-316.A and AAC R2-12-1102): Taking an acknowledgment: $0 to $10 per Notary signature; Administering an oath or affirmation without a signature: $0 to $10 per notarial act; Executing a jurat: $0 to $10 per Notary signature; Certifying a copy: $0 to $10 per page certified.

Jerry Lucas

07 Dec 2020

If offered a cash tip, I decline. But, I can offer a gift certificate for pre-paid future notary service. Many states have a gift ban clause in the state constitution or state law to prohibit public officials from accepting gifts of significant value. There is a de minimis dollar limit specified, so low-value items or amounts are ignored, such as a cup of coffee, snack, or pen. Some customers have walked away with one of my pens. I don't sue them to get my pen back.

Matt Miller

07 Dec 2020

Being independent contractors it’s up to us whether or not we want to except a tip not the National Notary Association.

Tina Wallace

07 Dec 2020

As a commissioned officer of the state of California it is illegal to accept gratuities.

Chandos Caldwell

07 Dec 2020

I was summoned a few blocks form home to notarize a doctor's letter to his patient. The cost was given before hand. The grateful patient insisted on giving more than my charge. I did not refuse, but I did protest, that it was not necessary. My charge was $15. The patient gave me $20.

SUSAN PETRIE

10 Dec 2020

You are allowed to charge $x for EACH notarization you perform. The general amount you get paid by Title to cover a closing NEVER pays to the amount you would receive for all those notarizations. Add up the number of notarizations (sometimes up to 15 notarizations in a package), multiply by the state allowable maximum, subtract your travel print fee from the amount you are being paid by Title and Voila, you know if you can accept that tip or not!

National Notary Association

10 Dec 2020

Hello. Please remember that not all Notaries who are offered tips are charging additional non-Notary service fees such as travel print fees, and not all Notaries offered tips or gratuities are performing loan signings. While it is true that Signing Agents are typically paid for additional non-notary services such as printing and delivering loan documents, Notaries should never accept any additional tips or gratuities that would exceed the maximum notarization fee permitted by their state's laws. And as stated in the article above, accepting tips or gratuities could potentially put the Notary in an ethically questionable position if the signer tipping the Notary asks for an improper or unethical request at a later time.

SUSAN PETRIE

10 Dec 2020

As long as the Notary does not participate in an improper or unethical notarization, there is no question of impropriety. The potential client may be upset and they should then be referred to an attorney for their needs. This goes along with doing RON. Are you, the notary, the one who is validating the ID? Or is someone else telling you the ID is ok. That is an example of questionable and improper notarization.

Jeff C

11 Dec 2020

I was given $20 for a notary act and did not have change. I gave the signer a gift card for future notary services which they mentioned they will need. It was a gift card for $15. So they will get a free notarization next time. I hope that is acceptable. Not really a tip but when I don’t have change that was the best I could do.

mnardo9052@aol.com

09 Aug 2021

I just charge the standard fee.

Cal W

22 Nov 2021

While I agree with most of what you said, I do question one of your examples. If I had done multiple notarizations over a period of time for an individual, and his identification documents were always in order, and then let's say his/her driver's license was expired; having done multiple notarizations, why wouldn't I be able to complete the notarization since by now he would be "personally known" to me? I would still list his driver's license number in my journal, but indicate that he/she were personally known to me.

National Notary Association

22 Nov 2021

Hello. It would depend on the laws of the state you are commissioned in. California, for example, does not allow Notaries to identify signers based on personal knowledge under any circumstances. Other states provide guidelines for identifying a signer using personal knowledge-Florida, for example, allows a Notary to rely on personal knowledge if the Notary has an acquaintance with the signer, "... which establishes the individual’s identity with at least a reasonable certainty.” For more info on different state personal knowledge guidelines, please see here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/11/notaries-use-personal-knowledge-identify-signers

John Clark

22 Nov 2021

Nearly all of my signings were real estate documents from a settlement agency, usually at the owner's home. In no sense was any such host a "customer" of mine nor did I ever charge them a fee. My compensation came from clients only. Whatever someone at home might offer me in the form of a cash tip, a snack or meal, a jar of home-canned pickles, etc. AFTER finishing our business was no concern of anyone outside those walls. No honest person would ever have cause for accusing me of unethical conduct. That is why no one ever did.

Shirley F Brown

22 Nov 2021

Rather than accepting 'cash', a better method of appreciation and gratitude from a customer would be a letter or note of appreciation sent to the Notary's website comment section, Yelp, or other public posted media sources. The letter or note would go much farther, in the long run, that mere cash.

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