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Should Notaries Accept Tips And Gratuities?

Should Notaries accept tips

Updated 11-7-22. Many Notaries who have been offered tips or other gratuities 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 extra tips for Notary services.
2. Never accept more than the maximum Notary fee allowed by your state.
3. Notaries should not accept non-money gifts from customers.
 

1. The safest choice is don't accept extra tips for 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. Never accept more than the maximum Notary 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 and Iowa 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. Notaries should not accept non-monetary gifts 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

39 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.

Lisa Marie Smith

23 Sep 2022

What about accepting a bottle of water, especially if performing an onsite notarization and the environmental conditions cause coughing/choking, such as a smoker's home?

Monica Arteaga

25 Sep 2022

I’m in California. When a client offers me a tip, I tell them there’s no need to but I can not control a client who pays via Zelle or Venmo and they’ve added something extra - I just say “thank you, that’s very kind of you”. I don’t want to make it awkward or ungrateful by Zelle-ing Or Venmo-ing the tip back to the client. Just saying .

Crystal

29 Sep 2022

I called my SOS in Colorado and was told that there isn't a statue saying we can't accept tips or gifts. I was told that we can take tips and to make a note in our book of it. Why are you all saying it's prohibited?

National Notary Association

10 Nov 2022

Hello. The NNA believes that being tipped or accepting gratuities or donations in addition to the fee for a notarization creates a conflict of interest and impairs the Notary's status as an impartial witnessing official. Consider this Colorado statute: "A notarial officer shall not perform a notarial act with respect to a record in which the officer has a disqualifying interest. For the purposes of this section, a notarial officer has a disqualifying interest in a record if: ... (b) The officer or the officer’s spouse or partner in a civil union may receive directly, and as a proximate result of the notarization, any advantage, right, title, interest, cash, or property exceeding in value the sum of any fee properly received in accordance with this part 5" (CRS 24-21-504[2][b]). That states the Notary has a disqualifying interest if they receive directly, and as a proximate result of a notarization, "any advantage, right, title, interest, cash, or property exceeding in value the sum of any fee properly received in accordance with this part 5." A tip or gratuity is directly received by a Notary and is usually proximately the result of a notarization. And it exceeds in value the sum of any fee in Part 5 of CRS Title 24.

Irvin Dinkins Sr

14 Nov 2022

Hello, I am a Pennsylvania Notary and the maximum notary fee in PA is $5. I can not count on my fingers how many times my clients have told me. "You charge too little" I hear it so often it has become a running joke between my wife and I. I can only assess this statement from my clients as to say I have provided competent, courteous, and professional services to them. In additiond, when they say to me "you charge to little", like clock work I always reply "I'm only allowed to charge you $5 per notarization. I followup with saying "Pennsylvania sets the fee amount a Notary can charge". After telling my client this, I observe the clients expression on their face with look of relief and humility because it appears to me that what they are feeling at that moment is they are dealing with someone who is professional, honest, trustworthy, and is not looking to overcharge them. Moreover, On occassions I have had such a good connection with my clients they have offered me $100 for a $5 notarization. I immediately tell them oh' no no the fee is only $5 and they seem to feel bad that the only amount they can pay me is $5.

Stan

14 Nov 2022

Is it ok to not charge a fee, but accept a docation for m my services? Could I say" I do not charge a fee, but you are free to make a donation in an amount that you feel my services are worth to you" Is that ethical in Texas?

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2022

Hello. No, you may not accept a payment for Notary services higher than the maximum amount set by state Notary law in Texas, regardless of what the payment is called.

Teresa D. Buchholz

14 Nov 2022

I am a notary in NC. I always refuse tips and tell clients part of my responsibility as a notary is to perform a public service and that I am not allowed to accept tips. NC used to be a maximum fee of $5.00 per notarization and no travel fees or other charges allowed. This summer that was changed to $10.00 per signature, and travel fees are allowed with specific restrictions. I regularly had clients insist the $5.00 fee was not enough. One neighbor who wanted to give me an extra $10.00 for a $10.00 fee initially accepted my explanation. A week later I received a $10.00 gift card to a fast food restaurant from him! What can you do sometimes? I felt I should return it, but thought I'd lose a good neighbor relationship. I gave up, bought salads for dinner one evening, and sent a nice thank you note.

Tina State

14 Nov 2022

I think your statement about California above is misleading. You state that we can ONLY receive the fee per the schedule "the fee you receive for your services may not exceed what you’re allowed to charge for a notarization." You're not specific in stating that we can only receive the fee per the schedule FOR EACH NOTARIAL ACT. The schedule does not specify the maximum fee we can charge for ancillary services or costs, such as printing or travel fees. The NOTARIAL ACT is regulated by the SOS in CA, nothing else.

Joe

14 Nov 2022

Do you really believe that after seeing the notary fee on their Closing Disclosure statement, usually $250 to $400 the signers going to offer you a tip? Just asking.

Monica

14 Nov 2022

Yes, occasionally I’ve been offered tips & I politely say it’s not necessary, I’m just doing my job. Although, I’ve unknowingly had tips added by clients when paying by Zelle or Venmo not knowing they’ve done so until AFTER the transaction has gone through, therefore I say “thank you” and accept without making an issue out of it. I’d like to add, I’ve had clients give me fresh fruit from their trees, snack & water and one gentleman gave me a fresh baked loaf of bread he pulled out of the oven and it was delicious!

S Miller

14 Nov 2022

I agree if you are in a state that has maximum fees for notarizations and the state does not allow for add on fees such as travel, printing, etc. then you must refuse the tip. But, if you provide great service and the customer wants to offer you a tip, there is nothing wrong in accepting it. The idea that if I accept a $5 or $10 tip somehow is compromising is laughable. A real example from Friday, I just finished up a home visit for some notarizations and as I just get in my car I receive a call from a prior client asking if I could come to the hospital right away as his mother would like to execute a POA, Will and HC Directive as she was going to have surgery later in the day. I quoted him my fee and was at the hospital in about 15 minutes. Given the importance of these documents and the fact the mother is in the hospital I asked several questions of the mother to feel confident she possesses the capacity to sign these important documents and was not impaired. She clearly had the necessary capacity. They paid my fee in cash as they didn't have credit cards, cash app or venmo, etc and the cash offered is in $20s and is $5 more than my quoted fee. I don't carry cash so based on your guidance, I should have refused the extra $5 plus since I didn't have change, I should have accepted a lower fee? The reality is I probably could have quoted a fee that was double or triple what I did and under this guidance that would be okay since I didn't accept a tip.

Sheryl D. Armstrong

14 Nov 2022

Good day: I am grateful for the perfect practice decisions and examples demonstrated in the notary code of professional responsibilities; they show us how to respond to all or any possible conflicts of interest or suggestions that we may encounter in any given time. People are human and appreciative and want to give or show their gratitude, but on the right hand of the laws that govern, one must be beware, careful and deligent and professional. Sometimes, what seems to be harmless can be detrimental to an innocent persons character or even livelihood for life. Thank you for sound instructions and governing laws of advice and patterns.

National Notary Association

15 Nov 2022

You are welcome, Sheryl. We're glad it is helpful to you!

randlejeanh@gmail.com

16 Nov 2022

What about coffee? Is it ok to accept coffee from a client? And vice versa, is it ok to offer to pick up coffee on the way if I'm going to stop anyway? Like, when its early and its a loan packet or something similar. Thank you.

Tia

16 Nov 2022

The fees are archaic and need to be updated considering the cost of renewing.

Linda

17 Nov 2022

I was always were offered tips but the past three years the companies have been telling the clients not to give tips- that tell me I’m in NY it’s $2 a notarization -true to the above comments I have had refinances with 80 signatures and 16 notarial acts- do the math- with travel paper gas it really is not fair. The signing companies should add up the notary acts add on everything else and pay us accordingly,

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