A CITIZEN'S GUIDE ON USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
AND THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 TO REQUEST GOVERNMENT RECORDS
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VII. E. FEES
Under the Privacy Act, fees can only be charged for the cost of copying records. No fees may be charged for the time it takes to search for records or for the time it takes to review the records to determine if any exemptions apply. This is a major difference from the FOIA. Under the FOIA, fees can sometimes be charged to recover search costs and review costs.\36\ The different fee structure in the two laws is one reason many requesters seeking records about themselves cite both laws. This minimizes allowable fees.
Many agencies will not charge fees for making a copy of a Privacy Act file, especially when the file is small. If paying the copying charges is a problem, the requester should explain in the request letter. An agency can waive fees under the Privacy Act.
\36\ An individual seeking records about himself or herself under the FOIA should not be charged review charges. The only charges applicable under the FOIA are search and copy charges.