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 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).
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.