I was considering doing a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and noticed the stipulation about putting the information gained to commercial use. That seems maybe a little broadly worded, because I would like to request information about sales tax jurisdictions, and the information gained would be used to help facilitate sales tax collection and remittance for retail businesses. I don't intend to sell this information, but the information will be used to conduct commerce.

What exactly constitutes commercial use in regards to a FOIA request?

  • 3
    Please link to the source of the stipulation. This is also a legal question, instead of a political one.
    – James K
    Aug 16, 2017 at 10:04

1 Answer 1


Assuming you are talking about the US federal Freedom of Information Act, there is a category of "commercial use requests" mentioned in the statute at 5 USC 552 (a) (4) (A) (ii) (I):

fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search, duplication, and review, when records are requested for commercial use

For non-commercial use, you only have to pay for search and duplication (and requests by journalists and scientists only have to pay for duplication). So if this is for commercial use, you can still have the request fulfilled, but it will cost you more.

"Commercial use" doesn't seem to be defined in the statute. However, each agency implements this process with its own regulations, and in some cases they give more details as to what is considered "commercial use". As an example, the Department of the Treasury has its regulations at 31 CFR 1.5, and paragraph (b) (2) (i) says:

A commercial use request refers to a request from or on behalf of one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. The bureaus may determine from the use specified in the request that the requester is a commercial user.

So if this request furthers your "commercial, trade, or profit interests" or those of your clients, then it's a commercial use request, and you'll have to pay accordingly.

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