Disbursements are things that we pay for on behalf of our client. Things like postage. We charge for them separately because our errors and insurance premiums are based upon net fees. If we break out and charge separately for disbursements, we don’t have to pay an insurance premium on expenses like mileage or paper.
I recently had a client ask for a justification for the number of photocopies that were listed on his invoice. That is what inspired this particular addition to our FAQ. Our definition of photocopies is very broad. It includes, of course 8.5″ x 11″ single sided copies whether put in our files, given to the client or sent to the authority having jurisdiction (usually the Building Official.) Double sided copies are charged as two copies. An 11×17 double sided copy, which I have never seen but which our photocopier will make, would be four photocopies. We also lump in envelopes and photographs printed on plain paper with photocopies – anything that requires toner and paper. At the present time, we charge the same fee per photocopy whether black and white or colour even though colour photocopies cost us a little more. The fee for a photocopy reflects the cost of paper, toner and the wear and tear machine that combines them.
We charge a 15% administration fee on disbursements. This is intended to cover the time and money spent purchasing stamps, paper, ink, toner, envelopes and suchlike. A simple act of buying paper involves ordering it, stocking it and paying for it. Paying for it requires cheques, envelopes, bookkeepers, accountants.