Financial Disclosure Guide for Donors to Political Parties

Updated: 6 July 2016

Annual disclosure

Part XX, Division 4 of the Act relates to disclosure of donations. However, the actual legislative provisions within Division 4 refer to gifts and 'gift' is defined in section 287(1) of the Act. In this guide when the word 'donation' appears it has the same meaning as gift as defined in secton 287(1).

Responsibility for lodging returns

Responsibility for lodging returns lies with the person or organisation that made donations to a political party. Where the donor is an organisation, someone with suitable authority should sign the return, such as the CEO or chief financial officer.

The financial disclosure obligation under the Act

Section 305B of the Act governs the lodgement of annual disclosures by donors to political parties.

Section 305B(1) provides that where a person or organisation makes one or more donations to a political party totalling more than the disclosure threshold during the 2015–2016 financial year, the person or organisation must within 20 weeks after the end of the financial year furnish to the AEC a return in the approved form.

Further, section 305B(2) provides that if a person or organisation makes a donation to any person or body with the intention of benefiting a particular political party, the person is taken for the purposes of section 305B(1) to have made that donation directly to that political party.

In determining whether the threshold for disclosure has been reached, it is important to note that section 287(6) deems body corporates related under the provisions of the Corporations Act 2001 to be a single entity, so donations must be aggregated across the group and then disclosed on a single return.

The Donor to Political Party Disclosure Return–Individuals requires disclosure of the following information:

  • details of donations made
  • details of donations received.

The Donor to Political Party Disclosure Return–Organisations requires disclosure of the following information:

  • details of related organisations
  • details of donations made
  • details of donations received.

The disclosure threshold for the 2015–2016 financial year is for amounts of more than $13 000. This figure is indexed annually.

The returns must reach the AEC National Office in Canberra by 17 November 2016.

A donor who makes a donation, in excess of the disclosure threshold, to a candidate in a federal election, rather than to a political party, is required to lodge an Election Donor Return. In such instances please refer to the Financial Disclosure Guide for Election Donors.

Please note that a number of state and territory jurisdictions have their own disclosure schemes, which are separate to the Commonwealth disclosure scheme. State electoral office websites.

eReturns portal and where return forms can be accessed

Donors can prepare and lodge their returns online via the eReturns portal. The easiest way to lodge your return accurately and on time is to use the eReturns portal, it is quick, secure, and allows importing/exporting of files which eliminates transcription errors. To assist with completing a return online, the eReturns Donor Quick Reference Guide, a step-by-step guide is available. See Appendix 4 for more information.

If a donor is unable to lodge a return online via the eReturns portal the relevant forms may be downloaded.

Alternatively, donors can contact Funding and Disclosure at fad@aec.gov.au and forms can be emailed, faxed or mailed to the donor.

Reports extracted from the donor's accounting system that are in a similar format to the tables in the return and which contain all required information listed below, may be attached to the return as an alternative to transcribing that information onto the return.

The completed and signed return may be lodged by mail or facsimile or may be scanned and emailed. Please ensure the front page of the return is signed by the appropriate person.

Reporting period

The return covers the financial year 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. The AEC contacts the people and organisations identified as 'Donors' on political party returns to advise them of their financial disclosure obligations under the Act. This does not absolve donors who are not contacted from completing and submitting returns.

Due date for lodging returns


Completed returns must reach the AEC National Office in Canberra by 17 November each year. Where 17 November falls on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday, the return must reach the AEC National Office in Canberra by the next business day.

The AEC has no legislative discretion to extend this deadline.

Returns are made publicly available on the AEC's website on the first working day of February each year.

Penalties

The Act imposes penalties for failure to properly complete and lodge a return. The AEC provides support, including this guide, to assist donors to comply with their disclosure obligations.

The AEC deals with non-compliance as appropriate to the circumstances, including possible referral to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for commencement of legal action. Refer to Appendix 3 of this guide for information relating to offences under the Act.