Responsibility for lodging returns lies with the agent of the political party. Where there is no party agent, section 292B of the Act deems all members of the political party’s executive committee to have the legal responsibility for lodging the return.
The appointment and termination of a party agent is explained in the AEC's publication – Party Registration Guide.
Section 314AB of the Act governs the lodgement of annual disclosures by political parties.
The agent of each political party must within 16 weeks after the end of each financial year furnish to the AEC a return in the approved form.
The Political Party Disclosure Return (the return) requires disclosure of the following information covering the financial year from 1 July to 30 June:
The disclosure threshold for the 2015–2016 financial year is for amounts of more than $13 000. This figure is indexed annually.
A 'nil' return should be lodged or a 'nil' entry disclosed where a political party has no transactions or no transactions applicable to a particular part of the return.
Associated entities, donors to political parties and ‘third parties’ that incur political expenditure also have annual disclosure obligations. Election returns are required from all House of Representatives and Senate candidates, jointly endorsed and unendorsed, Senate groups and people or organisations that make donations to candidates.
Political parties and their associated entities may be subject to a compliance review by the AEC to assess the completeness and accuracy of lodged disclosure returns.
Please note that a number of state and territory jurisdictions have their own disclosure schemes, which are separate to the Commonwealth disclosure scheme.
Political parties 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 Political Party Quick Reference Guide, a step-by-step guide is available. See Appendix 4 for more information.
If political parties are unable to lodge a return online via the eReturns portal the relevant forms may be downloaded. Alternatively, political parties can contact Funding and Disclosure at email@example.com and forms can be emailed, faxed or mailed to the party.
Reports extracted from the political party's accounting system that follow the format of 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 form.
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 appointed party agent registered with the AEC.
The return covers the financial year 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. For a political party that became registered during the financial year, the period commences on the date of registration and ends on 30 June 2016.
Transactions occurring before the political party was registered with the AEC do not need to be disclosed in the political party return.
The AEC will advise agents of political parties of their obligation to lodge a return following the conclusion of the financial year. Agents should ensure their contact details as recorded by the AEC are up-to-date.
Completed returns must reach the AEC National Office in Canberra by 20 October each year. Where 20 October 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.
The names of all political parties that fail to submit a return by the due date will be published on the AEC website and/or in the AEC's report to Parliament.
The Act imposes penalties for failure to properly complete and lodge a return. The AEC provides support, including this guide, to assist political parties 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.