Financial Disclosure Guide for Third Parties incurring Political Expenditure

Updated: 6 July 2016

Annual disclosure

Responsibility for lodging returns

Responsibility for lodging returns lies with the person that incurred political expenditure for the purposes defined in section 314AEB(1)(a) of the Act.

A person who incurred political expenditure, by or with his or her own authority should sign their own return.

Where the third party is an organisation, a person with appropriate authority and access to financial records should sign the return.

In the case of a company this may be the Chief Executive Officer, Company Secretary or Financial Controller. In the case of a trust it would be the trustee.

A return of political expenditure is not required to be lodged by a:

  • political party;
  • Commonwealth Government Department or Agency;
  • member of the Commonwealth Parliament; or
  • candidate in a House of Representatives or Senate election.

The financial disclosure obligation under the Act

Sections 314AEB and 314AEC of the Act govern lodgement of annual disclosures by third parties.

Section 314AEB provides that:

  • a person who incurs political expenditure during the 2015–16 financial year; and
  • the amount of the political expenditure was more than the disclosure threshold;

must within 20 weeks after the end of the financial year furnish to the AEC a return in the approved form.

The Third Party Return of Electoral Expenditure Disclosure Return (the return) requires disclosure of the following information covering the financial year from 1 July to 30 June:

  • political expenditure incurred for one or more of the following five specified purposes listed in section 314AEB(1)(a);
    1. public expression of views on a political party, candidate in an election or member of the Commonwealth Parliament by any means,
    2. public expression of views on an issue in an election by any means,
    3. printing, production, publication, or distribution of any material that is required under s328 1, s328A2 or s328B3 of the Act to include a name, address or place of business,
    4. broadcast of political matter in relation to which particulars are required to be announced under subclause 4(2) of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992,
    5. opinion polling and other research relating to an election or the voting intentions of electors.
  • together with details of any gifts received within or outside the financial year from the same person/entity totalling more than the disclosure threshold, which the person then used (either wholly or partly), to incur or reimburse their political expenditure (section 314AEC).

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

eReturns portal and where return forms can be accessed

Third 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 Third Party Quick Reference Guide, a step-by-step guide is available. See Appendix 4 for more information.

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

Alternatively, third parties can contact Funding and Disclosure at and forms can be emailed, faxed or mailed.

Reports extracted from the third parties 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 it identifies (for example, from media advertisements) as possibly having annual disclosure obligations to advise them of their obligations. This does not absolve third parties 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.


The Act imposes penalties for failure to properly complete and lodge a return. The AEC provides support, including this guide, to assist third 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.

1. Section 328 requires all electoral advertisements to include the name and address of the person who authorised the advertisement and, except in the case of newspapers, the name and place of business of the printer at the end of the advertisement.

2. Section 328A imposes a similar requirement on electoral advertisements on the internet.

3. Section 328B requires all how-to-vote cards to include the name and address of the person who authorised the how-to-vote card and if the how-to-vote card is authorised by or on behalf of a registered political party or candidate endorsed by a registered political party–the name of the registered political party. Where the how-to-vote card is authorised by or on behalf of a candidate who is not endorsed by a registered political party–the candidate’s name, and the word ‘candidate’ is required to be included on the how-to-vote card.