Referendum donors

This page provides an overview of disclosure requirements for referendum donors. Additional content will be made available progressively.

What is a referendum donor?

A donor is a person or entity that makes one or more donations totalling more than the disclosure threshold (currently $15,200) to a referendum entity at any time during the referendum expenditure period.

The donor also intends for the donation to be used:

  • for the dominant purpose of incurring referendum expenditure or
  • for the dominant purpose of creating or communicating referendum matter.

A referendum entity is a person or entity that incurs referendum expenditure during a referendum expenditure period that exceeds the disclosure threshold.

The referendum expenditure period:

  • starts on the day that is six months before the writ for a referendum is issued; and
  • ends on the voting day for the referendum.

Who lodges the referendum return?

If the donor is an individual, they must lodge the return.

If the donor is an organisation, the return should be lodged by a person with the authority to do so.

When is the referendum return due?

Donors must lodge a referendum return with the AEC before the end of 15 weeks after the voting day for the referendum.

What is required to be disclosed?

A donor must disclose the following information in the referendum return:

  • the value of the donations made in the referendum expenditure period to a referendum entity;
  • the name of the referendum entity; and
  • the dates on which donations were made.

If the total of donations made to a referendum entity exceeds the disclosure threshold, all donations made to that referendum entity, regardless of their value, must be disclosed.

Lodging a referendum return

Referendum donors will lodge returns through the eReturns portal.

Further guidance and a link to the eReturns portal will be available for donors in the lead up to a referendum.

Are there restrictions on foreign donations?

Foreign donors are prohibited from donating $100 or more to referendum entities for the purpose of referendum campaigning.

Find out more about the definition of a foreign donor and restrictions on foreign donations:

Record keeping

The Referendum Act makes the donor responsible for record keeping.

Donors should have adequate financial recording systems and procedures to enable the return to be properly completed. All transactions should be supported by source documents.

Relevant records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years after the day the donation is made.

A donor who fails to comply with these requirements is subject to civil penalties.

A referendum return may be subject to review as part of the AEC’s compliance program.

All referendum returns will be published on the AEC website.

Updated: 1 May 2023