Referendum entities

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

What is a referendum entity?

A referendum entity is a person or organisation that incurs referendum expenditure over the disclosure threshold (currently $15,200) during the referendum expenditure period.

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.

Does a referendum entity need to register?

Referendum entities are not required to register with the AEC.

Who lodges the referendum return?

If the referendum entity is an individual, they must lodge the return.

If the referendum entity is an organisation, the return should be lodged by the relevant person with the authority to do so.

When is the referendum return due?

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

Referendum entities may need to notify referendum donors to make them aware of their potential disclosure obligation.

What is required to be disclosed?

A return must be provided if the person or organisation is a referendum entity at any time during a referendum expenditure period.

A referendum entity must disclose the following information in relation to the referendum expenditure period:

  • referendum expenditure incurred;
  • the total value of donations received for referendum campaigning;
  • the total number of donors;
  • details of donations above the disclosure threshold; and
  • a signed statement of compliance with foreign donations restrictions.

Referendum entities are prohibited from receiving donations from foreign donors of $100 or more, if the referendum entity:

  • knows the donor is a foreign donor; and
  • knows that the foreign donor intends the donation to be used for referendum campaigning; or
  • accepts the donation with the intent of using it for referendum campaigning.

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

Lodging a referendum return

Referendum entities will lodge returns through the eReturns portal.

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

Record keeping

The Referendum Act makes the referendum entity responsible for record keeping.

Referendum entities 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 voting day for the referendum.

A person or entity 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