Third parties

Updated: 27 June 2023

What is a third party?

A third party is a person or entity (other than a political entity or a member of the House of Representatives or the Senate) incurring electoral expenditure that is:

  • more than the disclosure threshold during a financial year; but
  • is not required to be registered as a significant third party.

Does a third party need to register?

Third parties are not required to register with the AEC. Third parties will be automatically included on the Transparency Register if they lodge a financial disclosure return for the current, or any of the three previous, financial years.

Third parties will remain on the Transparency Register for three years following a financial year relating to which they report.

How does this differ from a significant third party?

Persons or entities are required to register as a significant third party when:

  • electoral expenditure exceeds $250,000 during that financial year, or any one of the previous three financial years; or
  • electoral expenditure is at least equal to the disclosure threshold during that financial year and electoral expenditure during the previous financial year was at least one‑third of the revenue of the person or entity for that year: or
  • during that financial year the person or entity operates for the dominant purpose of fundraising amounts:
    1. the aggregate of which is at least equal to the disclosure threshold; and
    2. that are for the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure or that are to be gifted to another person or entity for the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure.

Who lodges the annual return?

The annual return should be lodged by a person with the authority to do so.

When is the annual return due?

The annual return covering the financial year 1 July to 30 June must be lodged by 17 November each year.

The annual return can be lodged any time from 1 July each year.

A person or entity that becomes or ceases to be a third party during the financial year, must provide the return in relation to the whole financial year.

What is required to be disclosed?

A third party must disclose the following information in the annual return:

  • total electoral expenditure incurred above the disclosure threshold;
  • details of donations received totalling more than the disclosure threshold that were used, either wholly or partly, to incur electoral expenditure; and
  • a signed statement of compliance with foreign donations restrictions.

What are the restrictions on foreign donations?

The Electoral Act restricts the receipt of donations from foreign donors. A foreign donor can be a person who is not an Australian citizen or resident, or a corporation that is not incorporated in Australia, or an entity for which the principal place of business is not in Australia.

Third parties must not receive donations from foreign donors for the amount or value equal to or above the disclosure threshold, which are then used for:

  • the purpose of incurring electoral expenditure; or
  • the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter.

In addition, a third party must not receive a donation of $100 or more if:

  • they know the donor is a foreign donor; and
  • they know the donor intended the gift to be used for incurring electoral expenditure or for the dominant purpose of creating or communicating electoral matter; or
  • they accepted the gift intending to use it for those purposes.

Refer to the Foreign donations fact sheet for further information.

Financial Disclosure Guide for Third Parties

The Financial Disclosure Guide for Third Parties incurring Electoral Expenditure is designed to assist third parties to understand their financial disclosure obligations under Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act).

This guide provides information derived from the Electoral Act as well as from the experiences of the AEC in the administration of the Commonwealth funding and disclosure scheme.

Lodging an annual return

The annual return can be lodged through the eReturns portal.

The AEC will issue eReturns credentials (username and password) to identified third parties. However, third parties that do not have an eReturns account may create their own.

For more information go to Lodge a financial disclosure return.

For important terms needed to complete annual returns, explore Financial Disclosure FAQs.

Further information and examples can be found in the Financial Disclosure Guide for Third Parties 2022–23.

Record keeping

Third parties should have adequate financial recording systems and procedures to enable the return, which will be publicly available, to be properly completed. The Electoral Act makes the third party responsible for record keeping.

Relevant records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years following the end of the reporting period.

A person or entity who fails to comply with these requirements is subject to civil penalties.

Further information