This information is for registered political parties and third parties.
For more information, refer to Part 13A of the Electoral Act 1985.
The agent is responsible for lodging returns on behalf of a registered political party or third party. For more information on agents, visit our Appointing an agent page.
Note: if a third party who is also an associated entity has lodged an Associated Entity Return for a period, they are not required to lodge a Third Party Return for that same period (section 130ZP(4)).
Registered political parties and third parties must lodge half-yearly returns within 30 days of the end of each half-yearly period.
During an election
During a general election, there are additional return lodgement obligations. In the year of a general election, registered political parties and third parties must lodge a return for the month of January by 5 February. Following this are the high-frequency lodgements: returns must be lodged for every 7 day period until 30 days after polling day. These returns must be lodged within 5 days of the end of each 7 day period.
Returns must set out the following information:
- Total amount received by the entity during the period (total receipts).
- Details of amounts received of more than $5,000 (indexed).
- Total outstanding debt as at the end of the period.
- Details of each debt of more than $5,000 (indexed).
Refer to sections 130ZN (political party returns) and 130ZP (third party returns) for more information.
Amounts received include all monies received from all sources including:
- Gifts of money or goods.
- Gifts in kind of goods or services.
- Membership subscriptions.
- Loans obtained.
- Earnings from assets or investments.
- Proceeds from the sale of assets.
- Payments from Commonwealth or State authorities (including Special Assistance Funding payments).
Transfers between a registered political party and its state or federal counterparts must be included as they are separate entities for reporting purposes.
Two or more amounts of more than $200 received from the same person during the financial year will be treated as one amount (sections 130ZN(4), and 130ZP(3)).
Outstanding debts can include:
- Unpaid accounts.
- Unremitted taxes.
Regulation 23 of the Electoral Regulations 2009 prescribes additional details which are required to be provided in a return for amounts received from or owed to a trust, company or an association. The names of all trustees, members of the board or executive committee must be provided. In the case of a company donor, there is an additional obligation to provide the names of any related bodies corporate. For more information, please refer to our Prescribed Particulars Guide on our Guides page.
An audit certificate must be provided for every return lodged with the Electoral Commissioner (section 130ZV).
For returns relating to the designated period of an election, there are only 2 ‘bulk’ audit certificates required:
- The first audit certificate must be lodged 7 days before polling day to cover all returns lodged up to that date.
- The second audit certificate will cover all the remaining returns. The second audit certificate must be lodged on the day the last high-frequency return is due.
You may apply for a waiver of the requirement to provide an audit certificate if:
- The return is a nil return.
- The costs of compliance with the audit certificate requirement would be unreasonable.
Failing to lodge a return within the legislated timeframe is an offence. The maximum penalty for a registered political party agent is $10,000. For any other person, the maximum penalty is $5,000.
Lodging a return which a person knows is false or misleading in a material particular is an offence for which the maximum penalty is $10,000.
For more information, refer to section 130ZZE.
In addition to return lodgement obligations, there are also record keeping obligations. Visit our Records and evidence page for more information.