Candidate handbook for the 2020 General Election

If you’re an electorate candidate, this section explains the rules you must follow when getting donations, including anonymous and overseas donations, as well as how to report and disclose your donations.

If you’re a list only candidate and you get donations for your party, you must send it to your party secretary.

A donation can be money, goods or services

A donation can be money, goods or services that you get for free to use in your campaign.

If you get free goods or services with a reasonable market value over $300 from a New Zealand person, or $50 from an overseas person, their market value is a donation.

If you get a discount on goods or services from a New Zealand person with a reasonable market value over $300, the difference between the market value and the price you pay is a donation. If you get a discount on goods or services with a reasonable market value over $50 from an overseas person, the difference between the market value and the price you pay is a donation.

If you sell over-valued goods or services (for example, at a fundraising auction), the difference between the reasonable market value and the price the buyer pays is a donation.

If you get credit on better terms than the normal terms for similar credit at the time, the value of the better terms is a donation.

There are exceptions to donation rules

The following don’t count as donations:

  • volunteer labour
  • goods or services you get for free from a New Zealand person that have a reasonable market value of $300 or less
  • goods or services you get for free from an overseas person that have a reasonable market value of $50 or less
  • money you give to your own campaign.

Know whether donations are for you or your party

When you get a donation, it’s important you know whether it’s meant for you or your party. Ask the donor if you aren’t sure, especially if they sent the donation through an electorate committee or transmitter.

If the donation is for your party, you must send it to your party secretary.

If someone else pays an expense for you, it may also count as a donationIf someone gives or pays for something that would otherwise be an election expense, it counts towards your expense limit. If the reasonable market value for the good or service you got is more than $300, it also counts as a donation. The threshold is $50 if the person giving or paying the expense is an overseas person.

Keep a record of the donations you get

Record the following details about donations as you get them:

  • the donor’s name and address
  • the amount you got
  • the date you got the donation
  • whether they are an overseas person.

You must report donations over $1,500

You’ll need to report all donations, and contributions to donations, of more than $1,500 (including GST) to us after the election. You must also report a series of donations one person makes if they add up to more than $1,500.

Learn more about reporting the donations you get.

Take all reasonable steps to keep records of all the donations you get, even if they’re less $1,500. You need to be able to track the total amounts individual donors give you.

More than one person can contribute to a donation

More than one person can contribute funds to a donation. For example, if there’s a collection or whip-round for your campaign.

The total earnings of a collection or whip-round count as a donation. The person who collects the money will normally be the donor. The individuals who contribute to the collection are contributors.

The donor must give you details about the contributions

The donor must tell you that contributions make up the donation they’re giving you, as well as their name and address.

If any New Zealand person contributes more than $1,500, or any overseas person contributes more than $50 to the donation, the donor must also tell you the following:

  • the name and address of that contributor
  • how much that contributor contributed
  • whether that contributor is an overseas person
  • the total amount of any other contributions.

For example, person A writes four cheques for $500 to your campaign committee, and person B, person C and person D each give $100 to the committee. If your campaign committee gives that money to you, it must tell you the following:

  • that contributions make up the donation
  • that person A contributed $2,000
  • person A’s name and address
  • that none of the contributors are overseas persons
  • that the total amount of contributions that are $1,500 or less is $300.

You must return a donation if you don’t get all the information

If you know, or have reasonable grounds to believe, the donor hasn’t given you this information, you must give the whole donation back to the donor.

Send donations for your party to your party secretary

Sometimes you or your campaign will get a donation that’s meant for your party. You must either send the donation to your party secretary or deposit the money into a bank account nominated by the party secretary.

Pass the donation on within 10 working days

If you get a donation for your party, you must send it to your party secretary or bank it into the bank account nominated by the party secretary within 10 working days.

Give your party secretary details about the donation

When you send or notify the donation to your party secretary you must also tell them the following:

  • that you’re sending the donation on a donor’s behalf
  • the name and address of the donor
  • whether contributions make up the donation.

If contributions make up the donation and any contributor contributes more than $1,500, you must follow the rules for contributions. Read the rules for contributions above.

If you don’t know the donor’s name and address, your party must treat the donation as anonymous.

Fundraising can count as getting donations

You can fundraise by selling goods or services. For example, your campaign could run a raffle, sell tickets to an event or auction off items.

Supporters who give you goods or services to sell can count as donors

For example, if you get free goods or services given for fundraising with a reasonable market value over $300 from a New Zealand person, or $50 from an overseas person, their market value is a donation.

Account for market value when selling tickets to events and auctioning items

If you sell a ticket to an event or receive payment for an item at an auction, the difference between the reasonable market value of the ticket or item and the price the buyer pays is a donation.

For example, person A wins two separate items at your fundraising auction. They pay $1,500 for each item, and each item has a reasonable market value of $500. Their contribution would be $1000 for each item.

Don’t rely on the price a buyer pays at a fundraising auction to work out the reasonable market value of an item. If you don’t have an objective basis to work out the reasonable market value of a ticket or item, we suggest you err on the side of caution. Treat the entire difference between what the buyer pays and the reasonable market value of running the event or the item as a donation.

For reporting purposes, record the name and address of any person that buys tickets or fundraising items exceeding $50 in value.

How to report

If the total you get is more than $1,500, you must report the following to us in your annual return:

  • the name and address of the person who ran the fundraiser
  • the amount your party got
  • the date your party got the donation

People who buy the goods or services can count as contributors

The individuals who buy goods or services count as contributors if they knew their money would go into a donation for your campaign and the person running the fundraiser must follow the rules for recording and reporting contributions.

Donations through an intermediary (a transmitter)

A donor can send their donation to you through another person or organisation, such as a lawyer or trust fund.

The intermediary must pass the donation on within 10 working days

If someone gets a donation meant for you, they must send it to you within 10 working days.

The intermediary must give you details about the donation

When the intermediary sends you the donation, they must also tell you the following:

  • that they’re sending the donation to you on a donor’s behalf
  • the name and address of the donor
  • whether contributions make up the donation

If contributions make up the donation and any contributor contributes more than $1,500, you must follow the rules for contributions.

If the intermediary doesn’t know the donor’s name and address, you must treat the donation as anonymous. Read the rules for anonymous donations below.

If you receive a donation from an unincorporated body you need to consider whether the donation is actually from individuals within it. If you think this is the case, record them as the donors.

You can’t keep anonymous donations of more than $1,500

Candidates are not allowed to accept anonymous donations of more than $1,500. If you get an anonymous donation that’s more than $1,500, you can keep $1,500 of it.

A donation is anonymous if there’s no way you could know who sent it.

A donation from a trust is anonymous if it doesn’t include the name and address of the settlor, or the person who approved the donation.

Send the rest of the anonymous donation to us

You must send the rest of the money to us within 20 working days of getting the donation. We’ll pay the donation to a Crown bank account.

You can’t keep overseas donations of more than $50

Candidates are not allowed to accept donations or contributions over $50 from an overseas person.

An overseas donor or contributor is any of the following:

  • a person who lives outside New Zealand and isn’t a New Zealand citizen or on an electoral roll
  • a body corporate that’s incorporated outside New Zealand
  • an unincorporated body that has its head office or main place of business outside New Zealand.

What do I have to do?

For all donations over $50 (other than anonymous donations), you have an obligation to take all reasonable steps to check whether a donation is made by or on behalf of an overseas person or includes a contribution made by or on behalf of an overseas person.

You should keep records of all donations and the checks you have taken to ensure that they are not from an overseas person.

You will have a defence for any breach of this requirement if you can prove you took all reasonable steps, in the circumstances of the donation to ensure that:

  • you did not accept or retain a donation or contribution from an overseas person exceeding $50, or
  • there were no reasonable grounds to suspect that the donation or contribution exceeding $50 was made by or on behalf of an overseas person.

What are reasonable steps?

You are ultimately responsible for determining what checks are reasonable to make in the circumstances of any donation.

However, there are a range of steps that we recommend you take to check the origin of donations:

  • checking the name and address details of individual donors against the electoral roll
  • checking whether a donor company is on the New Zealand Companies Register
  • for any unincorporated body, ensuring that the unincorporated body is actually the donor and not individuals within it and seeking information or confirmation that its head office or principal place of business is in New Zealand
  • ensuring that online donation forms require donors and any contributors to give their residential address and/or affirm the donation is not made by or on behalf of an overseas person
  • for larger donations, you may also wish to seek copies of documents such as incorporation certificates, citizenship certificates, passports, trust deeds or written confirmation from donors themselves.

How long have I got to undertake checks?

You must undertake these checks within 20 working days of receipt of the donation.

If you determine, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that a donation or contribution exceeding $50 was made by an overseas person you can retain $50 of it but must return the balance to the donor or, if this is not possible, pay it to the Electoral Commission.

What are reasonable grounds to suspect?

Reasonable grounds to suspect would require something on the face of the donation, the details provided by the donor, or the circumstances in which the donation is given that indicate the donation may be from an overseas person.

For example, if you received an anonymous donation in foreign currency this would be reasonable grounds to suspect.

What about the donation of goods and services?

The overseas donation restrictions also apply to:

  • goods or services provided free of charge from an overseas person that have a reasonable market value exceeding $50, and
  • goods or services provided at a discount from an overseas person that have a reasonable market value exceeding $50, where the difference between the agreed price and the reasonable market value exceeds $50.

This is different to the rules that apply to donations of goods of services from a New Zealand person. For a New Zealand person, you don’t have to treat free goods or services or the value of any discount received on goods or services as a donation unless the reasonable market value of the goods or services exceeds $1,500 for a party or $300 for a candidate.

Return the rest of the donation

If an overseas donor gives you more than $50, you can keep $50 of it. You must return the rest of the money to the donor within 20 working days of getting the donation. If you can’t return it, you need to send it to the Electoral Commission. We’ll pay the donation to a Crown bank account.

Return the whole donation if it includes more than $50 from an overseas contributor

If a donor from New Zealand gives you a donation that includes a contribution of more than $50 from an overseas person, you must return the whole donation or send it to the Commission.

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