Party Secretary handbook

This section explains the rules your party must follow when getting donations, including anonymous and overseas donations, as well as how to report and disclose your donations.

A donation can be money, goods or services

A donation can be money, or the equivalent of money, or goods or services that is made to the party, or to any person or body of persons on behalf of the party who are involved in the administration of the affairs of the party.

If your party gets free goods or services with a reasonable market value over $1,500 from a New Zealand person, or $50 from an overseas person, their market value is a donation.

If your party gets a discount on goods or services from a New Zealand person with a reasonable market value over $1,500, the difference between the market value and the price your party pays is a donation. If your party gets 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 your party pays is a donation.

If your party sells 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 your party gets 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 to your party:

  • volunteer labour
  • goods or services your party gets for free from a New Zealand person that have a reasonable market value of $1,500 or less
  • goods or services your party gets for free from an overseas person that have a reasonable market value of $50 or less
  • a candidate donation that the candidate includes in their return of donations

Know whether donations are for your party or your party’s candidates

When your party gets a donation, it’s important you know whether it’s meant for your party or one of your party’s candidates. 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 one of your party’s candidates, you must send it to that candidate.

If someone else pays an expense for your party, it may also count as a donation

If someone gives or pays for something that would otherwise be an election expense, it counts towards your party’s expense limit. If the reasonable market value for the good or service your party got is more than $1,500, 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 your party gets

Record the following details about donations as your party gets 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 on donations annually

You’ll need to report all donations to us each year. You need to report specific details about:

  • donations over $15,000
  • contributions to donations over $15,000
  • series of donations one donor makes, if they add up to more than $15,000.

You must also report the total number and total amount of donations that are under $15,000.

You must immediately report donations that are over $30,000.

You must tell us immediately if a single donor donates more than $30,000, either with one donation or a series of donations within a 12-month period.

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 party’s 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 your party. 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 party’s campaign committee, and person B, person C and person D each give $100 to the committee. If your party’s campaign committee gives that money to your party, 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’s candidates to the candidates

Sometimes you or your party’s campaign will get a donation that’s meant for one of your party’s candidates. You must pass these donations on to that candidate.

Pass the donation on within 10 working days

If you get a donation for one of your party’s candidates, you must send it to that candidate within 10 working days.

Give the candidate details about the donation

When you send the donation to the candidate, 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 you must follow the rules for contributions.

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

Fundraising can count as getting donations

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

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

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

For example, if your party gets free goods or services given for fundraising with a reasonable market value over $1,500 from a New Zealand person, or $50 from an overseas person, their market value is a donation.  

Account for market value when selling tickets and auctioning items

If your party sells a ticket to an event or receives 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 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 your party gets is more than $15,000, 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 to your party and the person running the fundraiser must follow the rules for recording and reporting contributions.

  • 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 to your party 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 your party 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 your party, 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 your party on a donor’s behalf
  • The name and address of the donor
  • Whether contributions make up the donation, and if so all of the information about contributions that the donor must collect must be passed on to you.

If the intermediary doesn’t know the donor’s name and address, or details of contributions, 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

A party cannot keep anonymous donations of more than $1,500.

If your party gets an anonymous donation that’s more than $1,500, your party 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

Parties 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 your party more than $50, your party 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 the donation, send the money to us.  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 Electoral Commission.

Your party can get donations that are protected from disclosure

A donation protected from disclosure lets a New Zealand donor give more than $1,500 to your party anonymously.

The donor sends the money to us, then we send it to your party

The donor sends the money to us and we group it with other donations protected from disclosure. We’ll send the money to your party without identifying the donors.

From 13 September to 12 November, we’ll pay protected donations to your party weekly. We’ll pay monthly at any other time.

Your party can get up to $322,940 between each election

Your party can get up to $322,940 from donations protected from disclosure between two successive elections.

A single donor can use donations protected from disclosure to donate up to $48,441 to your party between two successive elections.

We report on the amounts we get and pay

We report the total amounts we get in donations protected from disclosure, and the total amounts we pay to parties quarterly on our website and in our annual report.

You must report your party’s donations to us each year

You must report your registered party’s donations to us every year. You need to report specific details about:

  • donations over $15,000
  • contributions to donations over $15,000
  • series of donations one donor makes, if they add up to more than $15,000.

You must also report the total number and total amount of donations that are under $15,000.

Send us your annual donation return by 30 April each year

We must get your return of donations by 30 April each year. The return must include the donations your party got in the previous calendar year. For example, the return you send us by 30 April 2021 must include the donations your party got in 2020.

We’ll provide you with the Annual Party Return form that you can use to make your return.

The form will guide you through the donation returns process

The return form includes detailed advice about how to complete your return and send it to us.

Include an auditor’s report with your annual donation return

You must include an auditor’s report with your annual return. Section 210A of the Electoral Act sets out the full requirements for audits of your party’s donations.

The audit requirements for donation returns are similar to the audit requirements for election expenses. Read more.

Send us a return even if you don’t have any donations

If your party doesn’t have any donations to report, you still need to complete and send a return form with an auditor’s report. The form will tell you how to show your party has no donations.

You must track each donor’s combined donations

Your party must have a system in place to track how much each donor donates over the course of a year.

You don’t need to include donations to electorate candidates

Your party’s annual return doesn’t need to include donations to your party’s electorate candidates that the candidates report in their post-election returns.

We’ll release your party’s donation returns to the public 

We’ll publish your party’s annual returns on our website. Members of the public can also visit us to view the return forms.  

You must immediately report donations that are over $30,000

You must tell us if a single donor donates more than $30,000, either with one donation or a series of donations within a 12-month period.

Tell us within 10 working days of getting the donation, or final donation if it’s a series of donations.

Use our return form for donations exceeding $30,000 to report the donation.

You must track each donor’s combined donations

Your party must have a system in place to track how much each donor donates, so you can immediately tell us if someone goes over $30,000.

Tell us about the donor and the donation

Include the following details on the form:

  • the donor’s name and address
  • the amount your party got
  • the date your party got the donation, or each donation if it’s a series of donations.

If the donation includes more than $30,000 from a single contributor, you must also include:

  • the contributor’s name and address
  • the amount of the contribution.

Tell us if the same donor donates another $30,000 or more

Once you file your return, you must tell us if the donor donates more than $30,000 again within a 12-month period.

We’ll release your returns of donations over $30,000 to the public

We’ll publish your party’s returns of donations over $30,000 on our website. Members of the public can also visit us to view the return forms.

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