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About this guidance

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA), there are laws on fundraising and spending that political parties must follow in the run-up to certain elections. 

This guidance provides information on the regulated period, spending limits, campaign spending, reporting requirements and deadlines for a UK Parliamentary general election (UKPGE). 

This guidance and the related documents we refer to apply to registered political parties only. The rules for candidates are different, and we issue separate guidance for candidates and their agents contesting the UKPGE.

When parties issue election material it must contain details known as an imprint. We publish separate guidance on imprints.

Terms and expressions we use 

In this guidance, we use ‘must’ when we refer to a specific requirement. We use ‘should’ for items we consider to be minimum good practice, but which are not legal requirements.

We use ‘you’ or ‘the responsible person’ to refer to the person who is responsible for campaign spending. This will be the registered campaigns officer if one has been appointed, or the registered treasurer if not.

Translations and other formats  

For information on obtaining this publication in another language or in a Braille version please contact the Electoral Commission: 

Tel: 0333 103 1928

Email: [email protected] 
 

Updates to our guidance

Date of updateDescription of change
November 2023

Updates to reflect the new spending limits for political parties

Our approach to enforcement

The Commission regulates political funding and spending in a way that is effective, proportionate and fair. We are committed to providing those we regulate with a clear understanding of their legal obligations through our guidance documents and advice service. If you are unsure of how any of the rules apply to you, please contact us for advice. We are happy to help, so please get in touch.

We use advice and guidance proactively in order to secure compliance. And we take enforcement action, using our investigatory powers and sanctions, where it is necessary and proportionate to do so in order to meet our enforcement aims and objectives. 

If you do not comply with the law, you or your organisation may be subject to civil or criminal sanctions. You can find more information about the Commission’s approach to enforcement at electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/our-enforcement-work

Last updated: 24 November 2023

The regulated period

Campaign spending is what your party spends on certain activities to promote the party or criticise other parties during a particular period in the run-up to the election. 

This period is called the ‘regulated period’. The regulated period is the time when the spending limits and rules apply.

The regulated period for the 2024 UK Parliamentary general election (UKPGE) began on 6 July 2023, and runs to polling day on 4 July 2024.1  

This means that the regulated period will start well before the election is announced.

Any spending you incur which promotes your party or any of its candidates in the regulated period is covered, unless that spending was reported in candidate return or a recall petition return.

This includes spending promoting your party in the UKPGE, but also spending promoting your party in any other elections during the regulated period.

Last updated: 23 May 2024

The spending limit

How much you can spend in the regulated period depends on how many candidates are standing for your party.

You have a separate spending limit in each part of the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – based on the number of seats your party is contesting in that part.1

If you are not standing any candidates, then you do not have a spending limit and you will not have to submit a return.

Parties standing candidates in Great Britain  

For political parties that are contesting the UK Parliamentary general election (UKPGE) in Great Britain, your party’s spending limit is whichever the greater is of:

Either:

Part of GBSpending limit
England£1,458,440
Scotland£216,060
Wales£108,030

Or:

£54,010 x the number of seats your party is contesting in each part of Great Britain. 

Each part of Great Britain has a separate limit based on the number of seats your party is contesting in that part.

eg

For example:

Your party is contesting all the constituencies in each part of Great Britain at the UKPGE. This is 543 constituencies in England, 57 constituencies in Scotland and 32 constituencies in Wales. Your spending limits will be: 

Part of GBSpending limitWorking
England£29,327,430(543 x £54,010)
Scotland£3,078,570(57 x £54,010)
Wales£1,728,320(32 x £54,010)

This is because the total for each area is greater than the fixed amount shown in the first table.

Parties standing candidates in Northern Ireland

Parties standing candidates in Northern Ireland  

For political parties that are contesting the UKPGE in Northern Ireland, your party’s spending limit is:

£54,010 x the number of seats your party is contesting in the UKPGE. 

eg NI

For example: 

Your party is contesting 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland. Your spending limit will be:

£54,010 x 18 = £972,180

Parties standing joint candidates with another party

Parties standing joint candidates with another party 

Some candidates stand under a joint description, meaning they can stand for two or more registered political parties at once. These candidates are called 'joint candidates'.

If your party is standing a joint candidate, the full £54,010 for their constituency is not added when calculating your spending limit. Instead, you add £54,010 divided by the number of parties that the candidate is standing for.2

For example, if the candidate is standing under a joint description shared with your party and one other, then you and the other party both have £27,005 from that constituency.

Joint description example

For example: 

In England your party is standing 10 candidates under a joint description with one other party. 

Your party is also standing candidates in 25 other constituencies in England under your party name only.

Spending limit calculation:

(10 x £54,010/2) + (25 x £54,010) = £1,620,300.

Since this is over the England minimum of £1,458,440, your party's spending limit in England is £1,620,300.

Last updated: 11 June 2024

Campaign spending

Campaign spending is what the party spends on certain activities to promote itself or its candidates, or criticise other parties, during the regulated period. 

Campaign spending includes any items or services used during the regulated period, including:

  • items or services bought before the regulated period begins, but used during it
  • items or services given to the party free of charge or at a non-commercial discount of more than 10% and then used in your campaign (see Notional spending)

All party spending must be reported to the Electoral Commission after the election.1

Last updated: 28 November 2023

Managing campaign spending

Who is responsible for party campaign spending?

A party’s registered treasurer is usually responsible for making sure that the party follows the rules on campaign spending.1  However, if a party has registered a campaigns officer, this person is responsible for campaign spending instead.2

You can appoint deputies to help with some of your responsibilities. You can do this on PEF Online or by using Form RP5.

Authorising and paying campaign expenses

Only the responsible person registered with us, their deputies, and people authorised in writing by the responsible person can incur and pay for party campaign spending.3

By ‘incur’ we mean making a legal commitment to spend the money.

For example, someone may be authorised to spend money on particular items, or up to a particular amount.

These rules are in place to make sure that you can be in control of your party spending and accurately record and report it.

You should make sure that your volunteers and campaigners know who can and cannot incur and pay costs.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

What activities count as spending?

Activities included in campaign spending are:1

  • party political broadcasts, if your party is entitled to one
  • party advertising of any kind. For example, street banners, websites or YouTube videos
  • unsolicited material sent to voters about the party. For example, letters or leaflets you send that are not in response to specific queries
  • the manifesto and other documents setting out your party’s policies
  • market research or other methods of finding out which party people intend to vote for (where the research involves identified candidates however, it may be candidate spending)
  • party press conferences or other dealings with the media
  • party rallies and events, including the cost of people’s attendance, and any goods, services or facilities provided
  • transport in connection with promoting or publicising your party

Which costs are included?

You must include any relevant costs associated with each activity. For example, if you are producing leaflets or advertising, you must include the design and distribution costs. You must also include overheads or administrative costs which are associated with each activity. 

All costs must include VAT, even if you can recover VAT payments. 

Guidance on the relevant costs associated with each activity is included in the following sections. It is not an exhaustive list. If you have queries about specific overhead costs, please contact us for advice.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

General overheads and associated costs

Where relevant overhead and associated costs are incurred, the amount that counts as campaign expenditure is the portion that reasonably reflects usage during the campaign. It is that portion which must be included in the return and counts towards the spending limit.1

This applies to items such as:

  • office space
  • business rates
  • electricity bills
  • provision of phone lines and internet access
  • provision of office equipment of any kind

The proportion that reasonably reflects usage is generally the amount that is incurred over and above the usual costs in a given period.

Eg

For example, a party pays a standard amount per month for electricity. In the period in the lead up to the election it incurs an extra amount above what it would ordinarily pay. The extra amount is the amount that must be reported in the return. 

Which costs are not included?

Which costs are not included?

The costs of water, gas, council tax and childcare do not need to be reported. They are not considered sufficiently closely connected to regulated campaign activities.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Party political broadcasts

If you are entitled to party political broadcasts, you must include the production costs as campaign spending. You do not need to include the value of the airtime.1

You must include the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities
  • equipment

to prepare, produce or facilitate the production of the content or to broadcast the content.

Overheads and associated costs

It includes the cost of any software of any kind for use on any device for the design and production of material in-house.

eg

For example, a licensing fee for a software application for use in designing broadcast content.

Party political broadcasts 2

It includes the cost of purchase and use of any equipment for the preparation, production, facilitation of production or broadcast of the content.

It includes a relevant proportion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

associated with the preparation, production, facilitation of production and/or broadcast of the content.

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with the broadcast for the party where that is paid for by the party or reimbursed by the party. 

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Advertising

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities

equipment

that is used to:

  • prepare, produce or facilitate the production of advertising material
  • distribute or facilitate the dissemination of that advertising material via any means, including any cost attributable to increasing the visibility of content by any means.

eg1

For example, the hire of a photographer and premises to produce images for use in advertising material.

eg2

For example, the purchase of a more prominent position on a page within a search engine.

Advertising 2

It includes the cost of any software, of any kind, for use on any device to:

  • design and produce advertising material in-house
  • disseminate or facilitate dissemination of advertising material

whether that material is distributed digitally, electronically or via other means.

eg 3

For example, a licensing fee for a software application for use on a device.

Ads 3

It includes the cost of preparing, producing or facilitating the production of advertising material for:

  • downloading and use by others
  • posting on and promoting the party via any kind of social media channel or platform

eg 4

For example, the costs of producing advertising material promoting the party that is posted to a page on a social media channel encouraging followers to share it.

Ads 4

It includes the cost of accessing, purchasing, developing and maintaining any digital or other network which:

  • facilitates distribution or dissemination of advertising material by any means
  • promotes or increases the visibility of advertising material by any means

eg 5

For example, the purchase of digital identities used to make material appear as if it has been seen and approved by a high number of users on a social media platform.

Ads 5

It includes the costs of:

  • hosting and maintaining a website or other electronic/digital material that promotes the party
  • designing and building the website
  • a portion of any website or material that is set up to obtain funds for the party but also promotes the party during the regulated period

It includes the cost of any rights or licensing fee for any image used in producing advertising material.

It includes the cost of purchase and use of any equipment in connection with:

  • preparation, production or facilitating the production of the advertising material
  • dissemination of the advertising material by distribution or otherwise

It includes the cost of:

  • paper or any other medium on which advertising material is printed
  • physically displaying advertising in any location, for example cable ties or glue for putting up posters

It includes the cost of purchase, hire or use of:

  • photocopying equipment
  • printing equipment

for use in printing advertising material.

It includes a relevant proportion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

in connection with:

  • preparation, production or facilitating the production of the advertising material
  • dissemination of the advertising material by distribution or otherwise

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with advertising material for the party where that is paid for or reimbursed by the party. 

Downloadable material

If you put material on a website for people to print off for their personal use, such as window posters or petition forms, the design and website costs count as campaign spending. You do not need to count people’s print costs against your spending limit, as the costs will be very low.

If the material could be printed and distributed to voters – for instance a leaflet – you will need to make it clear how you expect people to use it. If you authorise wider use of the material, the production costs may count as campaign spending whoever does the printing.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Market research or canvassing

Services, premises, facilities or equipment provided by others

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities
  • equipment

used to:

  • prepare, produce or facilitate canvassing or market research
  • conduct or co-ordinate canvassing or market research
  • record or analyse or otherwise utilise the results of any market research or canvassing activity

eg1

For example, the cost of using phone banks to contact voters, including the development of scripts for use by phone bank employees that are designed to influence voters.

Market research 2

Costs of obtaining or maintaining data

This includes the cost of accessing, purchasing, developing and maintaining:

  • IT software or contact databases
  • data sets, including the use of data analytics

to facilitate or undertake market research or canvassing.

eg2

For example, it includes the cost of undertaking social media listening and analysing the result to analyse the intention of voters. It includes costs that are incurred prior to the regulated period where the data is then used during the regulated period.

Market research 3

Other costs that are included 

It includes the cost of any purchase and use of any equipment required to:

  • prepare, produce or facilitate canvassing or market research
  • conduct or co-ordinate canvassing or market research
  • record or analyse or otherwise utilise the results of any market research or canvassing activity

For example:

  • laptops or tablets if used for canvassing
  • mobile phones if used by the leader/co-ordinator of the canvassing

where that equipment and/or associated costs are paid for or reimbursed by the party or a third party.

It includes the cost of a relevant proportion of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

associated with market research or canvassing.

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with market research or canvassing for the party, where that is paid for or reimbursed by the party.  

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Press conferences or other dealings with the media

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities
  • equipment

used to prepare, produce, facilitate or conduct press conferences or other dealings with the media.

It includes the cost of specialist press or media software or subscriptions.

It includes the cost of any rights or licensing fee for any image used in preparation, production, facilitating or conducting press conferences or other dealings with the media.

It includes the cost of purchase and use of any equipment in connection with preparation, production, facilitating or conducting press conferences or other dealings with the media.

It includes a relevant proportion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

associated with dealing with the media, such as co-ordinating press conferences or media activity, or drafting press releases, or other media related activities, including where a party has existing press conference facilities on its premises.

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with press conferences or other dealings with the media, for the party where that is paid for or reimbursed by the party. 

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Rallies and events

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities
  • equipment

used in:

  • promoting a rally or other event
  • holding or conducting a rally or other event to promote the party
  • live streaming or broadcasting a rally or other event by any means

It includes the cost of promoting or advertising the event, via any means.

It includes the cost of an event that is being held via a link of any kind or is being live streamed or broadcast, where that event is open to be viewed by users of a channel or platform or by other means.

It includes the cost of the provision of any goods, services or facilities at the event, for example the cost of hiring seating.

It includes the cost of purchase of any equipment in connection with:

  • holding or conducting a public meeting to promote the party
  • live streaming or broadcasting a public meeting by any means

Associated costs

It includes a relevant proportion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

associated with:

  • promoting a rally or other event
  • holding or conducting a rally or other event to promote the party
  • live streaming or broadcasting a rally or other event by any means

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with:

  • promoting a rally or other event
  • holding or conducting a rally or event to promote the party 
  • live streaming or broadcasting a rally or other event by any means

Costs that are not included 

It does not include the costs of your party conference.1

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Transport in connection with promoting or publicising your party

Transport of volunteers and campaigners

It includes the cost of transporting:

  • volunteers
  • party members, including staff members
  • other campaigners

around the electoral area, or to and from the electoral area, including the cost of:

  • tickets for any transport, including any booking fee
  • hiring of any transport
  • fuel or electricity purchased for any transport
  • parking for any transport

where they are undertaking campaigning on behalf of the party.

It includes the cost of transport paid for by any individual, political party or other third party that is paid for or reimbursed either by the political party or a third party, where the individuals being transported were campaigning or undertaking activities associated with the campaign for the party.

Other costs that are included

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any vehicle or form of transport that displays material promoting the party, including any cost associated with:

  • design and application of the design to the vehicle or form of transport
  • travelling between electoral areas
  • travelling around an electoral area
  • parking fees where a vehicle is used to display material

It includes a portion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

when these are associated with planning, booking or using transport of any kind, or where a vehicle or form of transport is being prepared for use in electoral areas. For example, the cost of design and applying the design promoting the party to the side of a bus.

It includes all transport costs associated with other spending matters. For example, transporting someone to a rally.

 

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Unsolicited material addressed to voters

Costs associated with obtaining information and targeting or identifying voters, including database costs

This includes the cost of accessing, obtaining, purchasing, developing or maintaining:

  • IT software or contact databases
  • any information, by whatever means

that is used to facilitate the sending of unsolicited material to voters.

eg 1

For example, the purchase of email addresses.

unsol 2

It includes the cost of accessing, obtaining or developing data sets, including data analytics to target voters by whatever means, including the cost of agencies, organisations or others that identify groups of voters, by whatever means.

eg2

For example, the cost of any agency paid to analyse social media content to facilitate targeting of voters across electoral areas and the cost of modelling by any agency based on that analysis.

unsol 3

It includes the cost of any services to identify voters that are purchased, developed or provided before the regulated period, but are used to target voters during the regulated period.

Where information or access to information is obtained from a third party, the commercial cost of obtaining that information from the third party is included.

Costs associated with preparing, producing or distributing unsolicited material to voters, including via digital means

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities
  • equipment

that is used to:

  • prepare, produce or facilitate the production of the unsolicited material
  • disseminate by distribution or otherwise the unsolicited material, including any cost attributable to increasing the visibility of material via any means.

It includes the cost of delivering material by any means including electronic means or the physical distribution of the material, for example the cost of envelopes and stamps or the purchase of a system for sending emails.

It includes the cost of accessing, developing and maintaining any digital or other network which promotes or increases the visibility of unsolicited material on any platform.

eg3

For example, payment to developer to create an app that facilitates targeting of the party’s material on a social media channel.

unsol 4

It includes the cost of oversight and maintenance of all social media, digital or other forms of distribution of unsolicited material. This includes the maintenance of all social media accounts, including if they are maintained by another entity/individual.

Other costs that are included

It includes the cost of any rights or licensing fee for any image used in producing unsolicited material.

It includes the cost of paper or any other medium on which unsolicited material is printed.

It includes the cost of purchase and use of any equipment in connection with:

  • preparation, production or facilitating the production of the unsolicited material
  • dissemination by distribution or otherwise of the unsolicited material

It includes the cost of purchase, hire or use of:

  • photocopying equipment
  • printing equipment

for use in printing unsolicited material.

It includes a relevant proportion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

associated with the preparation, production, dissemination and distribution of unsolicited material.

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with unsolicited material for the party where that is paid for by the party or reimbursed by the party.

Costs that are not included 

It does not include any cost associated with the obtaining of data as permitted under any statute or regulation.

eg4

For example, political parties are entitled to a copy of the electoral register via regulation 102 of the Representation of the People (England and Wales) Regulations 2001. No notional spending needs to be accounted for with regard to use of such a register.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Your manifesto and other documents setting out your party’s policies

This includes the cost of use, or hire, of any:

  • agency, individual or organisation
  • services provided by any agency, individual or organisation
  • premises or facilities
  • equipment

used to:

  • prepare, produce or facilitate the production of any manifesto or other document
  • disseminate or distribute the manifesto or other document, via any means

including any cost attributable to increasing the visibility of content via any means.

eg1

For example, the purchase of a more prominent position on a page within a search engine.

Manifesto 2

It includes the cost of making the manifesto or other document available in electronic or physical form and all means of disseminating it.

It includes the cost of any rights or licensing fee for any image used in producing a manifesto or other document.

It includes the cost of paper or any other medium on which the manifesto or other document is printed.

Equipment costs

It includes the cost of purchase and use of any equipment in connection with:

  • preparation, production or facilitating the production of the manifesto or other document
  • dissemination by distribution or otherwise of the manifesto or other document

It includes the cost of purchase, or hire, of:

  • photocopying equipment
  • printing equipment

for use in printing the manifesto or other document.

Associated costs

It includes a relevant proportion of the cost of:

  • office accommodation
  • business rates
  • electricity
  • phone rental and internet access

associated with any in-house costs for design of the manifesto or other document and for its production and dissemination.

It includes the cost of food and/or accommodation for any individual who provides services in connection with the manifesto or other document for the party where that is paid for or reimbursed by the party.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

What doesn't count as spending?

Activities not included in campaign spending are:1

  • reasonable expenses attributable to the protection of persons or property, for example hiring security, using a PO Box to avoid publicising a home or office address on imprints, or purchasing antivirus software for protecting campaign computers
  • permanent, fixed term or temporary staff costs where the staff member has a direct employment contract with the party
  • volunteer time
  • office running costs, except costs that are higher than usual because of campaigning, such as telephone bills
  • people’s travel, food and accommodation costs while they campaign, unless you reimburse them
  • expenses met out of public funds. For example, security costs for VIP visits
  • material sent only to your members
  • party conferences2
  • local newsletters about elected representatives or prospective candidates
  • anything which a candidate properly declares on their spending return3
  • anything which a registered recall petition campaigner properly declares on their spending return4

Volunteer time

Sometimes you may not be sure if someone is a volunteer or if their time should be treated as notional spending. For example, they may offer similar services professionally to the ones they are performing for you.

They will be a volunteer if:

  • their employer is not paying them for the time they spend on your campaign, or
  • they are using their annual leave, or
  • where they are self-employed, you won't benefit from any professional insurances they hold

If they use specialist equipment or materials, you should consider whether their use is notional spending, using the principles in the next section.

Last updated: 21 June 2024

Use of items

When you use an item for the first time, you must include the cost.1  

This includes items that were bought and paid for before the regulated period began, but used during it.

Items that are not used

You do not have to report spending on items that are not used (for example if leaflets are never distributed) and this does not count against the spending limit. You should retain the unused material or evidence it was destroyed. 

If you use the leftover items at a later election, you must report the spending on those items at that later election. 

Re-use of items

Where you have paid for an item, you must report the full cost at the time of first use, even if you intend to use it again at a future election. 

If you do use it again at a subsequent election, you do not have to report the original payment again. There may be some associated costs which must be reported at that election, for example for storage or cleaning. 

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Notional spending

Sometimes you might use something in your campaign that you did not have to spend money on, because it was provided to you as a benefit in kind, for free or at a non-commercial discount. 

For example, this could be because the supplier supports your campaign. 

Some examples of a benefit in kind could be:

  • space in a hall for an event
  • printing
  • providing volunteers with food and transport

When this happens, the full commercial value of what you used counts towards your spending limit and must be reported.1  

This is called ‘notional spending’. 

There are four tests that must all be met in order for an item (i.e., goods, a facility or a service) to count as notional spending:

  1. you receive the item free of charge or at a non-commercial discount of more than 10%
  2. the difference in value between the commercial rate and what you pay is over £200
  3. the item is made use of by or on behalf of the party
  4. it would have been campaign spending if you had incurred the spending (see What activities count as spending?)

The item must be transferred or provided to the party for it to count as notional spending. 

This means that any notional spending will also be a donation to the party if it is over £500, and must be reported separately. Please see our guidance for more information on donations to political parties.

If you receive items free of charge, then you must record the full market value of the item if it’s more than £200.

If you receive items at a non-commercial discount of more than 10% and the difference in value is more than £200, you must include the value of the discount as notional spending. The amount you actually pay must be included as normal party spending.

Commercial and non-commercial discounts

Notional spending is only applicable to non-commercial discounts which are special discounts given to you, specifically, by suppliers. This includes any special rate which is not available on the open market.

These are different to commercial discounts available to all customers, such as discounts for bulk orders or seasonal reductions. Items, goods and services purchased with commercial discounts will not be treated as notional spending. 

Made use of by or on behalf of the party

If you are provided with an item but you do not use it, it will still be a donation if it is over £500, but it will not be notional spending.2  

A person only makes use of something on behalf of a political party if that use has been directed, authorised or encouraged by the party, the responsible person, or one of their deputies.3

Valuing notional spending

If the supplier is a commercial provider, you should use the rates they charge other customers. If this information is not available, you should find out what similar providers charge for the same goods or services and use this as the commercial value. 

You should keep a record of how you reached your valuation and keep copies of any quotes you receive. 

The value you declare in your spending return should be an honest and reasonable assessment of the commercial value. 

Notional spending summary box 1

For example, you are provided office accommodation from which to run your campaign free of charge, which you use for four months of the regulated period. 

You would calculate and report the notional spending as set out below:

Commercial rate for monthly rent: £1,200

Commercial value of four month’s rent: £1,200 x 4 = £4,800

Notional spending to be reported: £4,800

Notional spending 2

Please see here for guidance on valuing a donation:

How do you work out the value of a donation? (Great Britain)

How do you work out the value of a donation? (Northern Ireland)

Seconded staff

If an employer seconds a member of staff to your campaign, you must record their gross salary and any additional allowances as the notional value. 

You do not need to include the employer’s national insurance or pension contributions.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Splitting spending

Why you may need to split spending

You may need to split your costs between activities and materials that count as campaign spending and those that don’t. 

Here are two common examples of where you need to split spending:

  • if you use your office as a base for telephone canvassing, you will need to split the phone bill between canvassing calls, and calls made for non-campaign purposes
  • if you use design work for campaigning before the regulated period begins, and continue to use it after it has begun, you will need to split the design costs between the two periods

Splitting spending summary box 1

For example, you commission design work for a campaign logo for your party that you use on your website, other social media and on all your campaign material for a month before the regulated period starts and during the 12-month regulated period.

You should split the cost of the design equally across the entire time that you use it in this way.

The design work cost £19,500, and you used it over a 13-month period, the cost per month is £19,500 ÷ 13 = £1,500 a month. 

The regulated period covered the final 12 months, so the cost of spending during the regulated period is:

12 x £1,500 = £18,000 

£18,000 must be recorded as party campaign spending
 

The honest assessment principle

The honest assessment principle

In all cases you should make an honest assessment, based on the facts, of the proportion of spending that can fairly be attributed to your campaign.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to make an exact split. For example, your telephone bill may only provide a breakdown of the cost of calls over a certain value.

In these cases, you should consider the best way of making an honest assessment on the information you have. For example, you could compare the bill with one that does not cover a regulated period.

If you are still not sure, call or email us for advice.

When you submit your spending return you must declare that the return is complete and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief. This declaration covers any assessments you have made about splitting spending.

It is an offence to make a false declaration knowingly or recklessly.1
 

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Party spending and candidate spending

There is separate legislation governing spending promoting particular candidates at a UK Parliamentary general election.

Under the Representation of the People Act 1983 (RPA), the candidates standing for your party will appoint agents, who are responsible for the candidate’s spending and must report it in a return after the election.

Political parties support their candidates in various ways. This may have to be reported in different ways, depending on what you do. Since often it must be reported by the candidate and agent, this is covered in more detail in the candidate guidance.

If your activity promotes a particular candidate during the candidate regulated period, then it will fall under the RPA in some way.1 The next question is how it must be reported as spending, and who by.

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Promoting a candidate

Activity promoting your party will be regarded as promoting a candidate1 whenever the activity either:

  • identifies the specific candidate 
  • identifies the specific electoral area in which the candidate is standing 
     

examples of promoting a candidate

Example A

A political party produces a letter that sets out the party’s policies and in the final lines it asks voters to vote for a specific candidate in that electoral area. Since the candidate is identifiable, the letter is to be regarded as distributed for the purposes of the candidate’s election.

Example B

A political party produces an advert that sets out the party’s policies and asks voters to vote for the party in that electoral area. Although the advert does not name the candidate, it identifies the electoral area. Therefore, the advert is to be regarded as distributed for the purposes of the party’s candidate’s election.

Example C

A political party produces a letter that sets out the party’s policies and encourages voters to vote for the party. Although the letter is addressed to a household in an electoral area, the letter itself does not identify the candidate or the electoral area. This is not to be regarded as used for the purposes of the candidate’s election. This is just party spending.

Example D

A political party holds a public campaign event. Party figures promote the party at the event. They also spend 25% of the event promoting the local party candidate. That 25% of the event is to be regarded as used for the purposes of the candidate’s election.

Link to examples

There are more examples on this topic in our guidance for candidates at UK Parliamentary general elections in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland

Last updated: 10 June 2024

Reporting

If your spending promotes the party but not any particular candidate, then it must be reported as party spending.

Spending which promotes a particular candidate but does not appear in a candidate return must also be reported as party spending.

However, any spending which must appear in a candidate return is exempted from party spending.1

There are two ways that your activity could need to appear in the candidate return:

  • notional spending by the candidate
  • authorised spending by the party on behalf of the candidate

Notional spending by the candidate

If you have provided or transferred something to the candidate, and it is then used by or on behalf of the candidate in the candidate regulated period, and if the value is over £50, then this will be notional spending by the candidate.2

In this case, the candidate must report the spending. Since it must appear in the candidate return, the spending does not need to appear in the party return.

If the candidate receives it after they have become a candidate, this will also be a donation from the party to the candidate, and must also be reported as a donation in the return.3

Authorised spending

If you have not provided or transferred anything to the candidate, but if you have spent money promoting the candidate after they are officially a candidate, this is what is sometimes called ‘local campaigning’ or ‘section 75 spending’.

You must get written authorisation from the candidate’s agent if you are going to spend more than £700 promoting a particular candidate.4

If the agent authorises you to incur the spending, then you are also authorised to make the payments for that spending.5 If you do make the payments, then if it is received after they are officially a candidate and it is over £50 it will be a donation to the candidate.6  

The authorised spending must be reported by the agent in the candidate return.7  

Because it must appear in the candidate return, it does not need to appear in the party return. However, if you incurred over £700, then you must also complete a separate return and a declaration. You must submit these to the Returning Officer in the candidate’s constituency within 21 days of the result being declared.8

Unauthorised spending

If the agent has not authorised you to incur the spending, then it does not need to appear in the candidate return. In this case, you must include it in your party return as usual.9

It is an offence to spend more than £700 promoting any particular candidate once they are officially a candidate without getting written authorisation from the agent.10

Flowchart summarising the information on this page about how to report spending

More detail on reporting candidate spending can be found in:

Guidance for candidates and agents at UK Parliamentary general elections in Great Britain

Guidance for candidates and agents at UK Parliamentary general elections in Northern Ireland
 

Last updated: 10 May 2024

Allocating spending across Great Britain

At UK Parliamentary general elections, there are different spending limits for different parts of the UK (England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland).

This means that you must allocate spending between the parts, and you must stay within the limit for each part.1

If your party is registered in Northern Ireland, all your spending must be allocated to Northern Ireland. 

If your party is registered in Great Britain, you must allocate your spending between England, Scotland and Wales. 

Items used in each part of Great Britain must be counted towards the spending limit for that part. 
 

examples

For example, if you are only standing candidates in Scotland, then your spending will all be allocated to Scotland.

For another example, if you distributed 10,000 leaflets in England and 10,000 leaflets in Wales, you would need to allocate half the cost to campaign spending in England and half to Wales. 
 

Minor overlaps

Minor overlaps

In some cases your spending in one part of Great Britain may have a minor effect in another part. 

You must allocate spending to the part of Great Britain that your spending was aimed at. 

examples

For example, if you advertised in a Welsh newspaper it may also be distributed to part of a bordering county in England. In this case you would allocate all spending to Wales.

Spending that relates equally to parts of Great Britain

Spending that relates equally to parts of Great Britain 

Some types of spending may relate equally to different parts of Great Britain. Examples include websites, or advertising in a newspaper distributed across Great Britain. 

In these cases, you must divide the cost between the parts of Great Britain, in proportion to the number of UK Parliamentary seats in each. 

We will update the guidance with examples once the new constituency boundaries are in place.
 

Last updated: 9 November 2023

Pre-poll reporting

At a UK Parliamentary general election (UKPGE), parties standing candidates at the election are required to do weekly pre-poll reporting of the donations they have received and loans they have entered into.1  

You must report any donation received or loan entered into by the central party of over £11,180.

If you have not received any such donations and loans, you must submit a nil return.

You must make these reports on a weekly basis starting from the date of dissolution of Parliament and ending with the date of the election. 

Reports must be delivered to us within seven days of each weekly reporting period ending.

Reporting periodDeadline for pre-poll report
30 May - 5 JuneWednesday 12 June 2024
6 June - 12 JuneWednesday 19 June 2024
13 June - 19 JuneWednesday 26 June 2024
20 June - 26 JuneWednesday 3 July 2024
27 June - 3 JulyWednesday 10 July 2024
4 July (shorter than 7 days)Thursday 11 July 2024

If you have told us you are not standing candidates, you will not have to do pre-poll reporting. 

This is an additional requirement to the quarterly report of donations and loans, which parties must continue to provide throughout the regulated period.

Who is responsible for submitting pre-poll reports? 

The treasurer must make sure that the party complies with the rules and submits the pre-poll reports on time.2 The treasurer must make a declaration in respect of each report to say that the reports are complete and correct.3

Even if your party has a campaigns officer who is responsible for campaign spending, the treasurer is still responsible for reporting pre-poll donations and loans.

You can report your donations and loans via PEF Online

We also produce forms you can use for this:

Great Britain

Northern Ireland

Last updated: 23 May 2024

Reporting after the election

Political parties contesting the election must report the details of their campaign spending to us after the election.1

Recording campaign spending

You must record all your campaign spending. You will need to send us this information in your spending return after the election. 

You must also keep invoices or receipts for any payments over £200.

All costs must include VAT, even if you can recover VAT payments.

What you need to record

For each item of spending, you should record the following information to put into your spending return:

  • what the spending was for – for example, leaflets or advertising
  • the name and address of the supplier
  • for a payment made, the amount for notional spending
  • the value – see Valuing notional spending  
  • the date that you spent the money 
     
Last updated: 9 November 2023

Time limits for receiving and paying invoices

There are time limits by which the responsible person must receive and pay all invoices for your campaign spending.1

Receiving invoices from suppliers

You must obtain all your invoices for your campaign spending from suppliers within 30 days of the election - 5 August 2024 (6 August in Scotland).

If this date falls on a weekend, Bank Holiday or other public holiday it is moved to the next working day.

Invoices received after this deadline are called unpaid claims for the purposes of reporting. You must record unpaid claims in your spending return. 

You must not pay unpaid claims unless there is a court order enabling you to do so. This is called leave to pay and may be obtained by you or the supplier applying to the relevant court in advance of payment. 

Paying invoices from suppliers

You must pay all your invoices from suppliers within 60 days of the election - 2 September 2024.

If this date falls on a weekend, Bank Holiday or other public holiday it is moved to the next working day.

Invoices received in time but remaining unpaid after this deadline are called disputed claims.2 You must record disputed claims in your spending return. 

You must not pay disputed claims unless there is a court judgment or order enabling you to do so. This is called leave to pay and may be obtained by you applying to the relevant court in advance of payment. Suppliers may also apply to the relevant court to obtain a court judgement or order for payment.  

Enforcement

Final decisions on prosecution for receiving and paying late invoices are made by the relevant public prosecutor (the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales, the Crown Office/Procurator Fiscal in Scotland, and the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland). 

We may issue a civil sanction for a breach of these rules. 

However, we will not usually consider taking enforcement action to be proportionate where the delay or amounts are small.

Last updated: 24 May 2024

Your spending return

You must report your campaign spending to us after the election.

Your spending return must include the following:

  • details of your spending1
  • invoices and receipts for any payment over £2002
  • a declaration from the responsible person to say that the return is complete and correct3

Invoices are not required for notional spending, since it is not a payment, but the value of what has been provided.

It is a criminal offence to make a false declaration knowingly or recklessly.

You can report your campaign spending via PEF Online

We also produce forms and explanatory notes you can use for this. They cover all the information you must include. 

There are separate forms for parties standing in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

 

Last updated: 3 April 2024

Campaign reporting deadlines

The date by which you must report to us depends on how much you spent on your campaign. The deadlines are shown below.1

Campaign expenditure of £250K or below Campaign expenditure of over £250K
Report within three months of the election Report within six months of the election
4 October 20244 January 2025

You may be liable for a penalty if you don’t submit your return on time.

If your campaign expenditure is over £250k you must include an independent auditor’s report.2

For more information see this document: Auditor’s report template

Last updated: 23 May 2024