Introduction

This guidance outlines the rate for conferences held in Autumn 2021 and beyond. Please see our FAQs for conferences held up to Spring 2021.

Introduction

Under electoral law there are rules which political parties, certain organisations and individuals must follow in relation to donations they receive. These rules include support given through sponsorship payments which are a type of donation under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA).  

The sponsorship rules apply to:

  • Registered political parties 
  • Registered non-party campaigners 
  • Registered referendum campaigners 
  • Party members and holders of elected office 
  • Members associations 
  • Candidates at elections

As sponsorship payments are a type of donation, the usual rules for permissibility apply as with all other donations.

This guidance sets out the rules for sponsorship and other payments the above individuals and organisations may receive towards their events, publications and other activities.

What is sponsorship?

Sponsorship is support given to a political party, or other regulated organisation or individual, that helps them meet the costs of:

  • any conference, meeting or other event (including digital conferences or events)
  • the preparation, production, or distribution of a publication (print or digital), or 
  • any study or research.

Where a payment does not amount to sponsorship, it may still be a donation.

Last updated: 10 August 2021

What are the sponsorship rules?

Sponsorship payments over £500 (£50 for candidates) can only be accepted from a permissible donor.

Sponsorship must be reported if the amount you accept from one source exceeds: 

  • £7,500 for political parties, registered non-party campaigners, registered referendum campaigners and members associations 
  • £1,500 for party accounting units, members of a registered political party and holders of elective office  
  • £50 in the case of candidates

Everyone apart from candidates must also report aggregated donations. This means that you must add together and report permissible donations and loans you receive from the same source in the calendar year that in total exceed these thresholds.

For political parties there are different thresholds for reporting depending on whether the source has already made a reportable donation or loan to you in the calendar year: 

  • If you have already reported the source in the calendar year, the threshold is over £1,500. 
  • If you have not already reported the source in the calendar year, the threshold is over £7,500.

For more details on the rules for reporting donations and loans for parties, please see:

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Last updated: 24 May 2021

Are there any exemptions to the sponsorship rules?

Yes: 

  • Admission charges for conferences, meetings or other events - for example party conference entry passes or an admission fee to attend an event organised by or on behalf of a party, regulated organisation or individual
  • The purchase price of any publications
  • Commercial rate payments for adverts in publications – any amounts above the commercial rate will not be exempt and will be considered a donation if the value exceeds £500 (£50 for a candidate)
  • Some payments for conference stands

Are all types of advertising exempt?

No. The exemption only applies up to the commercial value of adverts which appear in publications. For example, adverts that appear in any publication, including a publication which sets out a party’s policies, such as a manifesto ahead of an election. 

Payments for any other type of advertising, such as banners at an event or digital advertising at a virtual event, should be treated as sponsorship if they help meet the cost of the event. 

Advertising payments that do not help to meet the costs of an event or publication in any way do not count as sponsorship. For example, if you sell advertising space for your online event and do not incur any direct costs for the event. 

However, if someone pays more than the commercial value of an advert, the difference between what they pay and the commercial value will be a donation.

Last updated: 24 May 2021

How much of what I receive is a donation?

When calculating the value of sponsorship, the full amount of the payment received should be taken into account and reported if over the thresholds above. 

No deduction for any commercial value, or any benefit to the sponsor etc, should be made.

Fundraising events and dinners

If an event is hosted by or on behalf of a party (or party accounting unit), or another regulated organisation or individual, support to help meet the costs of the event must be treated as sponsorship. 

For payments for a place or table at a dinner organised by a party or other regulated organisation or individual, the difference between the value of the dinner and the amount paid is a donation.

Treatment of VAT

Where a sponsorship payment includes VAT, the question of whether the VAT element should be reported as part of the sponsorship will depend on the facts. For instance, if the party would have been liable for the VAT if it had not been paid, then its payment is a benefit to the party and should be reported as sponsorship.

Sponsorship by companies

Where a company makes a payment that is treated as sponsorship, the entire amount is considered a donation under electoral law.

Companies will therefore need to ensure that they have complied with any applicable controls on making a political donation under company law.

Last updated: 24 May 2021

Party conferences and conference stands

Many political parties hold conferences through the year. There are certain rules that parties should be aware of which apply to payments parties receive towards their conferences. 

Some political parties offer space for exhibitors for conference stands. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) provides that the Commission sets a “maximum rate” up to which the hire of these stands will not be considered sponsorship. The Commission has set maximum rates for physical conference stands and digital conference stands respectively.
 

Last updated: 24 May 2021

Physical conference stands

Payments of up to £15,000 (excluding VAT) for a 3m x 3m physical stand do not need to be treated as sponsorship or any other type of donation.

Anything you receive above £15,000 (excluding VAT) for a 3m x 3m stand should be treated as sponsorship, and therefore as a donation to the party. You must report this donation if the amount you accept from one source exceeds the relevant reporting threshold. 

A higher pro rata amount can apply for stands larger than 3m x 3m but it is not necessary to pro rata a lower amount for smaller stands.  

If you charge a higher price than £15,000 (excluding VAT) for a stand larger than 3m x 3m, we expect you to keep sufficient records to show this transaction. This includes details of the size of the stand, what price you applied to it and how you calculated the price. We may ask to see your record keeping for our assurance purposes.

If you use a higher pro-rata price for a physical conference stand larger than 3m x 3m, anything you receive above the relevant price must be treated as a donation to the party.

Last updated: 22 March 2022

Digital conference stands

If a political party hosts a digital conference and makes available live promotional space on the online platform it is using, it may be considered a digital conference stand. The typical features of a digital conference stand include:

  • The digital stand must be available for hire for the duration of the conference 
  • There must be some level of real-time interaction between attendees and exhibitor
  • It must be live
  • An advert or banner (or something similar) on the conference website or hosting platform (note: an advert on a website without the other elements would not, in itself, be a digital conference stand)

Payments of up to £7,000 (excluding VAT) for a digital stand do not need to be treated as sponsorship or any other type of donation. 

Anything you receive over and above £7,000 (excluding VAT) should be treated as sponsorship, and therefore as a donation to the party. You must report this donation if the amount you accept from one source exceeds the relevant reporting threshold.

If you charge a higher price than £7,000 (excluding VAT) for a digital stand, we expect you to keep sufficient records to show this transaction. This includes details of the price you applied to it and how you calculated the price. We may ask to see your record keeping for our assurance purposes.

Last updated: 24 May 2021

Fringe events, receptions and meetings

Some political parties hold fringe events and other meetings at their party conferences. If you receive payments to hold these events, these payments will count as sponsorship.

In this case any payments received with a value of over £500 can only be accepted from a permissible donor. The full value of the payment received should be taken into account and treated as sponsorship, and therefore as a donation to the party. This must be reported by the party if the amount you accept from one source exceeds the donation reporting thresholds.

For more details on the rules for reporting donations and loans to parties, please see:

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Last updated: 24 May 2021

Conference or event packages

Some parties, and other regulated organisations, may offer overall discounts when a combined package of items relating to an event are purchased together, for example a conference stand, a number of admission passes, and a number of seats at a dinner. 

If you offer a conference package, you will need to consider each part of the package to assess whether it is reportable.

Some elements may be exempt, such as an admission charge, whilst others elements of the package, such as non-exempt types of advertising, will be treated as sponsorship if they help to meet the costs of the event.

Last updated: 24 May 2021