Guidance and resources

Candidates and their agents must follow certain rules set out in legislation. We provide guidance to help candidates and agents comply with the rules. You do not have to follow this guidance, but if you do, you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law.

    Update on COVID-19 and financial returns

    Update on COVID-19 and financial returns

    The UK Government has postponed May 2020 elections. This means:

    • there is no requirement for any financial reporting by parties, candidates or other campaigners
    • any spending already incurred is not reportable
    • spending will not be reimbursed

    We, like many others, are trying to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our staff, and our work. We are putting in place temporary arrangements over the next few months.

    Contacting us

    We will only arrange meetings by exception, but we can continue to support you in other ways. Please contact us by email where possible. Our advice service is open, but we may have reduced capacity at times.

    Delivery of financial returns

    Please deliver your financial returns online. We can, if necessary, accept post. Do not hand deliver your return. We can’t guarantee that any of our offices will be open to accept it.

    Let us know if you think that COVID-19 will affect you delivering any return on time. Deadlines for returns are set out in law. We can’t change them. If we know that COVID-19 is affecting you getting your return in, we can support you and take the circumstances into account. If we don’t know, all we will see is a missed deadline.

    Guidance for candidates and agents

    We have produced a document for people who want to know the basics about elections, the roles of different organisations and where to find more information.

    Read our introduction to elections (PDF)

    Our guidance for elections covers:

    • standing for election
    • campaigning
    • accepting donations
    • spending money
    • your rights as a candidate, including access to election proceedings
    • reporting after the election

    Changes to the law

    The UK government has changed the law on who can donate money to candidates.

    From 31 December 2020, donations can no longer be accepted from companies incorporated in another EU member state.

    It remains possible for the UK government to defer, revoke or change these new laws. Candidates and agents must make sure that they know the up to date position before accepting donations that might be affected. We will update our website as soon as we know more.

    Guidance about harassment and intimidation

    Robust political debate is part of a healthy democracy, but sometimes things can go too far.

    The National Police Chiefs Council, working with the Crown Prosecution Service and the Electoral Commission, have produced two guidance documents for candidates and campaigners, to help you understand when behaviour goes beyond political debate and may be unlawful.

    There is a short guide called ‘When things go too far’ which provides general advice, and a longer ‘Joint guidance for candidates in elections’ which provides more detail as to the nature of possible offences.

    If you feel that behaviour towards you may be unlawful or are concerned for your safety or that of others, you should always contact the police.

    How we can help

    As well as our guidance, we are happy to answer questions and give advice. We are here to help, so please get in touch.

    If you have a question about standing for election, please call or email your local Commission team in England, or your local office in Wales or Scotland. For information on standing for election in Northern Ireland, contact The Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.

    If you have a question about campaigning, accepting donations, spending money or reporting after the election, please call 020 7271 0616 or email pef@electoralcommission.org.uk

    Between elections, there are rules on donations to certain individuals for political purposes. If you are a prospective candidate and you belong to a registered party please also see our page for regulated individuals.