Rechnungshof

FAQ

 

Political Parties Act 2012 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Political Parties Act was adopted in the framework of the “transparency package” in 2012. To grant more transparency, the political parties are facing new disclosure requirements. Numerous additional tasks were assigned to the Austrian Court of Audit, especially in the realm of the new accountability obligations.

To facilitate the implementation, the ACA has compiled frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the new Political Parties Act 2012. The questions exclusively relate to topics concerning the Austrian Court of Audit and are constantly being expanded.

FAQs – overview of the topics

Scope of application and terminology of the Political Parties Act 2012

Accountability reports according to the Political Parties Act 2012

Accountants for the accountability reports

Donations

Sponsoring and advertisements

After submission of the accountability report – audit, publication, violations

I have another question. How do I contact the ACA to obtain information on the Political Parties Act?

Note: The FAQs inform on the tasks of the ACA concerning the Political Parties Act 2012. Legally binding decisions on the interpretation of the Act for individual cases can only be made by the competent courts and authorities.

1. Scope of application and terminology of the Political Parties Act 2012

1.1 What are the tasks of the Austrian Court of Audit pursuant to the Political Parties Act 2012?

With the introduction of stricter transparency provisions the ACA was assigned new tasks by the Political Parties Act 2012. Briefly summarised, it is obliged to:

  • Appoint accountants to audit the accountability reports of political parties or campaigning parties;
  • Receive, audit and publish accountability reports and audit opinions;
  • Publish the valorisation of amounts for political party support, expenditures for election advertisements and donations;
  • Request legal entities subject to audit by the ACA to report legal transactions with so-called associated companies and then publish them;
  • Receive reports on donations of more than 50,000 EUR and publish them;
  • Receive unlawful donations, retain them, indicate them in the activity report and transfer them to charitable or scientific institutions and
  • Submit the respective documents to the independent Political Parties Transparency Senate in case of assumed violations of accountability obligations, of donation prohibitions or of limits of expenditures for election advertisements.

The execution of the law is to be done by the Federal Government or the Federal Chancellor; therefore, the ACA is not responsible for the other tasks in the framework of the Political Parties Act 2012.  

Sources: section 1 par. 6; section 5 par. 2, par. 6-7; section 6 par. 5, par. 7-8; section 10, par. 1-8; section 11 par. 1; section 12 par. 1; section 13; section 14 Political Parties Act 2012, Federal Law Gazette No. I 56/2012 (as amended).

1.2 What is a political party?

The definition in the Political Parties Act is the following: A political party is a permanently organised association which, through common activities, aims at comprehensively influencing the national decision-making process, in particular by participating in elections for general representative bodies (National Council, provincial diets and municipal council) and the European Parliament.

Political parties must have a constitution that is to be submitted to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, every political party has to publish its constitution online. The constitution must contain the following indications in particular:

  • The executive bodies or officers of the party (in any event a manager or managing body, a members’ meeting, and a supervisory body) and their power of representation;
  • The rights and obligations of the members;
  • The structure of the party;
  • Provisions on the voluntary dissolution of the political party. 

Sources: section 1 par. 2-5 Political Parties Act, F.L.G No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

1.3 What is a campaigning party?

According to the Political Parties Act 2012, a campaigning party is defined as a group of voters participating in the election campaign for a general representative body (National Council, provincial diet, municipal council) or the European Parliament under a distinctive party name and by drawing up a party list.

The provisions of the Political Parties Act 2012 regarding election advertisement expenses, accountability reports, sponsorship, advertisement and sanctions also apply to campaigning parties that are not political parties – but only if they have participated in any of the above-mentioned elections since 1st July 2012.

To guarantee full transparency, the period in which a campaigning party begins election-advertisement-related activities also falls under the accountability obligation – whether the party then is represented in a representative body or not. A campaigning party hence does not automatically cease to exist with the end of the election campaign, but continues to exist due to its obligations according to the Political Parties Act.

The accountability obligation therefore comprises all activities related to election advertisement by a campaigning party that is not (yet) or not after an election represented in a representative body.

Sources: section 2 no. 2, section 13 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

1.4 What are affiliated organisations?

According to the Political Parties Act 2012, an affiliated organisation is an organisation having its own legal personality (e.g association, foundation, corporation) that is separate from the political party (including its branches).

The affiliated organisation must support the political party in one of the following three ways (this must also be laid down in the statutes or legal provisions of the party or organisation):

  • The affiliated organisation supports the political party.
  • The affiliated organisation participates in the decision-making process of that political party (in particular by delegating members to executive bodies).
  • That political party participates in the decision-making process oft he affiliated organisation, in particular by delegating members to executive bodies. 

Parliamentary groups as well as provincial parliamentary groups and one educational institution per party that is supported by the relevant province, are no affiliated organisations pursuant to the Political Parties Act 2012 – even if they fulfil if the above-mentioned conditions.

Sources: section 2, no. 3 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2. Accountability Reports pursuant to the Political Parties Act 2012

2.1 When were the accountability obligations of political parties introduced?

With the introduction of the new accountability obligations on 1st January 2013, all political parties that

  • have campaigned for an election of a general representative body (National Council, provincial diet, municipal council) or the European Parliament since 1stJanuary 2000, or
  • have submitted their constitution to the Federal Ministry for the Interior

are obliged to annually render public account of the type of their income and expenses by way of an accountability report. This obligation applies whether the political party receives financial party support or not.  

Also campaigning parties that have participated in an election of a general representative body or the European Parliament since 1st July 2012, must submit their accountability reports to the Austrian Court of Audit as of the financial year 2013.

Detailed provisions on what elements must be included in the accountability report are to be found in the Political Parties Act 2012.

Source: section 5 par. 1, section 13 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.2 What is the accountability obligation of political parties?

Every political or campaigning party must annually publish its income and expenses in an accountability report. This report must include territorial branches of the parties as well as branches without a legal personality.  

The accountability report must be audited by two accountants and submitted to the ACA for audit and publication.

In case of incorrect or incomplete information in the accountability report, the political or campaigning parties may have to pay fines depending on the decision by the Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel. 

Source: section 5, section 16 par. 2 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012

2.3 Who falls under the accountability obligation?

All political parties that have campaigned for an election of the National Council, provincial diet, municipal council or the European Parliament since 1st January 2000, orhave submitted their constitution to the Federal Ministry for the Interior 1stJanuary 2000 fall under the accountability obligation.

Campaigning parties also fall under the accountability obligation if they have participated in a campaign for an election of the above-mentioned general representative bodies since 1st July 2012.

The accountability obligation applies to campaigning parties – whether they are represented in a representative body or not – as long as they pursued or still pursue election campaign activities.

According to the Political Parties Act, a party must include in the accountability report its territorial branches (provincial, district, municipal organisations), irrespective of whether or not those branches have their own legal personality. The highest organisational level of a political party is responsible for the preparation of the accountability report and its submission to the ACA. The individual branches in turn are obliged to provide the necessary information. If a territorial branch is already included in the accountability report of the higher party level, it does no longer need to submit its own accountability report. 

Source: section 5 par. 1, section 13, section 16 par. 4 Political Parties Act, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.4 How do I find out whether a party/group/organisation falls under the accountability obliga-tion?

There is no comprehensive list of all political or campaigning parties that fall under the accountability obligation.

Via the central register of political parties of the Federal Ministry for the Interior (http://www.bmi.gv.at/cms/BMI_Service/parteienverz/start.aspx), you can check at which date the constitution of a political party has been submitted. If the constitution has been submitted since 1st January 2000, the political party falls under the accountability obligation, whether it has participated in an election or not.

The federal election authority or the respective provincial election authorities provide information on the participation in elections. This is relevant, insofar as the accountability pursuant to the Political Parties Act is based on the candidature of a political party since 1st January 2000 at elections of the National Council, provincial diets, municipal councils or the European Parliament.

Sources: section 1 par. 2 and 4, section 5 par. 1, section 13 Political Parties Act, F.L.G No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.5 Our party does not have any funds/is very small/has only participated in the elections on a municipal level – does it still fall under the accountability obligation (is there a de minimis lim-it)?

Whether a political or campaigning party falls under the accountability obligation does not depend on its financial situation, annual budget or income and expenses. Pursuant to the Political Parties Act, there are no exceptions due to the financial situation, the size or the candidature of the party only on municipal level.

Source: section 5 par. 1 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.6 Is it possible to exempt parties from the accountability obligation?

A political or campaigning party falling under the accountability obligation pursuant to the Political Parties Act cannot be exempt from the accountability obligation. No exceptions are stipulated in the Political Parties Act 2012.

Source: section 5 par. 1 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.7 What is an accountability report according to the Political Parties Act 2012?

The accountability report is a comprehensive annual and public report on the financial situation of a political or campaigning party. The Political Parties Act provides very detailed information on the contents, and together with diverse explicitly stated types of income, revenue and expenditure, also indications on income through donations, advertisement and sponsorship, and a list of the territorial branches of the political party as well as of the partner undertakings of the political party must be included.

The accountability report is to be audited by two accountants and must then be submitted to the Austrian Court of Audit. 

Source: section 5 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended) 

2.8 What elements must be contained in the accountability report?

Pursuant to the Political Parties Act the following information must in any event be included in the accountability report of a political or campaigning party:

  • The audit certificate of the two accountants appointed by the Austrian Court of Audit;
  • Indication of the time period covered by the accountability report;
  • The first part of the accountability report, comprising the income and expenses of the federal organisation;
  • The second part of the accountability report, comprising the income and expenses of the territorial branches (provincial, district and municipal organisations, but for each provincial organisation a separate list of income and expenses must be created), irrespective if they have a legal personality;
  • Confirmation of restriction on campaign expenses during election years (with a list according to section 4 par. 2 Political Parties Act);
  • For federal and provincial organisations at least the following types of income and revenue (for district and municipal organisations only the total sum of the income):
  1. membership fees,
  2. payments by affiliated organisations,
  3. subsidies,
  4. contributions by  members  of  parliament  and  officials  belonging  to  the relevant party
  5. revenue from commercial activities by the party itself,
  6. revenue from shareholdings in undertakings,
  7. income from other assets,
  8. donations (with the exception of living subsidies and benefits in kind – see below, they are to state separately),
  9. revenue  from  events,  the  production  and  sale  of  publications  as  well  as similar revenue resulting directly from party activities,
  10. Income from sponsorships and advertisements,
  11. income   in   the   form   of   staff   supplied   free   of   charge   or   without corresponding remuneration (living subsidies),
  12. benefits in kind,
  13. the taking of loans,
  14. other revenue and income, with revenue and income exceeding 5% of the relevant annual income to be stated separately.
  •   For federal and provincial organisations at least the following types of expenses (for district and municipal organisations only the total sum of the expenses):
  1. personnel,
  2. office expenses and purchases, with the exception of minor-value assets,
  3. operating expenses for public relations activities, including press products,
  4. events,
  5. vehicle fleet,
  6. other operating expenses for administration,
  7. membership fees and international work,
  8. legal, auditing and consultancy costs,
  9. loan-related costs and repayments,
  10. expenses for travel and trips,
  11. payments to undertakings in which shares are held,
  12. payments to affiliated organisations,
  13. support of a candidate for the election of the Federal President,
  14. other types of expenses, with expenses exceeding 5% of the relevant annual expenses to be stated separately.
  •  a confirmation on the use of financial party support;
  • a list of the territorial branches (in an annex, the ACA asks for submission in an electronic form);
  • a list of the partner undertakings (in an annex, the ACA asks for submission in an electronic form and indication of the undertakings’ register numbers);
  • a list of donations (in an annex);
  • a list of sponsorships (in an annex);
  • a list of advertisements (in an annex). 

Source: section 4 par. 2, section 5, section 6, section 7, section 8 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.9 Are there any special provisions for accountability reports in election years (e.g. on cam-paign expenses)?

The Political Parties Act stipulates a restriction on campaigning expenses between the qualifying date for the election and the day of the election. A maximum of 7 million euros may be spent by every political party for election campaigning during this period.  

The accountability report must contain a separate section with a confirmation regarding the restriction on campaign expenses. The expenses must be listed according to section 4 par. 2 Political Parties Act. 

Source: section 4, section 5 par. 3 Political Parties Act, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.10 What are so-called “partner undertakings”?

Partner undertakings are undertakings in which

  • the political party and/or
  • an affiliated organisation and/or
  • a branch of the political party with its own legal personality

holds at least 5% direct shares or 10% indirect shares or voting rights.

Political Parties must attach a list of their partner undertakings to the accountability report; the Austrian Court of Audit asks for submission in an electronic form as well as indication of the undertakings’ register numbers. Affiliated organisations and branches of the political party with their own legal personality must provide the political or campaigning party with the necessary, correct information.

Source: section 5 par. 6 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.11 Until when does the accountability report have to be submitted to the Austrian Court of Audit?

According to the provisions of the Political Parties Act 2012, an accountability report is to be prepared annually by the political and campaigning parties and must be submitted to the ACA until 30 September of the following year at the latest.

The first accountability report following the new provisions is to be prepared for the financial year 2013 and must be submitted to the ACA until 30 September 2014 at the latest.

Upon reasoned request, the period (30 September of the following year) can be extended by the ACA by up to four weeks.   

Source: section 5 par. 7 Political Parties Act, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended) 

2.12 Is it necessary to submit an accountability report to the Austrian Court of Audit for the year 2012?

For the year 2012, no accountability report needs to be submitted to the ACA. The accountability obligation pursuant to the Political Parties Act 2012 starts with the financial year 2013. Therefore, the first accountability report must be submitted to the ACA at the latest until 30 September 2014.

Detailed information on the legal requirements:

Concerning the accountability obligation for the year 2012, the provisions of section 4 Political Parties Act 1975 apply.

What should be kept in mind, however, is the entry into force of section 6 par. 1-9 and section 7 Political Parties Act 2012 with 1st July 2012. Section 6 par. 4 Political Parties Act 2012 is to be applied considering that only the second half of the year 2012 is counted as calendar year. Section 7 Political Parties Act 2012 is valid for the year 2012, but income through sponsorship and advertisement is only to be indicated if the respective agreements were entered into after 1st July 2012. 

With the entry into force of section 5 Political Parties Act 2012 on 1st January 2013 and the resulting obligation to prepare an accountability report for the year 2012 pursuant to the former legal requirements, the annex according to section 6 Political Parties Act 2012 for the year 2012 is an annex to the accountability reports that are to be prepared pursuant to the former legal requirements for 2012. 

Source: section5, section 16 par. 2 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

2.13 In what form and to which address is the accountability report to be submitted?

The accountability report can be submitted to the Austrian Court of Audit in common electronic formats or in hard copy. The annexes should additionally be sent, if possible, in an electronic form that can be processed. Furthermore, the register numbers of partner undertakings should be indicated.

The address of the Austrian Court of Audit is as follows: 

Rechnungshof
Dampfschiffstraße 2
1031 Wien

office(AT)rechnungshof.gv.at

2.14 Is it possible to postpone the submission of the accountability report?

Pursuant to the Political Parties Act, the accountability reports are to be submitted to the Austrian Court of Audit until 30 September of the following year.

Upon reasoned request by a political or campaigning party, the ACA can extend the period by up to four weeks. In case an extension of the period is needed, the political or campaigning party must communicate a timely request, stating reasons, to the ACA. 

Source: section 5 par. 7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended) 

3. Accountants for the accountability reports

3.1 Does every political or campaigning party need two accountants?

Every political or campaigning party under the obligation to submit an accountability report must have it audited and signed by two accountants.

Source: section 5 par. 2 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

3.2 How are the accountants appointed?

Every political or campaigning party must suggest five accountants to the Austrian Court of Audit. Out of this list, the ACA appoints two accountants per political/campaigning party. The accountants are appointed for a period of five years. Reappointment immediately following the previous appointment is not permitted.

The ACA has set up an advisory board to guarantee a uniform and transparent procedure for the appointment of accountants. It has established the following criteria for the selection of the accountants. 

Source: section 5 par. 2 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

3.3 Are small parties exempt from the obligation to engage accountants?

The obligation to have two accountants audit and sign the accountability report applies to all accountable political or campaigning parties.

Exceptions (e.g. due to the size or financial situation of a political party) are not provided for in the Political Parties Act 2012. 

Source: section 5 par. 2 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

3.4 Who is (not) authorised to be accountant of a political party?

According to the Political Parties Act, accountants are excluded if their impartiality is not guaranteed or if other grounds for exclusion exist. Reference is also made to other criteria defined by law. You can read a detailed list of all relevant criteria for the selection of accountants here.

The suggestions made by the political or campaigning parties shall only contain accountants that fulfil the criteria laid down in the Act. 

Source: section 5 par. 2, section 9 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended) 

3.5 Who bears the costs for the two accountants appointed by the Austrian Court of Audit?

The costs for the audit of the accountability reports by the two accountants appointed by the ACA are to be borne by the respective political party itself. The ACA cannot give information on the amount of the costs, as this is not part of its competences defined by law. 

4. Donations

4.1 What is a donation?

Pursuant to the Political Parties Act, a donation is a payment, benefit in kind or living subsidy that natural or legal persons grant to

  • a political party or
  •  a campaigning party or
  • a branch of a party with its own legal personality or
  • an affiliated organisation, with the exception of those referred to in section 4a par. 2 no. 3 Personal Income Tax Act and of institutions serving the support of grassroots sport, or
  • members of parliament or candidates who stood for elections on a list of candidates submitted by a political party

without corresponding consideration.

According to the Political Parties Act, the following are not to be considered donations:

  • membership fees,
  • contributions by the members of parliament and officials to their own party (often referred to as “political party tax“),
  • subsidies from professional associations and trade associations and other bodies representing the interests of its members with voluntary membership to the groups represented in their executive bodies, 
  • subsidies from statutory professional bodies representing the interests of their members to groups represented in their executive bodies. 

Source: section 2 no. 5 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended) section 4a par. 2 no. 3 Personal Income Tax Act, F.L.G No. 400

4.2 What to do with donations of over EUR 50,000?

A political or campaigning party must report to the Austrian Court of Audit immediately, if an individual donation exceeds the amount of EUR 50,000. The ACA then publishes the donation, name and address of the donor immediately on its website.

The ACA requests submission of the above-mentioned details in writing (name and address of the donor, donated amount), if possible per e-mail to office(AT)rechnungshof.gv.at

Source: section 6 par. 5 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

4.3 How to list donations in the accountability report?

Donations to a political party must be stated separately in an annex to the accountability report as follows:

  • donations to the political party and to its branches that do not have their own legal personality,
  • donations to affiliated organisations with the exception of those referred to in section 4a par. 2 no. 3 of the Personal Income Tax Act and to branches of the party with their own legal personality,
  • donations to members of parliament and candidates who stood for elections on a list of candidates submitted by the political party.
  • The annex shall be structured as follows:
  • total amount of donations received from natural persons that are not entered in the commercial register;
  • total amount of donations received from natural and legal persons entered in the commercial register;
  • total amount of donations received from associations that are not professional associations or trade associations based on voluntary membership, from institutions, foundations or funds;
  • total amount of donations received from professional associations and trade associations based on voluntary membership, from institutions, foundations or funds.

Those provisions on the structure do not apply to political parties, their branches and affiliated organisations on a municipal level, as well as members of parliament and candidates who stood for elections on a list of candidates submitted by the political party.

The structure of the donations as defined by law can be found here.

Donations that exceed the amount of 3,500 euros in a calendar year shall be stated, indicating the name and address of the donor. Donations to federal, provincial and district organisations are to be aggregated.

The political parties must bear in mind that the provisions on a provincial level may be stricter in certain regards.  

Source: section 6 par. 2-4 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

Section 4a par. 2 no. 3 Personal Income Tax Act, F.L.G No. 400

4.4 What are unlawful donations?

Parties shall not accept certain donations, as they are not permitted pursuant to the Political Parties Act. They shall not accept donations from:

  • parliamentary groups and provincial parliamentary groups,
  • educational institutions of the parties subsidised according to the Journalism Subsidies Act,
  • educational institutions of the parties subsidised by provinces,
  • bodies corporate under public law,    
  • not-for-profit institutions pursuant to the Personal Income Tax Act,
  • institutions serving the support of grassroots sport,
  • undertakings and institutions in which the public sector holds a share of at least 25%,
  • foreign natural or legal persons if the donation is in cash and exceeds the amount of 2,500 euros,  
  • anonymous donations if the donation exceeds the amount of 1,000 euros
  • natural or legal persons who noticeably want to forward a donation by an unnamed third party if the donation amounts to more than 1,000 euros,
  • natural or legal persons who want to grant to the party a donation, noticeably in expectation of or in return for a certain commercial or legal advantage, and
  • third parties who want to solicit donations for a party in return for remuneration to be paid by that party.

Source: section 6 par. 6 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

section 1 par. 2 Journalism Subsidies Act 1984, F.L.G. No 369 (as amended)

section 4a par. 2 no. 1-3 Personal Income Tax Act 1988, F.L.G. No. 400 (as amended)

4.5 What to do with unlawful donations?

If a political or campaigning party receives an unlawful donation, it must be transferred immediately and at the latest with the submission of the accountability report for the respective year to the Austrian Court of Audit. The procedure is the following:

1.     The party reports the reception of an unlawful donation that shall be transferred to the ACA via office(AT)rechnungshof.gv.at, indicating the total amount.

2.     The ACA submits a reference number and its bank account details to the party.

3.     The party transfers the donation to the indicated bank account under the received reference number.

Source: section 6 par. 7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. 56/2012 (as amended)

4.6 What happens with unlawful donations that have been transferred to the Austrian Court of Audit?

If a political party transfers an unlawful donation to the Austrian Court of Audit, the latter shall keep the amount in safe custody in a separate account and, in addition, list them in its activity report.

All unlawful donations that have been received during a calendar year, are transferred at the beginning of the following year to charitable or scientific institutions.

The ACA publishes all activities related to those donations on its website as well as in its activity report in order to grant full transparency. 

Source: section 6 par. 7 and 8 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

5. Sponsorship and advertisements

5.1 What is sponsorship?

The Political Parties Act defines sponsorship as every payment, benefit in kind or living subsidy by a natural or legal person to

  • a political party or
  • a campaigning party or
  • a branch of a political party with its own legal personality or
  • an affiliated organisation, with exception of those supporting grassroots sport, and those referred to in section 4a par. 2 no. 3 Personal Income Tax Act, or
  • members of parliament or candidates who stood for elections on a list of candidates submitted by a political party

with the aim to promote their name, appearance, activities or services by hiring stands, in particular at events of the above-mentioned persons or organisations or using the logo or company name (in particular on invitation cards, notices of events or in the context of events).  

Publications in media do not belong to sponsorship.

Political and campaigning parties must list their income from sponsorship if the total amount received in a calendar year exceeds the amount of EUR 12,000 in an annex to the accountability report, indicating name and address of the sponsor.

Source: section 2 no. 6, section 7 par. 1 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended) section 4a par. 2 no. 3 Personal Income Tax Act

5.2 What is advertisement?

An advertisement is a publication, initiated in return for payment, benefits in kind or living subsidies, in media whose media owner is a political party.

Income from advertisements is to be listed in a separate annex in the accountability report, including the name and address of the advertiser, if the amount paid exceeds EUR 3,500. 

Source: section 2 no. 7, section 7 par. 2 Political Parties Act, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

6. After submission of the accountability report – audit, publication, violations

6.1 What happens after the accountability report has been submitted to the ACA?

After the submission of the accountability report to the Austrian Court of Audit, it is audited. The ACA audits the correctness of the figures contained in the report as well as its compliance with the provisions of the Political Parties Act. It examines, for example, whether all annexes are included and whether all requested types of income are listed.

If the accountability report fulfils all the requirements, the ACA publishes it on its website, including all annexes. Otherwise, the ACA requests a statement by the political party; the procedure may then be transferred to the Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel.

Source: section 5 par. 6, section 10 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

6.2 What happens in case of incomplete or incorrect information in the accountability report?

If the Austrian Court of Audit has specific indications that information contained in the statement of accounts of a political party is incorrect or incomplete, it is not published. The ACA then grants the concerned political party the opportunity to give a statement within a reasonable period of time. It may also demand a confirmation on the correctness of this statement by the party’s accountant.

In case this statement does not clarify the indications about the incompleteness or incorrectness of the report, the ACA is obliged to task an accountant, so far not involved, with the case. The accountant is selected from a list submitted by the Austrian Chamber of Accountants. The political party must disclose all relevant documents and records to this third accountant.

Should the above-mentioned indications still not be clarified after the statement by the political party and the audit by the third accountant, the Independent Political Parties Transparency must impose a fine. This also applies if the political party does not submit a statement within the period granted by the ACA.  

Source: section 10 par. 4-6 Political Parties Act, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

6.3 What is the purpose of the list of partner undertakings?

The Austrian Court of Audit forwards the list of partner undertakings to all legal entities subject to its audit and requests information on their legal transactions with those undertakings. The legal entities subject to its audit must indicate with which partner undertakings they have conducted business and they are to indicate the total amount of the legal transactions per partner undertaking in the relevant financial year. 

The ACA also publishes this list on its website. This list shows, which partner undertaking of which political party has concluded legal transactions with which legal entities. The amount of the legal transactions is indicated as well.

A list of the legal entities subject to audit by the ACA can be found here. 

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

6.4 What is the amount of the fines for violations of the Political Parties Act and who is to be sanctioned?

In case the accountability report contains incorrect or incomplete information that cannot be clarified by a statement of the political party or by a third accountant, or if the party lets the period granted for the statement pass, the Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel imposes a fine on the political party. The amount of the fine depends on the seriousness of the offence. It amounts to:

- for violations of the obligation to separately list certain types of income and revenue or certain types of expenses up to 30,000 euros;

- for violations of the provisions on sponsorship and advertisements up to 30,000 euros;

- for violations of the obligation to list the partner undertakings up to 100,000 euros;

- for violations of the restriction on campaign expenses by up to 25% of the maximum amount (7 million), up to 10% of the excess amount, if the limit is exceeded even further, additionally up to 20% of this second excess amount;

- for violations of the obligation to

- list donations of more than 3,500 euros,

- report donations of an amount of more than 50,000 euros immediately to the ACA, or

- not accept unlawful donations,

up to three times the amount received, but at least the amount received. 

If an affiliated organisation or a branch of the political party with its own legal personality has caused the incomplete or incorrect information about partner undertakings, sponsorship or advertisements, the ACA requests a statement from it. In case the situation cannot be clarified by the additional statement or by the third accountant, or the period for the statement lapsed unused, a fine of either up to 30,000 euros or up to 100,000 euros is to be imposed on the affiliated organisation or the branch of the party.

In case an affiliated organisation or a branch of the party with its own legal personality has provided incomplete or incorrect information concerning donations, the fine is also to be imposed on them.

Additionally, the Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel may impose fines on individual persons committing violations of the provisions on donations. 

Source: section 10 par. 6-8, section 4, section 5 par. 4-6, section 6 par. 4-6, section

6.5 What happens in case of violations of the provisions on donations?

In case of a violation of the provisions on the disclosure of donations, a fine is imposed. This concerns the obligation to

- list donations of more than 3,500 euros,

- report donations of an amount of more than 50,000 euros immediately to the ACA, or

- not accept unlawful donations.

Who does not comply with these provisions must pay a fine of up to three times the amount received, but at least the amount received.

If an affiliated organisation or a branch of the political party with its own legal personality has caused the incomplete or incorrect information on donations, a fine is to be imposed on it. 

Source: section 10 par. 7, section 6 par. 4-6 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

6.6 What are the consequences of exceeding the limit for campaign expenses?

The Political Parties Act stipulates a restriction on campaign expenses between a fixed date and the day of the election. Every political party may spend a maximum amount of 7 million euros on election campaigns in this period of time.

In case of violations of this provision, a fine is imposed: if the maximum amount is exceeded by up to 25%, the fine is up to 10% of the excess amount. If the maximum amount is exceeded by more than 25%, the fine is increased by up to 20% of the second excess amount.   

Source: section 4, section 10 par. 8 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

6.7 What is the Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel?

The Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel has been established to impose fines according to the Political Parties Act. Its members are independent and not bound by any instructions in exercising their office.

The Panel has its basis in the Federal Chancellery and consists of three members as well as substitute members. For further information on the composition of the Panel click here.

In case of assumed violations committed by political parties, the ACA forwards the relevant documents to the Independent Political Parties Transparency Panel. The Panel, not the ACA, makes decisions on monetary penalties and fines. 

Source: section 11 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)  

6.8 When and where are the accountability reports available to the public?

The accountability reports are to be published on the website of the respective political party as well as on the website of the Austrian Court of Audit – if no indications for incorrect or incomplete information are detected.

The exact date of the publication depends on when the political parties submit their accountability reports to the ACA, whether the ACA notes no deficiencies whatsoever, or if the ACA needs to request a statement from the political party or has to appoint another accountant in order to clarify specific indications.

Source: section 10 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

7.1 What are the obligations of legal entities subject to audit by the ACA?

Pursuant to the Political Parties Act, legal entities subject to audit by the Austrian Court of Audit are obliged to report with which partner undertakings they have concluded legal transactions within the period of time relevant to the accountability report. They also have to indicate the total amount of the legal transactions (for a definition of partner undertakings, see FAQ 2.10).

The list of partner undertakings is available online for legal entities subject to audit by the ACA, via a customer portal. The total amount of the legal transactions per partner undertaking must be disclosed. According to the provisions of the Political Parties Act, the legal entities are granted a period of one month for this report. 

For a list of the legal entities subject to audit by the ACA, please click here. For information on the different fields audited by the ACA, click here.

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

7.2 How do legal entities subject to audit by the ACA receive the list of partner undertakings?

The Austrian Court of Audit has established an online portal, so that legal entities subject to its audit have access to the list of partner undertakings. The total amount of legal transactions per partner undertaking can be directly entered into this customer portal.

At the beginning of the reporting period, the ACA always sends an e-mail to all legal entities, requesting them to submit their report and informing them about their access possibilities to the portal. 

To the ACA customer portal

7.3 When is the list of partner undertakings available?

The Austrian Court of Audit receives the list of partner undertakings from the individual political parties, included in their accountability reports. The list is then made accessible to the legal entities via the ACA customer portal. A preliminary submission or earlier disclosure is not possible, as the data is only available to the ACA with the reception of the accountability reports of the respective political parties. 

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

7.4 Until when must legal entities report legal transactions with partner undertakings?

As defined by law, legal entities subject to audit by the Austrian Court of Audit are granted one month to report with which partner undertakings they have concluded legal transactions, indicating the total amount of legal transactions in the relevant period of time. Therefore, the ACA’s customer portal is opened for one month per reporting period. Depending on the date of the submissions of the reports, other reporting periods may follow.

Prolonging the respective reporting period or extending the deadline is not possible.

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

7.5 How to calculate the “total amount of legal transactions”?

Pursuant to the Political Parties Act 2012, legal entities under the supervision of the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA) must report the “total amount of the legal transactions made between the legal entities and each of the undertakings“. This “total amount” is to be understood as added up absolute amount and not balanced amount. The total amount consists of all vendor and debtor transactions during the reporting period of time (normally calendar year, deviating only due to changed ownership structures) and it is always calculated including the value added tax (VAT).

The legal entity must take into account all the units assigned to it which are not themselves subject to the control of the ACA due to the lack of legal personality (e.g. subordinate/subsidiary departments).

Example: energy supplier contract XYZ, calendar year NN:

Income through energy supply of a partner undertaking         € 15,000

Expenses for services by the partner undertaking                    € 10,000

Report to the ACA (“total amount”)                                              € 25,000

The assignment of the "total amount of the legal transactions" to a reported period must always (i.e., for each of the undertakings as well as for each reporting period) be based on the same criteria which are defined by the legal entity itself.

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

7.6 How often does a legal entity have to report on its legal transactions with partner undertak-ings?

Political and campaigning parties must annually submit an accountability report, including a list of partner undertakings, to the Austrian Court of Audit until 30 September at the latest.

Therefore, the ACA requests the disclosure of the legal transactions annually as well, following the submission of the accountability reports. This disclosure happens in one or several stages, depending on the timely submission of the accountability reports by the respective political parties.

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012

7.7 How do I submit an “empty report”?

All legal entities are obliged to submit a report. It is also possible to submit an empty report via the customer portal of the Austrian Court of Audit (meaning that a legal entity reports not having concluded any legal transactions with partner undertakings during the relevant year). Further information is provided in the ACA customer portal.

7.8 How do I access the customer portal (online report)?

As soon as the current list of partner undertakings is accessible in the customer portal of the Austrian Court of Audit, it sends an e-mail to all legal entities subject to its audit and requests the disclosure of their legal transactions.

This e-mail contains the link to the ACA customer portal as well as the necessary access details.

7.9 How can the contact details of legal entities be updated?

In case you want to update the contact details of a legal entity subject to audit by the Austrian Court of Audit, please send an e-mail to:

datenbereinigung(at)rechnungshof.gv.at

7.10 Our legal entity is very small/ has never concluded legal transactions with partner under-takings/is already in liquidation. Are there exceptions from the obligation to report legal trans-actions with partner undertakings?

According to the Political Parties Act 2012, the Austrian Court of Audit has to request a report on the legal transactions of all legal entities subject to its audit. No exceptions because of their size, financial situation and the like are laid down in the Act. 

Source: section 5 par. 6-7 Political Parties Act 2012, F.L.G. No. I 56/2012 (as amended)

8. I have another question. How do I contact the ACA to obtain information on the Political Parties Act?

If you have another question concerning the domains of the Political Parties Act 2012 that the Austrian Court of Audit is responsible for, please contact us per e-mail via

parteiengesetz(AT)rechnungshof.gv.at