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Reporting independent expenditures on Form 5

Individuals, groups, corporations and labor organizations (not political committees) must file a report with the Commission on Form 5 at the end of the first quarterly reporting period in which independent expenditures with respect to a given election aggregate more than $250 in a calendar year, and in any succeeding quarterly reporting period during the same year in which additional independent expenditures of any amount are made.

Independent expenditure filers are strongly encouraged to contact the Reports Analysis Division for help with filing Form 5.

Filing reports

Quarterly reports

When persons, groups, or organizations (not political committees) make independent expenditures that aggregate more than $250 during a calendar year with respect to a given election, they file a quarterly report using Form 5. The report must include all the information required on Form 5.

They must continue to file quarterly reports for any succeeding reporting period during the same year in which additional independent expenditures of any amount are made.

24-hour and 48-hour reports

In some circumstances, filers may need to file specific and separate reports of independent expenditures. These are called 24- and 48-hour reports.

24-Hour reports

After the 20th day but more than 24 hours before an election, filers must report any independent expenditures with an aggregate value of $1,000 or more with respect to a given election.

24-hour reports (Form 5) are due within 24 hours of each qualifying independent expenditure. This means that reports are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the following day after the expenditure was “publicly distributed or otherwise publicly disseminated.”

Filers will also report these expenditures on their next quarterly Form 5.

Access the Form 5 PDF and instructions.

48-hour reports

At any time during a calendar year through the 20th day before an election, filers must report each time they make independent expenditures with an aggregate value of $10,000 or more with respect to a given election.

48-hour reports (Form 5) are due within 48 hours of each qualifying independent expenditure. This means that reports are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the second day after the expenditure was “publicly distributed or otherwise publicly disseminated.”

Filers will also report these expenditures on their next quarterly Form 5.

Access the Form 5 PDF and instructions.

Aggregating independent expenditures

For 24- and 48-hour reports, a filer will add up (aggregate) the money it spends on independent expenditures for an election to determine whether it must file these reports. Aggregate on a per-election and per-office basis within each calendar year. For example:

  • Do aggregate an independent expenditure made on behalf of a candidate with one made against his or her opponent.
  • Don't aggregate an independent expenditure made on behalf of a Senate candidate with an independent expenditure made on behalf of a House candidate.
  • Don't aggregate two independent expenditures made on behalf of the same candidate in different elections (for example, if one is during a primary election and the other is during a general election).

Multistate independent expenditures

When an independent expenditure is made in support of or opposition to a presidential primary candidate and is publicly distributed or otherwise disseminated in six or more states but does not refer to any particular state, the reporting requirements for multistate independent expenditures apply. For independent expenditures distributed in fewer than six states, there is no change in reporting requirements.

Date made

An independent expenditure is considered made on the date that the communication is publicly distributed or otherwise publicly disseminated. Independent expenditures such as yard signs, mini-billboards, handbills, t-shirts, hats and buttons are “publicly disseminated on any reasonable date starting with the date the filer receives or exercises control over the items in the usual and normal course of dissemination, up to and including the date that the communications are actually disseminated to the public.”

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