skip navigation

Calculating administrative fines

The FEC uses four factors to calculate fines:

  1. The election sensitivity of the report
  2. Whether the report is considered late or not filed
  3. The level of activity on the late report or the estimated level of activity on the nonfiled report
  4. The committee’s number of prior violations in the Administrative Fine Program

Election sensitivity

Some reports are considered election sensitive because they are due right before an election. These include all pre-election reports and the October Quarterly and October Monthly Reports due in even-numbered years.

Other reports (such as the mid-year and year-end reports) are considered not-election sensitive. There is a fine schedule for election sensitive reports found at 11 CFR 111.43(b) and another fine schedule for non-election sensitive reports found at 11 CFR 111.43(a).

Late or not filed

An election-sensitive report is considered late if it's filed after the due date but more than four days before the election.

An election-sensitive report is considered not filed if it isn’t filed more than four days before the election.

For example: A primary election is held on Tuesday, May 18. A report filed on Thursday, May 13 is considered late. A report filed on Friday, May 14 is considered not filed.

A non-election sensitive report is considered late if it's filed after the due date but no later than 30 days after the due date.

A non-election sensitive report is considered not filed if it's filed more than 30 days after the due date.

For example: A year-end report is due January 31. A report filed on February 9 is considered late. A report filed on March 28 is considered not filed.

Level of activity

For candidates and authorized committees, the level of activity is the total receipts plus total disbursements on the report filed late.

For unauthorized committees (for example, PACs or political parties), the level of activity is the total receipts plus total disbursements minus allocable activity reported on Lines 18(a) and 21(a)(ii) of Form 3X.

If a report is not filed, the level of activity is estimated using prior reports filed by the committee during the current or prior two-year election cycle.

Number of prior violations

Prior violations are the number of times that the committee was assessed a fine during the current and previous two-year election cycles. Each prior violation increases the amount of the fine by 25%.

Calculating a fine

Committees can use online calculators to estimate fines:

  • Calculator for penalties assessed on or after December 28, 2017
  • Calculator for penalties assessed from February 3, 2017 through December 27, 2017
  • Calculator for penalties assessed from August 2, 2016 through February 2, 2017
  • Calculator for penalties assessed from January 22, 2014 through August 1, 2016

Special rules apply to fines for 48-Hour Notices. The calculation of fines for committees that fail to file timely 48-Hour Notices is $142 for each nonfiled notice plus 10% of the dollar amount of the contributions not timely reported. The fine increases by 25% for each time a prior fine was assessed under the Administrative Fine Program during the current and previous two-year election cycles.

Example scenarios

Example 1: Late filer of election-sensitive report, two prior violations
A committee files its October Quarterly Report (an election-sensitive report) 10 days late.

The level of activity on the report is $105,000, and the committee has two prior violations in the current two-year election cycle.

Applicable formula: Penalty = [base amount + (set amount x number of days late)] x [1 + (.25 x number of previous violations)]

Penalty = [$1,276 + ($178 x 10)] x [1 + (.25 x 2)]

Penalty = $4,584
Example 2: Late filer of non-election sensitive report with relatively little activity, no prior violations.
A committee files its July Quarterly Report on August 4. The report contains $100 in receipts and disbursements, and the committee has no prior violations.

Applicable formula: Penalty = The lesser of: the level of activity in the report; or [base amount + (set amount x number of days late)]

Penalty = The lesser of: $100 or [$34 + ($6 x 20)]

Penalty = The lesser of: $100 or $154

Penalty = $100
Example 3: Nonfiler of non-election-sensitive report with allocable activity, one prior violation
A party committee that allocates federal and nonfederal activities between its federal and nonfederal accounts fails to file its July Quarterly Report within 30 days of its due date. Based on its previous filings, the committee’s estimated level of activity—excluding transfers received from the nonfederal account (reported on line 18a of FEC Form 3X) and disbursements for the nonfederal share of allocable operating expenses (reported on Line 21(a)(ii) of FEC Form 3X)—is $50,000. The committee has one prior violation in the current two-year election cycle.

Applicable formula: Penalty = base amount x [1+ (.25 x number of previous violations)]

Penalty = $3,828 x [1 + (.25 x 1)]

Penalty = $4,785
Example 4: Nonfiler of one 48-Hour Notice, two prior violations.
A House campaign committee fails to submit a 48-hour notice to disclose its receipt of a last-minute $5,000 PAC contribution. During the current two-year cycle, the campaign has two prior violations under the AFP.

Applicable formula: Penalty = [$142/per notice + (.10 x amount of contribution(s) not timely reported)] x [1 + (.25 x number of previous violations)]

Penalty = [$142 + (.10 x $5,000)] x [1 + (.25 x 2)]

Penalty = $963