Since January 1, 2001, filers that receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $50,000 in a calendar year, or that have reason to expect to do so, have been required to submit all reports, statements and designations to the FEC electronically. 11 CFR 104.18(a)(1). This article answers some frequently asked questions about the FEC’s mandatory electronic filing requirements.
Who is affected? Is it just political committees or are individuals and other unregistered entities required to file electronically too?
Anyone—registered or not—who is required to file a report, statement or designation with the FEC and meets the $50,000 threshold must file electronically.
What about Senate campaigns?
No. Senate candidate committees (and other persons who support/ oppose only Senate candidates) file with the Secretary of the Senate and are not required to file electronically. They may, however, voluntarily file unofficial copies of their reports electronically.
What happens if an electronic filer mistakenly files a report on paper?
Any filer who is required to file electronically, but instead files on paper, will be considered a nonfiler and may be subject to enforcement action. 11 CFR 104.18(a)(2). Note that this consequence applies to both political committees and individual/ non-committee filers.
Can an e-filer submit anything on paper?
No. Electronic filers should plan to communicate with the FEC paperlessly. [FN1] All FEC reporting forms are available for e-filing, and filers may respond to inquiries and explain transactions using the memo text function in their electronic filing software or a miscellaneous electronic submission (Form 99).
What is meant by “Reason to Expect to Exceed the Threshold?”
Once filers actually exceed the $50,000 threshold, they have “reason to expect” to exceed the threshold in the following two calendar years. 11 CFR 104.18(a)(3)(i). As a result, they must begin to file electronically with their next report, statement or designation and continue to file electronically for the two years (January through December) following the year in which they exceeded the threshold. Filers with no historic data on which to base their calculations should expect to exceed the threshold if they either receive contributions or make expenditures that exceed one-quarter of the threshold amount in the first quarter of the calendar year, or they receive contributions or make expenditures that exceed one-half of the threshold amount in the first half of the calendar year. 11 CFR 104.18(a)(3)(ii).
The regulations allow an exception to the requirement of filing for the following two calendar years for candidate committees:
- That have $50,000 or less in net debts outstanding on January 1 of the year following the election;
- That anticipate terminating prior to the next election year; and
- Whose candidate has not qualified as a candidate for the next election and does not intend to become a candidate in the next election.
11 CFR 104.18(a)(3)(i).
While all committees must file electronically in the year in which they exceed the threshold, authorized candidate committees meeting these requirements do not “expect to exceed the threshold” in the following two calendar years and, therefore, need not file electronically during those years unless they actually exceed the threshold.
Who do I contact if I have further questions?
For more information, contact the following offices between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Eastern time:
- For general information on reporting requirements, call the Information Division at 800/424-9530 (press 6) or 202/694-1100 (email firstname.lastname@example.org);
- For information about a specific report you are filing with the FEC, call your Campaign FinanceAnalyst (the person who reviews your report) in the Reports Analysis Division at 800/424-9530 (press 5) or 202/694-1130;
- If you have problems uploading your reports or any other technical issue, contact Technical Support at 800/424-9530 (extension 1307); or
- For information about how to obtain a password, FECFile software or other technical questions, contact the Electronic Filing Office at 800/424-9530 (extension 1307).
1 Exceptions include Debt Settlement Plans (FEC Form 8), copies of refund checks, copies of redesignation or reattribution letters, loan agreements, Schedule C-1 with original signatures and statements of forgiveness for candidate personal fund loans. A committee’s initial Form 1 and a candidate’s initial Form 2 are also filed on paper.