Election expenses

Introduction

A person who runs for election in a Dáil, presidential or European election in Ireland must declare how much money they have spent on their campaign to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

The spending limits in national or European elections are set out in the Electoral Act 1997, as amended.

The rules on spending during local elections are set out in the Local Elections (Disclosures of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999.

Spending rules for national and European elections

National elections include:

It also includes bye-elections, which are elections to fill seats in constituencies vacated between national elections. For example, a bye-election may be triggered when a TD resigns or dies.

Candidates in Seanad elections must declare donations, but do not need a national or election agent.

Appointment of a national agent and an election agent

Each political party must appoint a national agent who must account for and control all of the party's election expenses. As well as a national agent for each party, each candidate must appoint an election agent to control the candidate's spending on elections (the candidate can appoint himself or herself).

The national agent or election agent must enter into all contracts that involve spending money on the election, for example booking advertisements with newspapers.

Similarly, each presidential candidate must appoint an election agent to control the candidate's spending on elections (the candidate can appoint himself or herself).

Statements to SIPO

Each political party's national agent must deliver a detailed statement to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) within 56 days after the polling day. The statement must describe all of the expenses incurred by the party.

Each candidate's election agent must deliver a similar statement setting out the candidate's spending. A candidate may allot some of his or her spending limit to his or her party. This must be set out in the statement.

Invoices or claims relating to expenditure on the election must be sent to the national or election agents within 45 days after the polling day. If they are claimed after 45 days, the agent cannot pay them.

It is an offence for a national or an election agent to spend over the limit or to fail to submit the statement of expenses. It is also an offence to pay an election expense that was claimed more than 45 days after the polling day.

Similar rules apply to presidential election expenses.

Spending rules for local elections

In a local election, the candidate must report campaign spending to the local authority within 90 days, following polling day.

The Minister for Local Government sets a period for reckoning election expenses by way of ministerial order.

Spending limits

General elections

The limit on how much a candidate can spend depends on the number of seats in a constituency.

Number of seats Spending limit per candidate
5 €45,200
4 €37,650
3 €30,150

Local elections

The limit on how much a candidate can spend in local elections depends on the population of the local electoral area (sometimes called a ‘ward’).

Local electoral area population Spending limit per candidate
Over 35,000 €13,000
Between 18,001 and 35,000 €11,500
€18,000 or less €9.750

European elections

The spending limit for a candidate in a European election is €230,000.

Presidential elections

The spending limit for a candidate in a presidential election is €750,000.

Reimbursements of election expenses

Candidates can apply to have a portion of their allowable election expenses reimbursed under certain conditions.

General elections

A candidate can have up to €8,700 reimbursed to them if their vote tally is at least 25% of the quota for the constituency. The quota is the number of votes a candidate must get to be elected.

European elections

A candidate can have up to €38,092.14 reimbursed to them if their vote tally is at least 25% of the quota for the constituency.

Presidential elections

A candidate can have up to €200,000 reimbursed to them if their vote tally is at least 25% of the quota for the constituency.

Local and Seanad elections

Candidates cannot claim back their election expenses

Further information

SIPO publishes guidance on spending and declaring donations.

Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO)

6 Earlsfort Terrace
Dublin 2
D02 W773

Tel: +353 (0) 1 639 5666

Page edited: 29 April 2021