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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Regarding Form 700

 
The FAQs listed below are selected from questions people frequently ask the FPPC about the Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700). All efforts have been made to provide helpful, easy to understand, answers to common questions. Please note that this fact sheet cannot address all of the unique variables and circumstances related to disclosure. Individuals are encouraged to contact the FPPC with specific facts. Keep in mind that the Form 700 is a public document and many agencies post the forms on their websites. Form 700s filed by State Legislators and Judges, members of the FPPC, County Supervisors, and City Council Members are available on the FPPC’s website.

A late fine of $10 per day up to a $100 may be assessed. In addition, if a matter is referred to the FPPC Enforcement Division for failure to file or failure to include all required economic interests, the fine may be substantially higher. In 2013, the FPPC collected over $80,000 in fines for late statements and non-disclosure of economic interests. If an individual does not pay a fine, the matter may be referred to the Franchise Tax Board for collection.

No. The majority of individuals that file the Form 700 must do so by following the rules set forth in their agency’s conflict of interest code (“designated employees”). Before completing the Form 700, an official should be familiar with the disclosure category for his or her position. For example, since job duties differ from agency to agency and even unit to unit within the same agency, an analyst for one agency, or unit of that agency, may not have the same reporting requirements as an analyst from another agency, or even another unit of the same agency.

Officials listed in Government Code Section 87200 (e.g., boards of supervisors, city council members, planning commissioners, elected state officials, etc.) must report all sources of gifts, as well as sources of income, and investments and business positions in business entities, doing business within, and real property interests located within, their agency’s jurisdiction. For local officials, real property located within 2 miles of the boundaries of the jurisdiction or any real property that the agency has an interest in is deemed to be “within the jurisdiction.”

Each individual must verify the Form 700’s content under penalty of perjury. Therefore, all effort must be made to understand what is required by the form. When necessary, the FPPC may be contacted for specific, personal guidance. Immunity from an enforcement action can only be provided when an official submits a request for formal written advice.

Most state and local officials file with their agency. In most instances, the agency is required to forward the originals for specified high-level officials to the FPPC; however, only retired judges serving on assignment and legislative staff file the Form 700 directly with the FPPC.

Yes, however one expanded statement covering the disclosure requirements for all positions may be completed so long as an originally signed statement is filed with each filing officer.

Yes. The same requirements apply for the assuming office, the annual, and the leaving office filings.

Because it is a newly created position, the law requires that economic interests are reported under the broadest disclosure category in the agency’s conflict of interest code unless the agency sets interim disclosure that is tailored to the limited range of duties of the position. Generally, the Form 700 must be filed with the agency within 30 days of the date of hire. Note: An individual may request that the agency complete the Form 804 (Agency Report of New Positions) to tailor the disclosure category to the job duties of the new position.

$440: This means that gifts from a single, reportable source, other than a lobbyist or lobbying firm (see below), may not exceed $440 in a calendar year. For officials and employees who file the Form 700 under an agency’s conflict of interest code (“designated employees”), this limit applies only if the official or employee would be required to report income or gifts from that source on the Form 700, as outlined in the “disclosure category” portion of the agency’s conflict of interest code. Note: For conflict of interest purposes, the gift must be under $440 to avoid consideration under the conflict rules. (In other words, there is a one dollar discrepancy in the threshold amounts.)

State Lobbyist & Lobbying Firm Limit:
$10: State candidates, state elected officers, and state legislative officials may not accept gifts aggregating more than $10 in a calendar month that are made or arranged by a registered state lobbyist or lobbying firm. The same rule applies to state agency officials, including members of state boards and commissions, if the lobbyist or firm is registered to lobby, or should be registered to lobby, the official’s or employee’s agency.

Yes. Gifts from the same reportable source are aggregated, and the official must disclose the source when the total value of all meals reaches $50.

Yes. While income reporting has a jurisdictional limitation under the Act, gift reporting does not. Therefore, gifts from sources located anywhere in the world are reportable if they are of the type that do business with the employee’s agency such that the employee is required to report sources of that type.

Unused gifts that are returned to the donor, or reimbursed within 30 days of receipt are not reportable. The recipient may also donate the unused item to a charity or governmental agency within 30 days of receipt or acceptance so long as the donation is not claimed as a tax deduction.

No. Such gift exchanges with individuals, other than lobbyists, on birthdays, holidays, or similar occasions, are not reportable or subject to gift limits. The gifts exchanged must be similar in value.

No. Gifts of a personal nature exchanged because the individuals are in a bona fide dating relationship are not reportable or subject to gift limits. However, the official remains subject to the conflict of interest rules and some matters may require recusal from voting.

Yes, unless an exception applies, the tickets are a reportable gift. A gift to an official's spouse is a gift to the official when there is no established working, social, or similar relationship between the donor/vendor and the spouse or there is evidence to suggest that the donor had a purpose to influence the official.

The tickets are reportable in the amount of $280 on the director’s Form 700 if the vendor is the type of source covered under the director’s disclosure category in the agency’s conflict of interest code.

No, so long as the organization holding the event provides the ticket. However, the official’s agency must complete FPPC Form 802 (Agency Report of Ceremonial Role Events and Ticket/Pass Distributions) and forward it to the FPPC. The form will identify the official’s name and explain the ceremonial function. (See Regulation 18942.3 for the definition of “ceremonial role.”)

No. Discounts received under an airline's frequent flyer program that are available to all members of the public are not required to be disclosed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Effective January 1, 2014, the types of travel payments that may be reported by an official’s agency on the Form 801 in lieu of the official reporting the payment on his or her Form 700 have been revised. See Regulation 18950.1 for additional information.

The corporate sponsors are the source of the gift if the corporate sponsors donated funds specifically for the purpose of the official’s travel. Thus, the benefit of the gift received by the official would be pro-rated among the donors. Each reportable donor would be subject to the gift limit and identified on the official’s Form 700. The FPPC should be contacted for specific guidance to determine the true source of the travel payment.

If the travel and related lodging and subsistence is paid by a foreign government and is reasonably related to a legislative or governmental purpose, it is not subject to the gift limit. However, the payments must be disclosed as gifts on the Form 700 for this exception to apply. While in the foreign country, any personal excursions not paid for by the official must also be disclosed and are subject to the gift limit. If private entities make payments to the foreign government to cover the travel expenses, the gift limit will apply and travel payments will likely be prohibited. Please contact the FPPC for more information.

No. A payment for travel and related per diem received from a government agency for education, training, or other inter-agency programs or purposes, is not considered a gift or income to the official who uses the payment.

Yes. The payment is reportable, but not subject to the gift limits. In general, an exception applies to payments for travel within the United States that are provided to attend a function where the official makes a speech. These payments are not limited, but are reportable as gifts. The rules require that the speech be reasonably related to a legislative or governmental purpose, or to an issue of state, national, or international public policy; and the travel payment must be limited to actual transportation and related lodging and subsistence the day immediately preceding, the day of, and the day immediately following the speech. (See Government Code Section 89506. Other rules may be applicable if this exception is not used.)

Generally an official is required to report 50% of his or her spouse’s or registered domestic partner’s salary disclosing the employer’s name as the source of income on Schedule C of the Form 700. If the spouse or registered domestic partner is self-employed, the business entity should be reported on Schedule A-2. Officials should check their disclosure category, if applicable, to determine if the income is reportable. Note: The filer’s regular government salary is not reportable.

Yes, except for under rare circumstances where disclosure of the identity would violate a legally recognized privilege under California law. In these cases, the FPPC’s Executive Director is authorized to grant an exemption.

Yes. Unless the stocks are in diversified mutual funds registered with the SEC, any investments worth $2,000 or more in a business entity located in or doing business in the jurisdiction must be disclosed on Schedule A-1 or A-2 if the official’s disclosure category requires that such investments be reported.

Investments held in a government defined-benefit pension program plan (i.e., CalPERS) are not reportable. Investments held in a fund such as a defined contribution plan 401(k) or exchange traded fund (EFT) are not required to be disclosed if the fund meets specified requirements. (See Regulation 18237.) An official may need to contact their account manager for assistance in determining what assets are held in the account.

The name of the trust is reported, along with the rental property and its income, on Schedule A-2. The official’s primary residence, if used exclusively as a personal residence, and investments in diversified mutual funds registered with the SEC, are not reportable. (For secondary residences, see Question 15.) Although the official’s primary residence is not required to be disclosed on the Form 700, it is still considered an economic interest for conflict of interest purposes. (See Real Property Questions #1)

Generally, any personal residence occupied by an official or his or her family is not reportable if used exclusively as a personal residence. However, a residence for which a business deduction is claimed is reportable if the portion claimed as a tax deduction is valued at $2,000 or more. In addition, any residence for which an official receives rental income is reportable if it is located in the jurisdiction.

It depends. First the residence must be located in the official’s jurisdiction. If the secondary residence is located in the official’s jurisdiction and rental income is received (including from a family member), the residence is reportable. However, if the residence is used exclusively for personal purposes and no rental income is received, it is not reportable. Although the secondary residence may not be reportable, it is still considered an economic interest for conflict of interest purposes.

Nothing is required to be reported on the Form 700 so long as the ticket is provided directly by the 501(c)(3) organization for its own fundraising event and is used for the official’s own attendance at the fundraiser. In this case, the ticket is deemed to have no value. The official may also accept a second ticket provided directly by the 501(c)(3) organization for his or her guest attending the event, without a reporting obligation by either the official or the guest.

If another person or entity provides a ticket, it is a gift and subject to the gift limit. The value is the non-deductible portion on the ticket. If there is no declared face value, then the value is the pro-rata share of the food, catering service, entertainment, and any additional item provided as part of the event. The “no value” exception only applies if the official receives no more than two tickets for his or her own use directly from the 501(c)(3) organization and it is for the organization’s fundraising event.

No. A ticket or any other gift may be accepted under these circumstances without limit or reporting obligations. Note: agencies must ensure the conflict of interest code adequately addresses potential conflicts of interests but not be so overbroad as to include sources that are not related to the employee’s official duties.

No. So long as the ticket is provided directly by the 501(c)(3) organization and is used for the official’s own attendance at the fundraiser, the ticket is not reportable regardless of where the official is seated.

No. The value of the ticket is not a gift so long as the ticket is provided to the official directly by the committee holding the fundraiser and the official personally uses the ticket. (Regulation 18946.4.) Separate rules apply for travel provided to attend the fundraiser. Regulation 18950.3 covers issues on travel paid by or for a campaign committee.

No. So long as the official uses the ticket for his or her own use. If someone other than the political party provides a ticket, the full cost of the ticket is a gift. The political party must report the total amount spent on the fundraiser on its campaign statement.

Because the ticket was not offered by the campaign committee holding the fundraiser, it is a gift to the official. The value is either the face value of the ticket or the pro-rata share of the food, catering services, entertainment, and any additional benefits provided to attendees.

No. The focus of the food and beverages “drop-in” exception is not on the nature of the event as a whole, but rather on the particular official’s brief attendance and limited consumption. If an official attends an event that serves only appetizers and drinks, the “drop-in” exception would only apply if the official just “drops in” for a few minutes and consumes only a “de minimis” amount of appetizers and drinks. However, the “drop-in” exception does not automatically apply just because the event does not serve more than appetizers and drinks.

The value is the face value amount stated on the ticket to the sporting event. This valuation rule applies to all tickets to such events that are not covered by a separate valuation exception, such as non-profit and political party fundraisers.

The official may reimburse the entity or organization that provided the ticket for the amount over the gift limit (or pay down the value to under the $50 gift reporting threshold if the official does not want to disclose the ticket). Reimbursement must occur within 30 days of receipt of the ticket. A candidate or elected official may use campaign funds to make the reimbursement if the official’s attendance at the event is directly related to a political, legislative, or governmental purpose for the payment. A ticket that is not used and not given to another person is not considered a gift to the official.