The Electoral Commission of Queensland wants to know if Clive Palmer is a property developer to determine if “compliance action” is needed over his political donations.

The businessman and his companies made 31 donations to his United Australia Party totalling $3.8 million during October’s state election campaign.

It is illegal for developers to make political donations in the state with the ECQ seeking clarity about Mr Palmer’s ownership Palmer Leisure Australia, which The Australian reports has lodged development applications.

The commission applied on Wednesday for the Supreme Court to declare whether if Mr Palmer’s company is a property developer.

“There are particular features of the definition of property developer which, in the circumstances of this corporation (Palmer Leisure Australia Pty Ltd) and its activities to date, led the Commissioner to consider it was prudent to seek a declaration from the Court as to whether the corporation is a property developer, before considering whether any compliance action was necessary,” the ECQ told AAP in the statement.

“As the matter is before the Court, no further comment will be made.”

The electoral commission’s guidelines explain that it can only be determined if a person or entity is not a prohibited donor.

The laws state that donations from prohibited entities will be collected by the ECQ as a debt to the state.

That debt is doubled if a recipient “knowingly accepted” a donation from a banned entity.

The commission also warned of potential legal action “which could result in serious penalties, including imprisonment”.