We develop a new scheme for determining molecular partial atomic charges (PACs) with external electrostatic potential (ESP) closely mimicking that of the molecule. The PACs are the ‘minimal corrections’ to a reference set of PACs necessaryfor reproducing exactly the tensor components of the Cartesian zero-, first- and second- molecular electrostatic multipoles. We evaluate the quality of ESP reproduction when ‘minimally correcting’(MC) Mulliken, Hirshfeld or iterative-Hirshfeld reference PACs. In all these cases, the MC-PACs significantly improve the ESP while preserving the reference PACs’invariance under the molecular symmetry operations. When iterative-Hirshfeld PACs are used as reference, the MC-PACs yield ESPs of comparable quality to those of the ChElPG charge fitting method.