September 29, 2010
Authored by: Keith Kehrer
Just turn on your TV and you will be reminded by the constant smear campaigns that political campaign season is here once again. Section 501(c)(3) organizations must be careful and resist the urge to speak their minds. Section 501(c)(3) organizations (including churches) are strictly prohibited from engaging in political campaign activities, including making statements for or against a candidate for public office. Unlike legislative lobbying (where a Section 501(c)(3) public charity may engage in insubstantial lobbying), any amount of political campaign activity, including the use of the organization’s assets for campaing activities, may result in loss of tax-exempt status. Therefore, Section 501(c)(3) organizations must resist the urge to endorse or oppose candidates, or allow their assets to be used for campaign activities, even though the election of a particular candidate may have a dramatic impact on the organization’s agenda. Watchdog groups and concerned citizens frequently file complaints with the Internal Revenue Service alleging violation of the prohibition on political campaign activities and calling for revocation of exemption. Therefore, make sure your Section 501(c)(3) organization is aware of this strict prohibition as the campaign season heats up.