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IRS Reminds Charities to Avoid Campaign Activities

July 17, 2006

(July 17, 2006) The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a reminder to charities to avoid political campaign involvement activities this election season.

The reminder stems from the 2004 elections during which the IRS noticed an upturn in political activities on the part of 501(c)(3) organizations. The agency has since responded by increasing its educational efforts and launching an enforcement program, the Political Activity Compliance Initiative (PACI), to investigate specific, credible allegations of wrongdoing.

The IRS has put procedures into place for the 2006 election season to more quickly address instances of potential prohibited activity on the part of charities, churches and other tax-exempt organizations. The procedures are meant to ensure that public referrals as well as activities the IRS itself uncovers are reviewed expeditiously and treated in a consistent, fair and nonpartisan manner.

As a rule, charities, religious organizations, educational organizations and other groups that are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code may not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. The IRS reminded charities that the prohibition means 501(c)(3) organizations may not endorse candidates, distribute statements for or against candidates, raise funds for or donate to candidates, or become involved in any activity that would be either supportive or opposed to any candidate.

Federal courts have ruled that it is not unconstitutional for the tax law to impose conditions, such as the political campaign prohibition, upon exemption from federal income tax.

For more information, including fact sheets on election-year activities, procedures for the 2006 election season and a report on the newly formed Political Activity Compliance Initiative, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

 

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