The Internal Revenue Service issued a fact sheet in February, warning churches and charities to not endanger their tax-exempt status by participating in partisan politics.
Read Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations at www.irs.gov/newsroom/ (click on “Fact Sheets”).
IRS Commissioner Mark Everson warned Feb. 24 that while churches are allowed to participate in issue advocacy, there was “increasing political intervention in the 2004 [election] cycle.” The IRS will be more aggressive in revoking a group’s tax-exempt status for violations related to electioneering, he said.
In the agency’s ongoing investigation of 132 charities and churches, Everson said nearly three-fourths of 82 completed examinations “substantiated ... prohibited political activity, [mostly] one-time, isolated occurences.” Most received written warnings from the IRS, but three charities (not churches) had their tax-exempt status revoked.
Everson pointed to the eight-page fact sheet as a helpful reference for when a church crosses the line. For example, churches aren’t allowed to:
• Distribute any statements or post signs on the church property, favoring or opposing a candidate.
• Favor certain candidates through the use of links on the congregational Web site.
• Give a candidate preferential treatment (i.e., time to speak to church members; use of church facilities, directories or other assets) without offering other candidates an equivalent opportunity.
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