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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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IRS issues warning

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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