Dos and Don’ts During a Political Campaignplanning ahead // on Tuesday November 4, 2014
Did you know you could have your organization’s tax-exempt status revoked for violating the current regulations surrounding your involvement in political campaigns? Being that it’s an election year, whether you answered yes or no, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of what can and cannot be done.
Under the Internal Revenue Code “all section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
So what does that mean exactly? Here are a few examples of do’s and don’ts that may help bring more understanding.
- Distributing neutral voter education guides and holding voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives. As long as they are conducted in a non-partisan manner without endorsing any particular candidate you’re free to do this.
- Inviting a candidate for office to speak or holding a public forum, provided that other candidates for the same office also are invited to speak, the organization does not endorse a particular candidate and no fundraising occurs.
- Personal statements of church leaders on political matters, as long as they are not made at an official church function or in an official church communication (including websites) and with a statement that the comments are the personal opinion of the speaker and not representative of the church as a whole.
- Advocating on a public policy issue (such as a pending bill in Congress) without favoring or opposing a particular candidate.
- Endorsing a particular candidate’s campaign or urging the congregation to vote for a certain candidate for office.
- Contributing to a political campaign or fundraising on behalf of the campaign.
- Inviting only candidates from one party or viewpoint to speak at the church or to be part of a public forum.
- Distributing a biased (non-neutral) voter guide or other communication about the candidates.
These are just a few examples of what your organization can and cannot do during a political campaign. For additional information from the IRS on what the current law allows during this campaign season reference these materials:
- The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations
- Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations