The following article is written by Bree G. Vopelak. Bree Vopelak assists tax-exempt organizations with initial start-up legal planning strategies and with applying for recognition of tax-exempt status. In addition, Bree helps clients address day-to-day tax compliance issues involving employment taxes, charitable contribution substantiation, the unrelated business income tax, the rebuttable presumption of reasonableness for executive compensation and property transactions, grantmaking, the private benefit and private inurement doctrines, and minister housing allowances and exclusions and exemptions from employment taxes. She has obtained penalty tax abatements for clients and negotiated successful resolutions of IRS audits of tax-exempt organizations.
It’s Election Season…Think Before You Speak
Election season is upon us and regardless of which candidate you or your organization supports, if you are speaking on behalf of your organization, you need to think before you speak about any candidate that is running for public office.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. The IRS has taken the position that contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Be aware that the punishment for violating this prohibition may include the denial or revocation of your organization’s tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes by the IRS.
What can your organization do? Depending on the facts and circumstances, certain types of nonpartisan voter education activities and voter registration activities may be permissible (assuming the activity is truly conducted in a non-partisan manner).
Every election season media outlets report on nonprofit organizations that disregard this prohibition. Avoid the potential public relations nightmare and IRS involvement…think before you speak.
-Bree G. Vopelak
Shareholder, Hamilton Vopelak P.C.
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