(Church Corner Article)
(Published in the Winter/Fall of 2008 Newsletter)
In this political season, the church and pastors must be very careful not to overstep the fuzzy boundaries set by the IRS. If a church or its members crosses those boundaries, the IRS can impose a 10% tax on money used for political expenditures and a 2.5 % tax on the church’s managers (i.e. pastors, ministers, board members, etc.); the church can also lose its tax-exempt status.
The church does not have to hibernate during election season, however. They have the opportunity to do the exact opposite while keeping their tax exemption. The church can become the one place to receive true non-partisan information about each candidate’s political stance. Voter guides are one way to promote political education in your congregation while still staying within the IRS guidelines.
Voter guides, brochures or documents which provide information on how all the candidates stand on various issues is appropriate. The voter guide should address a broad range of issues that candidates would normally address in an election. Each candidate running for that office should be included in the guide, and the issues and responses should be presented in a neutral fashion.
The focus of the IRS is to make sure that an organization is not promoting or discouraging votes for or against one particular candidate. Properly done, a voter guide will give people the information they need to make an educated and informed decision about who they feel is best suited for that particular office.
If you have questions about the kinds of political activity that could jeopardize your church’s tax-exempt status, give us a call.
— Sydney Benson
NOTE: The contents of this Newsletter are not intended to be, nor should they be taken as, specific legal advice as each situation is different. Please contact a lawyer with any questions you may have.
The Church Law attorneys at Trinity Law can help. Contact us now by calling, toll free, 1-866-464-5297.