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Can charity provide election information?

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Can charity provide election information?

Can a 501(c)(3) organization provide information in its newsletter or on its website about openings on local elected boards and information about running in local elections without fear of losing its 501(c)(3) status?

Ordinarily, a charitable organization can provide information to the public about political openings and political campaigns without losing its exempt status so long as the information is nonpartisan. The Tax Court held in 1989 that the American Campaign Academy, a school for Republican candidates that taught courses on how to beat Democrats, provided substantial private benefit to the Republican Party and could not be exempt as a charity. 
The Internal Revenue Service has taken the position that a charity can be deemed to participate in an election campaign, which can cause loss of exemption, merely by the kinds of questions it asks candidates, or by the selective dissemination of their responses. (See Ready Reference Page: “Charities May Not Participate in Elections.”) So if you undertake this kind of activity, be absolutely sure that the information, or the context in which it is provided, cannot be considered partisan.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007

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