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Nonprofits and Political Activity

There has been a lot in the news recently regarding the IRS “targeting” Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status as 501(c)4 organizations. 501(c)4 refers to the section in the US tax code dealing with tax exempt status for “social welfare” organizations. Aside from the politics involved the key policy issue is the extent to which organizations seeking 501(c)4 status can engage in political activity.

The Internal Revenue Service provides detailed information for charities and other non-profits regarding determining tax exempt status. Jeremy Koulish, a research associate at the Urban Institute, has provided a concise summary of the “Rules Governing Nonprofits and Political Activity” on the Metrotrends blog . He notes the different obligations and advantages/disadvatages for four types of tax exempt organizations: 50(c)3 - Public Charities, 501(c)4 -Social Welfare, 501(c)5 - Labor Unions, and 501(c)6 - Business Leagues.

The Urban Institute provides some background information on “Tax Policy and Charities.” The Independent Sector, a leadership organization provides information regarding nonprofit organizations and political activity including background information on the current controversy.

The Dewey Library has several books in its collection which address the legal aspects, including political engagement, of their activities:

The Law of Tax-Exempt Organizations. 9th ed. Bruce R. Hopkins. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2007. Dewey REF KF 6449 H6 2007

Nonprofit Law for Religious Organizations. Bruce R. Hopkins and David O. Middlebrook. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2008. Dewey REF KF 4865 H67 2008

Nonprofit Governance and Management. Cheryl Sorokin et al. Chicago, IL: ABA Publishing, 2011. Dewey KF 1388 N44 2011

If you want to know more about researching nonprofits, their tax status, and their political activity, contact bibliographer Richard Irving: ririving@albany.edu or 442-3698.

Blog post created by Richard Irving