TO: Federation Executives, Community Relations Council Directors, Government Affairs Directors, Interested Parties
FROM: William Daroff, Senior VP for Public Policy & Director of the Washington Office
Steven Woolf, Senior Tax Policy Counsel
DATE: February 4, 2016
RE: Election Year Advocacy
The elections this year provide another opportunity for citizens to become engaged in the political process. Charitable organizations that fall under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code such as Jewish Federations and affiliated agencies 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.” (Note: the quotations in this memo are from “IRS Fact Sheet 2006-17” and IRS Revenue Ruling 2007-41. While the IRS continues to vigorously monitor political activity by charities, these remain the most recent public pronouncements on this issue.) Violation of this prohibition could result in the imposition of fines, and in some case, revocation of tax-exempt status.
Although there are many political activities in which nonprofits are prohibited from participating, there are also some in which charities may legally engage. We encourage Federations to engage in political opportunities in a manner consistent with the information provided herein in order to promote policy issues, meet with and educate elected officials and those seeking elective office, and ensure that citizens exercise their right to vote.
During the past several years, officials at the IRS, especially those within the Exempt Organization Division, have been trapped in a maelstrom regarding their interpretations regarding the permissible political activity of Section 501(c)( 4) social welfare organizations. Because of the heightened attention paid to the political activities of all types of tax-exempt organizations, Federations and affiliated agencies would be well advised to be extra diligent regarding election-related activities this year.
We are sharing two documents with you today, designed to briefly outline permissible or prohibited election-related activities. The first is a one-pager entitled “Election Do's and Don'ts for Public Charities,” that summarizes the types of activities. The second is a more detailed memo that covers distinctions between legislative and electoral activity, voter registration and education, activities conducted by individuals as opposed to organizations, and more. We encourage you to share this information with your affiliates and other agencies in your community, but please note that it is not intended to constitute legal advice.
If you have any questions or concerns about issues related to permissible activities, feel free to contact Steven Woolf, JFNA Senior Tax Policy Counsel at 202-736-5863 or email@example.com.
William C. Daroff
Senior Vice President for Public Policy &
Director of the Washington Office