IRS Finds Churches and Charities Overstep Into Politics

In a report from the AP, the Internal Revenue Service announced the results of investigations of churches and other charities who may have violated their non-profit status by getting too involved in the 2004 election.

IRS exams found nearly 3 out of 4 churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on political activity in the 2004 election actually did so, the agency said Friday.

Most of the examinations that have concluded found only a single, isolated incidence of prohibited campaign activity.

The IRS examined 110 organizations referred to the tax agency for potentially violations, and 28 cases remain open.

Among the 82 closed cases, the IRS found prohibited politicking and sent a written warning to 55 organizations and assessed a penalty tax against one group. Those organizations included 37 churches and 19 other organizations.

Among the prohibited activities, the examiners found that charities and churches had distributed printed material supporting a preferred candidate and assembled improper voter guides or candidate ratings.

Religious leaders had used the pulpit to endorse or oppose a particular candidate, and some groups had shown preferential treatment to candidates by letting them speak at functions.

Other charities and churches had made improper cash contributions to a candidate’s political campaign.

The IRS said the cases covered “the full spectrum” of political viewpoints.

IRS Finds Charities Overstep Into Politics

The report also noted that the cases it investigated were a “tiny fraction of more than 1 million tax-exempt organizations organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax law.”

In looking at the full report, it is interesting that of the 82 cases closed, warnings were sent to more churches under review than non-churches. 34 church cases got a warning while only 19 non-church cases got a warning.

The types of churches and political view points were not disclosed.

The full report from the IRS can be found here:

IRS Reports on Political Campaign Intervention Initiative

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