Political Activities by Churches
The IRS revokes a church's tax-exempt status-Branch Ministries, Inc. v. Commissioner, 99-1 USTC 50,410 (D.D.C. 1999)

The IRS revokes a church's tax-exempt status-Branch Ministries, Inc. v. Commissioner, 99-1 USTC ¶50,410 (D.D.C. 1999) [Federal Income Taxation of Churches(6)]

Article summary. In order to maintain their tax-exempt status for federal income tax purposes, churches and other religious organizations must comply with several requirements specified in section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. One of these requirements is that the organization must not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. Many churches have violated this requirement in the past with no adverse consequences. However, the landscape is changing. In 1995 the IRS for the first time revoked the exempt status of a church for intervening in a political campaign. The church had published full-page ads in two national newspapers, warning Christians not to vote for candidate Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election. The IRS ruling was upheld recently by a federal court. The court rejected the church's claim that the revocation of its tax-exempt status violated the first amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A federal court has upheld a ruling by the IRS revoking the tax-exempt status of a church on account of its intervention in the 1992 presidential campaign. This case makes it essential for church leaders to be familiar with the limitation on political involvement. This article reviews the court's ruling, summarizes the limitation on political activities, and addresses the impact of the ruling on church practices.

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