Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Churches—Definition
The tax code prohibits churches and other public charities from participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office.
Key point. The tax code prohibits churches and other public charities from participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office. Violations of this prohibition can result in revocation of a church's tax-exempt status, or the imposition of excise taxes under section 4955 of the tax code, or both.

* The IRS issued a ruling in which it addressed a number of important issues including (1) the impact an accumulation of assets has on a church's tax-exempt status; (2) the prohibition of political campaign intervention by churches and church leaders; and (3) the definition of the term "church" for federal tax purposes. A church conducted three or four weekly worship services on its premises for a number of years. These services were attended by up to 350 persons. Over time, the church stopped conducting regular worship services and embarked upon radio and publishing activities and occasional regional seminars where the church's founder disseminated his religious views, counseled the audience, and raised funds. These ventures proved successful, and the church accumulated large sums of money and acquired substantial real estate properties. On a couple of its radio broadcasts the founder urged listeners not to vote for a particular candidate in a presidential election. The IRS reviewed the church's status, and its political activities, and reached the following conclusions:

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Posted: November 1, 2004
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