IRS: Charities Overstepping Into Politics
Yahoo News - Feb 24, 2006
IRS exams found nearly three out of four 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.
In three cases, however, the IRS uncovered violations egregious enough to recommend revoking the groups' tax-exempt status.
The vast majority of charities and churches followed the law, but the examinations found a "disturbing" amount of political intervention in the 2004 elections, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said.
"It's disturbing not because it's pervasive, but because it has the potential to really grow and have a very bad impact on the integrity of charities and churches," Everson said in an interview.
The tax agency looked only at charities, churches and other tax-exempt organizations referred to the IRS for potentially violating laws that bar them from participating in or intervening in elections, including advocating for or against any candidate.
Those referred to the IRS represent a tiny fraction of more than 1 million tax-exempt organizations organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax law.
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.
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