Lobbying by Public Charities

Can a public charity engage in efforts to influence legislation? Yes, but not as a “substantial part” of its activities. Under IRC 501(c)(3), an organization will not qualify (or remain qualified) as tax-exempt if it carries on propaganda, or otherwise attempts to influence legislation, as a “substantial part” of its activities. What constitutes a substantial part is unclear. Neither the Code nor the regulations elaborate on this phrase. Fortunately, Congress enacted IRC § 501(h) to inject some certainty into this area. It provides a safe harbor from the substantial part rule. An organization wanting to influence legislation may make a 501(h) election by filing Form 5768 with the IRS. Thereafter, it will not be treated as substantially engaging in lobbying […]

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