Posts Tagged ‘501(c)3’

Tuesday Ethics Tip: Nonprofit Lobbying Edition

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 by Vbhotla

First of all: are nonprofits allowed to lobby? The answer is very clearly “yes,” although there are some restrictions.

The LDA (as amended by HLOGA) states that in addition to reporting all lobbying expenditures on their Form 990, nonprofits may also be required to register with Congress and report their activities, but only if they meet these two thresholds:

  • You have an employee who is a “lobbyist,”* defined as someone who spends 20% or more of his/her time engaged in lobbying activities and the same employee makes one or more lobbying contact in the same quarter
  • Your total federal lobbying expenses are expected to exceed $11,500 during a quarter

Q:  How should our 501 (c)(3) organization report board members’ contributions when we file?

A: While 501(c)(3) organizations cannot make political contributions, they can be involved in certain lobbying activities. A board member of a 501 (c)(3) can participate in these activities.  This would not make them lobbyists, unless there is something else that would trigger a need to register as a lobbyist. If a federally registered lobbyist is a member of the board of a 501 (c)(3) organization and participates in that organization’s event, in the capacity of board member, at which a congressman or senator is honored, that does not need to be disclosed.

Q: Can a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization sponsor travel for members of congress or congressional staffers?

A: Yes, although there are specific guidelines on the amount of time that is appropriate, and the rules differ for Senate and House members.

Q: Can a non-profit make a choice between the lobbying definition used by the LDA and the one used by the IRC?

A:  Yes, Congress allows organizations that have to track their lobbying expenditures in accordance with the tax code to use that format with their LDA reporting. You may therefore choose whether you want to just maintain one system for tracking and reporting lobbying expenditures and whether you want to do both. There are pros and cons for both types of filing.

Q: When I decide to use one definition (LDA v. IRC) over the other one, is that decision binding in the future, or can it be changed on a year-to-year basis?

A: It is not binding and you can change it.  It would be cumbersome to change it back and forth and back and forth, because you would be changing a lot of what you are tracking. But it is a choice that each organization has to make. If you decide to change, you simply notify the proper people on your LD-2.

Today’s post borrowed heavily from this one! (Thanks, Madiha!)

Nonprofit Political Structure Audioconference

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Brittany

Register today!

Each of these action-oriented audioconferences takes just 90-minutes out of your day – yet they provide you with expert guidance that will make a bottom-line difference to your ongoing success with everything from lobbying and grassroots activities, to member involvement and political contributions.

SESSION 1: 501(c)3 organizations: keeping your tax-exempt status intact
September 14, 2010 · 2:00 – 3:30 pm EST

501(c)3 organizations must not engage in political activities, such as attempts to influence elections. But do you know exactly what that means? It could cost you big time if you don’t fully comply with IRS rules to avoid direct advocacy. Your organization can lobby – but only to some extent.  This session focuses on rules and regulations for 501(c)3 organizations – tax structure, advocacy, political events, and other political activities.  In addition, you’ll learn how to conduct a self-audit that provides vital early-warning on any areas of your operation that do not currently comply with IRS, FEC or HLOGA requirements.

SESSION 2: 501(c)4 & (c)6 organizations: how can you advocate?
September 21, 2010 · 2:00-3:30 pm EST

This session examines the special issues compliance issues surrounding nonprofits’ political activities, including the IRS rules that must be obeyed to maintain tax-exempt status and the HLOGA requirements that must be met to avoid disastrous publicity, $200,000 fines and up to five years in jail. Also included: a discussion of appropriate direct political activity.

Click here to register for one or both of the sessions!