IRS Targets Political Churches

Churches that preach politics from the pulpit (or have preached it in the past) may soon find themselves without their non-profit status as well as owing back taxes.

The IRS has begun aggressive enforcement in connection with its Political Activity Compliance Initiative aimed at educating non-profit organizations about the ban on political activity.

Last week the IRS ordered All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California to turn over documents and emails it produced during the 2004 election season in connection with an investigation started last November. The church, according to the IRS, has been directly engaging in political activities which would violate the church's charter as a non-profit organization.

Political organizations, unlike churches, must pay taxes. In 2004, the IRS investigated 110 cases of non-profits engaging in political activity. Out of those, 47 involved churches.

Some of the activity the IRS found to be improper were:

  • Printing documentation supporting political candidates or positions
  • Church officials delivering speeches during church services or functions
  • Candidates speaking at church services or functions
  • Churches making endorsements or contributions to candidates

When the IRS discovers a one-time violation, the organization generally receives counseling and a "written advisory" to ensure tax laws are understood.

Multiple violations, or a history of repeated violations can bring tax sanctions and, ultimately, forfeiture of non-profit status.

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For once the IRS does something right...

I have to say that I'm much in favor of this. I hate to see PAC's masquerading as churches or other non profits. I hope that they all get their tax exempt status revoked. All of the rest of us have to pay taxes. If this were my world, any one making enough money to hire employees would be considered a business and taxed accordingly.

Just my usual 2 cents - oh, and for the record, I'm an ordained minister. "Thou shalt not have but one cloak and one pair of sandals."

is it one sided

The churches that I've seen in the gunsights of the IRS for such practices are the ones that were opposed much of the right wing agenda or their candidates.

I have not seen any of the ultra conservative churches that are very vocal about their stand on issues becoming targets of IRS investigation.

Could it be that most of these churches have some deep pockets? or is it because the hands of the "right" people are in these deep pockets?

[Ed Note: Can you give us an example of one of the "ultra conservative" churches that bring politicians in to deliver political speeches on Sunday, then rent buses to take members to early polling places? I'm certain that such a thing probably exists, I just haven't found it--and it needs to be publicized.]