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A Reminder about Permissible Election Year Activities for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations

As Election Day approaches, many Section 501(c)(3) organizations may need a reminder about their permissible activities during an election season. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for elective public office. However, Section 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to conduct limited voter education activities within certain parameters. A common example is the creation or distribution of a voter guide. The compliance requirements for voter guides focus on whether the questions and any other description of the issues on the voter guide are clear and neutral in both their structure and content. A voter guide should include all candidates running for the office at issue without exhibiting any preference for a particular candidate. Importantly, even when a Section 501(c)(3) organization does not create its own voter guide, it would assume compliance responsibility for another organization's voter guide by distributing it. Therefore, if a certain voter guide is not neutral, a Section 501(c)(3) organization would be exposed to the risk of engaging in impermissible political campaign intervention by becoming a point of distribution for that voter guide. Potential consequences of impermissible campaign activity include the revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of excise taxes.

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