Public Charities Can Lobby

Much advocacy work, including efforts to influence executive branch actions, does not constitute lobbying. Yet, contrary to popular misconception, 501(c)(3) public charities—including houses of worship and public foundations—can lobby under federal law. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service has stated that public charities “may lobby freely” so long as lobbying is within generous specified limits.

Under federal tax law, lobbying generally consists of communications that are intended to influence specific legislation. How much lobbying the organization can do depends upon which of two tests the organization uses to measure its lobbying: the optional “501(h) expenditure” test or the default “insubstantial part” test.

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