Bright Lines Project Submits Draft Regulations to the IRS

Nov. 17, 2014

Bright Lines Project Submits Draft Regulations to the IRS

Proposal Clarifies Rules for Nonprofit Political Activity, Protects Civic Engagement

Seattle, WA – Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project submitted its proposal (PDF) for how the IRS should define political activity for nonprofits during a gathering of nonprofit advocates this past Saturday.

Representatives from nonprofits across the country were gathered in Seattle for Independent Sector’s Public Policy Action Institute, a program that gathers a diverse set of nonprofit professionals to discuss policy issues facing the nonprofit community. The proposal was submitted during a panel (PDF) on the role of 501(c)(4) nonprofits in public policy.

“In our current system, nonprofits have to leap from IRS revenue ruling to revenue ruling like frogs on lily pads to stay within the law,” said Emily Peterson-Cassin, Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project coordinator. “Clearly defined safe-harbors will ensure they can carry out their missions without fear of landing in the pond.”

The Bright Lines Project’s proposal offers a path forward for the IRS, which began a rulemaking in November 2013 that could provide the clarity nonprofits have called for. The proposal lays out a clear definition of political activity along with safe harbors for protected activities and key definitions. The IRS has said a revision of the rules will be ready for public comment in early 2015.

“Nonprofits and voters alike are in agreement that the IRS needs big improvements to define political activity for nonprofits,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Our proposal protects nonprofits’ vital civic engagement work by ensuring they know what is and is not political activity.”

The submission comes in the wake of polling (PDF) that shows more than 8 out of 10 voters think it is important to have clear rules in place concerning political activities of nonprofit organizations.

View the proposal (PDF).

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The Bright Lines Project has been working for years to create clear, fair rules that would apply to all nonprofits and would encourage nonpartisan civic engagement while removing opportunities for abuse. It is housed at Public Citizen.