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IRS and Treasury Should Stick to the Regulatory Schedule

Nov. 20, 2015

IRS and Treasury Should Stick to the Regulatory Schedule

New Political Activity Rule for Nonprofits Set for December

Note: Today the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs released its fall Unified Agenda, which includes notice of a proposed rulemaking on nonprofit political activity scheduled for December.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The clock is ticking for the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department to issue a revised proposal for clearer definitions of nonprofit political activity – and the regulatory agenda for fall 2015 shows these departments know it, Public Citizen said today.

“Nonprofits need clarity on what political activity means, and they’ve needed it for decades,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and manager of the Bright Lines Project, which is pushing for a clear definition of political activity for nonprofits. “The sooner the rule is released, the sooner they can advocate their missions without fear.”

The IRS and the Treasury Department are in the process of redrafting a proposed rule that could clarify the definition of political activity for nonprofits. A permanent rule could prevent mistakes and abuses in enforcement while protecting nonprofits’ ability to engage in the democratic process. The original version of the rule was released two years ago.

“Two years is long enough to evaluate the comments they received on the previous rule,” added Emily Peterson-Cassin, coordinator for Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project. “If the agencies wait much longer, the rule could be overturned, and their hard work will be for nothing.”

Polling (PDF) shows that more than eight in 10 voters agree that clear and objective rules for nonprofit political activity are a good idea.


The Bright Lines Project is pushing to change the tax code to include clear definitions and safe harbors for nonprofit political activity. Our expert drafting team 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. Our proposal may be read here (PDF).