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Law removes worry from Lobbying.

A recent Washington Post article, "The Lobbying Law Is More Charitable Than They Think," sheds light on a little-known law that specifies the amount that 501(c)(3) charitable organizations can spend on lobbying. In his study of 1,700 nonprofit, author Jeffrey M. Berry, an assistant professor of political science at Tufts University in Massachusetts, found that many nonprofit organizations are unaware of the "H election" law, which provides a "specific accounting mechanism [for] specifying the amount that a nonprofit can expend on lobbying."

Writes Berry: "Based on a sliding scale keyed to annual income, a nonprofit can spend up to as much as 20 percent of its revenues on lobbying. And because the regulations for the H election define lobbying rather narrowly, very little of what a nonprofit H elector does in its advocacy efforts counts as a lobbying expenditure." He further points out that the H election law only requires nonprofits to keep a record of their spending and that taking the H election is easy, as Form 5768 can be downloaded from the Internal Revenue Service Web site (


Berry's study confirms that many charitable nonprofits limit advocacy efforts because the IRS has failed to qualify in its 501(c)(3) provisions what is considered substantial, and they fear that they will be audited and found in violation of this ambiguous threshold. The accounting mechanism specified in the H election alternative, Berry points out, was enacted "so that nonprofits no longer would have to guess what divides substantial from insubstantial lobbying."
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Title Annotation:Government Affairs
Publication:Association Management
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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