Religion, Politics, and the Tax Code

The U. S. Tax Code allows donor tax deductions to religious organizations, but the deduction comes with conditions that require the ministries to limit political activities. The best known condition is the rule against involvement in political campaigns.

Voter Education and Get-Out-the-Vote

The IRS prohibits any voter education and registration effort that specifically favors one candidate or party.

Individual Activity by Leaders

As individuals, church leaders can express their political opinions; however, the tax code prohibits them from making political comments in publications and at functions that their ministry sponsors.

Official Candidate Appearances

When a ministry invites a candidate to speak, the IRS determines if the event is allowed within the rules of the tax code by asking:

  • Did the organization provide the same opportunity to participate to all candidates for the same position?
  • Did the organization indicate its support for or opposition to any of the candidates in any way?
  • Did any political fundraising occur?

When it invites several candidates for the same office to speak at a public event, the IRS asks other questions:

  • Did questions for the candidates come from an unbiased panel?
  • Did the discussion cover a broad range of issues of interest to the public?
  • Did all candidates have an equal opportunity to present their views?
  • Were candidates asked to agree or disagree with ministry-specific positions or statements?
  • Did a moderator comment on the questions or imply approval or disapproval of any candidate?

Unofficial Candidate Appearances

Ministries may invite political candidates to speak in certain situations: i.e., when those who hold a public office are experts in a non-political field or have led notable military, legal, or public service careers. A candidate also may personally choose to attend a ministry event open to the public. If the ministry introduces the candidate or asks the candidate to speak, the IRS determines if the activity fits the rules by asking questions similar to those mentioned previously.

Public Policy Positions

IRS regulations permit religious organizations to take positions on public policy issues that divide candidates. However, they must avoid taking a position that favors or opposes a candidate or party. A church or ministry can violate the regulations simply by showing a picture of the candidate, referring to a political party, or using facts unique to a candidate's platform or biography.

Business Activity

An organization may not sell or rent mailing lists, lease office space, or accept paid political advertising in a way that the tax code prohibits.

Websites

When a ministry posts something on a website that favors or opposes a candidate, the IRS considers it the same as other political statements a religious organization makes. When a church or ministry allows a link to another website, the IRS may hold it responsible for political statements others make on the linked site.

October 27, 2020
Self-Defense or Second-Degree Murder?
Self-Defense or Second-Degree Murder?

On October 10, 2020, in Denver, Colorado, a 30-year-old private security guard who was hired to protect a Denver news crew while covering protests was involved in a deadly shooting that claimed the life of a 49-year-old man. 

October 1, 2020
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness

Organizations that obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding through the CARES Act can have their loans forgiven, turning them into grants. To qualify, each borrower must file a forgiveness application with its PPP lender, proving that it followed the rules. If your church, school, college, or camp meets all the criteria, 100% of its loan can be forgiven.

August 27, 2020
Emergency Dispatch: Cameron Peak
Emergency Dispatch: Cameron Peak

Lessons learned from the front line of a wildland fire.

Tags: liability, damages, protect, directors and officers, coverage
August 20, 2020
Colorado Wildfires: Prepare Your Ministry Now
Colorado Wildfires: Prepare Your Ministry Now

Four major wildfires are burning across Colorado, fueled by dry vegetation, drought and wind.

Tags: liability, damages, protect, directors and officers, coverage
April 13, 2020
Beware of COVID-19 Cyber Scams
Beware of COVID-19 Cyber Scams

Ministries are creatively scrambling to continue their operations and safely engage their congregations with an array of online technologies during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, hackers are ready to take advantage of the confusion with scams designed to steal valuable data or siphon funds from your ministry. Learn how to keep your ministry safe from scams. 

Tags: liability, damages, protect, directors and officers, coverage
March 30, 2020
CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now
UPDATED: CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now

Learn about the CARES Act and two loans for which ministries may be eligible, since Congress authorized additional funding April 23. 

March 6, 2020
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention

As concern over the dangers associated with the spread of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, our agency and Brotherhood Mutual want to keep you informed and provide best practices for managing the spread of this and similar illnesses at your ministry.

January 29, 2020
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics

The first Sunday in February is a big day for sports fans. In fact, many Americans view Super Bowl Sunday as a national holiday. Friends and families will gather this year to watch the big game, enjoy delicious snacks, and of course, critique the commercials that go along with game day.

October 28, 2019
Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?
Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?

Recently, we learned about two major overseas incidents involving pastors on mission trips. The first incident involved a pastor being hit by a motorcycle while running. The second was a bus accident involving two pastors. The runner and one of the two bus passengers sustained extensive injuries.

Tags: missions, insurance
September 1, 2019
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance

Last month, the IRS announced that its initiating hundreds of church exams to test compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While many provisions only apply to churches with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), even smaller churches could potentially violate provisions applicable to health benefit plans with as few as 2 plan participants.

Tags: ACA, IRS
August 15, 2019
Record Breaking Hailstorm Hits Colorado
Record Breaking Hailstorm Hits Colorado

On Tuesday, August 15, 2019, a record-breaking hailstorm struck multiple areas throughout the state of Colorado.

Tags: liability, damages, protect, directors and officers, coverage
July 3, 2019
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day

July 4th is synonymous with food, fun, and fireworks. If your church is planning an event this Independence Day, remember to keep a focus on safety, so that everyone can have fun.

Tags: liability, damages, firework safety
June 28, 2019
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it

National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28 this year to remind people everywhere that insurance is vital to their companies and ministries.

Tags: liability, damages, protect, directors and officers, coverage
June 24, 2019
June 23-29 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week
June 23-29 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week

Summertime across the country means barbecues, carnivals, sporting events, boating, hitting the beach and many other recreational activities. In short, summertime means a lot more people are spending time in the great outdoors. But summer is also the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena--lightning.

Tags: damages, protect, hail, weather emergency
May 8, 2019
Protect Your People & Property During Hailstorms
Protect Your People & Property During Hailstorms

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year. Prepare your ministry and people for hail this season.

Tags: damages, protect, hail, weather emergency
April 30, 2019
Measles Cases Reach Record-Breaking Numbers
Measles Cases Reach Record-Breaking Numbers

More than 700 confirmed cases of measles have been reported in the United States so far this year, making this outbreak the worst in decades.

Tags: liability, protect, health safety, risk management, measles
April 15, 2019
April 14 -20 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Colorado
April 14 -20 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Colorado

As winter turns to spring, we’re also in for a turn in weather. Lightning, strong winds, flash flooding, hail, or tornadoes could quickly strike your ministry. The National Weather Service has designated April 14-20, 2019, as Severe Awareness Week in Colorado.

Tags: damages, protect, weather emergency, weather, lightning
April 8, 2019
Vehicle Registration Guidelines for Ministries
Vehicle Registration Guidelines for Ministries

Do you use commercial vehicles that transport more than 15 passengers or carry cargo from one state to another as part of your ministry? If so, you are required to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and obtain a USDOT number.

Tags: liability, vehicle safety, auto insurance
June 1, 2018
June Is National Safety Month - Week 1: Emergency Preparedness
June Is National Safety Month - Week 1: Emergency Preparedness

The National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month, so we want to make sure your ministry is doing everything it can to protect its people, property, and programs. Each week in June, we’ll tackle a different topic. Up this week: Emergency Preparedness.

Tags: disaster prep, fire prevention, lightning, medical emergency, storms, weather, weather emergency
April 18, 2018
Collect Online Donations? This New Scam Targets You
Collect Online Donations? This New Scam Targets You

There’s a new scam in town, and ministries and other organizations collecting donations are the primary target. If your ministry collects tithes or donations, you could be targeted by scammers practicing donation overpayment fraud.

Tags: finance, donations, cyber security, fraud