Guidance for 501(c)(3) Charitable Organizations and Political Activity

As election season intensifies, tax-exempt charitable organizations should be aware that they do not share the same legal rights to participate in political activity as do individuals and other corporations. The State of Hawaii Department of the Attorney General has released political activity guidelines for directors, officers and staff of organizations exempt from income tax under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), which includes churches, private schools, universities, and humanitarian organizations. A charitable organization may have its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS if it engages in any of the following actions:

  • directly or indirectly advocating on behalf of any candidate for public office
  • publishing or distributing statements supporting or opposing candidates, or
  • making contributions to political campaign funds.

Some non-partisan activities may be allowed, depending on specific facts and circumstances. For more information, see the Hawaii AG’s press release, or review the IRS fact sheets.