A reader asks: Why doesn’t ANH-USA just change its tax status in order to preserve its right to speak out? Action Alert!
Since we first broached the subject of the IRS’s new rules concerning 501(c)4 nonprofits like ANH-USA, many of our readers have offered comments and suggestions. One recently asked why we don’t change our organizational form:
Clearly some of ANH’s activity is political, so just like my local non-profit, they should have to form a separate non-profit for the political activity, which is not tax exempt. It is reasonable and just [to ask this], so why the whining and claiming persecution?
We thought we would share our response to this reader:
We are guessing, based on your remarks, that the local nonprofit you refer to is a 501(c)3 organization under the IRS code and that it set up a 501(c)4 organization, because a (c)4 is allowed to engage in more political activity. A (c)4 organization is a nonprofit and thus is called tax-exempt, but gifts to it are not tax deductible as they would be for a (c)3.
Please note that ANH-USA is already a (c)4, not a (c)3. So we have previously done what you suggest we should do now. Unless you suggest we become a for-profit (which would violate our mission and still keep us under IRS supervision), our only viable option is remain a (c)4.
Meanwhile we do not think that the IRS should be telling a (c)4, which by law is allowed to engage in political activity, that it cannot even mention the name of a legislator even if he or she has just filed a new bill. Nor should the IRS put in gag rules about what a (c)4 can say about regulators or regulatory agencies. US law has specifically exempted discussion of regulation and regulatory actions or appointments from political lobbying law. There is a good reason for that. Regulation is supposed to be done outside the context of partisan politics. Making the IRS into a political speech cop and interfering with free speech about regulation are really bad ideas and also violate our constitutional rights.
For more on our coverage of the proposed IRS rules, please see this article and, most recently, this article. And if you have not already done so, please see our Action Alert—the deadline for all comments is February 27!