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Repeal of the Johnson Amendment?

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The “Johnson Amendment” is a 1954 law that restricts 501(c)(3) organizations — including colleges and churches — from directly or indirectly participating in political campaign activities. In fact, it was the impetus for the verbiage in Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) that states, “… and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

President Trump has repeatedly vowed to repeal this restriction. At the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast on February 4, the President said that he wants to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment” so that “representatives of faith [could] speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

As an aside, the “Johnson” involved is none other than former president Lyndon B. Johnson. He spearheaded the passage of this provision as a reaction to one of his Texas Congressional campaigns in the mid-1950s, when nonprofits aligned themselves against him. Many viewed this as a payback by Johnson at the time.

If this repeal comes to pass, it would certainly increase the political free speech options for colleges and churches. Might it also provide funding opportunities for organizations that want to dive into political advocacy?

Dave Moja

Dave is dedicated to meeting client needs in the exempt organization tax arena through review of client returns, consulting engagements, training, and the compilation of the annual CapinCrouse Higher Education Tax Reporting Trends Project. He has 29 years of accounting experience and serves several industry committees, including the AICPA Not For Profit Advisory Council. Dave has also served on the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT).

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