§ 53.4955-1 Tax on political expenditures.
Federal Code of Regulations
(a) Relationship between section 4955 excise taxes and substantive standards for exemption under section 501(c)(3). The excise taxes imposed by section 4955 do not affect the substantive standards for tax exemption under section 501(c)(3), under which an organization is described in section 501(c)(3) only if it does not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.
(b) Imposition of initial taxes on organization managers -
(1) In general. The excise tax under section 4955(a)(2) on the agreement of any organization manager to the making of a political expenditure by a section 501(c)(3) organization is imposed only in cases where -
(i) A tax is imposed by section 4955(a)(1);
(ii) The organization manager knows that the expenditure to which the manager agrees is a political expenditure; and
(iii) The agreement is willful and is not due to reasonable cause.
(2) Type of organization managers covered -
(i) In general. The tax under section 4955(a)(2) is imposed only on those organization managers who are authorized to approve, or to exercise discretion in recommending approval of, the making of the expenditure by the organization and on those organization managers who are members of a group (such as the organization's board of directors or trustees) which is so authorized.
(ii) Officer. For purposes of section 4955(f)(2)(A), a person is an officer of an organization if -
(A) That person is specifically so designated under the certificate of incorporation, bylaws, or other constitutive documents of the foundation; or
(B) That person regularly exercises general authority to make administrative or policy decisions on behalf of the organization. Independent contractors, acting in a capacity as attorneys, accountants, and investment managers and advisors, are not officers. With respect to any expenditure, any person described in this paragraph (b)(2)(ii)(B) who has authority merely to recommend particular administrative or policy decisions, but not to implement them without approval of a superior, is not an officer.
(iii) Employee. For purposes of section 4955(f)(2)(B), an individual rendering services to an organization is an employee of the organization only if that individual is an employee within the meaning of section 3121(d)(2). With respect to any expenditure, an employee (other than an officer, director, or trustee of the organization) is described in section 4955(f)(2)(B) only if he or she has final authority or responsibility (either officially or effectively) with respect to such expenditure.
(3) Type of agreement required. An organization manager agrees to the making of a political expenditure if the manager manifests approval of the expenditure which is sufficient to constitute an exercise of the organization manager's authority to approve, or to exercise discretion in recommending approval of, the making of the expenditure by the organization. The manifestation of approval need not be the final or decisive approval on behalf of the organization.
(4) Knowing -
(i) General rule. For purposes of section 4955, an organization manager is considered to have agreed to an expenditure knowing that it is a political expenditure only if -
(A) The manager has actual knowledge of sufficient facts so that, based solely upon these facts, the expenditure would be a political expenditure;
(B) The manager is aware that such an expenditure under these circumstances may violate the provisions of federal tax law governing political expenditures; and
(C) The manager negligently fails to make reasonable attempts to ascertain whether the expenditure is a political expenditure, or the manager is aware that it is a political expenditure.
(ii) Amplification of general rule. For purposes of section 4955, knowing does not mean having reason to know. However, evidence tending to show that an organization manager has reason to know of a particular fact or particular rule is relevant in determining whether the manager had actual knowledge of the fact or rule. Thus, for example, evidence tending to show that an organization manager has reason to know of sufficient facts so that, based solely upon those facts, an expenditure would be a political expenditure is relevant in determining whether the manager has actual knowledge of the facts.
(5) Willful. An organization manager's agreement to a political expenditure is willful if it is voluntary, conscious, and intentional. No motive to avoid the restrictions of the law or the incurrence of any tax is necessary to make an agreement willful. However, an organization manager's agreement to a political expenditure is not willful if the manager does not know that it is a political expenditure.
(6) Due to reasonable cause. An organization manager's actions are due to reasonable cause if the manager has exercised his or her responsibility on behalf of the organization with ordinary business care and prudence.
(7) Advice of counsel. An organization manager's agreement to an expenditure is ordinarily not considered knowing or willful and is ordinarily considered due to reasonable cause if the manager, after full disclosure of the factual situation to legal counsel (including house counsel), relies on the advice of counsel expressed in a reasoned written legal opinion that an expenditure is not a political expenditure under section 4955 (or that expenditures conforming to certain guidelines are not political expenditures). For this purpose, a written legal opinion is considered reasoned even if it reaches a conclusion which is subsequently determined to be incorrect, so long as the opinion addresses itself to the facts and applicable law. A written legal opinion is not considered reasoned if it does nothing more than recite the facts and express a conclusion. However, the absence of advice of counsel with respect to an expenditure does not, by itself, give rise to any inference that an organization manager agreed to the making of the expenditure knowingly, willfully, or without reasonable cause.
(8) Cross reference. For provisions relating to the burden of proof in cases involving the issue of whether an organization manager has knowingly agreed to the making of a political expenditure, see section 7454(b).
(c) Amplification of political expenditure definition -
(1) General rule. Any expenditure that would cause an organization that makes the expenditure to be classified as an action organization by reason of § 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(iii) of this chapter is a political expenditure within the meaning of section 4955(d)(1).
(2) Other political expenditures -
(i) For purposes of section 4955(d)(2), an organization is effectively controlled by a candidate or prospective candidate only if the individual has a continuing, substantial involvement in the day-to-day operations or management of the organization. An organization is not effectively controlled by a candidate or a prospective candidate merely because it is affiliated with the candidate, or merely because the candidate knows the directors, officers, or employees of the organization. The effectively controlled test is not met merely because the organization carries on its research, study, or other educational activities with respect to subject matter or issues in which the individual is interested or with which the individual is associated.
(ii) For purposes of section 4955(d)(2), a determination of whether the primary purpose of an organization is promoting the candidacy or prospective candidacy of an individual for public office is made on the basis of all the facts and circumstances. The factors to be considered include whether the surveys, studies, materials, etc. prepared by the organization are made available only to the candidate or are made available to the general public; and whether the organization pays for speeches and travel expenses for only one individual, or for speeches or travel expenses of several persons. The fact that a candidate or prospective candidate utilizes studies, papers, materials, etc., prepared by the organization (such as in a speech by the candidate) is not to be considered as a factor indicating that the organization has a purpose of promoting the candidacy or prospective candidacy of that individual where such studies, papers, materials, etc. are not made available only to that individual.
(iii) Expenditures for voter registration, voter turnout, or voter education constitute other expenses, treated as political expenditures by reason of section 4955(d)(2)(E), only if the expenditures violate the prohibition on political activity provided in section 501(c)(3).
(d) Abatement, refund, or no assessment of initial tax. No initial (first-tier) tax will be imposed under section 4955(a), or the initial tax will be abated or refunded, if the organization or an organization manager establishes to the satisfaction of the IRS that -
(1) The political expenditure was not willful and flagrant; and
(2) The political expenditure was corrected.
(e) Correction -
(1) Recovery of expenditure. For purposes of section 4955(f)(3) and this section, correction of a political expenditure is accomplished by recovering part or all of the expenditure to the extent recovery is possible, and, where full recovery cannot be accomplished, by any additional corrective action which the Commissioner may prescribe. The organization making the political expenditure is not under any obligation to attempt to recover the expenditure by legal action if the action would in all probability not result in the satisfaction of execution on a judgment.
(2) Establishing safeguards. Correction of a political expenditure must also involve the establishment of sufficient safeguards to prevent future political expenditures by the organization. The determination of whether safeguards are sufficient to prevent future political expenditures by the organization is made by the District Director.
(f) Effective date. This section is effective December 5, 1995.
[T.D. 8628, 60 FR 62210, Dec. 5, 1995]