26 CFR § 1.501(h)-1 - Application of the expenditure test to expenditures to influence legislation; introduction.
(1) There are certain requirements an organization must meet in order to be a charity described in section 501(c)(3). Among other things, section 501(c)(3) states that “no substantial part of the activities of [a charity may consist of] carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)).” This requirement is called the substantial part test.
(2) Under section 501(h), many public charities may elect the expenditure test as a substitute for the substantial part test. The expenditure test is described in section 501(h) and this § 1.501(h). A public charity is any charity that is not a private foundation under section 509(a). (Unlike a public charity, a private foundation may not make any lobbying expenditures: If a private foundation does make a lobbying expenditure, it is subject to an excise tax under section 4945). Section 1.501(h)–2 lists which public charities are eligible to make the expenditure test election. Section 1.501(h)–2 also provides information about how a public charity makes and revokes the election to be covered by the expenditure test.
(3) A public charity that makes the election may make lobbying expenditures within specified dollar limits. If an electing public charity's lobbying expenditures are within the dollar limits determined under section 4911(c), the electing public charity will not owe tax under section 4911 nor will it lose its tax exempt status as a charity by virtue of section 501(h). If, however, that electing public charity's lobbying expenditures exceed its section 4911 lobbying limit, the organization is subject to an excise tax on the excess lobbying expenditures. Further, under section 501(h), if an electing public charity's lobbying expenditures normally are more than 150 percent of its section 4911 lobbying limit, the organization will cease to be a charity described in section 501(c)(3).
(4) A public charity that elects the expenditure test may nevertheless lose its tax exempt status if it is an action organization under § 1.501(c)(3)–1(c)(3)(iii) or (iv). A public charity that does not elect the expenditure test remains subject to the substantial part test. The substantial part test is applied without regard to the provisions of section 501(h) and 4911 and the related regulations.
(b) Effective date. The provisions of § 1.501(h)–1 through § 1.501(h)–3, are effective for taxable years beginning after August 31, 1990. An election made before August 31, 1990, under the provisions of § 7.0(c)(4) or the instructions to Form 5768, will be effective under these regulations without again filing Form 5768.