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Congress Should Act to Protect America’s Non-Profits and Their Donors

February 7, 2018

by Matt Miller
February 7, 2018

Today, more than 100 non-profit organizations signed a letter urging Congress to pass H.R. 4916.  The Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act would eliminate a dangerous and unnecessary form, called Schedule B, that every 501(c) group in the country must submit annually to the IRS.  The Goldwater Institute signed on to the letter because eliminating Schedule B will protect the free-speech rights of non-profit organizations and the privacy rights of their donors.

Schedule B is pernicious because it requires 501(c) organizations to disclose sensitive identifying information about their contributors.  For donors supporting controversial causes, this has led to harassment and intimidation by their ideological opponents.  For instance, one group saw its Schedule B leaked by the IRS and published by an adversarial organization.  And what has Schedule B gotten us in return?  Very little.  As the letter notes, in 2015, the IRS’s  own Director of Exempt Organizations questioned whether Schedule B is needed for federal tax-law enforcement purposes.

As the Supreme Court held 60 years ago, when it struck down donor-disclosure requirements in NAACP v. Alabama, compelled disclosure of donors “affect[s] adversely the ability of [a group] and its members to pursue their collective effort to foster beliefs which they admittedly have the right to advocate, in that it may induce members to withdraw from the [group] and dissuade others from joining it because of fear of exposure of their beliefs … and of the consequences of this exposure.”  The Court recognized that everyone has a First Amendment right to support the causes they believe in without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

H.R. 4916 will strengthen America’s vibrant non-profit community by eliminating Schedule B, which even the IRS recognizes as an unnecessary burden on non-profits.  We are proud to join with over 100 other organizations in urging its swift passage.

Matt Miller is Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute



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