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E-M:/ FW: IRS, non-profits and internet



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Enviro-Mich message from "Eric Uram" <eric.uram@sierraclub.org>
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For all you non-profit folks, a forwarded message
of interest -

The IRS is exploring whether it should monitor
nonprofit websites
and hold them responsible for the political
activities of the sites
they link to, and for what is said in their chat
rooms and online
conferences and listservs.  The IRS might then
consider revoking
the tax exempt status of nonprofits who engage
(through these
links and online comments) in nonexempt activities
(like intervening
in election campaigns or lobbying for or against
legislation).

Although the IRS has only said it is "considering
issuing guidance
that would clarify the application of code
provisions governing
exempt organizations to activities they conduct on
the Internet"
and stresses that no final decision has been made
on either the
need for such guidance or what position IRS should
take, there is
valid concern over the contraints this would place
on nonprofit use
of the Internet.  In particular, since the IRS has
occasionally been
used by political authorities to harrass political
activists, we should
note that this sort of internet regulation could
provide a particularly
useful tool for that purpose.

The IRS is accepting comments on this subject
until February 13,
2001. Since it would seriously constrain
citizenship on the Internet
I consider it worthy of action by anyone concerned
about
democracy or collective intelligence.  Both
nonprofits and active
citizens can speak up about this.

Anthony Tofanelli referred me to an alert
regarding this that was
posted on the Independent Media Center website

http://www.indymedia.org/display.php3?article_id=1
1680

which in turn linked to a Tech Law Journal site

http://www.techlawjournal.com/agencies/irs/interne
t/20001016.asp

which provides the full IRS Request for Comments.

Since the IRS document is apparently not available
on the IRS
website (and Tech Law Journal got it from Rep.
Armey's office), I
looked for a second source, and found one:

http://www.ombwatch.org/npadv/2000/eocomment.html

This is the site of OMB Watch, which tracks the
federal Office of
Management and the Budget and the issues they deal
with.  Their
site provides an excellent questionnaire which
nonprofits can use
to clarify their own thinking on this IRS proposal
and to give OMB
Watch guidance on how to dialogue with the IRS
about it.  This
questionnaire is on

http://www.ombwatch.org/npadv/2000/eonetprinciples
.html

Individual or organizational public comments can
be emailed to
TE/GE-Exempt-2@irs.gov
or mailed to:

                           Internal Revenue
Service
                           1111 Constitution Ave.,
NW
                           Washington, DC 20224
                           Attn: Judith E. Kindell

                           Regarding Document: IRS
Announcement 2000-
84,
Dated October 16.
                           DEADLINE: February 13,
2001.





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