Opinion and Commentary from the Charitable Sector

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is one of the nation’s largest, tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations under the meaning of §501(c)(4) of the federal tax code   Its political power and take-no-prisoners approach to achieving its political aims are legendary.  Put its social welfare designation together with its ruthless, anti-gun control agenda, and you get the Clockwork Orange version of what social welfare organizations used to be. 

Though contributions to 501(c)(4)s  are not tax deductible and gift taxes may apply, the tax designation gives the NRA and similar organizations certain advantages.  They can, for instance, independently participate in campaigns of candidates running for public office—as long as they can demonstrate that political advocacy isn’t their primary activity.  There is enough ambiguity in present I.R.S rules to make compliance a cakewalk. 

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