United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of the Senate; the Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D. C.. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 100 senators; the House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U. S. Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house and vote in congressional committees, introduce legislation; the members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms representing the people of a single constituency, known as a "district". Congressional districts are apportioned to states by population using the United States Census results, provided that each state has at least one congressional representative.
Each state, regardless of population or size, has two senators. There are 100 senators representing the 50 states; each senator is elected at-large in their state for a six-year term, with terms staggered, so every two years one-third of the Senate is up for election. To be eligible for election, a candidate must be aged at least 25 or 30, have been a citizen of the United States for seven or nine years, be an inhabitant of the state which they represent; the Congress was created by the Constitution of the United States and first met in 1789, replacing in its legislative function the Congress of the Confederation. Although not mandated, in practice since the 19th century, Congress members are affiliated with the Republican Party or with the Democratic Party and only with a third party or independents. Article One of the United States Constitution states, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives."
The House and Senate are equal partners in the legislative process—legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers. However, the Constitution grants each chamber some unique powers; the Senate ratifies treaties and approves presidential appointments while the House initiates revenue-raising bills. The House initiates impeachment cases. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required before an impeached person can be forcibly removed from office; the term Congress can refer to a particular meeting of the legislature. A Congress covers two years; the Congress ends on the third day of January of every odd-numbered year. Members of the Senate are referred to as senators. Scholar and representative Lee H. Hamilton asserted that the "historic mission of Congress has been to maintain freedom" and insisted it was a "driving force in American government" and a "remarkably resilient institution". Congress is the "heart and soul of our democracy", according to this view though legislators achieve the prestige or name recognition of presidents or Supreme Court justices.
One analyst argues that it is not a reactive institution but has played an active role in shaping government policy and is extraordinarily sensitive to public pressure. Several academics described Congress: Congress reflects us in all our strengths and all our weaknesses, it reflects our regional idiosyncrasies, our ethnic and racial diversity, our multitude of professions, our shadings of opinion on everything from the value of war to the war over values. Congress is the government's most representative body... Congress is charged with reconciling our many points of view on the great public policy issues of the day. Congress is changing and is in flux. In recent times, the American south and west have gained House seats according to demographic changes recorded by the census and includes more minorities and women although both groups are still underrepresented. While power balances among the different parts of government continue to change, the internal structure of Congress is important to understand along with its interactions with so-called intermediary institutions such as political parties, civic associations, interest groups, the mass media.
The Congress of the United States serves two distinct purposes that overlap: local representation to the federal government of a congressional district by representatives and a state's at-large representation to the federal government by senators. Most incumbents seek re-election, their historical likelihood of winning subsequent elections exceeds 90 percent; the historical records of the House of Representatives and the Senate are maintained by the Center for Legislative Archives, a part of the National Archives and Records Administration. Congress is directly responsible for the governing of the District of Columbia, the current seat of the federal government; the First Continental Congress was a gathering of representatives from twelve of the thirteen British Colonies in North America. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, referring to the new nation as the "United States of America"; the Articles of Confederation in 1781 created the Congress of the Confederation, a
Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981
The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 known as the ERTA or "Kemp–Roth Tax Cut", was a federal law enacted by the 97th United States Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. The act was a major tax cut designed to encourage economic growth. Republican Congressman Jack Kemp and Republican Senator William Roth had nearly won passage of a tax cut during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, Reagan made a major tax cut his top priority upon taking office. Though Democrats maintained a majority in the House of Representatives during the 97th Congress, Reagan was able to convince conservative Democrats like Phil Gramm to support the bill. ERTA passed Congress on August 4, 1981, was signed into law on August 13, 1981. ERTA was one of the largest tax cuts in U. S. history, ERTA and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 are known together as the Reagan tax cuts. Along with spending cuts, Reagan's tax cuts were the centerpiece of what some contemporaries described as the conservative "Reagan Revolution."
Included in the act was an across-the-board decrease in federal income tax rates. The top marginal tax rate fell from 70 percent to 50 percent, the bottom rate dropped from 14 percent to 11 percent. To prevent future bracket creep, the new tax rates were indexed for inflation. ERTA slashed estate taxes, capital gains taxes, corporate taxes. Critics of the act claim that it worsened federal budget deficits, while supporters credit it for bolstering the economy during the 1980s. Due to deficit concerns in the midst of the early 1980s recession, many of the cuts implemented by ERTA were rescinded by the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982; the Office of Tax Analysis of the United States Department of the Treasury summarized the tax changes as follows: phased-in 23% cut in individual tax rates over 3 years. The maximum expense in calculating credit was increased from $2000 to $2400 for one child and from $4000 to $4800 for two or more kids; the credit increased from a maximum of $400 or $800 to 30 % of $10,000 income or less.
The 30% credit is diminished by 1% for every $2,000 of earned income up to $28000. At $28000, the credit for earned income is 20%; the amount a married taxpayer who files a join return increased under the Economic Recovery Tax Act to $125,000 from $100,000, allowed under the 1976 Act. A single person is limited to an exclusion of $62,500, it increases the amount of a one time exclusion of gain realized on the sale of principal residence by a persons at least 55 years old. Republican Congressman Jack Kemp and Republican Senator William Roth had nearly won passage of a major tax cut during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, but President Carter had prevented passage of the bill due to concerns about the deficit. Supply-side economics advocates like Kemp and Reagan asserted that cutting taxes would lead to higher government revenue due to economic growth, a proposition, challenged by many economists. Upon taking office, Reagan made the passage of Kemp-Roth bill his top domestic priority; as Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, passage of any bill would require the support of some House Democrats in addition to the support of congressional Republicans.
Reagan's victory in the 1980 presidential campaign had united Republicans around his leadership, while conservative Democrats like Phil Gramm of Texas were eager to back some of Reagan's conservative policies. Throughout 1981, Reagan met with members of Congress, focusing on winning support from conservative Southern Democrats. In July 1981, the Senate voted 89-11 in favor of the tax cut bill favored by Reagan, the House subsequently approved the bill in a 238-195 vote. Reagan's success in passing a major tax bill and cutting the federal budget was hailed as the "Reagan Revolution" by some reporters; the Accelerated Cost Recovery System was a major component of the ERTA and was amended in 1986 to become the Modified Accelerated cost Recovery System. The system changed the way. Instead of basing the depreciation deduction on an estimate of the expected useful life of assets, the assets were placed into categories: 3, 5, 10, or 15 years of life. For example, the agriculture industry saw a re-evaluation of their farming assets.
Items such as automobiles and swine were given 3 year depreciation values, things like buildings and land had a 15-year depreciation value. The idea was that there would be a rise in tax cuts due to the optimistic consideration of depreciating values; this would in turn put more cash into the pockets of business owners to promote investment and economic growth. The most lasting impact and significant change of the Act was the indexing of the tax code parameters for inflation starting in years after 1984. Of the nine federal tax laws between 1968 and this Act, si
Act of Congress
An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the United States Congress. It can either be a Public Law, relating to the general public, or a Private Law, relating to specific institutions or individuals; the term can be used in other countries with a legislature named "Congress", such as the Congress of the Philippines. In the United States, Acts of Congress are designated as either public laws, relating to the general public, or private laws, relating to specific institutions or individuals. Since 1957, all Acts of Congress have been designated as "Public Law X-Y" or "Private Law X-Y", where X is the number of the Congress and Y refers to the sequential order of the bill. For example, P. L. 111-5 was the fifth enacted public law of the 111th United States Congress. Public laws are often abbreviated as Pub. L. No. X-Y; when the legislation of those two kinds is proposed, it is called public bill and private bill respectively. The word "act", as used in the term "Act of Congress", is a common, not a proper noun.
The capitalization of the word "act" is deprecated by some dictionaries and usage authorities. Some writers, in particular the U. S. Code, capitalize "Act"; this is a result of the more liberal use of capital letters in legal contexts, which has its roots in the 18th century capitalization of all nouns as is seen in the United States Constitution. "Act of Congress" is sometimes used in informal speech to indicate something for which getting permission is burdensome. For example, "It takes an Act of Congress to get a building permit in this town." An Act adopted by simple majorities in both houses of Congress is promulgated, or given the force of law, in one of the following ways: Signature by the President of the United States, Inaction by the President after ten days from reception while the Congress is in session, or Reconsideration by the Congress after a presidential veto during its session. The President promulgates Acts of Congress made by the first two methods. If an Act is made by the third method, the presiding officer of the house that last reconsidered the act promulgates it.
Under the United States Constitution, if the President does not return a bill or resolution to Congress with objections before the time limit expires the bill automatically becomes an Act. In addition, if the President rejects a bill or resolution while the Congress is in session, a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Congress is needed for reconsideration to be successful. Promulgation in the sense of publishing and proclaiming the law is accomplished by the President, or the relevant presiding officer in the case of an overridden veto, delivering the act to the Archivist of the United States. After the Archivist receives the Act, he or she provides for its publication as a slip law and in the United States Statutes at Large. Thereafter, the changes are published in the United States Code. An Act of Congress that violates the Constitution may be declared unconstitutional by the courts; the judicial declaration of an Act's unconstitutionality does not remove the law from the statute books.
However, future publications of the Act are annotated with warnings indicating that the statute is no longer valid law. Legislation List of United States federal legislation for a list of prominent acts of Congress. Procedures of the United States Congress Act of Parliament Coming into force Enactment Federal Register http://bensguide.gpo.gov/6-8/glossary.html
Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001
The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 was a major piece of tax legislation passed by the 107th United States Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, it is known by its abbreviation EGTRRA, is referred to as one of the two "Bush tax cuts". Bush had made tax cuts the centerpiece of his campaign in the 2000 presidential election, he introduced a major tax cut proposal shortly after taking office. Though a handful of Democrats supported the bill, most support came from congressional Republicans; the bill was passed by Congress in May 2001, signed into law by Bush on June 7, 2001. Due to the narrow Republican majority in the United State Senate, EGGTRA was passed using the reconciliation process, which bypasses the Senate filibuster. EGGTRA lowered federal income tax rates, reducing the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent and reducing rates for several other tax brackets. The act reduced capital gain taxes, raised raised pre-tax contribution limits for defined contribution plans and Individual Retirement Accounts, eliminated the estate tax.
In 2003, Bush signed another bill, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which contained further tax cuts and accelerated certain tax changes that were part of EGGTRA. Due to the rules concerning reconciliation, EGGTRA contained a sunset provision that would end the tax cuts in 2011, but most of the cuts were made permanent with the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Bush's promise to cut taxes was the centerpiece of his 2000 presidential campaign, upon taking office, he made tax cuts his first major legislative priority. A budget surplus had developed during the Bill Clinton administration, with the Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's support, Bush argued that the best use of the surplus was to lower taxes. By the time Bush took office, reduced economic growth had led to less robust federal budgetary projections, but Bush maintained that tax cuts were necessary to boost economic growth. After Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill expressed concerns over the tax cut's size and the possibility of future deficits, Vice President Cheney took charge of writing the bill, which the administration proposed to Congress in March 2001.
Bush sought a $1.6 trillion tax cut over a ten-year period, but settled for a $1.35 trillion tax cut. The administration rejected the idea of "triggers" that would phase out the tax reductions should the government again run deficits; the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act won the support of congressional Republicans and a minority of congressional Democrats, Bush signed it into law in June 2001. The narrow Republican majority in the Senate necessitated the use of the reconciliation, which in turn necessitated that the tax cuts would phase out in 2011 barring further legislative action. One of the most notable characteristics of EGTRRA is that its provisions were designed to sunset on January 1, 2011 (that is, for tax years, plan years, limitation years that begin after December 31, 2010. After a two-year extension by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, Job Creation Act of 2010, the Bush era rates for taxpayers making less than $400,000 per year were made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
The sunset provision allowed EGTRRA to sidestep the Byrd Rule, a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act to allow Senators to block a piece of legislation if it purports a significant increase in the federal deficit beyond ten years. The sunset allowed the bill to stay within the letter of the PAYGO law while removing nearly $700 billion from amounts that would have triggered PAYGO sequestration. In addition to the tax cuts implemented by the EGTRRA, it initiated a series of rebates for all taxpayers that filed a tax return for 2000; the rebate was up to a maximum of $300 for single filers with no dependents, $500 for single parents, $600 for married couples. Anybody who paid less than their maximum rebate amount in net taxes received that amount, meaning some people who did not pay any taxes did not receive rebates; the rebates were automatic for anybody who filed their 2000 tax return on time, or filed for an extension and sent a return. If an eligible person did not receive a rebate check by December 2001 they could apply for the rebate in their 2001 tax return.
EGTRRA reduced the rates of individual income taxes: a new 10% bracket was created for single filers with taxable income up to $6,000, joint filers up to $12,000, heads of households up to $10,000. The 15% bracket's lower threshold was indexed to the new 10% bracket the 28% bracket would be lowered to 25% by 2006; the 31% bracket would be lowered to 28% by 2006 the 36% bracket would be lowered to 33% by 2006 the 39.6% bracket would be lowered to 35% by 2006The EGTRRA in many cases lowered the taxes on married couples filing jointly by increasing the standard deduction for joint filers to between 164% and 200% of the deduction for single filers. Additionally, EGTRRA increased the per-child tax credit and the amount eligible for credit spent on dependent child care, phased out limits on itemized deductions and personal exemptions for higher income taxpayers, increased the exemption for the Alternative Minimum Tax, created a new depreciation deduction for qualified property owners; the capital gains tax on qualified gains of property or stock held for five years was reduced from 10% to 8% for those in the 15% income tax bracket.
EGTRRA introduced sweeping changes to retirement plans, incorporating many of the so-called Portman-Cardin provisions proposed by those House members i
Revenue Act of 1913
The Revenue Act of 1913 known as the Underwood Tariff or the Underwood-Simmons Act, re-established a federal income tax in the United States and lowered tariff rates. The act was sponsored by Representative Oscar Underwood, passed by the 63rd United States Congress, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson and other members of the Democratic Party had long seen high tariffs as equivalent to unfair taxes on consumers, tariff reduction was President Wilson's first priority upon taking office. Following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, Democratic leaders agreed to seek passage of a major bill that would lower tariffs and implement an income tax. Underwood shepherded the revenue bill through the House of Representatives, but the bill won approval in the United States Senate only after extensive lobbying by the Wilson administration. Wilson signed the bill into law on October 3, 1913; the Revenue Act of 1913 lowered average tariff rates from 40 percent to 26 percent.
It established a one percent tax on income above $3,000 per year. A separate provision established a corporate tax of one percent, superseding a previous tax that had only applied to corporations with net incomes greater than $5,000 per year. Though a Republican-controlled Congress would raise tariff rates, the Revenue Act of 1913 marked an important shift in federal revenue policy, as government revenue would rely on income taxes rather than tariff duties. Democrats had long seen high tariff rates as equivalent to unfair taxes on consumers, tariff reduction was President Wilson's first priority upon taking office, he argued that the system of high tariffs "cuts us off from our proper part in the commerce of the world, violates the just principles of taxation, makes the government a facile instrument in the hands of private interests." While most Democrats were united behind a decrease in tariff rates, most Republicans held that high tariff rates were useful for protecting domestic manufacturing and factory workers against foreign competition.
Shortly before Wilson took office, the Sixteenth Amendment, proposed by Congress in 1909 during a debate over tariff legislation, was ratified by the requisite number of states. Following the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, Democratic leaders agreed to attach an income tax provision to their tariff reduction bill to make up for lost revenue, to shift the burden of funding the government towards the high earners that would be subject to the income tax. By late May 1913, House Majority Leader Oscar Underwood had passed a bill in the House that cut the average tariff rate by 10 percent. Underwood's bill, which represented the largest downward revision of the tariff since the Civil War, aggressively cut rates for raw materials, goods deemed to be "necessities," and products produced domestically by trusts, but it retained higher tariff rates for luxury goods; the bill instituted a tax on personal income above $4,000. Passage of Underwood's tariff bill in the Senate would prove more difficult than in the House because some Southern and Western Democrats favored the continued protection of the wool and sugar industries, because Democrats had a narrower majority in that chamber.
Seeking to marshal support for the tariff bill, Wilson met extensively with Democratic senators and appealed directly to the people through the press. After weeks of hearings and debate and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan managed to unite Senate Democrats behind the bill; the Senate voted 44 to 37 in favor of the bill, with only one Democrat voting against it and only one Republican, progressive leader Robert M. La Follette Sr. voting for it. Wilson signed the Revenue Act of 1913 into law on October 3, 1913; the Revenue Act of 1913 reduced the average import tariff rates from 40 percent to 26 percent. The Act established the lowest rates since the Walker Tariff of 1857. Most schedules were a percentage of the value of the item; the duty on woolens went from 56% to 18.5%. Steel rails, raw wool, iron ore, agricultural implements now had zero rates; the reciprocity program wanted by the Republicans was eliminated. Congress rejected proposals for a tariff board to fix rates scientifically, but it set up a study commission.
The Underwood-Simmons measure vastly increased the free list, adding woolens, steel, farm machinery, many raw materials and foodstuffs. The average rate was 26%; the Revenue Act of 1913 restored a federal income tax for the first time since 1872. The federal government had adopted an income tax in the Wilson–Gorman Tariff Act, but that tax had been struck down by the Supreme Court in the case of Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co; the Revenue Act of 1913 imposed a one percent tax on incomes above $3,000, with a top tax rate of six percent on those earning more than $500,000 per year. Three percent of the population was subject to the income tax; the bill included a one percent tax on the net income of all corporations, superseding a previous federal tax that had only applied to corporate net incomes above $5,000. The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the income tax in the cases of Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co. A normal income tax and an additional tax were levied against the net income of individuals, as shown in the following table: There was an exemption of $3,000 for single filers and $4,000 for married couples.
Therefore, the 1% bottom marginal rate applied only to the first $17,000 of income for single filers or the first $16,000 ($352,300 in
Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006
The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, includes a package of tax extenders, provisions affecting health savings accounts and other provisions in the United States. The Act retroactively extended for two years certain provisions that had expired at the end of 2005, including: Above the line deduction for qualified tuition and higher education expenses Elective itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes Research credit For tax years ending after December 31, 2006, the Act modifies the rules for calculating the research credit: it increases the rates of the alternative incremental credit and creates a new alternative simplified credit Work opportunity tax credit, welfare-to-work tax credit Tax credit for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds Up to $250 above-the-line deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers Expensing of brownfields remediation costs Tax incentives for investment in Washington, DC Indian employment tax credit Accelerated depreciation for business property on Indian reservations Fifteen-year depreciation for qualified leasehold improvements and qualified restaurant property Enhanced charitable deductions—for corporate donations of scientific property used for research, of computer technology and equipment Archer medical savings accounts Suspension of the taxable income limit on percentage depletion for oil and natural gas produced from marginal propertiesIn addition, the Act extended certain provisions that would otherwise expire at the end of 2006, including: Election to treat combat pay as earned income for purposes of calculating the earned income credit Provisions affecting IRS disclosure of certain tax return informationThe Act extended the new markets tax credit through the end of 2008 and requires that future regulations ensure that non-metropolitan counties receive a proportional allocation of qualified entity investments.
The Act extended through December 31, 2008, numerous energy provisions that would otherwise have expired at the end of 2007, including: Tax credit for electricity produced from certain renewable resources Authority to issue clean renewable energy bonds Deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings Tax credit for new energy-efficient homes Tax credit for residential energy-efficient property Several provisions affect health savings accounts, including provisions dealing with limitations on HSA contributions and tax-free rollovers to HSAs from health reimbursement accounts, flexible spending accounts and individual retirement accounts. Other provisions include: Expansion of the Section 199 domestic production activity deduction to income from Puerto Rico, if all Puerto Rican receipts are subject to federal income tax A refundable credit of 20 percent of the long-term unused alternative minimum tax credits per year for the next five years, subject to certain limitations and phaseouts Enhancing reporting requirements for the exercise of incentive stock options and employee stock purchase plans Reform and expansion of whistleblower awards to certain individuals who provide information regarding violations of the tax laws An increase of the penalty for frivolous tax submissions from $500 to $5,000 and an extension of the scope of the penalty A temporary itemized deduction for qualified mortgage insurance premiums accrued during 2007, subject to limitations and phase-out Increased information sharing between the IRS and certain regional governmental organizations Charitable remainder trusts having unrelated business taxable income are subjected to an excise tax equal to 100% of unrelated business taxable income A technical correction to the Subpart F look-through rule under the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 Clarifying that the Tax Court has jurisdiction to review requests for equitable innocent spouse relief Expanding the Medicare Recovery Audit Contractor program to all 50 states and making it permanent Ordering the completion without delay of the All-American Canal Lining Project and identifying a 1944 treaty between the US and Mexico as the exclusive authority concerning the impacts of projects constructed within US territory on foreign territoriesThe Act makes permanent certain provisions that were included as temporary provisions in the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 and were otherwise scheduled to expire after 2010, including: Federal income tax exemption of certain qualified settlement funds established to resolve CERCLA claims "Separate affiliated group" rule for satisfaction of active trade or business requirement under Section 355 Election to treat self-created musical works as capital assets Exemption from imputed interest rules for certain loans to qualified continuing care facilities CRS Report in the public domain H.
R. 6111, Legislative History
A 501 election or Conable election is a procedure in United States tax law that allows a 501 non-profit organization to participate in lobbying limited only by the financial expenditure on that lobbying, regardless of its overall extent. This allows organizations taking the 501 election to perform a large amount of lobbying if it is done using volunteer labor or through inexpensive means; the 501 election is available to most types of 501 organizations that are not churches or private foundations. It was introduced by Representative Barber Conable as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1976 and codified as 26 U. S. C. § 501, the corresponding Internal Revenue Service regulations were finalized in 1990. 501 organizations, named after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that defines them, are the most common category of nonprofit organization in the United States. They make up 74% of all tax-exempt organizations as of 2013, encompassing organizations with charitable, educational, or religious missions.
By default, 501 organizations are subject to a provision that "no substantial part of the activities carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation". This test, called the substantial part test, is subjective and not defined by the IRS, making it difficult for organizations engaging in policy advocacy to determine whether they are in compliance with the law. Under the 501 election, this is replaced with an objective expenditure test based only on the annual financial expenditure, with no other limits on the actual extent of the lobbying activities. An organization may take the 501 election by filing a one-page form with the IRS, which remains in effect until revoked by the organization; the 501 election is not available to private foundations. Lobbying is defined as attempting to influence legislation, is divided into two categories; the first, direct lobbying, occurs through communication with any member or staff of Congress, or of a state or local legislature, or any government official participating in the formulation of legislation.
The second, grassroots lobbying, is attempting to affect the opinion of the general public on legislation, although some communications to an organization's own members are excluded from this classification. The limit on lobbying expenditure is calculated as a fraction of the organization's total tax-exempt expenditures. For organizations with $500,000 or less of total tax-exempt expenditures in a given year, no more than 20% of that amount may be spent on lobbying. Decreasing percentages are allowed for organizations with higher tax-exempt expenditures, with an absolute spending cap of $1,000,000 being reached. Lobbying expenses above the allowed amount are subject to a 25% excise tax, excessive lobbying over a four-year period may lead to loss of tax-exempt status; this cap applies to the sum of grassroots lobbying expenses. Grassroots lobbying is subject to its own limit, one quarter of the total lobbying cap. Regardless of their 501 status, 501 organizations may not participate in electoral campaigns or support specific candidates for office, a prohibition, in effect since the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954.
Funds derived from federal government or private foundation grants or contracts may never be used for lobbying. The expenditure caps provide a safe harbor for non-profit organizations engaging in policy advocacy; because the limitation is expressed in terms of dollar amounts, organizations can perform a large amount of lobbying if it is done through volunteer labor or through inexpensive media such as email or websites. However, the 501 election is not advantageous for large non-profits whose lobbying expenditures exceed the $1,000,000 total cap or the $250,000 grassroots lobbying cap; these organizations may still be able to justify the expenditures as insubstantial if their operating budget is much larger, although it does entail increased risk. Multiple commentators have called non-profit lobbying beneficial because it balances lobbying by for-profit corporations. Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry wrote in The Washington Post that, given that many non-profits are health care or social service providers, "they are the foot soldiers in a private system that delivers critical services to the disadvantaged.
They are closer to the problems—and the solutions—than the policymakers in city halls, state capitals and Washington." In enacting the provision, Congress intended to increase the flow of information from non-profits to the legislative process. Senator Edmund Muskie said of an early version of a lobbying reform bill in 1971 that "it is fundamental to our constitutional system that should have equal access along with business groups and others in presenting views to Congress."Nevertheless, as of 2009, only 1.3 percent of eligible 501 organizations had taken the 501 election according to one count. A 2003 survey of non-profits found a widespread but erroneous belief that non-profit organizations were banned from political advocacy of any sort, with little awareness of the 501 election; this was attributed to the long gap between the provision's enactment by Congress in 1976 and the publications of final rules by the IRS in 1990 and the complexity of the 501 provisions, as well as the IRS's lack of interest in publicizing the provision.
A 2013 survey of executive directors of non-profit organizations in Boston found that the organizations were 6.3 times more to engage in policy advocacy if they had taken a 501 election than those who did not. Lobbying restrictions on non-profits date to Department of the T