Court Upholds IRS Decision to Revoke New York Church's Tax-Exempt Status

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A federal court upholds an IRS decision to revoke the tax-exempt status the Landmark Church, previously know as the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y, after it ran ads specifically targeting Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election. This was the first time that any church in the United States had had its tax-exempt status revoked due to partisan political activity.

According to the court's decision:

"The advertisements did not go unnoticed. They produced hundreds of contributions to the church from across the country and were mentioned in a New York Times article and an Anthony Lewis column which stated that the sponsors of the advertisement had almost certainly violated the Internal Revenue Code.

The advertisements also came to the attention of the regional commissioner of the IRS who notified the church on Nov. 20, 1992, that he had authorized a church tax inquiry based on 'a reasonable belief … that you may not be tax-exempt or that you may be liable for tax' due to political activities and expenditures.

The simple answer, of course, is that whereas not every religious organization is a church, every church is a religious organization. More to the point, irrespective of whether it was required to do so, the church applied to the IRS for an advance determination of its tax-exempt status. The IRS granted that recognition and now seeks to withdraw it. (Federal law) gives the IRS this power."

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