The Internal Revenue Service said it would be watching to make sure charities and religious organizations don't violate their tax-exempt status by engaging in political activities this campaign season.

The IRS said its Political Activities Compliance Initiative would once again be in effect this election season. The program seeks to educate Section 501(c)(3) organizations about federal laws that bar them from engaging in politics on behalf of a candidate.

By law, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations may not "participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

"We take very seriously our obligation to ensure that tax-exempt organizations have the information they need to make the right decisions about political campaign activities," said Steven T. Miller, commissioner of the IRS's Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, in a statement.

Tax-exempt organizations are permitted to engage in advocating for or against issues and, to a limited extent, ballot initiatives or other legislative activities.

The IRS is sending letters to the national Democratic and Republican party committees explaining the law's prohibition regarding charities and churches. In March, a letter published in the Federal Election Commission's monthly newsletter asked candidates to ensure that their contacts with charitable organizations do not inadvertently jeopardize the tax-exempt status of any charity.

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