The National Rifle Association is in the news following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, with much controversy about its opposition to gun control, the money it obtains from gun manufacturers, and its influence on lawmakers. Although the amount the NRA directly contributes to political candidates is relatively small, the group wields a tremendous amount of political power, with the ability to make or break candidates based on their alignment with NRA principles. In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, reports surfaced that the NRA is tax exempt. Is that true? Is the NRA tax exempt?
Is the NRA tax exempt?
Yes. The National Rifle Association is considered a tax-exempt nonprofit organization and has been since 1944. The Internal Revenue Services considers it a "social welfare" group under 501(c)(4) of the tax code: "To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.)"
But the NRA is not a charity, and contributions to it are not tax deductible.
A social welfare group is allowed to lobby politicians and to be involved in elections, as long as that isn't its main activity. But opponents of the NRA argue that's exactly the case — that the primary purpose of the group is to get candidates elected who are opposed to gun regulation, financed by contributions from gun manufacturers, for the benefit of those companies.
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In its 2015 tax return, the NRA describes its purpose as "Firearms safety education and training and advocacy on behalf of safe and responsible gun owners.” In 2016, the "New York Post," a conservative-leaning newspaper, said the NRA "didn't shoot straight" in its tax forms, neglecting to report millions of dollars in lobbying expenses and not mentioning its $10 million Political Victory Fund PAC for six years.
This week, the NRA reported that it received contributions from 23 Russia-linked individuals since 2015. It previously said it had received only one, from 2012 to 2018. The FBI is investigating whether sanctioned Russian state bank member Alexander Torshin, a lifetime NRA member, illegally funneled money to the group.