Lobbying vs. Non-Lobbying Checklist

The following questions may help you determine whether your efforts might be considered lobbying under the IRS rules, and therefore, must be paid for with separate, lobbying-approved funding. Each organization’s lobbying requirements (and the registration rules that may apply to them) may be slightly different, so make sure you consult your legal counsel to share your plans and address any questions. In general, the IRS lobbying rules apply to communications with members of Congress, state legislators, city council members, and potentially other elected officials and their staff. In some cases, communication with the general public is considered lobbying too.

Will you be communicating directly with a legislator—or to legislative branch staff, executive branch officials, or any staff involved in formulating particular legislation?

 Note: Communicating with school boards and zoning boards      does not qualify as lobbying.

If so, will your communications reflect a point of view on specific legislation, such as the following?

  • Bills or ballot measures that have been introduced
  • Specific legislative proposals not yet introduced (e.g., “Iowa should adopt Arkansas’ law on including incentives and monitoring programs in shared use agreements”)
  • Budget bills

Think strategically: If you are not conveying a viewpoint on specific legislation, your communications with public officials or their staff are not lobbying. For example: telling a legislator that you want to encourage the policy of shared use agreements is not lobbying unless your comments are in reference to a specific pending or proposed shared-use legislation.

Will you be communicating to the general public about a view on a particular ballot measure or piece of legislation—through op-eds, social media, email newsletters, advertisements, speeches, etc.?

  • Any communication to the public that reflects a view on a particular ballot measure is lobbying.

If so, will your communications to the general public include a call-to-action, such as the following?

  • Asking the public to contact a legislator
  • Identifying someone’s legislative representative
  • Providing contact information for a legislator
  • Providing a vehicle for contacting the legislator (e.g., form email, petition)
  • Identifying a legislator as being neutral on, or opposed to, the legislation or identifying the legislator as sitting on the voting committee

Think strategically: In most circumstances, if communications to the general public do not include a call-to-action, they are not lobbying unless the legislation discussed is a ballot measure. For example, if you talk about the benefits of a specific bill pending in the legislature to create incentive and monitoring programs tied to shared use agreements, without asking readers to contact their legislators (or any other form of a call-to-action), the communication will not be lobbying.