The Internal Revenue Service (search) on Wednesday reminded charities to steer clear of prohibited political actions during their election-year activities.

Charities, churches, educational institutions and other nonprofit groups organized as tax-exempt organizations cannot participate in or intervene in any political campaign, nor can they advocate for or against any candidate for public office.

The organizations are prohibited from endorsing candidates, donating to campaigns, raising funds or distributing statements. Activities that encourage voters to support or oppose a particular candidate on the basis of nonpartisan criteria violate taxanization engaged in forbidden political activities, and the group can be forced to pay excise taxes on the money spent on that activity.

Donors cannot deduct contributions to charities that lose their tax-exempt status because of political activities.