For what seems like such a simple question, many organizations have a very hard time calculating the amount they spend on lobbying activities.

A few reminders might help:

  • Include any payments to outside lobbying firms in this figure. Even if it seems like double counting (since those firms will report the amount they receive from your organization), the LDA and guidance are clear that payments to lobbying firms must be included.
  • Calculate salaries paid for lobbying activity, which includes the time spent on planning, preparation, research, and coordination of lobbying activities. Remember, this includes all staff, not just those who are listed as lobbyists.
  • On that note, remember that trip to Washington your CEO took last month to meet with three Members of Congress? At least part of that trip needs to be treated as lobbying. But, if there were other purposes for the trip (meeting with the trade association CEO, visiting two customers), then you can apportion the CEO’s time to lobbying and non-lobbing, as well as the actual expenses.
  • The Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate’s Guidance says that when paying trade association dues, you have to report the amount for lobbying in the quarter it is paid. Think about asking your association to allow for quarterly payments to avoid a big one-quarter spike.
  • Speaking of trade associations, they are required for tax purposes to notify their members of the percentage of their dues spent on lobbying activities. Remember that the tax code has a very different definition of lobbying that includes state lobbying, grassroots, and political activities. Trade associations may consider providing their members with an LDA number and a tax code number to make LDA reporting more accurate. Members of associations may consider asking their associations for the same.

Calculating the amount spent on lobbying is often more art than science – that is one of the reasons the LDA allows you to round to the nearest $10,000!