May 22, 2008

New Church Checklist

Can you provide a checklist of items for a new church to consider?

Pastoral Compensation Issues:

1. Consider establishing a professional expense reimbursement plan, either using an “advances” or a “reimbursement” arrangement.
2. Determine health insurance and medical care benefits, including the possible use of a major medical policy combined with a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). Two key questions to resolve regarding an HRA—what annual amount? and will any unspent amounts carryover?
3. Consider retirement funding, typically using either a 403(b) plan to providing funds for the pastor to fund his own Roth or traditional IRA
4. Designate a portion of cash compensation as a housing allowance.
5. Determine cash compensation. It may not be wise to reduce this amount too low (by providing other benefits instead of cash compensation). Pastors need $11750-$17400 (2007 amounts) for maximum Earned Income Credit (EIC) with 2+ children or need $8350-$16000 (2007 amounts) for maximum EIC with 1 child.
6. Determine whether the pastor desires to elect optional income tax withholding, especially if he has a large amount of Self-Employment tax to pay (tax law does not permit churches to withhold and match the 7.65% FICA tax that most U.S. employees are subject to).
7. Assign responsibility for government reporting including quarterly (Form 941) and annual employment filings (W-2; Form 944).

Ministry Management Issues:

1. Adopt a process for establishing the church budget (a. project revenues, b. disclose compensation, c. categorize expenses by activity or functional, d. establish a contingency fund)
2. Establish policies and procedures (a. for offering counts, b. for disbursements / purchasing, c. for bookkeeping [1) Fund Accounting and donor designations, 2) missions and other special funding methods], d. for financial reporting [1) determine frequency, 2) determine recipients, 3) determine contents {a) balance sheet (modified cash basis of accounting), b) statement of receipts and disbursements (modified cash basis of accounting), c) other schedules: mortgage schedule; designated funds}])
3. Arrange purchase of insurance (a. liability, b. auto, c. workers' compensation (employee and subcontractors), d. professional liability (counseling))
4. Determine legal organization (tax-exempt status; sales tax exemption)
5. Establish policy for internal auditing
6. Adopt policy for maintenance of donor records (a. who will record donations, b. what software, if any, will be used)