December 16, 2008

Health Insurance Premiums Withheld

Question:

In your blog post on September 12, you say that health insurance premiums paid are “not reported as taxable income.” If the amount for the pastor’s health insurance is paid by payroll deduction, does that decrease the amount of taxable income? What benefit could there be to a pastor to have his health insurance paid by payroll deduction? What way is most appropriate to handle this if the church will not assume the payments?

Answer:

According to Table 2-1 of 2009 IRS Publication 15-B, health benefits paid by the employer are tax-free. When an employer wishes to offer employees a choice between receiving taxable and nontaxable benefits, a Internal Revenue Code section 125 plan must be established if benefits such as health insurance are to avoid taxation. In the question posed above, the pastor is offered the choice between receiving his full salary or having a health insurance premium withheld. In order to avoid inclusion of his full salary in Box 1 of his Form W-2, a Section 125 must be established. Of course, the best arrangement for him is to have his employer agreed to paying the premium as a benefit. He loses the flexibility to receive that amount as cash, but enjoys tax-free status, and the church most likely assumes more responsibility for premium increases.

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