Skip to main content

Ministerial Tax Status: Let Me Out!

Question:

An individual who has previously been employed by a church as a non-ministerial employee now has been added to the church staff as an ordained minister. He finds that his tax situation is worse now. How could this happen? Let me out!

Answer:

This question has a lot of variables. I'll try to get right to the point.

As a non-minister, his full compensation was subject both to federal and state income taxes and to FICA tax withholding of 7.65 percent. The church was required to pay the other 7.65 percent of his social security and Medicare tax. These withholdings were mandatory.

As a minister, he now qualifies for a housing allowance which is free of federal and state income taxes. However, he is now considered self-employed (SE) for purposes of his social security and Medicare tax obligations. He is responsible for the full 15.3 percent SE tax on his income including the housing allowance. According to the Internal Revenue Code, withholdings are optional for him, but without a substantial amount of federal income tax withholding (enough to cover both his actual federal income tax and his SE tax) he must file and pay quarterly estimated tax payments on his own. Otherwise, he may owe a substantial balance due on April 15th.

What strategies have ministers and churches pursued to manage this cost?
1. Many churches recognize that they are saving the 7.65 percent normally the responsibility of employers. Accordingly, they increase his pay by 7.65 percent, then immediately withhold an identical amount as federal income tax so that his tax bite is partially shared.
2. Some ministers choose to opt out of the social security system (Form 4361).
3. If he has children, it may be that his housing allowance reduces his taxable income to the point of qualifying for tax credits that he may not have otherwise earned.
4. Others utilize other tax saving strategies such as 403(b) plans, HRA plans, and professional expense reimbursement plans (all subjects of previous postings to this blog).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Housing Allowance and Form 1099-MISC Reporting

Question:

A church provides its minister a housing allowance, but for other purposes it believes that it must report the full amount of compensation (including the non-taxable housing allowance portion) on Form 1099-MISC (in order to demonstrate the full earnings of the minister). If the church reports his compensation,including the housing allowance, on Form 1099-MISC as taxable income, will he be able to deduct his housing expenses somewhere else on the Form 1040?

Answer:

This questions brings up a couple of issues. First, most ministers are properly classified as employees who receive Form W-2, not as independent contractors who receive Form 1099-MISC. On Form W-2, Box 1 for taxable compensation is reduced reflecting the church's designation of a portion of his pay as non-taxable. Then in Box 14, it typically reports as a memorandum item his additional non-taxable, housing allowance compensation. In the situation addressed in the question, this Form W-2 reporting may or may not a…

Review: Form 1099 Payments to 501(c)(3) Organizations

Question:

A church rented space from another church last year. Should it request a completed Form W-9 and issue Form 1099-MISC?

Answer:

We have written similar blog posts on this topic in the past (listed below), but we figured it was a good time for a review. 

Payments from one 501(c)(3) organization to another 501(c)(3) organization are not subject to Form 1099-MISC reporting. The 2015 Instructions for Form 1099-MISC state that "payments to a tax-exempt organization" are exempt from reporting a Form 1099-MISC. 

The following are typical examples of payments of $600 or more by a church which are subject to reporting a Form 1099-MISC:
Rent paid to an individual (non-corporation)Payments for services rendered by individuals who are not employees (e.g. janitorial service, facilities, snow removal, guest speakers)Support sent directly to missionariesHere are some similar blog posts that we have written in the past:

Form 1099 for Payments to Other Ministries
Form 1099 for Non-profit?
Fo…

Gifts Paid Out of Church Funds: Form 1099-MISC Requirements

Question:
 A church gave a wedding gift of $1000 to a couple who are church members. No goods or services were provided by the couple in exchange for the gift.  Is a Form 1099-MISC required? 
Answer: In the following answer, we assume that the couple are not employees of the church from whom the gift could not be viewed as compensation for their services. Also, the amount seems to be small enough to avoid any concerns of "private inurement."

Accordingly, no Form 1099-MISC is required. According to the 2017 IRS Instructions for Form 1099-MISC a Form 1099-MISC is only required for payment of goods or services. The requirements are as follows:
"File Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, for each person to whom you have paid during the year:  At least $10 in royalties (see the instructions for box 2) or broker payments in lieu of dividends or tax-exempt interest (see the instructions for box 8);  At least $600 in:  1. Rents (box 1);  2. Services performed by someone who is not your …