November 03, 2009

Opt Out of Social Security Denied

Question:

A minister filed IRS Form 4361 but never received written confirmation of its acceptance. Later, the IRS audited his return and assessed the unpaid self-employment tax. What can he do now?

Answer:

According to the Minister Audit Technique Guide, a guide prepared by the IRS for its auditors but available to the public through the above link,

"To determine if a minister is exempt from self-employment tax, request that he or she furnish a copy of the approved Form 4361 if it is not attached to the return. If the taxpayer cannot provide a copy, order a transcript for the year under examination. The ADP and IDRS Information handbook shows where the ministers' self-employment exemption codes are located on the transcripts and what the codes mean. Transcripts will not show exemption status prior to 1988.

"If the transcript does not show a MIN SE indicator and the taxpayer still claims that he or she is exempt from self-employment tax, the Taxpayer Relations Branch at the Service Center where the Form 4361 was filed can research this information and provide the taxpayer with a copy. The Social Security Administration in Baltimore also can provide the information on exemption for an individual."

The normal procedure for filing Form 4361 is (abridged):
1. minister files Form 4361 in triplicate (several attachments are also required)
2. the IRS communicates with the minister for written confirmation of his conscientious objection (other information may also be requested)
3. an IRS representative returns a signed original to the minister
4. the minister runs a photocopy and gives one to his tax preparer :^)

Since it is now likely that his two-year window of opportunity to opt out is expired, absent this proof (i.e., an IRS-signed Form 4361), the minister has few options other than to pursue the advice above.

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