March 27, 2010

Office in Home Deduction for Pastors

Question:

A pastor receives a Form W-2 from the church reporting his compensation. The church cannot offer him an office at the church so he does most of his studies at home. Can he claim some of the home expenses for his church office? The pastor was told that he could do it if the church gave him a Form 1099 but not if he received a W-2.

Answer:

Employees (ones who receive Form W-2) are eligible to claim office-in-home deductions on Form 2106 if none is provided by their employers. Independent contractors who receive Form 1099-MISC from their customers may deduct an office-in-home using Form 8829.

Some churches erroneously issue Form 1099-MISC to their pastors but this does not prohibit legitimate office in home deductions. The office in home deduction may reduce his income tax by virtue of its inclusion as a miscellaneous itemized deduction (Schedule A); the calculation is determined on Form 2106 and transferred to Schedule A. (The use of a ministerial housing allowance will mandate reduction of this Schedule A amount.) Further, his self-employment income subject to SE tax on Schedule SE should be reduced by the Form 2106 unreimbursed employee business expenses, including his office in home deduction. This Schedule SE adjustment is not subject to the same partial loss of deduction experienced on Schedule A.

March 19, 2010

Reporting "Gifts" to Missionaries on Form 1099-MISC

Question:

A church gives money directly to a missionary in honor of 25 years of service in the field. The church issued a 1099-MISC and reported it in Box 7 (non-employee compensation). The missionary's tax preparer tells him that the church incorrectly reported it in box 7 and that it should have reported it in Box 3 (other income) since it was a gift, trying to avoid him having to pay self-employment tax on the monies.

When, if ever, should monies paid to missionaries be reported in box 3 rather than box 7?

Answer:

The church has filed the form correctly. The instructions to Form 1099-MISC leave little room for negotiation in this matter.

The Minister Audit Technique Guide produced by the IRS states:"There are numerous court cases that ruled the organized authorization of funds to be paid to a retired minister at or near the time of retirement were gifts and not compensation for past services. Rev. Rul. 55-422, 1955-1 C.B. 14, discusses the fact pattern of those cases which would render the payments as gifts and not compensation." Unless the minister qualifies in this sense, the income is reportable in Box 7. If the above situation does apply, then it should not be reported on Form 1099-MISC at all (or on any other form).

According to the Form 1099-MISC instructions, Box 3 might be used to report missionary payments if the following applies:

"Prizes and awards received in recognition of past accomplishments in religious, charitable, scientific, artistic, educational, literary, or civic fields are not reportable if:

The winners are chosen without action on their part,
The winners are not expected to perform future services, and
The payer transfers the prize or award to a charitable organization or governmental unit under a designation made by the recipient. See Rev. Proc. 87-54, 1987-2 C.B. 669."

March 09, 2010

Charitable Travel (Run it through the Church or Pay it Personally?)

Question:

A donor gave a large sum of money in 2009 to a church's designated fund for missions travel. It was announced that only a small portion of the fund (essentially the portion not received from the donor) was available to the general congregation and that the remainder was sequestered for the donor's 2010 missions travel. Does this procedure comply with the Internal Revenue Code?

Answer:

Publication 526 indicates that travel for charitable purposes is deductible in many cases. Below, I've reproduced a significant section from the Publication.

To me, the bigger issue is not whether the travel is deductible but whether the deduction is allowable in 2009 or 2010 and who must defend its appropriateness in light of the tax rules. Had the donor simply paid for his own expenses, then he would have done so, presumably, in 2010. Also, he personally would stand responsible before the IRS to substantiate his answers to the questions implied in Publication 526 (again, see below). By accepting and disbursing the contribution, the church has put itself in the position of needing to ascertain whether the travel qualifies for a deduction (and in which year it qualifies), a potentially sticky position to be put in when the donor and his tax advisors could handle this themselves.

Publication 526: "Travel. Generally, you can claim a charitable contribution deduction for travel expenses necessarily incurred while you are away from home performing services for a charitable organization only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. This applies whether you pay the expenses directly or indirectly. You are paying the expenses indirectly if you make a payment to the charitable organization and the organization pays for your travel expenses.

"The deduction for travel expenses will not be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you do not have any duties, you cannot deduct your travel expenses."

Temporary Versus Indefinite Assignment (travel deduction issues)

Question:

A missionary was sent by his home church in one state to another state two years ago to help start a church and other ministries. His church sends monthly support. Can he claim the rent and utilities for his rental house in the mission location as business (travel) expenses? He maintains a permanent residence back in the state of his home church. Also, if the housing qualifies as travel expense is there a limit to the amount he can claim, such as an amount equal to the ministry support received?

Answer:

Travel away from one's tax home is only deductible if it is on a temporary assignment. IRS Publication 463 discusses temporary versus indefinite assignments.

"If your assignment or job away from your main place of work is temporary, your tax home does not change. You are considered to be away from home for the whole period you are away from your main place of work. You can deduct your travel expenses if they otherwise qualify for deduction. Generally, a temporary assignment in a single location is one that is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for 1 year or less.

"However, if your assignment or job is indefinite, the location of the assignment or job becomes your new tax home and you cannot deduct your travel expenses while there. An assignment or job in a single location is considered indefinite if it is realistically expected to last for more than 1 year, whether or not it actually lasts for more than 1 year.

"If your assignment is indefinite, you must include in your income any amounts you receive from your employer for living expenses, even if they are called travel allowances and you account to your employer for them."

It seems apparent that a missionary in the situation posed in the question above certainly does not qualify for business travel deductions on his housing away from his original tax home.