February 09, 2011

Housing on Church Property for Custodian

Question:

A house sits on a church's property. The church custodian was asked to move into the house. The custodian is now receiving his regular part-time wages in addition to “free” housing in exchange for additional on-call hours worked for security and such.

Is this considered additional income for the custodian?

Answer:

IRS Publication 15-B addresses this question:

"Lodging on Your Business Premises. You can exclude the value of lodging you furnish to an employee from the employee's wages if it meets the following tests: 1) it is furnished on your business premises, 2) it is furnished for your convenience, and 3) the employee must accept it as a condition of employment.

"The exclusion does not apply if you allow your employee to choose to receive additional pay instead of lodging.

"On your business premises. For this exclusion, your business premises is generally your employee's place of work.

"For your convenience. Whether or not you furnish lodging for your convenience as an employer depends on all the facts and circumstances. You furnish the lodging to your employee for your convenience if you do this for a substantial business reason other than to provide the employee with additional pay. This is true even if a law or an employment contract provides that the lodging is furnished as pay. However, a written statement that the lodging is furnished for your convenience is not sufficient.

"Condition of employment. Lodging meets this test if you require your employees to accept the lodging because they need to live on your business premises to be able to properly perform their duties. Examples include employees who must be available at all times and employees who could not perform their required duties without being furnished the lodging."

As the reader of this blog can see, the answer is "it depends."

If it is determined that the housing is not excludible, then it is reportable just as if it had been paid in cash, subject to all standard withholding and employer taxes. Determining a fair market rental value of the house for these purposes likely involves consulting local sources such as rental listings in the local newspaper or a realtor.

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