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Showing posts from September, 2011

Expenses for Wife Attending Conference with Minister

Question:

Is it allowable for a minister to use funds from his professional expense reimbursement plan to pay for the registration of his wife at a Christian conference?

Can the minister and his wife be classified as a “ministry team” and therefore allow such an expense?

Answer:

IRS Publication 463 indicates that an employer cannot deduct payments (or reimbursements, including those through an accountable plan) for a spouse accompanying an employee "on a business trip or to a business convention," unless that spouse is also 1) its employee, 2) has a bona fide business purpose for the travel, and 3) would otherwise be allowed to deduct the travel expenses."

These rules also apply to tax-exempt employers (e.g. churches) even though they are unconcerned about losing deductions since they pay no income tax in the first place (Federal Tax Regulation 1.132-5 (t)(2).

However, this does not necessary give the whole picture. Internal Revenue Bulletin No. 1996-26, Regulation 1.132-5(t)…

Accountant's New Church Checklist

There are a lot of church planting websites with ideas and services offered to church planters. But what list might an accountant provide for a new church to consider?

Initial Budget

Prepare a budget forecasting both outside support and initial giving by the families expected to charter the new church. Determine the pastoral compensation level that the new congregation can realistically provide. Project costs for meeting facilities (secure a lease). Use church planting resources to develop proper strategies for initial communication and outreach; project the costs to implement the strategies and adjust based on the realities of financial resources.

Organization

Establish a constitution and by-laws. Incorporate with counsel of an attorney familiar with laws for tax-exempt organizations in the state.

Pastor Compensation

Work with the pastor to establish a wise compensation and benefits package. Consider establishing a professional expense reimbursement plan, either using an “advances” or a “r…

Sabbatical Expense Reimbursements--Authoritative Sources

Question:

Your blog posts on February 18, 2010, and January 12, 2011, (accessible by typing "sabbatical" in your search window) offer the only specific statements along these lines that I can find, anywhere. I would like to have as much authority behind me as possible. Can you please refer me to something from IRS or others that provide the authority for your statements?

Answer:

Both blog postings reference IRS Publication 463. Chapter 1 of the 2010 edition offers on only 6-7 pages of content a good initial read. Chapter 6 includes roughly 4 pages on reimbursements under Accountable and Nonaccountable Plan rules.

The Publication defines travel expenses that qualify and offers extensive examples. Further, its section on accountable plan rules offers direction to churches wishing to set up arrangements that establish reasonable reimbursement plans.

Here's a link to the Publication in .pdf format:

IRS Publication 463

Minister with Other "Business" Income

Question:

A minister creates a DVD depicting his experiences as a missionary. He sells the tapes and uses all of the proceeds to make additional copies of the DVD and to have it translated into several languages. He uses none of the DVD proceeds for personal expenses.

Does he need to report the DVD proceeds and how does he treat the DVD costs?

Answer:

The minister will need to file Schedule C along with his personal tax return. The sales represent revenues and the DVD costs represent deductible expenses. Typically, a minister will retain an outside firm to duplicate the DVDs, buying in bulk in order to save money. These purchases of DVDs are subject to inventory rules that the minister's tax preparer will need to apply.

Church Employee or Independent Contractor

Question:

My question concerns a church's categorizing of church employees as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and workers compensation insurance. Can you shed some light on this?

Answer:

The IRS makes available Form SS-8 to aid in the determination of employee versus independent contractor status. I've provided a link here: IRS Form SS-8

Further, the IRS provides the following guidance:

"In determining whether the person providing service is an employee or an independent contractor, all information that provides evidence of the degree of control and independence must be considered.

"Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:

"Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?

"Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are…

Retired Minister Housing Allowance SE Tax Free?

Question:

The IRS Minister Audit Technique Guide says, "The retired minister may exclude from his/her net earnings from self-employment the rental value of the parsonage or the parsonage allowance received after retirement" (http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=210018,00.html). How does the IRS define "retired" in this sense?

Answer:
IRS Publication 517 also refers to the self-employment tax-free status of post-retirement allowances designated as housing, but does a slightly better job explaining the conditions. Both sources relate to IRS Revenue Ruling 58-359 (yes, from the year 1958!).

If retirement were defined as the-time-I-start-collecting-social-security-retirement-benefits, then many pastors would be elated to stop paying the 15.3 percent SE tax since they often continue ministering to congregations on at least a part-time basis well after reaching typical retirement age.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. A church that allows its pastor to continu…