January 22, 2013

Donations to Special Speakers and Honorariums to Non-Citizens

Question 1:

Can donations made by an individual to a special speaker hosted by the church be included in that individual's statement of donations?

Answer 1:

Since the church is acting corporately as the entity engaging the services of the guest speaker and compensating him accordingly, the donations will be tax deductible for the individual donors, and thus may be included in the individual donor’s giving statement. This is not considered a situation in which one individual is simply giving a personal gift to another--a non-deductible activity.

Question 2:

How should a church report a honorarium to a special speaker who does not have a Social Security number (a non-U.S. resident), since the church cannot give the special speaker a Form 1099-MISC?

Answer 2:

This is a very difficult issue for a local church to deal with. It is safe to say that compensating individuals who do not have a legal right to work in the U.S. must be avoided. 

Churches that host special speakers from foreign mission fields may be wise to defer to the mission agency sponsoring such guest speakers therefore, any support raised may best be distributed to the mission agency, instead of the speaker, for its handling.

If a foreign individual accompanies a U.S. missionary to a local church, it may be best to compensate the missionary instead of his or her guest. This assumes that the missionary is predominantly the one supported by the church to represent it on in a foreign country and that the guest is simply accompanying the missionary to better "tell the story."

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