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Showing posts from September, 2013

MinistryCPA Special Topic: Social Security Spousal Benefits

Question:

I feel that I have a good grasp on the details of my retirement benefits and have reached full retirement age (FRA), but my wife and I have decided that I should wait to retire until age 70 in order to receive delayed retirement credits (DRC). However, my wife would like to begin receiving monthly benefits. I have heard the term "spousal benefit" in the past, but am not sure how that works. Can my wife collect some sort of benefits on my record?

Answer:

Short answer: yes!

Under the rules of Social Security, the spouse of a worker who delays retirement until age 70 in order to receive DRCs (increased retirement benefits after one has reached FRA) can collect benefits on the working spouse's record. This will not affect the amount of benefits that the working spouse can collect once he or she elects to begin receiving benefits. A non-working or low-wage spouse should consider choosing the spousal benefit.

In order to accomplish this, the working spouse who posed the …

Cash Bonus to Pastor

Question:

A church has recently received a large cash donation, and the congregation would like to give a large gift to its pastor in appreciation of his fifty years of service. Can the church give the gift in such a way as to avoid taxation to the pastor? Will this gift jeopardize the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of the church?

Answer:

First of all, this gift will not affect the tax-exempt status of the church, assuming the gift is based on previous years of low compensation. The church should exercise care on this point, as large gifts can be construed by the IRS as private inurement, the enrichment of an individual to the detriment of the tax-exempt organization's primary purpose. (For more on this, see a recent blog post: Private Inurement)

After considering the issue of private inurement, the church and pastor have multiple options concerning the gift and resulting taxability of the bonus. Depending on the minister's individual tax situation, he may want to consider one or mor…

Safe Harbor for Home Office Deductions

Question:

As a minister, I have an office in my home because I do not have an office at the church. I heard there is a simplified method for deducting home office expenses on my 2013 tax return. Is this true? If it is true, is there an advantage to using the new method?

Answer:

The IRS has provided a safe harbor method for deducting home office expenses. The safe harbor method may be used for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2013. Similar to the actual-expense method, the safe harbor method only permits a home office deduction if the office is used “regularly and exclusively” for business purposes.The office must also be for the convenience of the employer.

Just because the safe harbor method is available does not mean it is the best option for you. The safe harbor method has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages Utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance, and other expenses do not need to be tracked.Allowable mortgage interest and real estate taxes may still be claimed as a…

Sales Tax Exemption for Pastor's Car?

Question:

A church recently bought a car in the pastor's name. How can he get the sales tax exempted when he goes to register his car?

Answer: 

He cannot.

Only vehicles titled in the name of a tax-exempt organization qualify for sales tax exemption. Of course, if the minister makes personal use of a church-titled vehicle, he is subject to taxation issues which are addressed in other postings on this blog.

Taxability of Scholarship Awards

Question:

A church funds a yearly scholarship for a needy student. Will payment of the funds directly to the college help avoid taxation to the student?

Answer:

Any scholarship funds, whether paid to the student or directly to the college, generally are not taxable, as long as they do not represent disguised compensation. For example, a scholarship awarded to an "unpaid intern" in lieu of cash compensation will not be tax-free.

IRS Publication 525: "A candidate for a degree can exclude amounts received as a qualified scholarship or fellowship. A qualified scholarship or fellowship is any amount you receive that is for tuition and fees required to enroll at or attend an eligible educational institution, or
course-related expenses, such as fees, books, and equipment that are required for courses at the eligible educational institution. These items must be required of all students in your course of instruction. Amounts used for room and board do not qualify for the exclusion.&q…

MinistryCPA Special Topic: How Will My Social Security Benefits be Taxed?

Question:

I am 64 years old and planning to retire at 65, which is my full retirement age (FRA). Once I begin collecting Social Security benefits, will those benefits be taxable? If so, to what extent?

Answer:

Social Security benefits may be subject to tax, depending on your combined income for a given year.  Combined income equals the sum of adjusted gross income, tax-exempt interest, and one-half of SS benefits. The percentage of tax is based on this total combined income.

Up to 50% of SS benefits may be taxable if combined income exceeds:
$25,000 if filing as an individual$32,000 if married, filing jointlyUp to 85% of benefits may be taxable if combined income exceeds: $34,000 if filing as an individual$44,000 if married, filing jointlyNote: Most married taxpayers who file separately will pay taxes on their SS benefits regardless of combined income level, unless they lived separately the entire year..
Source: Social Security: Retirement Benefits