December 04, 2013

Federal Court Rules Against Minister's Housing Allowance (Under Appeal)

An important news update that may affect ministries and tax-exempt organizations across the country:

On Friday, November 22, 2013 Federal Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled in favor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), declaring the minister's housing allowance unconstitutional. It is important to note, first of all, that this will have no immediate effects. Additionally, only this specific district is affected by the ruling unless it is upheld by a higher court. Presumably, this case will be appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which will rule for Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. Until the Seventh Circuit rules on the appeal, the unconstitutionality ruling will not be enforced.

The specifics of the ruling:

Judge Crabb held that the housing allowance provides benefit to religious organizations and ministers that has no corresponding secular benefit. The provision of a church-owned parsonage as a tax-free benefit to a minister was not ruled unconstitutional. Based on this ruling, only minister-owned housing for which a housing allowance is provided will be affected. As noted earlier, no ministers or organizations will be immediately affected. However, those who may be affected should continue to watch for updates on the final ruling.

For more, follow the links below.

NCLL on Housing Allowance Ruling

ECFA on HA Ruling

FFRF v Geithner: Parsonage Exemption

CapinCrouse Update

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