A minister recently accepted a call to a new ministry where he and his family are staying in the church parsonage.
Meanwhile, the minister's home in the previous location is unsold. The minister is responsible for payments, taxes, and so forth, on the unsold home in the previous location.
Can the minister claim a housing allowance on the unsold home?
The Ministers Audit Techniques Guide states that "A minister can receive a parsonage allowance for only one home." Many ministers own two homes due to the fact that the minister has accepted a position in a different community and has yet to sell his previous home (similar to the question above).
Not only may a minister receive a housing allowance for only one home, but that home must be the minister's principal residence. A key term to understand here is the phrase "principal residence," which can be defined as the home where an individual is currently residing.
So, in the situation above, the minister cannot claim a housing allowance on the unsold home. However, it is not a "lost cause" for the minister and his family. If living in a parsonage, the minister is allowed a small designated allowance to cover utilities and other housing expenses. Additionally, the minister must take into consideration the fair rental value of the property when reporting self-employment earnings for sake of the self-employment tax.
Read about the controversial "Driscoll court ruling" that helped define the current IRS stance concerning a minister being able to receive a parsonage allowance for only one home.
Also, we wrote a similar blog post concerning this matter on September 18, 2009:
Two residences for Housing Allowance Purposes?