April 23, 2015

Midyear Housing Allowance Increase

Question:

A pastor has requested that the church increase his housing allowance for the rest of the year. Is it permissible for the church to change the pastor's housing allowance midyear?

Answer:

The minister's church or other qualified organization must designate the housing allowance pursuant to official action taken in advance of the payment. The new designation must be made prospectively, not retrospectively. In other words, the pastor can claim the new housing allowance designation only on the remaining pay periods of the year. 

There is often a prorated calculation that must take place when midyear housing allowance changes occur. Here is an example:

For 2015, Pastor Smith's salary is $48,000 ($4,000 per month). Of the $48,000, the church has designated a housing allowance of $12,000 ($1,000 per month). 

In June of 2015, Pastor Smith realizes that his actual housing expenses and the fair rental value of his home will far exceed $12,000 during the calendar year 2015, so he requests that the church increase his housing allowance to $18,000 for the entire year, with prorated calculations to take place on his July-December paychecks. 

Pastor Smith has already received six paychecks (January-June) totaling $24,000, of which $6,000 was designated as housing allowance. However, since the new housing allowance designation is $18,000 for the year, the church needs to prorate the difference of $12,000 ($18,000-$6,000) on the remaining portion of Pastor Smith's monthly paychecks. Since there are six months remaining, the new monthly housing allowance designation would be $2,000 ($12,000 / 6 months). Here is how the July-December paychecks would look for Pastor Smith:

Pastor's Cash Salary                = $ 2,000
Pastor's Housing Allowance      = $ 2,000
Total Monthly Take Home Pay   = $ 4,000  

Things would get less complicated in 2016. If the pastor requests that his housing allowance remain at $18,000, then the church can simply designate $1,500 of housing allowance per month ($18,000 / 12 months). 
  

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