Skip to main content

A Roth 403(b) Contribution Cannot Lower Self-Employment Taxes

Question: 

A previous MinistryCPA blog post mentioned that, "In addition, unlike other retirement plan choices (Traditional and Roth IRAs, and for-profit company 401(k) plans), a minister is not subject to the 15.3 percent federal self-employment tax on amounts deferred into 403(b) accounts (IRS Revenue Rulings 68-395 and 78-6)."

Does this exclusion apply to ministers with elective deferrals to Roth 403(b) plans similar to the treatment available when contributing to pre-tax 403(b) plans?

I can see how this works easily for pre-tax 403(b) plans since Form W-2, Box 1 (total compensation) does not include the contributions as income. Accordingly, Schedule SE self-employment tax based on Box 1 is not assessed.

Answer:

We know of no IRS Revenue Rulings or authoritative IRS publications that would permit the reduction of SE tax through Roth 403(b) contributions.

Compare a traditional 403(b) contribution with a Roth 403(b) contribution displayed on Form W-2. Assumptions: $50,000 total compensation with $10,000 designated as housing allowance and $2,000 as elective deferrals (either traditional or Roth 403(b) plans).

Form W-2 with a traditional 403(b) contribution:



Form W-2 with a Roth 403(b) contribution:


Ministers often prefer Roth contributions for their non-taxable distribution benefit. Once retired, they can enjoy significant tax reductions. One alternative strategy may yet allow a minister tax-free distributions from his pre-tax 403(b) plan. When he retires, he may ask his congregation to designate his 403(b) withdrawals as housing allowance.

Please see the following posts for further explanation:








Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Housing Allowance when Bartering for Rent Payments

Question:

If a minister rents his principal residence, but he performs services (mowing the lawn, repairing the roof, etc.) in lieu of rent, can he still qualify the rent amount for a housing allowance tax benefit?

Answer:

Of course, bartering income is taxable. The Internal Revenue Code interprets that above situation as follows: tenant/minister receives taxable income for the fair market value of the services he provides, andtenant/minster pays landlord for renal of residence. The minister in this case reports taxable income for services provided in lieu of rent. It is also likely subject to self-employment tax. He may then claim as qualifying housing allowance expense equal to the amount he "pays" for rent of his personal residence. Essentially, there is no difference than if the minister and his landlord simply traded checks.

See a past MinistryCPA post regarding this topic: http://ministrycpa.blogspot.com/2016/09/services-to-church-in-lieu-of-rent-of.html

Mission Trips Involving Both Charitable and Personal Time

Question:

A church group went on a two-week mission trip, and a few of the members stayed an additional two weeks for personal time. Will the members who stayed the two additional weeks be able to deduct expenses from the trip?

Answer:

IRS Pub 526 covers the topic of Charitable Contributions and, more specifically, travel expenses associated with charitable trips. The publication states that travel expenses will be deductible “if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.” The publication also states, “The deduction for travel expenses won't be denied simply because you enjoy providing services to the charitable organization. Even if you enjoy the trip, you can take a charitable contribution deduction for your travel expenses if you are on duty in a genuine and substantial sense throughout the trip. However, if you have only nominal duties, or if for significant parts of the trip you don't have any duties, you can't deduct you…

403(b) Contribution Calculations Exclude Housing Allowance

Question:

Should 403(b) contributions and the subsequent match be based on the pastor's total income from the church (including housing allowance) or just from the salary minus housing allowance?

Answer:

According to Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA, in his book 2015 Church & Clergy Tax Guide, “Section 107 of the tax code specifies that a minister’s housing allowance (or the annual rental value of a parsonage) is not included in the minister’s gross income for income tax reporting purposes. Therefore, it would appear that the definition of includible compensation for purposes of computing the limit on annual additions to a 403(b) plan would not include the portion of a minister’s housing allowance that is excludable from gross income." 

Hammar's Church Law and Tax Report is an excellent resource that many ministries should consider as annual subscribers.