If an employee of the church is provided funds to go on a church mission trip are the funds considered a taxable benefit?
These funds may qualify as a non-taxable, reimbursed business expense. In order for an expense to qualify as a business expense, it must be ordinary and necessary according to IRS Publication 535. Pub 535 states, “An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business.” As a church employee, one may be expect to assist in fulfilling the mission of the church, including participation in mission trips.
Proper documentation of expenses is required to enjoy this non-taxable classification (MinistryCPA past blog post).
If the trip was not required as a condition of employment by the church, then the employee may be able to take a tax deduction for the trip based on its charitable nature.
For further information on charitable trips and related reimbursements see the following MinistryCPA Blog post: