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Love Offering as Disguised Compensation

Question:

As a member of my church's audit team, I have been told many times by the financial secretary that our church takes a love offering for persons serving our church. The love offering is not counted; it is just given to the person. For this reason, no record is maintained for issuing Form 1099s. Is this  procedure in compliance with IRS rules for issuing Form 1099s when payments are $600 or more in a calendar year?

Answer:

First, the offerings should be accounted for because it appears that the collections are received and distributed as compensation for work that is done for the church. When independent contractors receive more than $600 in a tax year, they must be issued a Form-1099 MISC. Of course, this will require that the offerings be counted and that information be collected from the recipient in order to facilitate filing the proper forms (typically, Form W-9 is used for this purpose).

Second, if these individuals are working for the church, they may very well be employees of the church and not independent contractors. As employees of the church, they should be receiving Form W-2's, and the church should be paying the employer's half of payroll taxes (in the case of non-ministerial employees). The church may also find it necessary to "gross up" the amount distributed in order to properly reflect the employee share of FICA taxes. For example, a $300 cash compensation amount represents a net check for gross pay of $324.85, with $24.85 of FICA tax withholding.


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