June 21, 2017

401(k) distribution rollover to 403(b) plan

For a quick review, readers should be reminded that ministers may be eligible to make contributions to an Internal Revenue Code section 403(b) plan established by their not-for-profit employers. The traditional 401(k) plan is available to for-profit employers. Also, ministers' distributions at retirement taken from 403(b) plans may be designated as non-taxable housing allowance.

See other postings on this blog for a refresher of these rules:
403(b) Retirement Distributed as Housing Allowance

Question 1:

An ordained minister, formerly working for a for-profit company, is now working for a nonprofit ministry. His former retirement plan was a 401(k). The current employer offers a 403(b) plan. Can a 401(k) distribution be rolled over into a 403(b) plan?

Answer 1:

According to IRS Publication 571,

You can generally roll over tax free all or any part of a distribution from an eligible retirement plan to a 403(b) plan.”

Question 2:

But should a minister consider doing so? Will the ability to designate as housing allowance all or a portion of 403(b) retirement plan distributions still be allowed?

Answer 2:

Caution is advised when comingling non-church [401(k)] and church [403(b)] accounts. The church monies may become ineligible for a housing allowance designation if careful records are not kept of the 401(k) roll over amount (and subsequent earnings on that amount) versus church and minister 403(b) contributions and related earnings. The minister may be called upon to defend his calculations of tax-free housing related to his 403(b) portion of the church plan account.

We do not have definitive guidance on this particular matter. Accordingly, we recommend avoiding comingling monies from a 401(k) rollover with monies that can be distributed tax free through a housing allowance designation from a 403(b) account.

An alternative to rolling over the 401(k) distribution into the 403(b) plan is to rollover the 401(k) into a traditional IRA, leaving the 403(b) solely for church monies. Therefore, no confusion should arise as to the eligibility of the 403(b) monies for a housing allowance.

May 12, 2017

Gain on Sale of Land by Church


A church wishes to sell a five acre lot of land. The church obtained the property 15 years ago and had the plan of building on the property, but it since abandoned those plans. If it sells the property will it be taxed on the gain?


This gain will not be taxed since the church did not hold the property primarily for investment or as inventory in the sense that a real estate developer might purchase and improve property for eventual sale. The 26 U.S. Code § 512 - Unrelated business taxable income lays out what income can be taxed to a tax-exempt organization. According to 26 U.S. Code § 512 - Unrelated business taxable income, "There shall be excluded all gains or losses from the sale, exchange, or other disposition of property other than—

stock in trade or other property of a kind which would properly be includible in inventory if on hand at the close of the taxable year, or
property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of the trade or business."

The church will not likely owe UBIT unless specialized debt-financing is employed, a topic which is beyond the scope of this blog post. See Internal Revenue Code Section 514 for information on debt-financed income. 

For instruction from past blogs see the links below:



April 13, 2017

Batteries as Housing Allowance Expense


Do batteries qualify as a housing allowance expense?


The expenditure for batteries, if meeting the following general guidelines for use in connection with the pastor's personal residence, may meet the requirements. Although there are not likely court cases or Revenue Rulings citing the exact examples offered here.

In a June 2016 post, we shared the following:

"A minister’s housing allowance benefit is non-taxable income to the extent that the allowance is used for housing expenses. The three-part test includes consideration of the fair rental value of the home, plus actual costs of utilities (see this blog post regarding the three-part test). In addition, the expenses must be incurredrelative to the minister’s principal residence. According to Federal Tax Regulations, Regulation, §1.107-1, Internal Revenue Service, Rental Value of Parsonages, only food and servants are specifically excluded."

If, for example, the batteries are for a smoke alarm in the house, then they would be housing expenses. But if the batteries are for a child’s toy, then they would not be considered housing expenses.

A "Gift" from Gain on Parsonage


A church would like to "gift" 10% of the sale price of the parsonage to a pastor towards his retirement. Is the pastor going to be subject to income tax on that gift? Is it taxable if put into an IRA
on his behalf?


Whether the gift is paid is paid to him directly or through contributions to his Traditional IRA, the “gift” will be taxable and reportable on Form W-2, Box 1. Internal Revenue Code section 102(c) clearly states that gifts given to employees by their employers are taxable compensation. The IRS has consistently applied this provision to self-employed (non-employee) individuals who provide services for an organization as well. Only the facts and circumstances surrounding a gift can determine whether IRC section 102(c) does or does not apply; a letter stating that a payment is a gift will not override the substance of a transaction (2008 Blog).

Having said this, the church may wish to consider other alternative means. For example, cooperation with the pastor to have the amount directed to a IRC 403(b) account as an elective deferral may accomplish the same goal with considerably different consequences. This is only an example of one of the many tax-savings concepts that are discussed in other postings on this blog (the annual limits to a 403(b) can be as high as $24,000 annual while the Traditional IRA limit is at most $6,500 and, unlike 403(b) contributions, will likely have SE tax ramifications).

Special Topic: A Great Cloud of Witnesses, William Carey

William Carey: The Father of Modern Missions
by S. Pearce Carey, 1923, The Wakeman Trust, London, ISBN 978-1-870855-61-7

S. Pearce Carey, William Carey’s great grandson, offers a family perspective on the brilliant mind and consecrated life of one who first left England to reach to the regions beyond with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  From the historical setting of his birth on August 17, 1761, to the legacy he left in the land of India and upon the world following his death on June 9, 1834, Carey’s life story leaves its reader with a sense of enablement to attempt great things for God. For William Carey once said,

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.
Source: https://edhird.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/william-careymap.jpg

It was 32 years before Carey left England never to return. He was motivated by the lives and stories of such men as Captain John Cook, explorer of the islands of the South Pacific and mapper of New Zealand and present day Australia; slave trader turned abolitionist and “enthusiast” Anglican preacher John Newton; Methodist Nonconformist John Wesley; novelist Daniel Defoe whose
Robinson Crusoe was so realistic that readers refused to believe it was fiction; bold David Brainerd, evangelist to hostile American Indians; and, not to be outdone, an adventuresome uncle from 18th Century Canada.
As a boy, Carey loved the fields and gardens, but his father insisted he pursue shoemaking. Tainted by the wickedness of his companions, his youth was characterized by hypocrisy until “when seventeen and a half he exchanged the Pharisee’s righteousness for the publican’s meekness, and flung his helpless, sin-stained soul upon the mercy and kindness of Christ” (p. 26). Carey became a committed, evangelistic Baptist at a time when its “pulpit doctrine … was often extravagantly hyper-Calvinistic” (p. 8). He eschewed the “liberal line on baptism … not requiring submission to the ordinance for membership,” having “reinvestigated the New Testament, and was led to the conviction that the ordinance of baptism was appointed for those of conscious faith and consecration” (S. Pearce Carey’s emphasis) (p. 34).
William Carey married Dorothy Plackett on June 10, 1781, as he continued his bi-vocational career as cobbler and preacher—a controversial one at that. Admitted in the ministers’ fraternal of Northampton Associates as a late-20 something, he pressed the others to consider (as S. Pearce Carey quotes him) “whether the command given to the apostles to teach all nations was not binding on all succeeding ministers to the end of the world, seeing that the accompanying promise was of equal extent” (p. 47). Of course, here William was referring to Matthew 28.19-20, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations … and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” This met with swift and vociferous hyper-Calvinist objection: “Young man, sit down, sit down! You’re an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you and me” (p. 47).
Meanwhile, William and Dorothy continued for the first decade of their lives together  developing missionary zeal by first accepting a call to an anemic church at Harvey Lane and simultaneous becoming tireless church planters of five additional churches (p. 59). But Carey cast his eyes beyond the shores of England. He embarked on a study of the regions beyond carefully cataloguing and mapping the “religious complexion” and populations are far-away places (p. 67). No doubt prompted by his curiosity with the explorations of Captain John Cook, “as far as his map was concerned, even pin-point dottings on the oceans were precious in his sight. His interest in islands is most marked,” says S. Pearce Carey (p. 68).
Carey began to develop a strategy for world-wide missions: “If lay workers are also sent with ordained missionaries, whose knowledge of farming, fishing, and fowling shall supply the mission’s creaturely necessities, the initial outlay will often be the only and the whole expense” (p. 69). But his strategizing was subservient to prayer:
Choose ‘men of piety, prudence, courage, and forbearance’; men of sound knowledge of the Word and the Gospel; men prepared to forgo comforts and endure hardships. Let them above all be instant in prayer, and they will not fail, especially if they be quick to discern and develop the faculties of their converts, who, with their inborn understanding of the people, must always be a county’s chief evangelists” (p. 69-70).
We must pray, for without the Spirit all is vain. Prayer … is the beginning of all blessing and victory, the first link to the divine chain, the key to Heaven’s treasury” (p. 70).
Prayer is basic for the spread of the Gospel. All, even the poor and illiterate, can swell its force. However, we must plan and plod as well as pray, or else the children of this generation will again shame the children of light. Then we must pay as well as pray and plan (p. 70).
All of William Carey’s burden seemed to come to a head on May 31, 1792, at a meeting of the Northampton Association of Particular Baptist churches when he voiced the most memorable words of his message to the ministers and messengers assembled:
Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.
And so was formed the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Heathen (the “Society”). Received with much shock and resistance from both his wife, Dorothy, and the congregation of Harvey Lane, Carey announced on a Sunday in January 1793 that in a few short months he would depart for Calcutta, in Bengal—the eastern most state of India. A church member, anonymous to humanity, but a hero in Heaven, changed the tide of discontent in a church meeting:
He reminded them how Carey had taught them to care about Christ’s kingdom… They had never been so drawn to intercession. “And now, God is bidding us make the sacrifice which shall prove our prayers’ [sincerity]. Let us rise to His call, and show ourselves worthy. Instead of hindering our pastor, let us not even be content to let him go; let us send him” (author’s emphasis) (p. 101).
Not only did the church and Dorothy’s spirits revive in enthusiasm for Carey’s undertaken, the Society and a cloud of financial benefactors rose up. But they were all novices to foreign missionary service—including Carey, as others later rehearsed:
Our undertaking to India really appeared at its beginning somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating a deep mine which had never before been explored. Carey [volunteered], “I will go down, if you will hold the rope” (my emphasis). But before he descended he took an oath of [those] at the mouth of the pit that whilst [they] lived, [they] should never let go the rope (p. 108).
But red tape stood in the way, for the East India Company and its London officials, who managed its charter to do business in the Orient, did not grant access easily. At this time, well-known Englishmen came to Carey’s aid and counsel including William Wilberforce and John Newton.
During the delay in departure that the adversity brought, the embryonic beginnings of a team was formed which would prove to be critical to the success of Carey’s lifelong work in India. Thirty-two year old Carey met 24-year old William Ward, a printer to whom Carey “unfolded his desire and purpose of heart respecting biblical translations. Laying his hand on Ward’s shoulder as they parted, he said, ‘I hope, by God’s blessing, to have the Bible translated and ready for the press. You must come and print it for us.’ Neither ever forgot this” (p. 112).
Arriving in India in November 1794, Carey received the harsh reception from East India Company officials that he had anticipated. But God had prepared earnest Christian businessman George Udny. As John Newton had his Lord Dartmouth as benefactor, Udny seemed to fill this role for Carey. Managing Udny’s indigo factories, Carey, after six painstaking years, finally realized his objective of financial independence from the Society as it had long “been with a point of conscience that pioneer missionaries should be self-supporting as quickly as possible” (p. 160). In January 1800, Carey settled in what would become the home office of Baptist Indian missions in the city of Serampore, himself the clear leader of a “threefold cord [that] was never broken” but by death—William Ward (until 1823), Joshua Marshman (until 1837) and William Carey (until 1834). All of the financial resources they generated individually and corporately (and they were substantial over their lifetimes) were contributed to the Serampore ministry and shared “as every man had need” (Acts 4.35).
The trio was initially discouraged by the lack of fruit for their labors among the Indians steeped in their religions and stubbornly holding to the caste system that the missionaries found so antithetical to New Testament brotherhood. Contented they would be if but one Hindu or Moslem turned to Christianity. But S. Pearce Carey wrote of their intense desire for authentic believers, “Had they been satisfied with an indirect Christian influence, they would have escaped their disappointment. It was their agony for conversions which cost them their tears. They looked for nothing short of personal faith, a new birth, and wholehearted consecration. … Serampore was determined to boldly require every convert to abandon caste” (p. 193, 196). In 1806, they wrote to the Society in England, “The Cross is mightier than the caste” (p. 244).
As one reads S. Pearce Carey’s biography, he or she will be drawn to two great conclusions as to the eternal impact of Carey, Ward and Marshman. One, the Bible was no longer a lost book to the peoples of India. And, two, many Hindus and Moslems submitted to the truth of the Gospel and prepared themselves to win their own countrymen.
Especially true of Carey, his mastery of multiple languages not only opened the door to translate the Scriptures, but they made the formerly antagonistic British officials, loyal to the Church of England, beholding to the Serampore mission and to Carey specifically. When a new government college was founded in nearby Calcutta, Carey was invited to become one of its professors of linguistics.
When Carey enquired whether [the top government official] had been informed that he was a Nonconformist, he was assured that the provosts had faithfully reported all the facts. … And so it came to pass that Carey, who had been unable to secure from the East India Company any license to enter Bengal (the east most state of the country of India), and who had been forced to lie low for six years, and to camouflage his Christian purpose under a business pursuit … was not called to a position of high trust in the educational service of the British Government!
Furthermore, the work which established his linguistic fitness for this service (his just-printed Bengali New Testament, and his project to translate the whole Bible) had been pursued in fulfillment of the very function which the British authorities opposed (the conversion of Hindus to Christianity) (p. 207-209)
Carey’s professorship also gained him an advisory role to the government. “Nothing was published by the Government through 30 years in Bengali, Marathi, or Sanskrit without Carey’s endorsement!” (p. 215).
Great construction projects characterized the Serampore mission, but perhaps none greater than the printing works, supplied with fresh material by Carey and printed under the oversight of Ward. Not even a fire on March 11, 1812, that left “a shell of burnt and naked walls, with only a few business documents rescued” (p. 285) could douse the vigor for long with which hundreds were employed in printing and distributing the Scriptures translated into a plethora of languages. Ward wrote to England in December 1813, “Ten presses are going, and nearly 200 are employed about the printing office” (p. 305). The languages are listed on page 396:
The whole Bible – Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit and Assamese
At a minimum, the New Testament – Punjabi, Pashto, Kashmiri, Telugu, Konkani “and 19 other languages”
Not one to accepted shallow Christianity in anyone professing conversion, including his own children, Carey eventually saw his entire family consecrated to the work of the Gospel. He wrote them often, S. Pearce Carey sharing many of his encouragements:
To Jabez who surrendered to go to Amboyna (modern day Indonesia): “When you meet with a few who truly fear God, form them into Gospel churches. [God] has conferred on you a great favor in committing you this ministry” (p. 304). And, “If true godliness prosper in your own soul, duty will be easy. If personal religion is low, your work will be a burden. Personal religion is the life-blood of all your usefulness and happiness” (p. 307). And more, “Let nothing short of a radical change of heart satisfy you in your converts” (p. 308).
To William who found himself serving in dangerous Mudnabati (interior Bengal) with his wife Mary: “There is much guilt in your fears, dear William. Mary and you will be a thousand times safer committing yourselves to God in the path of duty than neglecting duty to take care of yourselves” (p. 274).
Carey was greatly encouraged by his son Felix’s sacrifice to open Burma to the Gospel before Adoniram Judson arrived, but suffered greatly to bury his son after succumbing to “fevers” at the age of 37 (p. 358).
On a lighter note, Carey’s son Jonathan, acquired some of his father’s wit as evidenced by his poetic dialogue with “a young lady of his youthful admiration” (p. 282):
After a long consideration Of the great reputation You have in the nation, I have an inclination To become your relation. To give demonstration Of this my estimation, I am making preparation To remove my habitation To a nearer situation, To pay you adoration. If this declaration Should meet your approbation, ‘Twill confer an obligation From generation to generation.
Jonathan Carey (A man of observation)

She replied:

I received your oration, With much deliberation Of the seeming infatuation That seized your imagination, When you made your declaration, And expressed your admiration On so slender a foundation. But, after an examination And some little contemplation, I deem it done for recreation, Or with some ostentation, To display your education, By an odd renumeration Of words of like pronunciation Though of different signification; Which, without disputation, May deserve commendation. So I shall give much meditation To your quaint communication.
Of the duty of evangelism, Carey was focused on the long-term propagation of the Gospel in India. He wrote the Society in 1817, “In my judgment it is on native evangelists that the weight of the great work must ultimately rest” (p. 326).  To this end they had labored so that in 1823, shortly after the death of Ward, in their distress they could “take comfort from the fact that nearly 700 Hindus had given up all their worldly connections and prospects for Christ since the year 1800, and that eight Indian students were currently being trained in their college for missionary service” (p. 361).
S. Pearce Carey ends his book with the following telling reflection of the fruit of William Carey’s life:
Carey knew that, though the living messenger was important to preach the Word, the Book itself, in the mother tongue of the people, was a permanent missionary, and also essential to the people of God “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” that they might be entire, and wholly equipped for “all good works” (p. 396).

March 17, 2017

Special Topic: A Great Cloud of Witnesses, John Newton

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace
by Jonathan Aitken, 2007, Crossway Books, ISBN 978-1-58134-848-4
Follow link for an Introduction to the Cloud of Witnesses series

In his biography of John Newton, Jonathan Aitken colors a canvas with broad strokes of a physical life and spiritual influence enabled and preserved by the grace of God. Drawn from an apparent deep study of both long-available and recently accessible origin archives of Newton’s life, Aitken explores the sea captain turned preacher’s troughs and peaks while leaving the reader wanting more but appreciating the concise and enriching overview.

Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/images/67452.jpg?w=700

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I'm found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Untiringly rebellious from his youth, Newton brought grief to his parents and employers alike. Born July 24, 1725, to Captain John and Elizabeth Newton of London, young John lost his mother and spiritual mentor when he was not quite seven years old. She taught him to read the Bible by the age of four when, Newton said later in life, “I could read as well as I can now” (p. 27). John, Jr. brought much grief to his father who repeatedly used his respected position to bail his son out of difficulties born of his own impetuous decisions. As a ship’s hand, he was AWOL, severely punished and finally traded away by his military overseers, only to find himself in worse hands as a slave in Africa. Rescued from slavery, Newton became an ungrateful deckhand on the Greyhound headed west across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies.

'twas Grace that taught,
my heart to fear.
And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.

Yet shunned by the troublemaking, blaspheming Newton, God snatched him from a Christ-less eternity. Aitken reports that on the return trip to England a mighty storm arose on March 10, 1748. The Greyhound was suddenly in peril of sinking with Newton surrounded by water in the hold of the ship . Newton “rushed to the ladder and climbed toward the deck [when] the captain ordered him to go back down and fetch a knife. As Newton obeyed the order, another man climbed the ladder in his place, reached the deck, and was immediately swept overboard.” Newton later wrote: “We had no leisure to lament him nor did we expect to survive him long” (p. 75).

In the days of running pumps until the point of exhaustion and suffering dehydration and hunger as the ship slowly limped East, Newton remembered his spiritual upbringing and found one of the few items to survive the storm—a Bible. He had no trouble being motivated to read it. Aitken rehearses three Scriptures that weighed heavy on Newton’s mind:

Luke 11.13 – If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

John 7.17 – If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Luke 15.11-32 – the parable of the prodigal son (p. 83)

On April 8, 1748, John Newton and the survivors stepped on the soil of Ireland—John a baby Christian: “About this time I began to know that there is a God who hears and answers prayers” (p. 84).

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
'tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.

Over the next seven chapters of his book, Aitken takes his readers on a journey with Newton as God is preparing him to become a minister of the Gospel. Aitken explains what seems impossibly contradictory for a Christian today—Newton became a captain of a slave ship. Aitken:

In mitigation of Newton’s position, it may be argued that not one single Christian leader in mid-eighteenth-century England had realized, let alone complained, that slave trading was a spiritual and humanitarian abomination. This, however, is an explanation for Newton’s blindness, not an excuse for it (p. 112).

Newton became a minister only after considerable deliberation and difficulty. He needed much training and encouragement by others—they, too, trophies of God’s grace. Alexander Clunie, a Dissenter, “taught Newton how to pray aloud in company, how to engage in dialogue with fellow believers, how to study the Bible, and how to give witness or personal testimony explaining that the gift of God’s grace had changed his life” (p. 124). On February 11, 1750, John Newton married Mary (Polly) Catlett beginning a shared life of ministry until her death in 1790, seventeen years before he would join her in Glory.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

An exceptional and innovative pastor and preacher, Newton devoted the rest of his life to know and communicate God’s word. He started with his autobiography, An Authentic Narrative. It told the story of what Aiken has claimed as his subtitle—From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.

His first pastorate was as the preacher in the Church of England parish at Olney where he endeavored “to preach what I ought and to be what I preach” (p. 179). But he was an independent a clergyman as the Church of England would suffer—frequently giving and receiving encouragement from nonconformist Baptist, Methodist and Dissenting ministers. His innovations included children’s, youth and prayer ministries (p. 188).

He never ceased to recognize the grace of God in his life—a rebel, a blasphemer, a slave ship captain, a poor clergyman, a humble statesman. Newton sought to mimic the humility of the Apostle Paul, arguing (according to Aiken) “that a proud Christian is as much an oxymoron as a sober drunkard or a generous miser” (p. 203).

Newton coauthored the Olney Hymns with renowned English poet, William Cowper. This collection of poems was sung at Olney and, later, innumerable churches both in England and America “partly because hymn singing was an experimental form of worship that the parishioners seemed to enjoy, and partly because hymns could be good expository material for spiritual teaching” (p. 215).

Source: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51QV73RSbbL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
than when we first begun.

Ironically, the well-known tune for Amazing Grace and the above, typically final verse were not Newton’s, but rather the creation of the descendants of the very slaves that he helped to ship to the Southern states of America. For, “Newton wrote Amazing Grace as he wrote all his hymns, with no tune in mind” (p. 233).
The final one third of Aiken’s book tells the story of Newton’s call to London in 1779 at the age of 54 where he pastored St. Mary Woolnoth and lived until his death in 1807. Excerpts of these days follow.
Newton said, “I have seldom one hour free from interruption… [N]ight comes before I am ready for noon and the week closes when according to the state of my business it should not be more than Tuesday” (p. 241).
When his wife Polly protested his busyness, he responded, “I am sufficiently indulgent to Mr. Self. Do not fear my overworking him. I need a spur more than a bridle” (p. 260).
Aiken notes from a careful reading of Newton’s extensive personal diaries, “At all levels his ministry was a powerful one, sustained by his private prayers. Newton’s secret was prayer. His humble, grateful, confessional, and intercessory prayer life kept him in a close relationship with his Lord and drover every aspect of his private thoughts and public ministry” (p. 269).
From his first sermon at St. Mary Woolnoth: “The Bible is the grand repository of the truths that it will be the business and the pleasure of my life to set before you. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us either to avoid the displeasure or court the favor of our fellow mortals must be affront to the majesty of God and an act of treachery to men” (p. 272).
Hyper Calvinism encroached upon Christian churches in Newton’s days. He was an anomaly in the Church of England—an “enthusiast”, an evangelist. A critic confronted him: “’[S]ometimes when I read you and sometimes when I hear you I think you are a Calvinists; and then again I think you are not.’ But Newton responded, ‘I am more of a Calvinist than anything else, but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar [in my tea.]’ Newton then picked up a lump of sugar, dropped it in his cup, stirred it, and concluded, ‘I do not give it alone and whole but mixed and diluted’” (p. 286).
Newton was a friend and mentor of William Wilberforce, viewed by many as the single loudest voice in the storm to overturn and British slave trade. Aikten quotes a telling phrase from Newton’s Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade, “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders” (p. 319).
As he entered his 76th year on the day of his birth, August 4, 1800, his diary to the Lord included a reflective entry on the theme of God’s lifelong grace in Newton’s journey: “What a striking proof is my history of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the heart, and of Thy wonderful long-suffering patience and mercy” (p. 341).
In the waning days of his death on December 21, 1807, Newton conveyed to a friend, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior” (p. 347).
Aitken leaves his reader with practical “take home” truths to challenge the mind and spirit of those seeking to emulate Newton’s life and ministry:
“The first lesson that any new believer can learn from Newton is that a sinner is not transformed into a Christ-centered soul by a single conversion experience but by the long, unremitting, and courageous effort that conversion begins. It was only after he had surrendered his will to a completely new set of godly rules, disciplines, and teachings that his journey of change began to make real progress.
“Second … It is difficult is come to faith on one’s own without good teachers. Until Newton met Captain Alexander Clunie, his first spiritual mentor, he was like a seed springing up too fast in stony ground.
“Third … Newton made evangelistic innovations and embarked on an ambitious program of pastoring visiting that could make a good blueprint of lessons for any modern minister arriving to take charge of a new church. He won the confidence of his congregation by sound biblical preaching. He reached out to the wider community by diligent pastoral work.

“[Finally] … The secret of Newton’s relationship with God was his prayer life. Because he kept such meticulous diary records it is possible to study in detail how often Newton prayed (at least five hours a day), who he prayed for (a vast list), and what his prayer priorities were (gratitude to the Lord and humility)” (pp. 352-354).

Gifts Paid Out of Church Funds: Form 1099-MISC Requirements


 A church gave a wedding gift of $1000 to a couple who are church members. No goods or services were provided by the couple in exchange for the gift.  Is a Form 1099-MISC required? 


In the following answer, we assume that the couple are not employees of the church from whom the gift could not be viewed as compensation for their services. Also, the amount seems to be small enough to avoid any concerns of "private inurement."

Accordingly, no Form 1099-MISC is required. According to the 2017 IRS Instructions for Form 1099-MISC a Form 1099-MISC is only required for payment of goods or services. The requirements are as follows:

"File Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, for each person to whom you have paid during the year: 
At least $10 in royalties (see the instructions for box 2) or broker payments in lieu of dividends or tax-exempt interest (see the instructions for box 8);
 At least $600 in: 
1. Rents (box 1); 
2. Services performed by someone who is not your employee (including parts and materials), box 7; 3. Prizes and awards (see instructions for boxes 3 and 7); 
4. Other income payments (box 3); 
5. Medical and health care payments (box 6); 
6. Crop insurance proceeds (box 10); 
7. Cash payments for fish (or other aquatic life) you purchase from anyone engaged in the trade or business of catching fish (box 7); 
8. Generally, the cash paid from a notional principal contract to an individual, partnership, or estate (box 3); 
9. Payments to an attorney. See Payments to attorneys, later; or 
10. Any fishing boat proceeds (box 5)."

March 10, 2017

Paying Health Insurance Premiums for an Independent Contractor


A church treats it's missionary as a Form 1099-MISC independent contractor. The church is considering directly paying health insurance premiums on the missionary's behalf.  If he were an employee these payments would be considered a fringe benefit and be excluded from his income. However, because he is an independent contractor, is the church required to include the amount paid somewhere on his Form 1099-MISC. IRS publications seem to only be referring to employees in the exclusion sections. How and where would the church report these payments?


According to IRS Publication 15-B, "A fringe benefit is a form of pay for the performance of services. ... A person who performs services for you doesn't have to be your employee. A person may perform services for you as an independent contractor, partner, or director."

But in order to exclude payments for health insurance from income, the payments must be made to an employee (IRS Pub. 15-B).

If an independent contractor is paid fringe benefits, the fringe benefits must be reported on Form 1099-MISC. 

Special Topic: A Great Cloud of Witnesses, Introduction to the Series

A Great Cloud of Witnesses
by Corey Pfaffe
The writer of the book of Hebrews followed his Hall of Faith chapter with these words:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12.1-2).
Like the first Century Christians, we have our own modern day Great Cloud of Witnesses. They are the men and women upon whose devotion we stand. As 21st Century Christians, these witnesses strengthen and encourage us to fully submit to God’s work in our lives and to respond to the eternal motivation He has placed before us—eternal life with our Heavenly Father in gratitude for the simple uses He made of our earthly days.
Authors of Christian biographies give us a rich trove of enlightenment into the lives of sinners redeemed by the grace of God. God empowered them to live exemplary lives that impacted not only their own generations, but those of countless others to follow. This series of relatively brief summaries seeks to share their stories and to motivate its readers to read and absorb the full pictures painted by the witnesses’ biographers.

To begin your journey with us into "the Cloud" click on the Label to the right Cloud of Witnesses.