This blog posts answers to questions given to us by ministers and others serving in Christian ministries advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also discusses other financial topics that those in gospel ministries face. We trust the information provided can be helpful to you.
A church youth group is going on a missions trip this summer. There a few youth members who have yet to bring in the necessary amount needed for their trip. A couple in the church has offered to give towards their trip in exchange for work around their house. How is this treated? Is this allowable?
Our MinistryCPA experience leads us to believe that in most cases the value of the work that is being completed by the youth members is not representative of the donation amount. It often appears to us that the young people are essentially volunteering so that a homeowner will consider making a donation, rather than providing taxable, fair value services. This kind of work is sometimes referred to as a "makework proposition" (e.g. raking leaves, washing windows, trimming hedges).
A church provides its minister a housing allowance, but for other purposes it believes that it must report the full amount of compensation (including the non-taxable housing allowance portion) on Form 1099-MISC (in order to demonstrate the full earnings of the minister). If the church reports his compensation,including the housing allowance, on Form 1099-MISC as taxable income, will he be able to deduct his housing expenses somewhere else on the Form 1040?
This questions brings up a couple of issues. First, most ministers are properly classified as employees who receive Form W-2, not as independent contractors who receive Form 1099-MISC. On Form W-2, Box 1 for taxable compensation is reduced reflecting the church's designation of a portion of his pay as non-taxable. Then in Box 14, it typically reports as a memorandum item his additional non-taxable, housing allowance compensation. In the situation addressed in the question, this Form W-2 reporting may or may not a…
Can a church member conduct piano lessons in her church's auditorium without threatening the loss of the congregation's tax-exempt status?
Our answer comes from Matthew Davis, J.D., former attorney with the nationally recognized Christian Law Association, who currently practices law in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida.
"As a tax-exempt entity, churches must be careful not only in what activities they engage in directly, but also in how they allow the facilities to be used.
"The primary way in which this can come up relates to the requirement for tax-exempt status that the ministry's activities must relate to its exempt purpose. Assuming the church's exempt purposes are 'religious, charitable, and educational,' (three of the purposes specifically mentioned in the Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3)), piano lessons would certainly fit within that expectation as 'educational' and therefore not be a problem on the tax-exempt purpose i…
A church is setting up Quickbooks for its accounting, but its personnel have little experience with fund accounting. What are the entries for the receipt and disbursement of designated gifts and the opening balances?
I recommend that most churches that do not need to present financial statements in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles observe the following steps. Even those churches that do report using GAAP can employ these methods, but must make some adjustments when preparing their financial statements.
What I will demonstrate relates to what most churches call "designated gifts" (CPAs call these Temporarily Restricted gifts). These are gifts that donors contribute with the intention that the church will spend the funds as they direct. Most churches do not receive "endowment gifts" in which donors prohibit the expenditure of the core gift (CPAs call these Permanently Restricted gifts). Only earnings on the subsequent investments…