Skip to main content

Employee or Self-Employed?

Question: 

As a pastor, am I an employee of the church or am I self-employed?

Answer:

The answer is "yes" to both. Most ministers are considered employees in every respect except for the purposes of paying self-employment tax (SECA), which includes Medicare and Social Security tax. This means that they are eligible for virtually all employee benefits that are given favorable tax treatment in the Internal Revenue Code. Many of these benefits are unavailable to the typical self-employed individual.

Ministers are not permitted to have employee Social Security and Medicare (FICA) withheld and matched by the church. Ministers who have not been granted exemption from SECA tax must pay the entire 15.3% of self-employment tax. Many churches provide additional funds to assist their ministers in the payment of this tax, but this additional compensation, while very helpful, is subject to both income and self-employment tax.

Itinerant evangelists are a common example of ministers who do not have employee status, for they are entirely self-employed.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Housing Allowance and Form 1099-MISC Reporting

Question:A church provides its minister a housing allowance but believes 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. (Starting in 2020, Form 1099-MISC is replaced with Form 1099-NEC for non-employee compensation.)If the church reports his compensation, including the housing allowance, on the Form 1099-NEC as taxable income, will he be able to deduct his housing expenses somewhere else on the Form 1040?Answer:This question 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-NEC. Box 1 on Form W-2 reports taxable compensation. It is reduced to reflect the church's designation of a portion of his pay as non-taxable housing. Then, in Box 14 (Other), Form W-2 typically reports as a memorandum item his additional non-taxable, housing allowance c…

Debits and Credits for Designated Gifts

Question:

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?

Answer:

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…

Rental of a Church Parsonage to a Non-minister

Question:

A church owns a parsonage, but the pastor does not use it as he own his own home. The church rents the parsonage to a tenant other than a minister or employee of the church. Will the church be responsible for paying income tax on these monies as Unrelated Business Income (filing a Form 990-T) even if the money is used to carry on the business of the church?

Answer:

Whether the money is used for church purposes is irrelevant. IRS Publication 598 states:

"If an exempt organization regularly carries on a trade or business not substantially related to its exempt purpose, except that it provides funds to carry out that purpose, the organization is subject to tax on its income from that unrelated trade or business."

Fortunately, in the case of rental income from real property, such income is "excluded in computing unrelated business taxable income" (Publication 598). Caution: see content below regarding debt-financed property.

However, a second concern not addressed …