Skip to main content

Should the Pastor Have a Car Allowance?

Question:

Should a church set up a car allowance for its pastor?

Answer:

Any financial assistance that a minster’s employer can give is appreciated. A car allowance can be especially helpful. Car allowances, however, must be established as “accountable plans.” This means that any advances given by the employer to the minster must be properly substantiated on a timely basis or the Internal Revenue Service requires the minster to refund the unspent, undocumented portion of the allowance.

It’s a better idea to offer a professional expense reimbursement under accountable plan rules of the IRS, instead of a car allowance. A reimbursement arrangement covers car expenses, plus other professional expenses. Documentation can then include non-auto costs such as air, travel, lodging, conferences, gifts, books, supplies, and any other legitimate ministry-related expenditure.

The minister documents car expenses when he provides a record of the date, business purpose, and number of miles for each trip. The total miles submitted for reimbursement should then be multiplied by a per mile rate adopted by the church. The IRS sets maximum per mile rates each year that may be used by the church. Rates greater than this may require inclusion of the excess on the minister’s annual Form W-2.

Even though the Internal Revenue Code permits the payment of advances, church funds will be managed more effectively if the church budget establishes an expense category with an annual limit and disburses reimbursements only as documentation is received.

Additional tax-saving opportunities:
1. For 2020, the IRS has set the allowable mileage reimbursement/deductibility rate at 57.5 cents per mile.
2. Ministers who incur unreimbursed employee business expenses may no longer include these costs as itemized deductions on Schedule A. However, ministers may continue to reduce their self-employment taxable income on Schedule SE by their unreimbursed ministry expenses.
3. For a more technical discussion see "Accountable vs. Nonaccountable Professional Expense Reimbursement Plans."


man walking in green grass



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Form 944 or 941 Filing for Churches

Question:   A new church filed for an employer identification number (EIN) recently. It received notification from the IRS about the EIN, stating that the church must file Form 944 by the following January deadline. The church has no non-ministerial staff members. Since income tax withholding is elective by ministers and none of the pastors has elected to request non-mandatory withholding is the church required to file Form 944 annually? Also, a quarterly Form 941 (rather than an annual Form 944) is required of some employers. Which IRS form, if any, should be filed? Answer: According to IRS Section 1402(c) and 3121(c), ministers are not subject to mandatory income tax withholding. Unless one or more ministerial employees request non-mandatory withholding, church employers with only ministerial employees do not need to file Form 941 or Form 944.  The IRS  Ministers Audit Technique Guide  explains in further detail a minister's treatments for social security, Medicare tax, Fed

Review: Form 1099 Payments to 501(c)(3) Organizations

Question: A church rented space from another church last year. Should it request a completed Form W-9 and issue Form 1099-MISC? Answer: Payments from one 501(c)(3) organization to another 501(c)(3) organization are not subject to Form 1099-MISC reporting. The IRS Instructions for Form 1099-MISC state that "payments to a tax-exempt organization" are exempt from reporting a Form 1099-MISC.  The following are typical examples of payments of $600 or more by a church which are subject to reporting a Form 1099-MISC: Rent paid to an individual (non-corporation) Payments for services rendered by individuals who are not employees (e.g. janitorial service, facilities, snow removal, guest speakers) Support sent directly to missionaries

Rental of a Church Parsonage to a Non-Minister

Question: A church owns a parsonage, but the pastor does not use it as he owns 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 a