2009 Tar River Tax Update For Ministers
Use for filing 2008 Tax Returns
Well, it’s that time of year again – time to file our annual taxes. Most likely, you have not read
through the IRS Code; have not kept abreast of all the changes in the law that affect those in
ministry positions; have not received all the documentation needed from the church you serve to
support your filings, etc. etc. There are numerous people that have studied this. This document
is a mere attempt to provide you with some information that might be able to assist you as you
compile, support, and file your 2008 tax returns.
Let be begin by stating that I am NOT a tax expert. I simply know that most churches are not in
compliance with tax code requirements; most CPAs do not have a clue about filing taxes for
ministers; and that many of us often loose out on deductions as a result of these and other
problems. To that end, I want to be of assistance.
Listed below are ways that we at Tar River Association are attempting to assist you:
1. Turbo Tax: 2 computers in the office are set up for you to come in and use to file
your taxes using Turbo Tax software. For the most part, it is just as helpful to you as
any CPA would be in filing your ministry taxes (this would not be true if you have
other substantial assets and income).
2. Tax Books: We have several books/booklets that you can use to assist you in filing
your annual taxes.
3. PowerPoint: There is a PowerPoint Presentation on our website that details much of
the tax code. Go to www.tarriverba.com and click on the appropriate links.
4. Personal Assistance: I am available to be of help to you if you need me. I am willing
to go and speak to your church finance committees, etc. if that would be of help as
5. This document: In this document, I simply want to highlight a few things that might
assist you in your MINISTERIAL income from the church. As stated previously, you
will need additional advice related to your specifics and if you have other incomes.
This is dealing with income and expenses in church performance of duties and is
not all inclusive.
Every year there are tax law changes that affect ministers. We need to keep abreast of those
changes and strive to be both good stewards of what God has entrusted to us and good witnesses
by adhering to the law.
As stated, most churches are not in compliance with IRS tax code. Some estimates run as high
as 85% of our churches are not in compliance. I am certain our churches do not intend to operate
“outside the law.” Rather, the changes come about so often and are so complicated that most
churches do not keep up with them adequately. I hope this document will help both the minister
and the church.
I will divide this document into several parts. Hopefully all of it will be helpful to you. If you
have additional questions, please feel free to contact me and I will assist as I can. My email
address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my cell number is 252-883-7896.
Section One: A quick checklist or guide to ministerial deductions so that you will not overlook
Section Two: I will deal with the W-2 that ALL ministers should receive from their church.
Section Three: I will deal with housing allowances.
Section Four: What to do if you receive a 1099 and not a W-2.
SECTION ONE: MINISTERIAL DEDUCTIONS
Professional expenses you incur which have not been reimbursed to you by the church are
ministry expenses that you may deduct. In some cases, the church treasurer may have included
your reimbursements in your W-2. In that event, you can deduct those expenses on your return.
Please note: You should be using an accountable reimbursement plan to protect yourself and
to document these expenses as ministry expenses. If you need assistance in this area, I can
assist. If the church has adopted an accountable reimbursement plan, then the treasurer should
NOT put the reimbursements to you on your W-2.
Listed below are items you may be able to deduct from your return:
Accounting fees/software for filing taxes/tax preparation fees
Auto expense (Need to determine which methods would be best – actual
Books, periodicals, subscriptions
Business telephone/cell phone (Need to review IRS guidelines to insure that the way
you are handling these expenses are acceptable to the IRS)
Interest on charge cards used for business
Interest on auto loans for vehicles used for 100% business
Office equipment and supplies
Materials used in the performance of your responsibilities/duties as a minister
Post office box/postage/freight and shipping
Seminars and related fees not paid by the church
Tapes/CDs/DVDs related to ministry
Professional Travel (You can deduct items NOT paid by the church. I recommend
that you keep a “trip diary” and keep it is documentation for tax purposes.) These
expenses may include the following:
- Auto rental
- Airfare/train fare/bus/taxi expense
- Laundry and cleaning (note this is related to TRAVEL)
- Parking and toll expenses
- Telephone expenses while on the trip
- Tips incurred
You need to keep the date and purpose for each expense. Several books I looked for
suggested that you keep a file entitled 2008 Professional Travel and place all those
receipts/records/explanations in them. If the IRS audits you, be assured this is an area
you will be audited!
Miscellaneous Expenses: Believe it or not, they MOUNT UP! Write down every
expense you think is related to your ministry at the church; your performing of
wedding and funerals where you received honorariums; any sideline business that
you/your spouse have, etc. Again, if audited, these areas will be scrutinized by the
IRS, but if they are legitimate and documented items, they will stand! Some of these
expenses (not already listed) may include:
- Advertising and promotion
- Auto/truck expense (I keep my mileage log for all I do in the same monthly
- Business related gifts
- Cleaning and care of business areas
- Consulting fees and contract labor charges
- Equipment rental
- Legal and professional fees
- Meals and entertainment (50% rule)
- Moving costs
- Office expenses
- Safety deposit box
- Storage fees
- Supplies and materials
- If you actually have a side-line business, there are many other aspects you
need to look at as well. I am not going to get into all of the suggestions
related to a “home office” or a side-line business. For those issues, I can
direct you to places to review but as it does not apply to most ministers in the
Association, I will not address those issues).
SECTION TWO: THE W-2 FORM
ALL ministers should receive a W-2 from their church. That is not always the case, but it should
be. However, often times the W-2 is incorrect as treasurers include benefits, housing, and
reimbursements in the salary line. That ought not to be. Basically, there are 12 boxes on your
W-2 that you want to be concerned with.
In the following paragraphs, I will address some of the general guidelines regarding a minister’s
W-2 Form. Again, these are based on readings from several books/updates. Your actual
situation may merit additional information. General guidelines are listed below:
Box/Line 1 of your W-2 is here your salary from the church goes. If you received a
1099 (or nothing at all), this amount should include the following items:
- Regular salary that you receive from your church (NOT your housing
- Christmas bonuses/financial gifts of any kind from the church
- Year end bonuses
- Any travel allowance received from the church IF the church does not have an
approved accountable reimbursement plan
- Personal use of the church’s auto
- Life insurance premiums paid by the church beyond the first $50,000
- Personal vacations paid for by the church
- School tuition for your children if paid by the church
- Social Security Offset (many churches pay this to assist the pastor in his
paying his Self Employment Taxes without knowing that this is taxable
income to the pastor)
- Federal or state income taxes paid for you by the church
- All church-related expenses reimbursed/paid to the pastor without an
accountable reimbursement plan is considered taxable income to the pastor
(no matter what we think---we are either to be accountable to the church or to
- Below interest loans and/or church property sold at below-market prices
because of your position as pastor (the difference is considered income)
- Money NOT USED as housing expense that was designated by the church as
Housing allowance is to be reported as income to the pastor.
- PLEASE NOTE: For 2008 if your salary recorded in Box 1 and housing
allowance is less than $41,646, you may qualify for the Earned Income Tax
Credit (depending on the number of children you have).
PLEASE NOTE: If you receive honorariums for weddings, funerals, etc. and/or have
additional income besides the salary from the church, you should place that on Form
1040 Line 21 and on Schedule SE, Line 2 unless you are exempt from Social
SECTION THREE: HOUSING ALLOWANCE
The word use of the word “allowance” in the minister’s “salary package” (which is a term we
need to get rid of as well), is when it is connected with the word housing. This is a great tax
benefit for ministers, but there should be good recordkeeping. The housing allowance is
limited to the LEAST of these:
1. The amount that has been designated by the church as a housing allowance
2. The amount actually spent for housing expenses
3. The fair rental value of the home fully furnished
There are several “rules” that must be followed with the use of the Housing Allowance
benefit for ministers:
1. Was the amount designated in the church minutes in advance (prior to being paid out)/
2. Did your actual housing expenses equal or exceed the amount listed in the church’s
3. If there is money in excess, it is to be considered income to the pastor.
The following items are considered allowable housing expenses through various rulings of
the IRS, the courts, and audits. You should maintain an accounting (kept receipts) for these
items in the event of an audit:
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Down payment
- Insurance on home and contacts
- Real estate taxes
- Kitchen items – including plates, silverware, dishes, etc.)
- Household cleaning supplies (soap, detergent, tissues, brooms, light bulbs,
trash bags, etc.)
- Furniture/furnishings (purchase of new, repair of old, general upkeep)
- Appliances (purchase of new, repair of old, general upkeep)
- Curtains, rugs, linens, towels, pictures, frames, decorating items, wall paper,
door locks, etc.
- Utilities (electricity, gas, telephone, sewer, trash pick up, cable or satellite TV,
- Landscaping, lawn services, gardening, fencing
- Adding on rooms, remodeling
- Perhaps other things but NOT food, servants, or entertainment
Please remember – the entire amount paid to you as housing allowance is not taxable income to
you as a minister BUT it is to be considered in the calculation of your self-employment tax.
With regard to a “Parsonage Allowance,” is dealt with in the same manner as a Housing
Allowance. There should be a FRV established by the church for the portion considered rent but
it is also acceptable for the church to pay for or provide money for the same expenses as listed
SECTION FOUR: RECEIVED A 1099
Unfortunately many of our churches still give 1099s as opposed to W-2s. In effect, not receiving
a W-2 hurts you with the IRS but technically it also hurts you with Guidestone Benefits. The
extra protection benefits afforded pastors who contribute to Guidestone’s retirement must be W-
2 employees of the church.
If you are a minister that received a 1099, you should use one of the worksheets offered by
several tax programs and on the IRS website. Once that figure is determined, you should do the
1. Total from a W-2 Income Worksheet $_______________
2. Health-Insurance Premiums paid for you by the church $_______________
3. Health-Expense Reimbursements paid for you by the church $_______________
TOTAL (This is the number that should be on your Line 7 $_______________
Of your 1099 if filled out correctly by the church)
The above amount should then be listed on Schedule C.
If you received honorariums for funerals, weddings, etc. this total amount should be added to the
above amount on your Schedule C. FYI---honorariums can be designated for specific items (i.e.
housing) and as long as you spend it on that they with documentation would not have to be
counted as income.
You should note that ONLY THOSE who get a W-2 from the church escape taxation on church-
provided health plan. If that is your case, you MAY be able to claim 100% of your premiums on
Form 1040, Line 29 (See IRS Publication 535 for additional information).
I can not be of much help with the particular rules related to 1099s. My best advice to all
churches is simply this – ALL pastors/ministers should receive a W-2 for their employment. It
maximizes their benefits and makes them eligible for additional benefits
Hopefully, this will serve as a help to you. Remember, I am not an “expert” but am providing
this with the hope of helping you as you fill out your taxes. Your circumstances may dictate
additional assistance. I am happy to assist and Turbo Tax is also available to you.