Frequently Asked Questions
Can’t I just use Turbotax or a similar product to do my tax return?
There are many specialized IRS rules governing ministers and many of the online tools don’t ask the correct questions. Using these online tools may save you a few dollars in tax preparation fees, but make you miss some important deductions that could cost you a whole lot more. Our rates are quite reasonable and we will answer your tax questions, plus handle any IRS questions.
Am I an employee or self-employed?
According to the legal case of Weber vs. The Commissioner in 1995, ministers are employees for everything except social security taxes. Therefore, they should receive a W-2 form. The ruling was based primarily on the fact that ministers receive paid vacation and health insurance and pension which a true self-employed person would never receive.
Can an Accountable Reimbursement plan (ARP) help?
Definitely, since the new law eliminated unreimbursed business expenses. Without an ARP, you will not be able to deduct any unreimbursed expenses.
Is an ARP plan use it or lose it plan?
No. The unused portion can be carried over to the first three months of the next year. It CANNOT be paid out to the minister at the end of the year as regular income.
Is the IRS really targeting ministers’ tax returns?
Not any more so than most other groups. About 1% of ministers are audited each year. Most ministers do not make a large enough income to be cost-effective for the IRS to audit large numbers of them.
Is it a good thing to opt-out of Social Security?
We get asked this question a lot. The best way to answer this is to say that social security covers Medicare, life insurance, disability insurance, and retirement. If you opt-out and spend all the extra cash on Hawaii trips then you will be in big trouble. If you take the saved money and invest it in life insurance, disability insurance, and pension, then you might come out ok. However, keep in mind medicare. You can still buy medicare even if you have opted out of social security but it is much more expensive. If you are second career or bi-vocational you may already have your 40 quarters in to be eligible for medicare so that decision may be easier to make.
Can you change a housing allowance during the year?
Yes, you can. The new housing allowance can only be used for the rest of the year and is not retroactive to the first of the year. The earlier housing allowance would cover the earlier part of the year.
Do churches get audited?
Not usually. In fact, we don’t know of a single specific church that was audited.
Can churches lose their tax-exempt status?
Ah, so you got those ads in the mail too. The only churches that are losing their tax-exempt status are those that probably should not have had it in the first place. Have you ever seen the ads that say for $50 you can become a bishop in the _________ church? (If you can call those a church). Those are the churches losing their status.
Was Matthew really a Tax Collector?
Yes. Just goes to show you that anybody can turn over a new leaf, even IRS people. (That was tongue in cheek folks)
Do I have to pay estimated taxes or can my church withhold?
Churches can withhold the taxes so that a minister does not have to send in quarterly payments. However, when the money is sent in by the church it is all sent in as federal and state taxes. The church does NOT send in social security money.