There are tax perks to filing a tax return as an ordained minister. But some of the things you’ve heard in the pool of public opinion are false, while others have a hint of truth. For example, pastors and ministers do indeed pay income taxes. Churches, on the other hand, do not but that’s a different article for a different newsletter.
If you are serving members of the clergy, it is important to understand these perks. One that I see messed up the most is the housing allowance. The IRS allows ordained ministers to exclude their housing allowance from taxable income. That is if they meet certain other criteria. The complete amount the church has deemed as a housing allowance is not always the amount that the IRS allows.
Even with that, the excludable amount is only from income taxes, not all tax. Ministers also have special rules and a potential exemption when it comes to social security and Medicare taxes. This is where I see many well-meaning taxpayers and even tax professionals messing up.
But that will not be you or your client. We are going to look at what the minister’s housing allowance is according to the IRS. Then we will look at who qualifies for it, and how to calculate it.