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Social Security Tax Paid by the Church

September 29, 2010

Social security benefits are financed through two tax systems. Employers and employees each pay the “FICA” tax, which for 2007 amounts to 7.65% of an employee’s taxable wages (a total tax of 15.3%). Self-employed persons pay the “self-employment tax,” which for 2007 is 15.3% of net self-employment earnings. Clergy are always considered to be self-employed for social security purposes with respect to service performed in the exercise of ministry. This means that clergy never pay FICA taxes with respect to such services. Rather, they pay the self-employment tax (15.3%).

Because a minister pays a much higher social security tax than is required of employees, many churches agree to pay their minister an additional sum to cover a portion (i.e., one-half) of the minister’s self-employment tax liability. This is perfectly appropriate. However, note that any amount paid to a minister to help him or her pay the higher self-employment tax must be reported as additional compensation on the minister’s W-2 or 1099 form, and again on the minister’s Form 1040. The amount paid by the church must be reported as compensation for social security purposes as well. Revenue Ruling 68-507.

Clergy Financial Resources

Clergy Financial Resources is a national accounting and finance organization serving churches and clergy since 1980. They have an unparalleled tax expertise on the complex issues associated with clergy tax law, clergy taxes, clergy compensation and church payroll. Clergy Financial Resources is a valuable resource for clergy, churches and denominations.


From → Clergy Tax Law

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