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New Tax Court Ruling on Clergy Housing Allowance & Multiple Homes

January 14, 2011

Phil Driscoll owns two homes. One in Cleveland Tennessee and a lake home outside of Cleveland Tennessee. Phil Driscoll is an ordained gospel minister. Phil Driscoll Ministries paid for both homes and it was excluded from his income under the Pastor’s Housing allowance under Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. The IRS felt that to be a bit greedy and assessed him with additional income and fraud penalties.

Rev. Driscoll took the IRS to tax Court. The IRS argued that the use of the word “home” in Section 107 refers only to one home. Rev. Driscoll countered that in Section 7701(m) the Code provides that singular may include plural. Further, the legislative history did not forbid that interpretation. For those reasons the Tax Court ruled in Driscoll, et ux v. Commissioner, 135 TC 27 (2010) that both houses were homes for the purposes of Section 107 and both could be excluded from income. It was a split and narrow decision, but one that shows two things: (1) The IRS Code does by its own design create issues such as this and (2) That statutory language brings in Legislative History when Courts attempt to resolve these types of issues. This case is a big win for Pastors, but more importantly, it makes very clear another point, that when faced with a case where the IRS is taking a narrow reading of the law, one needs to look at the entirety of the Code to see if there is definitional assistance elsewhere and look to the Legislative History to make sure you have either neutral support or positive support from that history.

Source: John F. Rodgers

To view the court documents from the Driscoll vs. IRS case click here.

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.

To learn more about our services, please visit the links below:

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Clergy should not view this information as a substitute for professional advice. This information is subject to change, due to administrative rulings or interpretations and or technical corrections by the IRS. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent clergy tax professional person should be sought.


From → Clergy Tax Law

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