There are few things more confusing than Clergy Taxes. I do a webinar annually to train new clergy on what they should know about Clergy Taxes. I had the help of a few experienced pastors on this (Jenny Hallenbeck Orr, Karl Kroger, and Jen Tyler).
Long story short, Clergy Taxes are so confusing because pastors are considered both self-employed and church-employed by the Federal government. This training isn’t to make pastors into tax experts. It’s to make them good clients of tax experts.
The first stock gift I ever received as a church treasurer was several shares of Coca-Cola Company stock from a wonderful member named Char. Char wasn’t a multi-millionaire. She was just like so many ordinary people that happen to own stocks, bonds, or shares of a mutual fund. You don’t need to have a Bill Gates in your church to receive a stock gift. Ordinary people make these extraordinary gifts each year. Because of Char’s example, I actually made my own stock gift a few years later to support the church’s capital campaign.
I was fortunate enough to have David Nash (a financial guru) to guide me on receiving this gift. Not every church will have a David Nash. You don’t need special knowledge to accept a stock gift. You just need the right connections. If you are a United Methodist in the Dakotas, the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation is your David Nash.
Normally I aim for helping church finance committees, pastors, and other leadership. With this pandemic, a lot of energy has gone towards helping the church as a small business, but what about the church as a group of individuals? If you go to long without considering the well-being of the individual, the church is going to struggle.
While there’s a ton in the CARES Act to benefit folks, I see three that are probably the biggest ones directed to individuals. Most of this is with the United Methodist pastor in mind, but they definitely do apply more broadly.
A number of years ago, I received a call from a pastor who just had someone volunteer to do some painting for the church. After the job was done, the volunteer asked for a gift receipt because they actually ran a painting business. The gift of service is so priceless that the IRS won’t let you assign a value to it.
So…what do you say to the volunteer that was expecting a gift receipt? How do you handle that situation?
About a decade ago, Elmer Brinkman basically donated his 1998 Toyota Corolla to the Conference. That was our first fleet vehicle. I knew it would save us a ton of money. Before this, we reimbursed mileage at the IRS rate whenever someone had to travel for work. I was so proud of it, I actually put in gold letters “Elmer” on the back of this vehicle. Because of this donated car, my travel costs went way down so that I could afford to travel more. I saved $15,000 over four years!
I have often wondered if this would work for one of our rural parishes. If you have a pastor serving two or three churches, could you save the church $3 – 4,000/year in mileage? I love the idea so I’m sharing it in hopes that it will help someone.
In the Dakotas, many of our churches are connected to agriculture. We have members that our farmers, retired farmers, and/or children who inherited farmland from their folks. The scary thing about farmland transactions is the tax basis. Most farmland has been held for decades so the tax basis could easily be $100/acre or less. If you sell that land, you’ll have to pay capital gains on all the gain over those decades.
If you have people in your church that are considering cashing out of the farm or maybe they don’t have a next generation willing or able to take over the farm, they may be wanting to donate that land to the church. You would be surprised by how many churches have received a quarter of farmland that is now a huge benefit to their current ministry.
Endowments can be a huge blessing to the church or ministry that you love, but few people understand how it works. I’m not sure I do the best in explaining it in this video, but imagine if one of the biggest annual givers to your church is a dead person.That’s what an endowment can do. We have people that have faithfully supported the church for 20, 30, 50 years, and they wish they could support it for 50 more. An endowment will allow them to do that.
A properly managed endowment reminds us of the saints that came before us and provides on indefinite and growing stream of income to the church. You also don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to establish an endowment that will bless the church for generations. A $10,000 endowment will generate close to $500/year for the church. That’s $500 that could be sending kids to camp or paying for Sunday School materials.