Life on Both Sides

Rich Peck2_320A federal judge ruled that the Internal Revenue Service provisions that allow clergy to avoid taxes on housing allowances is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled on Nov. 22 that Section 107(2) of the tax code violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution . She said the section “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”

I’ve now lived on both sides of the issue. For years, I was able to deduct the cost of housing from the salary I reported to IRS. However, the church agencies I served were prohibited from paying half of my Social Security. I was treated as a self-employed person and paid the full amount.

It was a wash.

Now retired from the ministry, the agency I now serves treats me as a layperson and specifies no amount of my salary as a housing allowance. However, the agency pays half of my Social Security payment. Frankly, this is far better for me as I have no mortgage.

If this rurling is upheld, clergy will be penalized for being clergy. They lose the ability to deduct the amount they pay for housing from their salary, and unlike all others, they will have to pay the full amount of their Social Security.

While the Establishment Clause may prohibit special priveleges for clergy, I don’t think it was meant to penalize them.

 

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
editor@circuitwritermedia.com
.


Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
editor@circuitwritermedia.com
.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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