At our Ultimate Church Structure Conferences, I speak with many pastors who, unfortunately, have been misinformed about what 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status truly means and the impact it will have on their churches. Pastors often attend our conference in the hopes of clearing up doubts and questions that they’ve been riddled with regarding tax law and church compliance. For that very reason, I have listed below three of the most common misconceptions that I hear from pastors across the country regarding churches and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
There are more than 400,000 churches in the United States, each with its own governance structure and decision-making model. With so many different models and terminology used to describe church governance structures — elders, deacons, trustees, directors, pastor and apostle — it can be quite confusing to determine what’s the best and most biblically-sound corporate structure for your own church.
The landscape for churches and ministries is filled with pitfalls.
Over the last 20 years, Congress and the IRS have become very interested in the activities of churches, ministries and nonprofits, which has led to the enactment of section 4958 and the creation of the Exempt Organizations Executive Compensation Compliance Project, resulting in increased enforcement presence and millions of dollars in fines.
Ministries need to be aware that even the best applicant on paper might not seem so squeaky clean after a background check. It’s important that church leaders have a standardized policy when it comes to identifying “red flags” that will disqualify someone from employment or volunteer positions. Even red flags such as behavior or character traits need to be thoughtfully weighed as they could expose the church to increased risk.
One definition of “dread” is managing payroll without qualified staff. For those churches with limited resources, ministerial staffing positions must be filled first. A common sentiment among pastoral leadership regarding payroll is, How hard can it be?
Well, it is hard. And, some mistakes could lead to serious consequences.
Not infrequently, pastors and their parish / congregational administrators, board and / or committee members are inclined to avail themselves of “donated” labor in the form of volunteers who purport to have the appropriate experience, expertise and equipment required to perform some necessary project work on or within parish buildings.
Ministries have a bold task. You want — and need — to be good stewards of your communities and congregations. That can often lead to conflicting methodologies when it comes to balancing budgets.
While you want to devote the majority of your money to your missions, outreach and education programs, you also understand the importance of recruiting quality volunteers and employees, and prioritizing hiring procedures.
This, of course, has a dollar value, too.
The young woman had been a mathematics teacher at the church-related high school for more than seven years. She was beloved by her students; they praised her ability to convey difficult concepts in an accessible, clear and engaging style.
If your church is anything like mine, you are constantly trying to navigate the requirements of our nation’s employment laws. When researching the topic of “employee versus independent contractor,” what I find is consistently inconsistent. It’s easy to get lost in the lack of interpretation.
States require us to purchase auto insurance. Banks make certain we have mortgage insurance. Parents with children buy life insurance to protect their families in case of an unexpected death.
Yet, despite the fact that research shows we are much more likely to become disabled for more than three months than die in any given year, many of us do not have disability insurance.