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.
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.
As your church settles down from Christmas celebrations, things are no doubt getting into full swing for the person managing all your church’s accounting. If that person is you, you likely still have several time-sensitive tasks on your horizon that need to get finished by January 31. Putting a good system in place can help keep you on track — and that’s what we’ve outlined for you below.
How to lay the foundation for true church CHURCH ACCTNGaccounting stewardship
November and December are a busy time of year for most pastors. Following the Thanksgiving holiday, the liturgical calendar begins anew with the season of Advent. As preparations are made to celebrate the coming of the Christ child, extra services need to be planned, multiple sermons need to be written, rehearsals are in full swing for the Christmas pageant, and pastors are also ministering to those for whom the holidays are not such a joyous time.
Amidst all these preparations, pastors need to set aside some time to focus on year-end financial details that have tax implications for 2015 and 2016. Don’t let the following items slip past you.
“What happens in accounting, stays in accounting.” If your finance team’s motto goes something like this, you might have an internal controls problem. Internal controls are put in place to clearly define proper procedures for finance and accounting team members, to minimize risk, and to alleviate suspicion. Even churches must mitigate risk and ensure that policies and procedures are in place and functioning as intended.
Depending on your role at the church, you’ll hear the word “audit” and come to one of two conclusions:
If you’re the finance manager, you understand the need for the substantiation of the integrity of the data — even though an audit can add to your already busy workload.
If you’re the pastor, it comes down to one word: “Why?” The financials are written in what appears to be a foreign language, and they don’t seem to help as you try to make good, mission-critical decisions, anyway.
Televangelist Creflo Dollar recently came under fire for asking that 200,000 of his followers donate $300 each to buy a $60-million luxury jet for his use. In the wake of bad publicity associated with the request, it appears that he may have cancelled the campaign before reaching his goal. The problem is: What happens to money already collected?