These guidelines were prepared by the Administrative Committee. UPDATED: JANUARY 2021
The 79th General Assembly in 1985 authorized the Executive Committee to develop guidelines for expenses in the ministry (79th AM, 1985, p. 134, WMC, Sec. 6).
The 83rd General Assembly in 1988 changed the name of the Executive Committee to Administrative Committee (83rd AM, 1988, p. 45, QSC, Sec. 3). The duties of the Administrative Committee remained unchanged from the previous committee.
These guidelines were set and have been updated from time to time.
The following guidelines are for ministerial expenses that can be deducted from tithes and offerings received in the ministry before paying and reporting tithes to General Headquarters. These may differ from deductible expenses allowed by the IRS for tax purposes. Please see your tax preparer for allowable expenses in preparing your taxes. Our criteria in drawing up these guidelines is based on actions of past Assembly recommendations, business practices, and a common-sense approach to the practical aspect of fairness and equity to both the individual and the church collectively.
The main rule of thought is based on the question and answer that was accepted by the 57th Assembly. “Question: What is pastor’s expense? [This would reasonably apply to any minister, not just a pastor.] Answer:Any expense incurred as a direct result of his ministry which he would not otherwise have.” (57th AM, 1962, p.137, QSC, Sec. 14)
The expenses below may not be all inclusive, but a common-sense approach to the above ruling should be taken.
In keeping with a statement from the 13th General Assembly in 1917, no living expenses, including utilities, grocery bills, house rent, etc. should be considered ministerial expenses. These are not a direct result of the ministry as everyone has these expenses.
Housing Allowance (Rent and Utilities Allowance) and Ministerial Expenses are two separate things. Housing Allowance should not be deducted before tithes are paid. The Housing Allowance is for income tax purposes only.
Tithes on ministerial income should not be deducted as an expense. Again, everyone has to pay tithes, and this is not a direct result of the ministry.
All expenses reimbursed by the local church, State/Regional/National Headquarters or General Headquarters should be substantiated with receipts.
If your expenses are reimbursed by the church, they then become an expense of the church. You cannot deduct a reimbursed expense when paying tithes to General Headquarters. If you made a deduction before tithing, and later were reimbursed by the church, then the reimbursement becomes an increase to you which would be tithable to you.
Travel: That portion of unreimbursed auto expense which is incurred in your ministry can be deducted. Commuting back and forth to church is not an allowable deduction. You can deduct legitimate auto expenses in one of two ways. Use either the actual gas, oil, repair, etc. expense in your ministerial duties by keeping a mileage record book and prorate the percentage which was used in the ministry as opposed to the percentage incurred for personal use. The other method, and probably the easier of the two, would be to keep a mileage log of the actual miles driven in the ministry and multiply them by the annual mileage rate established by the IRS (in the U.S.) or mileage rate established by your respective country. Other transportation or travel expenses associated with the ministry, such as public transportation, tolls, parking, etc., could be deducted before paying tithes.
Meals: Meals are only an expense to the minister if travelling requires an overnight stay or for entertainment purposes. An example of entertainment purposes is if you are taking a member out to eat and it is ministry related.
Other incidental expenses: Hotel stays for overnight travel. Dry cleaning while travelling away from home. Office supplies used solely for the ministerial work.
Some ministers do not claim any expenses at all. They pay tithes on their gross income from the ministry. This is commendable. Those who give back to God the greater part have the assurance of a special blessing, for the Word says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. However, we do not want any minister to feel pressured to pay on his or her gross ministerial income if they do not feel compelled to do so.
The herein mentioned expenses are not altogether inclusive. There are always some special circumstances likely to come up which may be questionable. If you are in doubt at any time, please contact the Administrative Committee at General Headquarters for help. Again, the basic rule of thought for the classification of expenses is “any expense incurred as a direct result of his ministry which he would not otherwise have.”
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