Does Your Pastor Really Have 99 Kids?

Review your pastor’s Form W-4

We’ve all been victims of good intentions gone wrong, like when a best friend talks you into an unflattering haircut. Or, when your aunt tells you that owning 10 cats is better than just one.

Here’s another: A peer suggests that your pastor can claim 99 dependents on a Form W-4 because that’s how her church “has always done it.” Why do this? The reasoning seems straightforward: a claim of 99 dependents would ensure that a pastor’s pay is not subject to federal income tax.

What’s the harm?

Submitting an accurate Form W-4 is important, so unsurprisingly, an inaccurate claim can have serious consequences. The problem with a pastor declaring 99 dependents is three-fold:

  1. It’s simply untrue. A signature on a W-4 declares that, “… I have examined this certificate, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete.” It is never a good idea to submit intentionally inaccurate information to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 
  2. It’s a red flag. The IRS may consider this false reporting. If the IRS suspects under-reporting, it could trigger a review, a mandatory withholding rate, or a fine.
  3. It’s an unnecessary risk. Because pastors are exempt from federal income tax withholding, they are not required to complete a Form W-4 at all. However, as a matter of policy, your ministry may want to have your pastor complete a W-4, documenting the decision not to withhold wages. To forgo withholding, simply have the pastor write “exempt” in box 7 of the Form W-4. This practice will be a more accurate statement than claiming “99” dependents.

Opting in

While withholding is optional, it is important to note that pastors are required to pay federal income tax like everyone else. A minister can “opt in” to withholding by voluntarily completing a Form W-4. A set dollar amount or allowance is subtracted from each paycheck to cover annual taxes. The IRS Withholding Calculator can help determine your pastor’s correct withholding allowance. Updating a Form W-4 requires a new form submission—changing or altering an existing form is not allowed.

Do you know a ministry colleague that uses the “99 dependents” practice? We encourage you to forward this article.

Contact a locally licensed attorney to ensure that any changes you want to make comply with your area laws.

September 9, 2022
School is Back in Session
School is Back in Session

As school is back in session, it’s important to make sure your school is equipped with the correct safety procedures. Thinking about your school’s physical security as a series of layers can help you find gaps in your plan. Transportation and volunteers are just two important aspects of your school safety plan to think about.

Tags: ministry, protection, insurance, volunteers, transportation, child safety
July 15, 2022
Shepherding Ministries in a Time of Change
Shepherding Ministries in a Time of Change

Shepherding Ministries in a Time of Change

 

 

Anyone who turns on the news, flips through a magazine, or browses the web can see that American society and culture are experiencing rapid transitions. Some ministries have valid concerns that issues surrounding societal shifts may expose them to negative publicity, governmental scrutiny, or litigation.

 

The questions become: when and how can ministries operate within their deeply held religious beliefs when they may conflict with others’ rights?

 

Employees in nearly all organizations, secular or religious, can sue their employer because of the employment-related decisions the employer makes. The U.S. Constitution, however, affords ministries certain protection for decisions that ministry leaders make based on their religious beliefs (belief-based decisions).

 

Before getting into specific issues, it’s important to consider steps to help protect your ministry’s beliefs. These steps include updating ministry documents to include sincerely held beliefs, considering how your ministry will respond to issues and requests that may not align with its values, and consulting with a local attorney:

 

·      Update your governing documents (i.e., bylaws or constitution) – Pointing to an institution’s governing documents is one of the easiest ways to show that it is acting in accordance with its beliefs when challenged.

·      Update your operational documents – It’s good practice to weave your ministry’s purpose and beliefs throughout your written policies and procedures.

·      Consult with a local counsel – When revising organizational documents, policies, and procedures, ministry leaders should involve a local attorney.

 

To help protect your ministry, Brotherhood Mutual offers a Religious Freedom Protection Coverage. Additionally, Brotherhood Mutual has created a white paper {link} resource addressing current landscape and trends, lawsuits and threats, potential solutions and protections, and insurance considerations. Contact your American Church Group agent today to learn more about this coverage.

Tags: ministry, protection, religious freedom, insurance
May 12, 2022
Five Common Tricks of Cyber Scammers
Five Common Tricks of Cyber Scammers

Cyber security is increasingly crucial in our technologically advanced world. Scammers use many schemes when attempting to steal your data, but you can outsmart them by understanding their methods.

Tags: ministry, cyber security, technology, data, protection
March 1, 2022
Resolving Conflict in the Church
Resolving Conflict in the Church

When conflict occurs in the church, it can threaten the unity of a congregation. Experts say the only way to heal conflict is to acknowledge and address it. But how?

Tags: ministry, peacemaking, conflict, church, mediation, safety
January 25, 2022
Keep Your Ministry's Money Safe
Keep Your Ministry's Money Safe with Organizational Optional Theft Coverage

Theft isn’t just an issue for banks and large companies. Sometimes the kind and caring nature of your ministry is exactly what makes you a target. Organizational Optional Theft Coverage helps to assure that, if a thief takes advantage of your institution, what’s lost can be restored.

Tags: cybersecurity, protection, ministry, theft
July 22, 2021
Thousands in Relief Funding Available to Ministries Through the Employee Retention Credit
Thousands in Relief Funding Available to Ministries Through the Employee Retention Credit

Most ministry leaders don’t realize there is funding available to non-profit employers including churches, schools, colleges, and camps. This post includes some highlights about the credit and guidance on where to start to see if your ministry is eligible.

Tags: ERC, payroll, tax credit
April 21, 2021
Take Time to Review Your Ministry's Child Protection Plan
Take Time to Review Your Ministry's Child Protection Plan

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Though child abuse may not be something you could ever imagine happening within your ministry, sexual abuse of a minor is one of the top five reasons churches end up in court, according to Church Law & Tax. Studies also show that a child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a trusted adult than a stranger.

Tags: protect, child protection, abuse protection, child safety
March 16, 2021
Prepare for Severe Spring Storms Now
Prepare for Severe Spring Storms Now

When severe storms strike, they can produce high winds and tornadoes. Damaging winds can wreak havoc on your ministry’s property and to buildings. A high wind event can crash debris through your windows, strip your siding, down trees on your parking lot, peel shingles off your roof, and fling back the flashing.

Tags: weather emergency, lightning, storms, safety, protect
February 25, 2021
Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise: Protect Ministry Vehicles
Catalytic Converter Theft on the Rise: Protect Ministry Vehicles

Thieves are taking advantage of soaring precious metal prices. Take steps to protect your ministry’s vehicles and property.

Tags: protect, theft, vehicle
February 8, 2021
Avoid Frozen Pipes as Temperatures Plummet
Avoid Frozen Pipes as Temperatures Plummet

As temperatures plummet, the risk of freezing pipes soars. Frozen pipes can cause costly messes that could also put your ministry on hold while you clean up.

Tags: frozen, building, pipes, prevent damage
November 23, 2020
COVID-19 and the Christmas Season
COVID-19 and the Christmas Season

Preparing for this Christmas season may require additional creativity, due to the uncertainty of what COVID-19 may bring in our local community.

Tags: COVID-19, health, health safety, protect, coronavirus, Christmas, risk management
October 28, 2020
Guidance for Ministries About Boy Scouts Bankruptcy
Guidance for Ministries About Boy Scouts' Bankruptcy

A mid-November deadline in the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) bankruptcy proceedings may have you wondering what the organization’s bankruptcy filing means for your ministry if you ever hosted or chartered Boy Scout Troops.

Tags: coverage, protect, liability, damages, youth
October 1, 2020
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness
Applying for PPP Loan Forgiveness

Organizations that obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding through the CARES Act can have their loans forgiven, turning them into grants. To qualify, each borrower must file a forgiveness application with its PPP lender, proving that it followed the rules. If your church, school, college, or camp meets all the criteria, 100% of its loan can be forgiven.

March 30, 2020
CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now
UPDATED: CARES Act: Churches Need to Apply Now

Learn about the CARES Act and two loans for which ministries may be eligible, since Congress authorized additional funding April 23. 

March 6, 2020
Coronavirus in Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention
Coronavirus and Your Ministry: Tips for Prevention

As concern over the dangers associated with the spread of a new coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, our agency and Brotherhood Mutual want to keep you informed and provide best practices for managing the spread of this and similar illnesses at your ministry.

January 29, 2020
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics
Hosting a Game Day Bash? Brush Up on Copyright Basics

The first Sunday in February is a big day for sports fans. In fact, many Americans view Super Bowl Sunday as a national holiday. Friends and families will gather this year to watch the big game, enjoy delicious snacks, and of course, critique the commercials that go along with game day.

Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?
Are You Covered If You're Injured Overseas?

Recently, we learned about two major overseas incidents involving pastors on mission trips. The first incident involved a pastor being hit by a motorcycle while running. The second was a bus accident involving two pastors. The runner and one of the two bus passengers sustained extensive injuries.

Tags: missions, insurance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance
IRS Announces More Church Audits Regarding ACA Compliance

Last month, the IRS announced that its initiating hundreds of church exams to test compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While many provisions only apply to churches with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), even smaller churches could potentially violate provisions applicable to health benefit plans with as few as 2 plan participants.

Tags: ACA, IRS
July 3, 2019
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day
Celebrate Safely This Independence Day

July 4th is synonymous with food, fun, and fireworks. If your church is planning an event this Independence Day, remember to keep a focus on safety, so that everyone can have fun.

Tags: firework safety
June 28, 2019
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it
Insurance is one of those things we forget about until we need it

National Insurance Awareness Day falls on June 28 this year to remind people everywhere that insurance is vital to their companies and ministries.

Tags: protect, risk, hail, weather emergency