Non-accountable Reimbursement Plan

If the church or religious organization reimburses or advances the employee for business expenses, but the arrangement does not satisfy the three requirements of an accountable plan, the amounts paid to the employees are considered wages subject to FICA taxes and income tax withholding, if applicable, and are reportable on Form W-2. (Amounts paid to employee ministers are treated as
wages reportable on Form W-2, but are not subject to FICA taxes or income tax withholding.)

For example, if a church or religious organization pays its secretary a $200 per month allowance to reimburse monthly business expenses the secretary incurs while conducting church or religious organization business, and the secretary is not required to substantiate the expenses or return any excess, then the entire
$200 must be reported on Form W-2 as wages subject to FICA taxes and income tax withholding.

In the same situation involving a minister, the allowance must be reported on the minister’s Form W-2, but no FICA or income tax
withholding is required. For further information see IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

One common business expense reimbursement is for automobile mileage. If a church or religious organization pays a mileage allowance at a rate that is less than or equal to the federal standard rate, the amount of the expense is deemed substantiated. (Each year, the federal government establishes a standard mileage
reimbursement rate.)

There are no income or employment tax consequences to the reimbursed individual provided that the employee substantiates the time, place, and business purposes of the automobile mileage for which reimbursement is sought. Of course, reimbursement for automobile mileage incurred for personal purposes is includible in the individual’s income.

If a church or religious organization reimburses automobile mileage at a rate exceeding the standard mileage rate, the excess is treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan. This means that the excess is includible in the individual’s income and is subject to the withholding and payment of income and employment taxes, if applicable.
In addition, any mileage reimbursement that is paid without requiring the individual to substantiate the time, place, and business purposes of each trip is included in the individual’s income, regardless of the rate of reimbursement. No income is attributed to an employee or a volunteer who uses an automobile owned by the church or religious organization to perform church-related work.

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Clergy Financial Resources
Tax I Payroll I Bookkeeping I HR
11214 86th Avenue N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Tel: (888) 421.0101
Fax: (888) 876.5101

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Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.

This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.

For more information or if you need additional assistance, please use the contact information below.

Clergy Financial Resources
11214 86th Avenue N.
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Tel: (888) 421-0101 
Fax: (888) 876-5101


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