Common eligible expenses include mortgage payments (principal and interest); rent payments; real estate taxes; property insurance; utilities (gas, electricity, water, sewer, garbage pickup, local telephone service); appliances and furniture (purchase or rental cost and repairs); remodeling expenses; homeowners’ dues; and pest control. Any expense to maintain and furnish a home.
Cleaning services, food, domestic help, personal gifts, toiletries and personal items are not eligible to be excluded as income as part of a housing allowance. A housing allowance is available only for a principal residence, not for a second home, vacation home, business property or a farm. Home equity loan payments can be excluded as part of a housing allowance only if the loan is used to pay for housing expenses such as remodeling. Home equity loan payments used for college tuition or anything other than eligible housing expenses cannot be excluded from income as a housing allowance.
Ministers who own their homes can exclude the lowest of the following three amounts from income for federal income tax purposes when their church employer properly designates a housing allowance for them:
- The housing allowance designated by their church; or
- Actual housing expenses (including mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes, insurance, furnishings, repairs and improvements); or
- The fair rental value of the home (furnished, including utilities).
Example: Reverend Smith owns his own home, and his church designated 40% ($16,000) of his $40,000 salary as an annual housing allowance in advance. His actual housing expenses for the year were $15,000. The fair rental value of his home (furnished, including utilities) was $17,000. Reverend Smith can exclude $15,000 from income because his actual housing expenses were lower than both the amount designated by the church and the fair rental value of his home.
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.
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