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What clergy need to know about making 2021 estimated tax payments

The United States income tax system is a pay-as-you-go tax system, which means that you must pay income tax as you earn or receive your income during the year. You can do this either through withholding or by making estimated tax payments. If you didn’t pay enough tax throughout the year, either through withholding or by making estimated tax payments, you may have to pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax. Generally, most taxpayers will avoid this penalty if they either owe less than $1,000 in tax after subtracting their withholding and refundable credits or if they paid withholding and estimated tax of at least 90% of the tax for the current year or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the prior year, whichever is smaller. 

Non-clergy who earn a paycheck through their church are subject to mandatory withholdings and have taxes withheld from the checks. This helps cover taxes the employee owes. On the other hand, clergy are defined as dual status employees; employees for federal tax purposes and self-employed for social security purposes. Churches are not required to withhold taxes on clergy compensation. For most clergy that usually means they are subject to quarterly estimated tax payments.

Generally, clergy should make estimated tax payments in four equal amounts to avoid a penalty. However, if you receive income unevenly during the year, you may be able to vary the amounts of the payments to avoid or lower the penalty by using the annualized installment method. 

Here are some details about estimated tax payments:

  • Generally, clergy need to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe $1,000 or more when they file their 2021 tax return, after adjusting for any withholding.
  • Aside from income tax, clergy would include self-employment tax in these payments
  • The final two deadlines for paying 2021 estimated payments are September 15, 2021, and January 15, 2022.
  • The following link provides estimated payment:
  • Clergy can visit IRS.gov to find options for paying estimated taxes. These include:
  • Anyone who pays too little tax through withholding, estimated tax payments, or a combination of the two may owe a penalty. In some cases, the penalty may apply if their estimated tax payments are late. The penalty may apply even if the taxpayer is due a refund.

The law allows the IRS to waive the penalty if:

  1. You didn’t make a required payment because of a casualty event, disaster, or other unusual circumstance and it would be inequitable to impose the penalty, or
  2. You retired (after reaching age 62) or became disabled during the tax year or in the preceding tax year for which you should have made estimated payments, and the underpayment was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.

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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: (763) 425-8778 
Fax: (888) 876-5101
Email: clientservices@clergyfinancial.com

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