housing allowance unconstitutional


I want to draw your attention to an article by Joe Carter of THE GOSPEL COALITION as he describes the ruling of this past week by a federal judge. I don’t do this to scare you. I do this to alert you. Please click on this link to read the article sent to me by a colleague Pastor Duane Hanson of St Paul Minnesota:

Federal Judge Declares Clergy Housing Exemption To Be Unconstitutional


Here is my response to Pastor Hanson because it is my observation that the tax increases from such law to a local pastor were too conservative. Each minister is unique but the rates of impact I think will be higher:

Pastor Duane:

The article is correct. However, I believe that the experience rate of 5 to 10 percent is too low. The clergy that I prepare returns for would experience a reduction in cash take home pay of between 15% to 28% federal and around 7% on states such as Minnesota or Wisconsin. This would be an increase of 24% to 37%. Some would also experience increases due to the ACA (affordable care act) with all of their income being reflected on the return of an additional .9 to 2.9 percent in medicare taxes assessed on income over a certain amount. Also, it is to be noted that the tax for ACA is more of a flat tax and isn't reduced by STANDARD or ITEMIZED DEDUCTIONS or PERSONAL EXEMPTIONS. This ACA tax includes several types of income. It is not just assessed on earned income alone.

I do agree that this challenge which came from an atheist group would impact small churches whose clergy purchase their own homes as opposed to larger established churches such as the Catholic and Lutheran churches that have acquired property to house their clergy. In our circles the only thing that many ministers have at the end of their service is the home they have purchased. Many of the small churches I work with don't offer retirement and therefore the clergy often work until they move to eternity.

One final point of view is at the federal and state level for congress and public office holders. They currently receive tax free per diems to pay for their housing while serving as a senator or representative. This law change being applied strictly to clergy would grant preferential treatment to the politicians. Much like the other laws of recent days, those who are in DC would not be under the same rules of those of us who live with the sheep.

This challenge was made on the point that this law establishes a religion. I think a challenge could be made on many other fronts where the government is not only granting preferential treatment to certain religious groups but is also giving them privileges far beyond Christian groups. These types of actions are almost cultic in their nature and should be challenged on all levels where preferential treatment is being granted.

Rodney W Wicklund and Associates 2011