All posts from “November 2012”

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November 27, 2012

Do Members Have a Right to Inspect Church Records?

Four ways a church's documents could be opened for review.

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This article is taken from Richard Hammar’s Essential Guide to Liabilities and Duties for Church Boards eBook. For this eBook and other cutting-edge eBooks for church administrators, boards, and clergy, view our online catalog.

Church members have no inherent right to inspect church records. Such a right must be granted by some statute or legal document. Here are four ways this can occur:

Continue reading Do Members Have a Right to Inspect Church Records?...

November 26, 2012

IRS Announces 2013 Mileage Rates

Most travelers will get a penny more per mile.

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Last week, the IRS announced the new standard mileage rates for 2013. The reimbursement rate for business mileage increased 1 cent over 2012.

Effective Jan. 1, 2013, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup, or panel truck will be:

• 56.5 cents per mile for business miles driven
• 24 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Full information on these and other changes can be found on the Internal Revenue Service site.

For comprehensive information related to this and other key tax changes for next year, pre-order the 2013 Church and Clergy Tax Guide.

November 20, 2012

A Minister’s Most Important Tax Break

Summing up the housing allowance exclusion

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This article is adapted from Richard Hammar’s Essential Guide to Money for Church Boards eBook. For this eBook and other cutting-edge eBooks for church administrators, board members, and clergy, view our online catalog.

The most important tax benefit available to ministers who own or rent their home is the housing allowance exclusion.

To the extent the allowance represents compensation for ministerial services, is used to pay housing expenses, and doesn’t exceed the fair rental value of the home, including utilities, ministers who own their home do not pay federal income taxes on the amount of their compensation that their church designates in advance as a housing allowance. Housing-related expenses include mortgage payments, utilities, repairs, furnishings, insurance, property taxes, remodeling expenses, and maintenance.

For ministers who rent a home or apartment, all of the above is true, with the only difference being the allowance is used to pay rental expenses, such as rent, furnishings, utilities, and insurance.

Continue reading A Minister’s Most Important Tax Break...

November 13, 2012

Four Ways to Boost Year-End Giving

Tap into your congregation’s generosity now so you can finish strong.

Many churches look forward to a year-end giving bump to help make up for a budget shortfall. In the annual State of the Plate survey we co-sponsor, we know churches consistently count on December to boost total giving figures for the year, and in uncertain economic times, this can present challenges. For instance, among 1,500 churches who responded to the 2011 State of the Plate, nearly a third said year-end giving in 2010 missed expectations.

An end-of-year giving project can help maximize a bump up. It also can encourage long-term giving to avoid an overdependence on future Decembers.

“When it comes to generosity, we tend to leave story behind and rely on other motivations such as tradition, ‘ought to,’ and unhealthy manipulation,” says Brad Leeper, author of the eBook, So Much More, and principal of “generosity development” firm Generis. By sharing stories of God’s mission and personal narratives of giving, church staffs can encourage their congregations to consider the place of regular generosity in their own stories.

Here are four things to keep in mind as you plot the story of your end-of-year giving project:

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November 8, 2012

Q&A: Are "Love Offerings" for Church Staff Taxable?

How to handle these well-meaning cash gifts.

Q: I recently read an article about when churches give Christmas gifts and have a question. If a church takes up a love offering at Christmas for its pastor and staff, is that reportable as income? This would not come from budgeted funds, and there is no predetermined amount. It would be miscellaneous, free-will donations made by members of the congregation. The church would simply tabulate the funds and write the checks. Is this reported as taxable income?

A: I cover the topic of “love offerings” on Page 177 of the 2012 Church & Clergy Tax Guide:

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November 5, 2012

Responding to Hurricane Sandy: Part 2

What should churches do in the wake of a devastating natural disaster?

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This is the second of two posts on responding to Hurricane Sandy and similar disasters. You can read Part 1 (covering church closure response, shelters, preparing relief workers, and more) here.

As of November 1, estimates of the total financial cost of Hurricane Sandy's damage reached $50 billion, making the disaster the second-most costly in U.S. history, after 2005's Hurricane Katrina. When considered with the profound loss associated with the personal and emotional toll of the superstorm, the needs of affected communities and churches are truly staggering.

Here is a brief overview of donation handling and pastoral care principles to help guide your efforts in the disaster's aftermath.

Continue reading Responding to Hurricane Sandy: Part 2 ...

November 2, 2012

Responding to Hurricane Sandy: Part 1

What should churches do in the wake of a devastating natural disaster?

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According to New Jersey news source NJ.com, residents of Rockaway, New Jersey “might have wanted to close their eyes as they passed First Presbyterian Church Tuesday.

“Hurricane Sandy ripped the steeple off the roof, flipped it and stuck it right back in the shingles. The storm also tore into a tree in front of the church, breaking its branches and depositing them on the lawn.”

Rockaway churchgoers aren’t alone. Although many churches affected this week by Hurricane Sandy have not literally had their steeples turned upside down, the aftermath of the largest Atlantic tropical system on record has left pastors and parishioners feeling overturned. Many are confused, grieving, and unsure of the practical steps of what to do next. With this in mind, we have created a two-part article for churches affected by this disaster and those wishing to help in the recovery effort. Part 2 covers donations, emotional needs, and spiritual needs.

Continue reading Responding to Hurricane Sandy: Part 1...

November 1, 2012

A Key Tax Reminder for Donors

Key reminders you can deliver through the church bulletin.

As the calendar flips to November, it's a good reminder of the many tax details that churches must track, especially on behalf of those who faithfully give to the church throughout the year. Churches must properly document donor contributions, which includes a statement on receipts regarding whether any goods or services were provided in consideration for the contributions.

To avoid jeopardizing the tax deductibility of charitable contributions, churches also should advise donors at the end of 2012 not to file their 2012 income tax returns until they have received a written acknowledgement of their contributions from the church. This communication should be in writing. To illustrate, the following statement could be placed in the church bulletin or newsletter during the last few weeks of 2012, or included in a letter to all donors:

Continue reading A Key Tax Reminder for Donors...