How The Tax Reform Bill (Tax Cuts And Jobs Act) Affects Pastors


The GOP released their highly anticipated tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, today. Many pastors have been biting their nails in anticipation of how the “simplification of the tax code” might affect the clergy housing allowance or the Form 4361 Social Security exemption.


How Tax Reform Will Affect Pastors Specifically

The 429-page document says nothing about either the clergy housing allowance or the Form 4361 Social Security exemption. That means that if it were to pass in its current form, neither of these pastoral perks would be affected. The bill will probably be changed a lot before it is able to pass both the House and Senate, but pastors can breath a sigh of relief that they are not a part of the discussion.


The only part of the Act that does affect pastors specifically is the repeal of the Johnson Amendment. This was the law prohibiting churches from getting involved in politics for fear of losing their tax-exempt status. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act states that churches:


shall not fail to be treated as organized and operated exclusively for a religious purpose, nor shall it be deemed to have participated in, or intervened in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, solely because of the content of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other presentation made during religious services or gatherings, but only if the preparation and presentation of such content—‘‘(A) is in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose, and ‘‘(B) results in the organization incurring not more than de minimis incremental expenses.’’


There is a section of the Act that addresses employer-provided housing. This does not refer to parsonages and the ministerial housing allowance. It is a different section of the Internal Revenue Code that refers to things like onsite apartment managers or campground hosts, not pastors.


General Changes That Will Affect Everyone

Here are some changes that the Act proposes that will probably affect you, though they are not specific to pastors:


  • Tax bracket changes: For married couples, your first $24,000 will not be taxed. Everything from $24,000 to $90,000 will be taxed at 12% and everything from $90,000 to $260,000 will be taxed at 25%. For individual filers, the dollar amounts are all halved, except that the 25% tax bracket extends up to $200,000 of income.


  • The new standard deductions will be $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married couples. There will no longer be personal exemptions.


  • The Child Tax Credit increases to $1,600 and the threshold for claiming it increases.


  • There is a new $300 tax credit for non-child dependents.


  • The mortgage interest deduction will be capped at $500,000 in loan debt for newly purchased homes.


  • You can deduct up to $10,000 of local property taxes but other state and local taxes will not be deductible.


For a previous analysis of how the changes in deductions might affect a family, please see this post.


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