Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The moral high ground??

I am of the opinion that the church, whether Buffalo or any church, has a responsibility to hold the moral high ground. The church in what it does acts as example to both the membership and to the community.

At Buffalo, they pay the pastor a housing allowance that exceeds his salary. This is probably due to IRS regulations that allow the church to pay a non-taxable housing allowance that is “reasonable”. I would question whether a housing allowance that exceeds one’s salary could be construed as “reasonable”. I doubt that the housing costs actually are as great as the allowance.

If a member furnishes a place for the pastor to live, the church is obligated to give the member a statement valuing the use of his home by the pastor as a contribution. Any portion of the housing allowance not used to cover actual housing costs should be reassigned to the salary and taxed accordingly.

The church pays the pastor mileage for the use of his vehicle. This includes the wear and tear on his vehicle. If a car dealer furnishes a vehicle for the pastor to drive, then he should also get a statement valuing his donation for tax purposes. The mileage rate should be lowered to include only gas consumption and auto insurance. Again here he is being reimbursed (in a tax free payment) for an expense he has not incurred. I wonder if this practice could survive an inquiry by the IRS, if not the oversight of Christ, who said “Render unto Caesar…..”

Now  the EPC is facing an inquiry by the IRS into whether the medical plan furnished to their pastors is so generous (a Cadillac plan)  as to be taxed. I think that it is a public relations nightmare for the pastor to have the congregation pay for him to have a plan that most of them cannot afford to have.
The Session and the pastor need to make the decision to move to the high ground.