Monday, January 24, 2011

Lying to get out of paying Social Security taxes

Here's a little secret. Some of the brethren lie.

It may not be widely known but ministers may opt out of Social Security. Yep. The one tax that puts the most pressure on the average clergy is Social Security and you can deep six that by signing a simple statement.

The statement is as follows:

I certify that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of my religious principles I am opposed to, the acceptance (for services I perform as a minister, member of religious order not under a vow of poverty, or a Christian Science practitioner) of any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that, makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care. (Public insurance includes insurance systems established by the Social Security Act.)…Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this application and to the best of my knowledge and belief it is true and correct.

Crown Financial explains it thusly:
Since Social Security has been determined by the Supreme Court of the United States not to be an insurance plan but a social welfare plan provided by the government, the decision for clergy to get out of Social Security must be a conscientious objection to government welfare based on their religious beliefs. Exemption is based on the filing with and approval by the IRS of Form 4361.

I have known of a few fellow SBC clergy who have gone this route. None of them actually have a religiously based conscientious objection to receiving government benefits. They lie to get out of the system. This is not a conversation I have had often but when I have, it has been somewhat awkward. Justification for signing the form has been in every case economic (SS is not a good deal) not the reason listed.

It is not a good deal economically. Neither is it a good deal to lie, even to the gummit.


David Montoya said...


Glad you brought this topic up. Back in the ancient days (I am over 50 now) while at an un-named Bible college, we were told in a "life of the minister" class if we did not agree with the way (Jimmy Carter was president) the government was using tax dollars we could "truthfully" be conscientious objectors (we were told a lot of other "white lies" as well). Sadly, there were a whole bunch of us that believed that lie.

Not making excuses, just stating what happened. I hope young ministers today are given better (and more truthful) advice.

Anonymous said...

When this question was given to me, I remember thinking:

"If I don't pay into the system, my mother and father might not have it through their lifetime."

No kidding, that was the reason I didn't even consider opting out. I'm planning my retirement with the assumption that it either won't be there, or be so small as to be inconsequential.