My megacompensated SBC clergy brethren might have to reassess their use of the Sacred Clergy Housing Allowance for their homes in Sedona or on Virgin Gorda.
Last year I wrote about the housing allowance in You can have my Housing Allowance when you pry my cold, dead hands off of it...or when lawmakers get fed up with the abuse of the minister’s housing allowance by rich ministries, religious racketeers, and greedy pastors who have a second home and put much of their income in a housing allowance for that home, every dollar of it completely free from any income tax at all.
The piece linked above is on the scandal of trumpeter Phil Driscoll who was using about $200,000 of his clergy housing allowance for a second home. Not his first – a second (in some court filings the phrase the plural “second homes” is used).
I might have called it a scandal by a greedy ex-con ordained musician but it was perfectly legal. Join the ministry and shelter hundreds of thousands of dollars in income from any income tax, perfectly legal, and enjoy sun and fun while doing it.
The idea that Joe Sixpack is paying taxes and Phil Driscoll is being given tax breaks for money he uses to pay for vacation homes is both abhorrent and absurd to this retired SBC pastor who continues to receive part of his retirement in the form of a housing allowance.
CPA Peter J. Reilly, far more of an expert on this business than I, has a contribution in Forbes on the latest developments: Court Stomps on Clergy Tax Abuse
Seems that a federal appeals court has ruled that when the tax code refers to the housing allowance as “that rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home” it means A home, not a bunch of homes.
I offer a Baptist hurrah for the singular being interpreted as one and not many.
The problem for us non-trumpet playing hackers and plodders in ministry is that folks are always suing the government to eliminate the housing allowance. Cases like Driscoll’s may eventually arouse sufficient indignation at religious racketeers and greedy preachers to cause lawmakers to severely restrict or eliminate even our modest housing allowances.
I don’t care how many homes Phil Driscoll has. I do care if his use of the housing allowance brings down the ire of sensible people on ordinary, one domicile, clergy like myself and almost all of my colleagues.
I appreciate Peter Reilly calling my attention to the matter. Frank Page, Richard Land and GuideStone - pay attention, please.
We knew it was coming: Housing Allowance challenged, again.
Our sacred tax loophole, the housing allowance, survives once again