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Q&A: Can We Give an Honorarium to a Visiting Missionary?
Q&A: Can We Give an Honorarium to a Visiting Missionary?
Why purpose, amounts, and the right visa make a world of difference.

We have been supporting a pastor in South Sudan for many years. However, we have not been able to send him support for some time, due to the lack of a qualified organization (he's currently displaced in Juba and serving other displaced people). He will be in the US for a conference at the end of this month. If we give him an honorarium for speaking at our church, are there any restrictions on the amount we can give or on his eligibility to take the money back to South Sudan? There is nothing in place to track how he uses the money once he returns to the country he’s serving.

The answer depends on the visa the pastor received to visit the US. If he has a tourist visa, he may not receive any compensation from you. If he received a US visa that allows him to earn an honorarium while in the US, you may pay him a reasonable honorarium, like you would pay any other guest minister speaking at your church.

Payments to nonresident aliens are first classified according to where the services are being rendered. If the payment is for services in the US, the tax implications ensue. If the nonresident alien is in the US for less than 90 days within a calendar year (“personal presence test”) and the church’s payment is less than $3,000 for the entire calendar year (“income test”), then no US tax rules are implicated. If the nonresident alien is from Mexico or Canada, the nonresident alien must be in the US less than 183 days during a calendar year. If either the personal presence test or the income test is not complied with, then the church must comply with the tax rules.

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Posted:
April 25, 2016
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