A little more than a year ago, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability to oversee an independent commission tasked with evaluating several financial and tax matters related to churches and nonprofit ministries. The goal: Determine whether more oversight—possibly administered through new legislation and regulation—is needed to curb any abuses and to foster clearer communication and relations between the Internal Revenue Service and religious organizations.
The formation of the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations came just as Sen. Grassley's office completed a three-year inquiry into the financial practices of six media ministries.
One year later, the commission is taking input from churches and ministries as it works to develop recommendations for Grassley. One method is through an online form available through March 31; the other was through a live, 90-minute town hall meeting broadcast online last week. Church leaders are invited to participate.
Among the areas the commission seeks input:
- The formation of an IRS advisory committee;
- Housing allowances for ordained ministers;
- IRS notification of a new church;
- Church examinations and oversight;
- Audit protection for church leaders;
- Love offerings;
- Debt-financed income;
- Charitable contribution deductions;
- Voluntary standards compliance (similar to an organization like ECFA);
- Prohibiting excess benefit transactions in exchange for exempt status;
- Penalties for excess benefit transactions;
- The "rebuttable presumption" protection;
- Compensation studies;
- Political speech and religion.
Editor's Note: ECFA President Dan Busby and Commission Chair Michael Batts are Editorial Advisors for Christianity Today's Church Management Team. Richard R. Hammar, senior editor of Church Law & Tax Report, Church Finance Today, and ChurchLawAndTax.com, all published by Christianity Today, is a member of the commission.
This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."
Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.