Q: Our pastor would like the church to increase his housing allowance due to the fact that he will be incurring more housing expenses than expected this year. Can our church board amend the allowance for the rest of the year, or must he wait until next year?
A: Ministers do not pay federal income tax on the amount of their compensation that is designated in advance by their employing church as a "housing allowance." But there are limits. For ministers who own or rent their home, a housing allowance is nontaxable only to the extent that it is used to pay housing expenses and does not exceed the fair rental value of the home (furnished, plus utilities).
Sometimes ministers incur more housing expenses than they anticipated during the year, which may mean that their housing allowance is not enough to cover all of their housing expenses. Often this is due to unforeseen housing expenses, or to the purchase of a new home. For whatever reason, if a minister's housing expenses exceed the church-designated housing allowance, then the minister may not be receiving the full value of this important tax benefit.