Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Tax Court Case Regarding Clergy Income Taxes
The Tax Court ruled that miles driven by a minister from his home to a pastoral call are commuting miles that cannot be deducted or reimbursed as a business expense.
Federal
State:
Key point. Expenses incurred in commuting to and from work are a nondeductible personal expense. This includes expenses incurred by ministers between their home and a pastoral assignment.

The Tax Court ruled that miles driven by a minister from his home to a pastoral call are commuting miles that cannot be deducted or reimbursed as a business expense. A taxpayer performed services as a minister for approximately 6 months each year, during the winter and spring. He was not affiliated with a particular church. His ministerial activity consisted of serving as a chaplain to a mobile home community located approximately 35 miles from his home in Florida. That community consisted of people the minister referred to as "snowbirds," which he defined as people from the northern United States who came to Florida each year for the winter and spring months. The minister conducted services there twice weekly. He also taught a weekly class at a local church and occasionally preached at various churches. On his federal income tax returns for 1993 and 1994, the minister claimed deductions for the business use of his car. The IRS audited the minister, and reduced the minister's car expense deduction. The IRS claimed that the minister improperly treated miles driven from his home to pastoral responsibilities as business miles rather than as nondeductible commuting miles. The minister appealed to the Tax Court.

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Posted: November 1, 1999
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