Pastor, Church & Law

Retirement Plans

§ 01.03.03

Key point 1-03.03. A variety of tax-favored retirement plans are available to ministers and nonminister church workers. Some plans are available to both employees and self-employed workers, while others are available only to either employees or self-employed persons, but not both.

A variety of retirement plans are available to ministers and nonminister church workers. Many of these plans are tax favored, meaning that contributions to the plans made by or on behalf of a worker are partially or fully deductible for income tax purposes in the year of contribution, and the income (or appreciation) earned by the plan ordinarily is not taxable until distributed. The deferral of tax on income generated by the plan can result in rapid accumulations of wealth.

Some retirement plans are available only to persons who report their federal income taxes as employees. The most common example of such a plan is a tax-sheltered annuity, sometimes called a “403(b) plan.” Only employees may participate in such plans, although ministers may participate whether they are employees or self-employed for income tax reporting purposes. Nonminister church workers who are self-employed are not eligible.

Some retirement plans are available only to persons who report their federal income taxes as self-employed. Many retirement plans are available to both employees and self-employed workers. Examples include IRAs, simplified employee pensions, and rabbi trusts.

Retirement plans for ministers and nonminister church workers are addressed fully in a companion text.33 Id

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