Q&A: Should We Allow Private Music Lessons on Church Property?

What to consider and why before saying “yes.”

Our church is currently interviewing for an organist position. The salary we can provide is only part-time and one of the candidates, looking for more income, requested permission to give lessons at the church using the piano and organ. Would it be unwise for our church to grant this candidate’s request?
There are two possible solutions to your situation. First, your church may offer organ/piano lessons to the community as part of its educational programs. The church could set and collect the fees for the lessons from the students. This may generate additional income so that your church can afford to hire the organist to a full-time position.

It is important to note that your church may not allow any individual to use church assets to further their private business without fair compensation to the church. In practice, the church could rent the organ/piano to the individual and allow that person to give lessons using church assets.

Essentially, as long as the rent charged equals fair market value, then the church can authorize the private use of church assets. However, this arrangement will generate unrelated business income and may cause the church to lose its property tax exemption on the rented asset. I do not recommend this option.

To learn more, see the downloadable resource Understanding Unrelated Business Income.

Frank Sommerville is a both a CPA and attorney, and a longtime Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold 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.

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