Distributing Church Assets
Can we give a sizable love gift to our pastor and distribute our assets to another ministry?

Question:
Our church is dissolving. Can we give the pastor a sizable love gift for his faithfulness, and give the rest of the money and much of our property to another church or ministry?

Answer:
Yes, the church may pay the pastor a love gift so long as it is treated as taxable compensation to him, and so long as the love gift, together with his other compensation and benefits from the church, are reasonable in total. Reasonableness is a somewhat subjective concept, but the tax law defines it as what similar organizations pay similarly qualified people for performing similar duties. It would not be wise to be too aggressive in making such a gift to the pastor, as there are severe penalty taxes that could apply to both the pastor and those who approve the gift if the amount, together with his other compensation, is determined to be excessive.

As for distributing assets to other churches or ministries recognized by the IRS as exempt and described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, yes, federal tax law allows you to make liquidating and dissolution distributions to such organizations.

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Posted: April 20, 2010
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