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Why Pastors Must Pay Federal Income Taxes

Ministers aren't exempt, so why do some still try to avoid them?

Last Reviewed: January 8, 2021
Why Pastors Must Pay Federal Income Taxes
Image: Steven Puetzer | Getty

Ministers are not exempt from paying federal income taxes. Since 1943 (Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105), the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom is not violated by subjecting ministers to the federal income tax.

Still, ministers have tried to argue against this ruling for decades. The courts have rejected every attempt by them (some with only mail-order credentials) to claim that they are exempt from the payment of income taxes. Such ministers wrongly assume that because certain of their income may be exempt from withholding of taxes, this also means they're exempt from paying taxes. One case helps clarify this common misunderstanding.

A federal court rejected a couple's claim that they were entitled to an exemption from federal income tax because they "labor for the ministry." The court concluded, "Income ...

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Posted:
  • March 6, 2014
  • Last Reviewed: January 8, 2021

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