Do Not Misclassify Employees


As I travel across this great nation teaching Clergy Tax and Law Conferences I am amazed at the number of great Pastors and Churches who are uninformed or do not care about certain laws that apply to Churches. Just because there is the “Separation of Church and State,” we must remember that now, for the most part in the mind of the Government, that means “separation of the Church from the State, but not vice versa.”


Our Government is inching more and more into affairs of the Church, some of which may be justified because of some shenanigans that take place in the name of religion, but mostly the intrusion is unwarranted.


Until we elect Government officials that are Christian friendly or are genuinely Christian, and they will enact new laws to protect our Churches, we must obey the law. The Holy Spirit commanded us, via the Apostle Paul (Rom. 13), to obey the laws of the land. The only time Scripture gives us the option to disobey is when the laws of the land violate God’s Law (Acts 5:29).


Although the current laws may be burdensome for a Church, they are not violating Scripture and therefore it is our responsibility to obey. One of the laws I find that is often violated is the misclassification of employees.


What Constitutes an Employee


An employee is anyone that is connected to the Church and performs a service, subject to the will and control of the employer, both as to what shall be done and how it shall be done.


The above definition is just one of the items of the Common Law Employee Test. This means that most of the people performing services for a Church, should be receiving a W-2, not a 1099-MISC.


There are huge penalties for misclassification.


Musicians and Pastors are not Independent Contractors


The biggest two categories that are most often misclassified are those of the Pastor and the Church musicians. Both of these groups are employees and their income must be reported on a W-2.


If the musicians are not Ordained Ministers, the Church must withhold FICA and must pay the matching portion. This will be a heavy 941 tax burden for many. The best way to overcome this is to get all paid musicians ordained through the International Congress of Churches and Ministers and then, even thought the income is reported on a W-2, the Church is not responsible for FICA. If the Church provides the ordination via the local assembly they must be aware that any credentials issued may not be legitimate for tax purposes. Churches may call us at 800-854-5891 or visit for more information on a valid ordination process.


My CPA Told Me Something Different


Local CPAs are great for what they are trained to do – local small business and individual tax returns. Only four percent in America know how to properly do Church books. In a recent conference a Pastor told me he was in trouble with the IRS because a local CPA told him the Church could report his income on a 1099-MISC rather than a W-2.


Churches must be very cautious as to whom they allow to do their books and records. Even an IRS agent may give you incorrect information but you would still be accountable if it violated a tax law (Massey vs The Commissioner). If your Church is not a client of Chitwood & Chitwood, the keeper of your books and records may know just enough to get you in trouble. Remember, cheap advice is expensive.




Chitwood & Chitwood conducts about 150 Church and Clergy Tax Conferences across the USA every year. Our 78 years of experience demonstrates our impeccable record of properly maintaining Church books and records. We are the BEST!


As the ultimate firm in this area of expertise, it would behoove every Pastor and Church Board Member to attend the next conference nearest you. Call 800-344-0076 or register online at You will not regret it.


For us, this is “A Ministry – Not A Job!”