June 22, 2016
Review your pastor’s Form W-4
We’ve all been victims of good intentions gone wrong, like when a best friend talks you into an unflattering haircut. Or, when your aunt tells you that owning 10 cats is better than just one.
Here’s another: A peer suggests that your pastor can claim 99 dependents on a Form W-4 because that’s how her church “has always done it.” Why do this? The reasoning seems straightforward: a claim of 99 dependents would ensure that a pastor’s pay is not subject to federal income tax.
What’s the harm?
Submitting an accurate Form W-4 is important, so unsurprisingly, an inaccurate claim can have serious consequences. The problem with a pastor declaring 99 dependents is three-fold:
While withholding is optional, it is important to note that pastors are required to pay federal income tax like everyone else. A minister can “opt in” to withholding by voluntarily completing a Form W-4. A set dollar amount or allowance is subtracted from each paycheck to cover annual taxes. The IRS Withholding Calculator can help determine your pastor’s correct withholding allowance. Updating a Form W-4 requires a new form submission—changing or altering an existing form is not allowed.
Do you know a ministry colleague that uses the “99 dependents” practice? We encourage you to forward this article.
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