How about my putting the probably answer at the first here? “NO.” But scare headlines are always with us these days.
Here’s a couple of articles I’ve run across on the subject:
Churches and other nonprofit groups are struggling to make sense of a new levy imposed on their traditionally tax-exempt operations by the sweeping tax overhaul that Republicans in Congress passed last year.
Those outfits in Texas and beyond now must pay a 21 percent tax on some fringe benefits, such as parking or mass transit passes, that they provide to their employees.
Nonprofit groups across the country are pushing back against a portion of last year’s tax reform bill that could force some organizations to pay taxes for the very first time.
The new measure in the nation’s tax code imposes a 21-percent tax on the cost of some fringe benefits nonprofits provide to their employees, such as parking and commuter passes.
I asked the very sharp and helpful Georgia Baptist Mission Board Church Admin CPA who said there was not a definitive answer. The tax is on a narrow fringe benefit that has to do with parking. I’m not in downtown Atlanta, so the church parking lot space during the week has no value; hence, no fringe benefit to pay a tax on.
Texas Baptists already have a “white paper” on the subject from their guy who says, more or less, ‘don’t worry about it’ and concludes:
The historical context of the provision is clearly aimed at metropolitan areas in an attempt to alleviate congested highways and crowded parking areas. Affected non-profit organizations should carefully consider the value of continuing commuter benefits given the compliance and direct tax costs particularly in the absence of any other unrelated business income activity. Re-characterization of benefit costs to taxable wages may be a preferred option.
Read the stories. I’m not moved by the whining from megachurches or these huge non-profits with staff paid way into six figures. Anyway, if we need more taxes then tax the employee, not the church.
So brethren and sistren, worry about people dying and going to hell rather than about the possibility of Podunk No. 2 Baptist Church and others having to start filing tax returns.
But all this scare stuff reminds me of what some of my brethren have suggested: Let churches pay Social Security tax on their ministerial employees and drop the housing allowance. I’ll keep my housing allowance, thank you, in any case and I’m a recipient of Social Security…so you guys can just pay SECA like I did.
Other than all that…have a good, if sultry, week.