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taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033506
Publication 517

 
Social Security 
and Other 
Information for 
Members of the  
Clergy and 
Religious 
Workers

rule

Future Developments(p1)


For the latest information about developments related to Pub. 517, such as legislation enacted after this publication was published, go to www.irs.gov/pub517.

What's New(p1)


taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100042380
Health care individual responsibility payment increased. (p1)
If you or someone in your household didn’t have qualifying health care coverage or qualify for a coverage exemption for one or more months of 2015, the amount of your shared responsibility payment may be much more this year than it was last year. Like last year, you must either:
  • Indicate on line 61 of Form 1040 that you, your spouse (if filing jointly), and anyone you can or do claim as a dependent had qualifying health care coverage throughout 2015,
  • Attach Form 8965 to claim an exemption from the requirement to have health care coverage, or
  • Make a shared responsibility payment if, for any month in 2015, you, your spouse (if filing jointly), or anyone you can or do claim as a dependent didn’t have coverage and don't qualify for a coverage exemption.
For more information, see the instructions for Form 1040, line 61 and Form 8965.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100039477
Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account.(p2)
This is a new type of savings account for individuals with disabilities and their families. For 2015, you can contribute up to $14,000. Distributions are tax-free if used to pay the beneficiary's qualified disability expenses. Do not deduct your contributions on your tax return. For details, see Pub. 907 and the instructions for lines 21 and 59 of Form 1040.
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Standard mileage rate.(p2)
The business standard mileage rate for 2015 is 57.5 cents per mile.
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Earnings subject to social security.(p2)
For 2015, the maximum wages and self-employment income subject to social security tax increases from $117,000 to $118,500.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033510
Modified AGI limit for traditional IRA contributions increased.(p2)
For 2015, you may be able to take an IRA deduction if you were covered by a retirement plan at work and your modified AGI is:
  • Less than $118,000 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er),
  • Less than $71,000 if single or head of household, or
  • Less than $10,000 if married filing separately.
If you file a joint return and either you or your spouse wasn't covered by a retirement plan at work, you may be able to take an IRA deduction if your modified AGI is less than $193,000.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033511
Modified AGI limit for Roth IRA contributions increased.(p2)
For 2015, you may be able to contribute to your Roth IRA if your modified AGI is:
  • Less than $193,000 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er),
  • Less than $131,000 if single, head of household, or married filing separately and you didn't live with your spouse at any time during the year, or
  • Less than $10,000 if married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the year.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000173770
Earned income credit (EIC).(p2)
For 2015, the maximum amount of income you can earn and still claim the EIC has increased. You may be able to take the EIC if you earned less than $47,747 ($53,267 for married filing jointly) and you have three or more qualifying children; $44,454 ($49,974 for married filing jointly) and you have two qualifying children; $39,131 ($44,651 for married filing jointly) and you have one qualifying child; and $14,820 ($20,330 for married filing jointly) and you don't have any qualifying children.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100039655
Social security information.(p2)
Social Security beneficiaries may quickly and easily obtain various information from SSA's website with a my Social Security account, including getting a replacement Form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Reminder(p2)


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Photographs of missing children.(p2)
The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.

taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000270158Introduction

Three federal taxes are paid on wages and self-employment income—income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax. Social security and Medicare taxes are collected under one of two systems. Under the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA), the self-employed person pays all the taxes. Under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), the employee and the employer each pay half of the social security and Medicare taxes. No earnings are subject to both systems.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#f15021x01

Table 1.  Are Your Ministerial Earnings* Covered Under FICA or SECA?

Find the class to which you belong in the left column and read across the table to find if you are covered under FICA or SECA. Don't rely on this table alone. Also read the discussion for the class in the following pages.

ClassCovered under FICA?Covered under SECA?
MinisterNO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt.YES, if you don't have an approved exemption from the IRS.

NO, if you have an approved exemption.
Member of a religious order who hasn't taken a vow of povertyNO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt.YES, if you don't have an approved exemption from the IRS.

NO, if you have an approved exemption.
Member of a religious order who has taken a vow of povertyYES, if:
  • Your order elected FICA coverage for its members, or
  • You worked outside the order and the work wasn't required by, or done on behalf of, the order.


NO, if neither of the above applies.
NO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt.
Christian Science practitioner or readerNO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt.YES, if you don't have an approved exemption from the IRS.

NO, if you have an approved exemption.
Religious worker (church employee)YES, if your employer didn't elect to exclude you.


NO, if your employer elected to exclude you.
YES, if your employer elected to exclude you from FICA.

NO, if you are covered under FICA.
Member of a recognized religious sectYES, if you are an employee and don't have an approved exemption from the IRS.


NO, if you have an approved exemption.
YES, if you are self-employed and don't have an approved exemption from the IRS.

NO, if you have an approved exemption.
* Ministerial earnings are the self-employment earnings that result from ministerial services, defined and discussed later.
In addition, all wages and self-employment income that are subject to Medicare tax are subject to a 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax if they are paid in excess of the applicable threshold for an individual's filing status. Additional Medicare Tax applies to Medicare wages, railroad retirement (RRTA) compensation, and self-employment income that are more than: Medicare wages and self-employment income are combined to determine if income exceeds the threshold. A self-employment loss isn't considered for purposes of this tax. RRTA compensation is separately compared to the threshold. There is no employer match for Additional Medicare Tax. For more information, see Form 8959, Additional Medicare Tax, and its separate instructions.
This publication contains information for the following classes of taxpayers.
Note.Unless otherwise noted, in this publication references to members of the clergy include ministers, members of a religious order (but not members of a recognized religious sect), and Christian Science practitioners and readers.
This publication covers the following topics about the collection of social security and Medicare taxes from members of the clergy, religious workers, and members of a recognized religious sect.
This publication also covers certain income tax rules of interest to ministers and members of a religious order.
A Comprehensive Example shows filled-in forms for a minister who has income taxed under SECA, other income taxed under FICA, and income tax reporting of items specific to a minister.
Pencil
In the back of Pub. 517 is a set of worksheets that you can use to figure the amount of your taxable ministerial income and allowable deductions. You will find these worksheets right after the Comprehensive Example.
Note.In this publication, the term "church" is generally used in its generic sense and not in reference to any particular religion.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100039482

Comments and suggestions.(p3)

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We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can send us comments from www.irs.gov/formspubs. Click on "More Information" and then on "Give us feedback."
Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service
Tax Forms and Publications
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526
Washington, DC 20224


We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
Although we can't respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100039483
Ordering forms and publications.(p3)
Visit www.irs.gov/formspubs to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to www.irs.gov/orderforms to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100039484
Tax questions.(p3)
If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check IRS.gov and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.

taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#TXMP5642a8a5

Useful items

You may want to see:


Publication
  54 Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad
 525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income
 529 Miscellaneous Deductions
 535 Business Expenses
 590-A Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
 590-B Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
 596 Earned Income Credit (EIC)
Form (and Instructions)
 SS-8: Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding
 SS-16: Certificate of Election of Coverage Under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act
 Schedule C (Form 1040): Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship)
 Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040): Net Profit From Business (Sole Proprietorship)
 Schedule SE (Form 1040): Self-Employment Tax
 1040-ES: Estimated Tax for Individuals
 1040X: Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return
 4029: Application for Exemption From Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Waiver of Benefits
 4361: Application for Exemption From Self-Employment Tax for Use by Ministers, Members of Religious Orders and Christian Science Practitioners
 8274: Certification by Churches and Qualified Church-Controlled Organizations Electing Exemption From Employer Social Security and Medicare Taxes
 8959: Additional Medicare Tax
 8962: Premium Tax Credit (PTC)
 8965: Health Coverage Exemptions
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033519

Ordering publications and forms.(p3)

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See How To Get Tax Help, near the end of this publication, for information about getting these publications and forms.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033520

Social Security Coverage(p3)

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This section gives information about which system (SECA or FICA) is used to collect social security and Medicare taxes from members of the clergy (ministers, members of a religious order, and Christian Science practitioners and readers) and religious workers (church employees).
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255884

Coverage of Members of the Clergy(p3)

rule
The services you perform in the exercise of your ministry, of the duties required by your religious order, or of your profession as a Christian Science practitioner or reader are covered by social security and Medicare under SECA. Your earnings for these ministerial services (defined later) are subject to self-employment (SE) tax unless one of the following applies.
Your earnings that aren't from ministerial services may be subject to social security tax under FICA or SECA according to the rules that apply to taxpayers in general. See Ministerial Services, later.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255885

Ministers(p3)

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If you are a minister of a church, your earnings for the services you perform in your capacity as a minister are subject to SE tax, even if you perform these services as an employee of that church. However, you can request that the IRS grant you an exemption, as discussed under Exemption From Self-Employment (SE) Tax, later. For the specific services covered, see Ministerial Services, later.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255886

Ministers defined.(p4)

rule
Ministers are individuals who are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a religious body constituting a church or church denomination. Ministers have the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions, and administer ordinances or sacraments according to the prescribed tenets and practices of that church or denomination.
If a church or denomination ordains some ministers and licenses or commissions others, anyone licensed or commissioned must be able to perform substantially all the religious functions of an ordained minister to be treated as a minister for social security purposes.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255887

Employment status for other tax purposes.(p4)

rule
Even though all of your income from performing ministerial services is subject to self-employment tax for social security tax purposes, you may be an employee for income tax or retirement plan purposes in performing those same services. For income tax or retirement plan purposes, your income earned as an employee will be considered wages.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255888
Common-law employee.(p4)
Under common-law rules, you are considered either an employee or a self-employed person. Generally, you are an employee if you perform services for someone who has the legal right to control both what you do and how you do it, even if you have considerable discretion and freedom of action. For more information about the common-law rules, see Pub. 15-A, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide.
If a congregation employs you and pays you a salary, you are generally a common-law employee and income from the exercise of your ministry is wages for income tax purposes. However, amounts received directly from members of the congregation, such as fees for performing marriages, baptisms, or other personal services, aren't wages; such amounts are self-employment income for both income tax purposes and social security tax purposes.
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Example.(p4)

A church hires and pays you a salary to perform ministerial services subject to its control. Under the common-law rules, you are an employee of the church while performing those services.
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Form SS-8.(p4)
If you aren't certain whether you are an employee or a self-employed person, you can get a determination from the IRS by filing Form SS-8.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255890

Members of Religious Orders(p4)

rule
If you are a member of a religious order who hasn't taken a vow of poverty, your earnings for ministerial services you perform as a member of the order are subject to SE tax. See Ministerial Services, later. However, you can request that the IRS grant you an exemption as discussed under Exemption From Self-Employment (SE) Tax, later.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033528

Vow of poverty.(p4)

rule
If you are a member of a religious order and have taken a vow of poverty, you are already exempt from paying SE tax on your earnings for ministerial services you perform as an agent of your church or its agencies. You don't need to request a separate exemption. For income tax purposes, the earnings are tax free to you. Your earnings are considered the income of the religious order.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033529
Services covered under FICA at the election of the order.(p4)
However, even if you have taken a vow of poverty, the services you perform for your church or its agencies may be covered under social security. Your services are covered if your order, or an autonomous subdivision of the order, elects social security coverage for its current and future vow-of-poverty members.
The order or subdivision elects coverage by filing Form SS-16. The election may cover certain vow-of-poverty members for a retroactive period of up to 20 calendar quarters before the quarter in which it files the certificate. If the election is made, the order or subdivision pays both the employer's and employee's share of the tax. You don't pay any of the FICA tax.
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Services performed outside the order.(p4)
Even if you are a member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty and the order requires you to turn over amounts you earn, your earnings are subject to federal income tax and either SE tax or FICA tax (including estimated tax payments and/or withholding) if you:
In these cases, your income from self-employment or as an employee of that outside organization is taxable to you directly. You may, however, be able to take a charitable deduction for the amount you turn over to the order. See Pub. 526, Charitable Contributions.
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Rulings.(p4)

rule
Organizations and individuals may request rulings from the IRS on whether they are religious orders, or members of a religious order, respectively, for FICA tax, SE tax, and federal income tax withholding purposes. To request a ruling, follow the procedures in Revenue Procedure 2016-1, 2016-1 I.R.B. 1, available at www.irs.gov/irb/2016-01_IRB/ar07.html.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink1000255891

Christian Science Practitioners and Readers(p4)

rule
Generally, your earnings from services you perform in your profession as a Christian Science practitioner or reader are subject to SE tax. However, you can request an exemption as discussed under Exemption From Self-Employment (SE) Tax, later.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033534

Practitioners.(p4)

rule
Christian Science practitioners are members in good standing of the Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, who practice healing according to the teachings of Christian Science. State law specifically exempts Christian Science practitioners from licensing requirements.
Some Christian Science practitioners also are Christian Science teachers or lecturers. Income from teaching or lecturing is considered the same as income from their work as practitioners.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033535

Readers.(p4)

rule
For tax purposes, Christian Science readers are considered the same as ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministers.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033536

Coverage of Religious Workers (Church Employees)(p4)

rule
If you are a religious worker (a church employee) and aren't in one of the classes already discussed, your wages are generally subject to social security and Medicare tax under FICA, not SECA. Some exceptions are discussed next.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033537

Election by Church To Exclude Its Employees From FICA Coverage(p4)

rule
Churches and qualified church-controlled organizations (church organizations) that are opposed for religious reasons to the payment of social security and Medicare taxes may elect to exclude their employees from FICA coverage. If your employer makes this election, it doesn't pay the employer's portion of the FICA taxes or withhold from your pay your portion of the FICA taxes. Instead, your wages are subject to SECA and you must pay SE tax on your wages if they exceed $108.28 during the tax year. However, you can request an exemption from SE tax if you are a member of a recognized religious sect, as discussed below.
Churches and church organizations make this election by filing two copies of Form 8274. For more information about making this election, see Form 8274.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033538

Election by Certain Church Employees Who Are Opposed to Social Security and Medicare(p4)

rule
You may be able to choose to be exempt from social security and Medicare taxes, including the SE tax, if you are a member of a recognized religious sect or division and work for a church (or church-controlled nonprofit division) that doesn't pay the employer's part of the social security tax on wages. This exemption doesn't apply to your service, if any, as a minister of a church or as a member of a religious order.
Make this choice by filing Form 4029. See Requesting Exemption—Form 4029, later, under Members of Recognized Religious Sects.
taxmap/pubs/p517-000.htm#en_us_publink100033539

U.S. Citizens and Resident and Nonresident Aliens(p4)

rule
To be covered under the SE tax provisions (SECA), individuals generally must be citizens or resident aliens of the United States. Nonresident aliens aren't covered under SECA unless a social security agreement in effect between the United States and the foreign country determines that they are covered under the U.S. social security system.
To determine your alien status, see Pub. 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
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Residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the CNMI, and American Samoa.(p5)

rule
If you are a resident of one of these U.S. possessions but not a U.S. citizen, for SE tax purposes you are treated the same as a citizen or resident alien of the United States. For information on figuring the tax, see Self-Employment Tax: Figuring Net Earnings, later.