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General FAQ's

THE ORDAINED MINISTER

How old does one have to be to be an ordained minister?
Are there any restrictions on membership in the Universal Ministries because of race, color, creed or sex?
As a Minister, what tax exempt privileges as I allowed?
What services do I have to perform as an ordained minister?
Can I have a full-time job outside of my ministerial duties?
I am a prisoner; can they discriminate against me legally for being a Universal Ministries minister?
What authority do you use for ordaining ministers into the Universal Ministries?
Do Universal Ministries ministers get discounts on buses?
May a minister be compelled to reveal any communications with members of the congregation?

THE UNIVERSAL MINISTRIES

Is the Universal Ministries legal in all 50 states?
Can the government ever shut down the Universal Ministries?
Does a church have to reveal the sum and substance of its religious basis?

UNIVERSAL MINISTRIES AND THE IRS

What sections of U.S. Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code, apply to churches?
Is the Universal Ministries liable for excise taxes?
Should the Universal Ministries file a Form 990T to report unrelated business income?
May the Internal Revenue Service, or any sate agency order my congregation to furnish its books and records for inspection?
What happens if the IRS disallows my contribution to the church?
What prohibits the IRS from examining our congregration's records?
Can the IRS see our congregation's bank records?
The IRS has asked me a list of questions about the congregation and it's internal operations. Do I have to answer them?

THE CONGREGATION AND CHURCH

May a congregation have a postal Bulk Rate mailing permit?
Can the congregation send fund-raising materials through the mail?
Can I use my apartment as my church?
What is the minimum number of people required to organize a congregation?
Is it necessary to keep minutes of Board Meetings?
If a congregation no longer functions, and no one wants it, who gets the property?
When issuing receipts does my congregation use the EIN number or our congregation number?
Is a congregation an extension, or branch, of the "Mother Church"?
Can three of one family organize a congregation?
Can the Minister be on the Board of another congregation?
How often does the Board of Directors meet?
How many members of the Board must be present to have a legal meeting?
Can I donate to the congregation if I'm the minister and a member of the Board of Directors?
Does the Universal Ministries control the money and property I donate to my congregation?
What happens to my congregation's assets when I die? Does all the money then go to the Universal Ministries?
Does our congregation need an employer ID number?
Can the congregation pay for my health insurance if I am a member of the Board of Directors?
Can the congregation pay for my life insurance if I'm a minister in the congregation?
Can the congregation pay utilities of a home used as headquarters?
May I donate real or personal property to the congregation if I am the minister and member of the Board of Directors?
Could the board of trustees vote to give me as Minister an allowance (no salary) of $750.00 per month for housing and transportation, and other expenses without my having to report or account how it is spent?
Can a congregation start a nursery? If so, does it need a state license?
Can the congregation provide me with an automobile if I'm the minister?
Can the Board vote to pay for the education of it's members?
Can the real property be declared a church where there is no building, and be exempt from tax as such?
It it OK if I am the only person making donations in my congregation?
Can I borrow money from my congregation?
How often does a congregation have to meet?
May the congregations of the Universal Ministries establish their own retirement program?
Are churches exempt from the payment of sales taxes on items used for religious services?
How could I find out about property tax exemption for my congregation?
Do we need a congregation statement of beliefs?
What name should I call my congregation?
How old must one be to be on the congregation's Board of Directors?
Who decides which church officers are to sign checks?
Can a congregation accept contributions of property?
Can the congregation pay directly for any of the Minister's clothing?
Can we move our congregation to another state?
If we need copies of the Certificate of Authority for the church to operate in our state, who do we contact?
What must I do to prove that I have given to the church?
What other than money and property can be donated to the congregation?
Is it necessary for our congregation to keep records of who made donations to it?
I am in the military; can the Board of Directors grant me a housing allowance in addition to that given to me by the military?
How should checks be made out to the congregation?
How should checks be made out to the congregation?
Must I file and incorporate my new congregation?
Since the Minister may wear street clothes, what is considered appropriate for payment by the congregation?
If the congregation gives him a travel allowance, or pays directly for part of the Minister's auto expenses, can he still take this as a personal deduction on his 1040?
Can you list briefly the various ways one can lose a congregation?
Are prisoners allowed to have congregations?
Can my three cell mates holda congregational meeting behind cell bars?
If I die, can my congregation be passed on to my beneficiaries?
Do the Board Members have to be local, or can they be from another state?

INVESTMENTS AND INCOMES

What types of investments and incomes may churches have?
What is "self dealing"?
Can a minister deposit his salary into the congregation account and take it out as cash?
My friend and I both have congregations. If I make a contribution to his congregation, and he contributes to mine, would that be considered "self dealing"?
My congregation operates a service station. Do I have to pay taxes on the income?
Can the congregation buy real estate and other items in it's own name?
Can the congregation own stocks and bonds?


How old does one have to be to be an ordained minister?

Ministers are of all ages, however, in some states you can not officiate at a wedding unless you are at least 18 years old. The legal may vary in different states, so check with your local Marriage Bureau for your state's requirements.

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Are there any restrictions on membership in the Universal Ministries because of race, color, creed or sex?

NONE

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As a Minister, what tax exempt privileges as I allowed?

In most cases none. As a private citizen, all your outside earnings are subject to taxation. Love offerings, Free will donations, spiritual donations and services provided as a minister are gifts and exempt from taxation.Some states do allow an exemption on private property for the clergy when used for church purposes. Property given to the church for a chapel, out reach etc can be exempt as well.Check with you local Assessor.

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What services do I have to perform as an ordained minister?

There are no specific duties required, other than those needed by the congregation. You are authorized to perform all ministerial duties such as: baptisms, marriages, funerals, and to conduct church worship and meetings.

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Can I have a full-time job outside of my ministerial duties?

Of course. And you may earn any amount of wages that you desire; there is no limit as to time or types of employment a minister may have.

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I am a prisoner; can they discriminate against me legally for being a Universal Ministries minister?

NO. Congress passed Title of 1964, 42 U.S.C. discrimination against basis of religion, which prohibits persons in prison to be discriminated against on the basis of religion. However keep in mind that often Prisons will not deliver credentials, books and other items from a church that is not properly packaged or meets their criteria.

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What authority do you use for ordaining ministers into the Universal Ministries?

From the New Testament: St. John states "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that what so ever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

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Do Universal Ministries ministers get discounts on buses?

That is a tricky question. The answer is "not always". There are some companies that allow this, but on the same token (not bus token), there are some that do not. For more information, contact the companies that you are interested in doing business with.

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May a minister be compelled to reveal any communications with members of the congregation?

Yes, you may called upon if such communication involves confession of a crime, or the intent to commit a crime.

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Is the Universal Ministries legal in all 50 states?

YES

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Can the government ever shut down the Universal Ministries?

No. As long as we abide by the laws of the land we are fully protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

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Does a church have to reveal the sum and substance of its religious basis?

No. A church may be established on the basis of Liberty of Religion and permit to each of it's ministers the Liberty of Conscience to which they are naturally entitled. In Everson v. Board of Education, 330 US 203, 91 L. Ed. 711, it was held that: "The establishment of religion, of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force or influence a person to go to or remain away from a church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or nonattendance."

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What sections of U.S. Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code, apply to churches?

Of particular importance are sections 107, 170, 501, 508, 511, 513, 1402, 2055, 2106, 2522, 3121, 3401, 6033, 7605, and 7214. However, it is up to each minister and each congregation to be acquainted with the provisions of the Internal Revenue codes of the federal government and the Revenue and Taxation codes of their own state.

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Is the Universal Ministries liable for excise taxes?

No, as a public foundation (churches are not private foundations), the Universal Ministries is not subject to the excise taxes required by Chapter 42 of the Internal Revenue Code, U.S. Title 26, and most states follow the same policy.

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Should the Universal Ministries file a Form 990T to report unrelated business income?

No. the Universal Ministries complies with 508 and does not seek outside incomes. Ergo 990 is not required in law. Perhaps, depending upon whether a particular congregation had unrelated income, as defined in sections 511 and 513 of the Internal Revenue Code, a congregation may wish to file a report of unrelated business income on Form 990T.

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May the Internal Revenue Service, or any sate agency order my congregation to furnish its books and records for inspection?

Yes, with the proper court order or warrant. They may not as in a corporation demand them without Due Process and a Court Order.

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What happens if the IRS disallows my contribution to the church?

Check with your local congregation and your tax preparer.

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What prohibits the IRS from examining our congregration's records?

Section 7605(c) of the IRS Code prohibits the IRS from examining the books and records of any church.

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Can the IRS see our congregation's bank records?

Yes, but only if the first get a court order (Section 7609(c) of the IRS Code), check with an attorney.

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The IRS has asked me a list of questions about the congregation and it's internal operations. Do I have to answer them?

No. Section 7605(c) of the IRS Code strictly forbids this type of questing, as it reveals a more complete disclosure than any audit could.

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May a congregation have a postal Bulk Rate mailing permit?

Yes, a congregation as a nonprofit organization is entitled to mail at a bulk rate. This is a bulk rate which is available to all nonprofit organizations. Ask your local postmaster about these rates and the permit required. However for most churches bulk rate today is not much of a savings.

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Can the congregation send fund-raising materials through the mail?

Yes, providing it does not break Postal Laws (ie) Chain letters which request money, bonds, books, or other items of value, and promise a substatial return to the remitter, are regarded as non-mailable under Postal Lottery and Fraud Laws, Title 18, U.S. Code, Sectoins 1302 and 1341.

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Can I use my apartment as my church?

Most states allow you to use just about anything as a meeting place. However, there are a few exceptions. so we suggest you contact the appropiate authority in your state. Too large a meeting may fall under local Zoning regulations.

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What is the minimum number of people required to organize a congregation?

A minimum of three people, a Minister (or Pastor), Secretary and Treasure (who must all be of legal age). to form a church, but a Congregation may start with just one person.

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Is it necessary to keep minutes of Board Meetings?

Yes. Everything done by a church must be done by resolution voted on and passed by the Board of Directors. You need only those things which passed.

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If a congregation no longer functions, and no one wants it, who gets the property?

It should be disposed of before closing or given to another nonprofit organization.

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When issuing receipts does my congregation use the EIN number or our congregation number?

The correct number to us in the BIN number.

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Is a congregation an extension, or branch, of the "Mother Church"?

No. Even though the IRS will try to tell you that you are an extension, this is not true. You are an associated church.

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Can three of one family organize a congregation?

Any three individuals 18 years or older may band together to organize a congregation.

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Can the Minister be on the Board of another congregation?

There are no rules or regulations on the number of boards an individual may serve.

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How often does the Board of Directors meet?

Usually once a month. Under certain circumstances, your Board may vote to meet every other month.

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How many members of the Board must be present to have a legal meeting?

At least two.

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Can I donate to the congregation if I'm the minister and a member of the Board of Directors?

Yes. The law says you may donate. It is no more than a coincidence if you are the minister and member of the Board of Directors of the congregation to which you make a donation.

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Does the Universal Ministries control the money and property I donate to my congregation?

NO. All money and property will be in your congregation's name. Your congregation has no financial obligations to the Universal Ministries.

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What happens to my congregation's assets when I die? Does all the money then go to the Universal Ministries?

Your congregation is operated by a Board of Directors. Upon your death as minister, the remaining Board members simply appoint a new minister and the congregation goes on indefinitely.

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Does our congregation need an employer ID number?

Yes, if you are paying wages and withholding income taxes, or opening a bank account. The form is SS-4 from the IRS.

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Can the congregation pay for my health insurance if I am a member of the Board of Directors?

Yes - if the Board of Directors votes that all of the members should be covered with such insurance. You may vote to have the congregation reimburse the members for all medical, hospital, dental and other health care, including medications, provided such coverage is for all members and intended to insure the uninterrupted work by taking care of the health of the Board members.

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Can the congregation pay for my life insurance if I'm a minister in the congregation?

No - unless the congregation is made beneficiary in the policy and the coverage is voted by the Board of Directors.

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Can the congregation pay utilities of a home used as headquarters?

Yes, the Board of Directors of your congregation may vote to pay all reasonable utilities.

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May I donate real or personal property to the congregation if I am the minister and member of the Board of Directors?

Yes. Real or personal property may be donated. We suggest that you do not donate property to your congregation unless it is a willing gift of which you relinquish all claim.

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Could the board of trustees vote to give me as Minister an allowance (no salary) of $750.00 per month for housing and transportation, and other expenses without my having to report or account how it is spent? It is often best for the Board to simply pay the expenses rather than an allowance as it then remains stricltly church expenses.

Records must be kept of all congregation expenditures.

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Can a congregation start a nursery? If so, does it need a state license?

Yes, a congregation may start a nursery. If the congregation intends to make it's services open to the general public then yes, a license to operate a nursery must be obtained from the state.

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Can the congregation provide me with an automobile if I'm the minister?

Yes, if the automobile is to be used on church business. The congregation can lease a car for the Minister's use (including the car you already own) and vote to pay all expeses relating to the operation of that car, including the gas, oil, repairs, license fees, insurance, etc. Or, the Board of Directors may vote to have the congregation buy a car and maintain it for the use of it's Minister. The Board of Directors may wish to provide other services for it's Minister, such as a house, insurance, medical services, etc., in a similar manner.

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Can the Board vote to pay for the education of it's members?

Yes, the Board can vote to legally sponsor the education of it's members.

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Can the real property be declared a church where there is no building, and be exempt from tax as such?

Your congregation can hold meetings wherever the Board of Directors may decide. However, any property used exclusively for church services, and only that part, may be eligible for tax exemption. Check with your local tax authority.

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It it OK if I am the only person making donations in my congregation?

Yes, but it advisable to have more than one if possible.

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Can I borrow money from my congregation?

Yes, provided that you repay the loan with a reasonable interest. But you should check the IRS code.

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How often does a congregation have to meet?

Generally, churches meet on a weekly basis, however, there is no rule in the law so it may be assumed that the meetings are so spaced as to be reasonable for the religious purpose of the congregation.

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May the congregations of the Universal Ministries establish their own retirement program?

Yes, it is suggested that the Board of Directors of each congregation invest in a good solid retirement program.

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Are churches exempt from the payment of sales taxes on items used for religious services?

Yes. Check with the state for all exemption requirements. Once exempted by your State you may then present your number. Otherwise you pay the taxes.

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How could I find out about property tax exemption for my congregation?

Contact the local county tax assessor for all such information. It varies from county to county because it is local government function, as it should be.

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Do we need a congregation statement of beliefs?

No; but it is advisable.

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What name should I call my congregation?

You are a congregation of the Universal Ministries, but as an independent affiliate so you can have your own local name.

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How old must one be to be on the congregation's Board of Directors?

All members of the board must be of legal age, 18 years or older.

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Who decides which church officers are to sign checks?

The Board at it's meeting to Open a Bank Account makes this decision.

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Can a congregation accept contributions of property?

Yes, but if the value is over $5,000.00 you need a licensed appraiser to set the value. Otherwise, the donor sets the value.

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Can the congregation pay directly for any of the Minister's clothing?

Yes, for any garb being used by the Minister while doing his Sacerdotal duties.

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Can we move our congregation to another state?

YES

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If we need copies of the Certificate of Authority for the church to operate in our state, who do we contact?

Write to the Secretary of State's office and request specific information. There is a basic fee charged for duplication.

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What must I do to prove that I have given to the church?

It is important to keep records; receipts, cancelled checks and other evidence that you have donated to substantiate your claim.

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What other than money and property can be donated to the congregation?

Almost anything; such as jewelry, paintings, antiques and other objects of art. Household goods, used clothing, collections, and books. The list is almost endless. For further information, ask the IRS for Publication concerning the Valuation of Donated Property.

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Is it necessary for our congregation to keep records of who made donations to it?

As a congregation, it is your duty to substantiate the donations made by yourself and members of your ocngregation. If you have made regular reports for your congregation, it is a simple matter to verify the legitimacy of your donations.

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I am in the military; can the Board of Directors grant me a housing allowance in addition to that given to me by the military?

Yes, but since the government already provides you with housing (and, since the Board cannot pay for your housing directly and must make it's bestowal in cash or it's equivalent), such could be considered by the IRS to be taxable income.

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How should checks be made out to the congregation?

All checks should be made out to the name of your congregation and deposited into the congregation's account.

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How should checks be made out to the congregation?

All checks should be made out to the name of your congregation and deposited into the congregation's account.

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Must I file and incorporate my new congregation?

Your congregation can incorporate if it decides its in the best interest of the congregation. You do not have to incorporater a church to be exempt under Title 26 sec. 508

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Since the Minister may wear street clothes, what is considered appropriate for payment by the congregation?

Not all ministers wear clerical garb in the performance of their duties, so street garb is certainly acceptable.

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If the congregation gives him a travel allowance, or pays directly for part of the Minister's auto expenses, can he still take this as a personal deduction on his 1040?

No; the congregation has paid this as a service direct and it can not be deducted on his personal return.

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Can you list briefly the various ways one can lose a congregation?

The willful breaking of any local, state, or federal law.

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Are prisoners allowed to have congregations?

Yes; we have many congregations in institutions throughout the world. But you are subject to the guidelines of the prison.

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Can my three cell mates holda congregational meeting behind cell bars?

Yes; there is no reason why you cannot, but it is best to check with the Warden about the rules of the institution before proceding.

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If I die, can my congregation be passed on to my beneficiaries?

No; the two remaining members of the Board select an individual to replace the one who is gone.

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Do the Board Members have to be local, or can they be from another state?

When at all possible, it is a good policy to have at least two of the members local. This is a majority (quorum) to transact business for the congregation.

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What types of investments and incomes may churches have?

It has been the policy of the Federal Government to actually promote organized religion by granting it almost total tax immunity. All income that accrues to a non-profit church is tax exempt (with the exception of unrelated business income). There are about six different kinds of church income, five of which are totally tax exempt.

1) Donation Income - All money and property donated or willed to a church or otherwise received from it's church members is tax exempt. A church may perform any type of service or engage in any business activity for the benefit of its members without paying taxes on the income.

2) Fund Raising Activity Income - Whenever a church sponsors a fund raising activity and charges admission, the income is tax exempt. All income that is generated by various church members by donating their services in return for contributions to their church is tax exempt.

3) Passive Church Investmet Income - All income earned by a church via its own investments in stock, bonds, rental properties, bank accounts, etc. is tax exempt. A passive investment is any investment that does not require day to day management and supervision by the directors of the church.

4) Capital Gains Income - Any income or profit realized by a church from the sale of church owned assets is tax exempt.

5) Related Business Income - any income that accrues to a church from a business venture that can be justified one the basis that the business is related to the mission of the church is tax exempt. Several examples of related business income can be found throughout the Catholic Church with regard to the radio and television stations that the church owns and operates. Churches are also engaged in publishing as well as the life insurance business. The Lutheran Church maintains a $3 billion insurance fund exclusively for church members.

6) Unrelated Business Income - Church can own and operate any kind of business. If the IRS can prove in court that the income from a particular business venture is not related to the overall mission of the church, then it can force the church to pay taxes on the inceome. The most famous and recent example of this is when the IRS finally forced the Christian Brothers Winery to pay income taxes on the revenue they received from the production and sale of liquor related products.

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What is "self dealing"?

"Self dealing" includes borrowing or loaning money, buying or selling property, and any other activity in which a profit may be made for the Trustees or members of the Board of Directors - except that anyone may receive compensation reasonably related to services actually performed.

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Can a minister deposit his salary into the congregation account and take it out as cash?

No, this is "self dealing".

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My friend and I both have congregations. If I make a contribution to his congregation, and he contributes to mine, would that be considered "self dealing"?

No.

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My congregation operates a service station. Do I have to pay taxes on the income?

Yes. This is "unrelated business income" - it has nothing to do with religious purposes of a church even though the congregation operates the station. All unrelated income is taxable.

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Can the congregation buy real estate and other items in it's own name?

Yes, the church may own a non-related business; see IRS Publication 598, "Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations".

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Can the congregation own stocks and bonds?

Yes, the congregation may own stocks, bonds, and securties as passive investments.

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Minister's Handbook
Member's
Handbook

Textbook for Ministers
Textbook
for Members

Minister training for performing Weddings
The Wedding
Professional

10-hour planned studies for marriage preparation
Pre-marital
Counseling
Funeral Training & Customs Book
Funeral Book
Training & Customs
Funeral Training & Customs Book
Funeral Ceremonies
& Rites

Minister's Handbook
Member's Handbook
Textbook for Ministers
Textbook
for Members
Minister training for performing Weddings
The Wedding
Professional
10-hour planned studies for marriage preparation
Pre-marital
Counseling
Funeral Training & Customs Book
Funeral Training & Customs
Funeral Training & Customs Book
Funeral Ceremonies
& Rites

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