skip navigation
Search Help
Navigation Help

Tax Map Index

Tax Topic Index

Affordable Care Act
Tax Topic Index

Exempt Organization
Tax Topic Index

Tax Topics

About Tax Map Website
Publication 15-A

4. Religious Exemptions and Special Rules for Ministers(p11)

Special rules apply to the treatment of ministers for social security and Medicare tax purposes. An exemption from social security and Medicare taxes is available for ministers and certain other religious workers and members of certain recognized religious sects. For more information on getting an exemption, see Pub. 517.


Ministers are individuals who are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a religious body constituting a church or church denomination. They are given the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions, and administer ordinances and sacraments according to the prescribed tenets and practices of that religious organization.
Ministers are employees if they perform services in the exercise of ministry and are subject to your will and control. The common-law rules discussed in section 1 and section 2 should be applied to determine whether a minister is your employee or is self-employed. Whether the minister is an employee or self-employed, the earnings of a minister aren't subject to federal income, social security, and Medicare tax withholding. However, even if the minister is a common law employee, the earnings as reported on the minister's Form 1040 are subject to self-employment tax and federal income tax. You don't withhold these taxes from wages earned by a minister, but if the minister is your employee, you may agree with the minister to voluntarily withhold tax to cover the minister's liability for self-employment tax and federal income tax. For more information, see Pub. 517.
Form W-2.(p11)
If your minister is an employee, report all taxable compensation as wages in box 1 on Form W-2. Include in this amount expense allowances or reimbursements paid under a nonaccountable plan, discussed in section 5 of Pub. 15. Don't include a parsonage allowance (excludable housing allowance) in this amount. You may report a designated parsonage or rental allowance (housing allowance) and a utilities allowance, or the rental value of housing provided in a separate statement or in box 14 on Form W-2. Don't show on Form W-2, Form 941, or Form 944 any amount as social security or Medicare wages, or any withholding for social security or Medicare taxes. If you withheld federal income tax from the minister under a voluntary agreement, this amount should be shown in box 2 on Form W-2 as federal income tax withheld. For more information on ministers, see Pub. 517.

Exemptions for ministers and others.(p11)

Certain ordained ministers, Christian Science practitioners, and members of religious orders who haven't taken a vow of poverty may apply to exempt their earnings from self-employment tax on religious grounds. The application must be based on conscientious opposition because of personal considerations to public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement, or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care, including social security and Medicare benefits. The exemption applies only to qualified services performed for the religious organization. See Revenue Procedure 91-20, 1991-1 C.B. 524, for guidelines to determine whether an organization is a religious order or whether an individual is a member of a religious order.
To apply for the exemption, the employee should file Form 4361. See Pub. 517 for more information about claiming an exemption from self-employment tax using Form 4361.

Members of recognized religious sects opposed to insurance.(p11)

If you belong to a recognized religious sect or to a division of such sect that is opposed to insurance, you may qualify for an exemption from the self-employment tax. To qualify, you must be conscientiously opposed to accepting the benefits of any public or private insurance that makes payments because of death, disability, old age, or retirement, or makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care (including social security and Medicare benefits). If you buy a retirement annuity from an insurance company, you won't be eligible for this exemption. Religious opposition based on the teachings of the sect is the only legal basis for the exemption. In addition, your religious sect (or division) must have existed since December 31, 1950.
If you’re self-employed and a member of a recognized religious sect opposed to insurance, you can apply for exemption by filing Form 4029 to waive all social security and Medicare benefits.
The social security and Medicare tax exemption available to the self-employed who are members of a recognized religious sect opposed to insurance is also available to their employees who are members of such a sect. This applies to partnerships only if each partner is a member of the sect. This exemption for employees applies only if both the employee and the employer are members of such a sect, and the employer has an exemption. To get the exemption, the employee must file Form 4029.
An employee of a church or church-controlled organization that is exempt from social security and Medicare taxes can also apply for an exemption on Form 4029.