Because you’re in ministry, you’re taxes are more complicated. You have a housing allowance, you may or may not have exempted out of social security and for various reasons, every church processes the taxes of their pastors differently (I know from personal example). You have have had taxes down at your last church, but now you’re totally confused.
Most of you only have a couple of tax options:
- Do them yourself.
- Go to the local tax prep office
- Go to a CPA
Let me evaluate your three options.
If you’re doing your taxes yourself, be careful. Sure, it’s cheaper than going somewhere, but it’s possible that you’re leaving hundreds to thousands of dollars on the tabled. Taxes aren’t always complicated, but the whole clergy side of tax prep is different and because such a small percentage of the population are in ministry, you’re not going to find a lot of “do it yourself” guides online. Because the tax code changes frequently, such guides (if they exist) could be off from one year to the next. There are a lot of moving parts.
If your’e going to the local tax prep office, again… be careful. Just because they’re an affiliate of a national brand doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. Again, that shop may do 800 returns a year, but may have only done 3-5 clergy returns, and maybe not by the same people. No guarantee that it was even done right. Many of the staff at these outfits are trained to handle 70-90% of all tax situations, but probably not the ins and outs of clergy tax. You could be better off doing it yourself.
If you’re going to a CPA, you’re more likely to get it done right… but you’re going to pay for it. A CPA usually has far more training in your tax situation and is probably more likely to know how to process your return. Often times, you’ll find a CPA that specializes in clergy returns… which is great. When I first went into ministry, I was introduced to a firm that did most of the staff at my church. They would do my return for about $300.
Oh, but there is always the exception to the rule. All the time, I meet people who “know a guy.” It’s a CPA friend of theirs who knows clergy tax and they offer a really affordable rate. If you can find that person, you’re totally in and you hope they’ll stay in business and honor that special deal for years to come.
I know a guy…
I want to introduce you to one of those exceptions to the rules. Terry and Cathy Conley at TC Tax Service in Valdosta, GA. Yes, that’s my mom and dad… but they’re awesome people. I’ve been in full time ministry for almost 15 years and because of this, my parents have become experts in clergy tax. They stay up to date ever year on IRS code changes and how that affects those of us in ministry. They help with tax planning (so you don’t end up owing at the end of the year or end up getting a massively huge refund that you could have lived off of during the year) and they’ll even take a look at your refund from previous years to make sure they were one right.
The heart of this blog over the years has been to help and support those who minister to kids. My parents consider it part of their ministry to offer their services to ministry friends of mine at $100 for a return. They love being able to invest back into my tribe (they’re big fans of what I do) and if you’re reading this blog, their offer is available to you as well. Just give them a call or send an email and tell them that I sent you!
South GA is closer than you think
Oh, in case your concerned about them being in South Georgia and you being in… wherever you are, you really shouldn’t. We live in the 21st century with mobile banking, paypal payments, electronic background checks and everything else digital. My parents use industry standard encrypted email for sensitive financial informaiton and phone/email access. Trust me, it’s easier than going somewhere to meet face to face. Remember when we had to go to a video store to rent a movie, things are changing and it’s better that way.
So, if you think you might want to get your taxes done by a professional who knows what they’re doing and save a bunch of money compared to what you’ll send with a CPA or leave on the table by trying to do it yourself, you seriously should reach out to the good people at TC Tax. You won’t be sorry, I promise!
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