From around the globe, people tune in on Fletch’s warm and sound advice. He’s a friend and “church doctor,” bringing an objective perspective, broad knowledge and vast experience. Your question will get a personal reply from Fletch.
Hey Fletch … Anything on your radar regarding 2018 tax law that is calling for non-profit organizations to file a 990-T for tax on parking spaces provided for employees? Our CPA has emphatically advised our board to file this by January 15 … however smoother groups appear to be more ambivalent. What’s the buzz about this?
DRF—The ECFA gives this overview of the problem: In a November 13 letter, ECFA President Dan […]
Hey Fletch … When I first became a pastor, people advised me to opt out of Social Security. I had been in business for over 20 years and they said, “you already paid enough.” From what you talked about in your keynote at the Shepherds 360 Conference, I think I may have broken the law.
DRF—There are of plenty ideas out in the marketplace regarding opting out of Social Security. Dave Ramsey […]
Hey Fletch … This may not be in your wheelhouse but I know you have a lot of experience and knowledge! We are doing Christmas at the Movies this year. When it comes to licensing and copyrights, I’m not too concerned about the Sunday morning elements. We have licensing that would cover us and I believe most would be Fair Use. What about graphics? Although I’ve seen other large churches do this […]
Hey Fletch … We are thinking of offering all staff who work 32 hours a week or more discounts to church retreats and functions for which there is a charge. My question is, does the exclusion outlined in IRS 15b apply? It says: “Employee Discounts—This exclusion applies to a price reduction you give your employee on property or services you offer to customers in the ordinary course of the line of business […]
Hey Fletch … I have a question related to a special donation. A family in our church had a very unexpected death in their family. Another family in the church would like to pay for the funeral cost. They would like to do that by giving to the church, for two reasons. First, the gift could be anonymous. Second, the gift could be tax deductible. Is this type of gift acceptable with […]
Hey Fletch … I was at the Smart Money for Church Salaries workshop in Washington DC. Michael Martin from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability suggested I ask you a question that he and I were discussing. On pastoral compensation, do you have any good resources for helping pastors with a house down payment, especially in high cost of living areas? Or any churches that you know that do this […]
Hey Fletch … When it comes to excess/unreasonable compensation, is this something to monitor on a per employee basis or an overall budget basis? I had someone tell me that the personnel percentage of our overall budget is too high and could be considered unreasonable compensation. Is that true?
DRF—When a church has more than 65% or 75% of their budget going to salaries and benefits, they may be in a poor financial […]
Hey Fletch … At the Smart Money for Church Salaries workshop, you referenced some language you used on the housing allowance form. This allows the amounts to roll over year after year without a new form. Can you share that verbiage with me?
DRF—What you want is an “evergreen feature.” With this, the amount of the housing allowance stays the same until a new allowance is approved. The line that you want […]
Hey Fletch … We are considering outsourcing our financial roles. Any insight on this? Pros / Cons?
DRF—I answered a related question on August 29, 2018 in “Would We Save Money by Outsourcing Cleaning?” The principles are the same for outsourcing financial services as to cleaning services—cost, security and savings. The risk is similar. In the one case you are handing over the keys to your church; in the other, you are […]
Hey Fletch … Our church has a preschool with part-time teachers. We have been treating them as exempt employees, as they are teachers. They don’t get paid for working after hours, home visits or for the Christmas play rehearsals. Are we legal?
DRF—In a word, no. You are not “legal.” Generally preschool teachers are not seen in the same category as credentialed teachers.
The topic has been widely debated and the Department of Labor […]
Hey Fletch … I read the question about receipts being turned in to the church within sixty days of the expense. We also have a staff member who is turning in late receipts. Our Jr. High Pastor turned in receipts that are nine months old, just in time for the fiscal year to end. Should I really add $5,500 of youth ministry trip expenses to his income?
Hey Fletch … I’ve been reading about designated funds and I’m still confused. Do you have a tax expert or attorney who can also comment on the issue?
DRF—We have done several “Hey Fletch” columns on the issue in the last few months. Let me ask attorney Steven Goodspeed to comment on this. He is a shareholder at Middlebrook | Goodspeed and an expert on church law issues.
Hey Fletch … I promised to send you the results of our poll of 18 churches. Here is the file with what we found. What do you glean from the findings?
DRF—Thank you for sending the file and letting me share it with others. The small poll gives good insight into what they contribute toward employee and family medical premiums. Your data from 18 churches found:
Hey Fletch … I am currently a pastor and am up for a new position at another church. I am going to have another interview with the Finance Committee soon and wonder your thoughts on negotiating salary. I also don’t know if you have a formula on figuring out the bring-home pay. I really worry about that because that is what matters to pay the bills. Thanks for your time!
Hey Fletch … A licensed professional marriage counselor who attends our church wants to rent a room so he can see clients in a location that is on the opposite side of town from his office. Is this an acceptable practice for us as church? He would be getting office space for a token room rental charge far below the going rate for office space in our city. Also, thanks for your […]
Hey Fletch … I enjoyed the workshop on Smart Money for Church Salaries. I could see this being a 2-day workshop with all the material that was covered! I enjoyed talking with our table group, but it would have been fun to interact with more of the large group.
DRF—I’m so glad that the workshop was a great experience for you. We only have three workshops remaining, Orlando, Atlanta and Honolulu. The […]
Hey Fletch … We have had some long tenured staff who are going to retire. With previous people who have retired, we have awarded gifts in varying amounts from $3,000-$5,000 to retirees.
I am trying to determine how other larger churches handle retirement gifts. Our attendance is over 3,000 and we have a budget of $6 million. Do other large churches have a policy concerning retirement gifts? If a financial gift is […]
Hey Fletch … Our church staff can purchase items from their own funds and then be reimbursed. This happens a lot with youth trips and out-of-town ministry. We have a policy that says that all receipts should be turned in within 60 days. Otherwise the reimbursement may be considered as taxable income. I have a staff member who turned in receipts that are 6 months old, then they hit the roof when […]
Hey Fletch … Thanks for your answer to my designated funds question. Let me submit another question. Someone brought an article today with the ideas of “restricted” and “designated” funds. The gist of the article is that restricted should be by resolution of the church and is just as the name implies: restricted for a particular reason, such as an Annie Armstrong offering. Where I am confused is ifthe church […]
Hey Fletch … Our church has been giving annual raises every year for a long, long time. They are 3.5% for every staff person. The thinking is that everyone is doing hard work and deserves the same raise. This doesn’t sit well with me. What do you think?
Fletch—The sentiment in giving 3.5% raises every year is sweet. However, it doesn’t make economic sense or improve the morale of key staff. It assumes […]
Hey Fletch … In prepping for a personnel committee meeting next week, the question arose as to the way we cover health insurance for our employees. We currently pay 100% of the employee’s coverage and 60% of the family premium.This is across the board for everyone. In your dealings with churches, what are you hearing and seeing churches do for their employees with health insurance?
Hey Fletch … Can you educate me about “preferred ministry” rather than “designated” funds which are restricted. We are a church of 165 and struggling to make budget. As a member of the finance team, I can see that people are giving to certain ministries or projects at an average of about $500 per week. However, for most weeks our general fund is below budget by more than $500. Should we stop […]
Hey Fletch … I believe I’m clear on the minister’s housing allowance designation. What about a car allowance? We have a new employee who says ministers can claim a car allowance that’s much like a housing allowance. I’ve not heard of that. Is it something we can leverage for our ministerial employees? Thanks!
DRF—A car allowance is essentially a taxable bonus. No documentation is needed because it is a bonus. There is nothing […]
Hey Fletch … I am looking for some advice on health insurance for my team. We provide a high deductible plan for our employees and have contributed a percentage of the deductible into a HSA on behalf of each employee. We got quotes last week for this coming year’s insurance premiums. They went up 123% from this year and will cost the church $140,000 more than last year. Needless to say we […]
Hey Fletch … I just read the Christianity Today interview with you by Bob Smietana. You and I spoke many years ago. Just wanted to say thank you for being an advocate for church pastors and staff compensation. With the mega-increase in health care benefits, I’ve seen staff salaries stagnate and sadly reduced in many cases the past 10 years. Again, your effort is very much appreciated and needed. Blessings on […]
Hey Fletch … I am involved with trying to get our church’s financial situation back on track and healthy again. Would any of your reports contain information on a church that has about 100 members? Also, would there be a report that suggests how many paid employees there are typically with a church that size. We have four, which is killing us, but little desire to cut any positions. Also, we live […]
Hey Fletch … I am a full time associate pastor and am applying for an apartment that is part of the SMART Housing program, a kind of government assisted, affordable housing program. The city requires verification of income to qualify applicants. I receive a housing allowance from my church that is not categorized as taxable income. Without counting the housing allowance as part of my income, I fall within the income requirements […]
Hey Fletch … We are looking at beginning to allow online giving. We are looking at three different providers: pushpay.com, gyve.io and tithe.ly. We are evaluating each platform and like what we see. Any red flags that you’ve heard about on these three?
DRF—There are plenty of providers for processing online donations. You have picked three substantial ones. Of those three, Pushpay got started first. I know many people who […]
DRF—I checked with two of our sponsors to see if they could offer this for the workshop. Certainly by content, the workshops could meet the requirements for continuing education. There is solid research and an amazing crew of speakers will be joining me (Dan Busby, President of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, William […]
Hey Fletch … Have you heard about this scam? According to police in Troy, Michigan, a church received a $4,500 donation for hurricane victims. Later that day, police say the donor contacted the church saying he made a mistake and meant to donate $45. The church refunded the check for $4,500. Days later, the church found out the donation check was fake.
This guy attempted to do the same thing to us yesterday. […]
Hey Fletch … We charge outside groups to use our facility. Some are concerned at our church that we should be paying tax on this income. They want us to not host any outside group for this reason. Thoughts?
DRF—There are certain situations where churches have to pay what is called Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT). As for UBIT, here is what the IRS says:
Hey Fletch … I’m new to working in a church and think that our business office got my taxes wrong. They said that federal law requires the church, as the employer, to take out withholding and Social Security taxes. Is this right?
DRF—Congratulations on your first ministry position! That is so exciting. What a great time of life.
As to your business office, how do I say in a nice way, “they totally got […]
Hey Fletch … For a pastor that has been licensed by the Board of Elders, my assumption is that the church should not withhold any Social Security or Medicare tax, right?
DRF—This question is one of the reasons that I wrote Smart Money for Church Salaries. This book and the 12 regional workshops in the fall of 2018 get to the heart of this and other similar questions. Issues of pastoral compensation […]
Hey Fletch … Our church has $2 million in umbrella insurance. Does that cover sexual abuse as well?
DRF—When I get a question on insurance issues, I always turn to the professionals. Insurance can be a highly technical area—and I always need a refresher course. Yesterday we heard from noted attorney, Gregory Love. Today, let’s hear from Charlie Cutler, a respected a insurance agent in southern California. Charlie is the prototype of a […]
Hey Fletch … Our church has $2 million in umbrella insurance. Does that cover sexual abuse as well?
DRF—When I get a question on insurance issues, I always turn to the professionals. Insurance can be a highly technical area—and I always need a refresher course. Today let’s hear from noted attorney, Gregory Love. Tomorrow we will hear from an insurance agent.
As a sexual abuse attorney, I prefer doing prevention work—preparation to prevent […]
Hey Doc … You answered my question regarding the average percentage of General Fund that is allocated towards Creative Arts. Are there rough percentages of General Fund expenses for Youth, Children’s Ministry and Adult Discipleship which would include Life/Small Groups? Thanks for your time, brother …
DRF—Have a look at this. It should give you that data! These are just averages, so you numbers may vary.
Hey Fletch … In all of the church connections you have, do you know of other churches that are attempting to give away large percentages (50%+) of what they receive annually? If you do, would it be possible for you to connect me with them? I’d love to talk with my counterparts in those churches.
DRF—I wish that I had a list a mile long of churches that gave away 50% to local ministries. […]
Hey Fletch … On Sunday, Mrs. Gold (that’s really her name) handed me an unmarked envelope with a letter in it. When I got back to my office and opened it, the handwritten note only said, “Use this for church expenses.” There was a $300,000 check. I’ve never seen a check for that much money before. I know that you encourage folks to not assume motives, so can you help me understand […]
Hey Fletch … Would you mind sharing an example of a Weekly Financial Reporting spreadsheet?I’d love to see it and incorporate it.
DRF— A weekly financial reporting spreadsheet should contain a church’s actual income and the budget forecast. The following numbers are from WheatFields Good News Church. This church is the basis of my book, Smart Money for Church Salaries and the upcoming 12 regional workshops on the topic.This is […]
Hey Fletch … Thanks again for such a great XP-Seminar. It is truly run with excellence and is so helpful to me. Here’s a quick question for you or whoever you may refer me. The question is regarding full-time employees who are eligible, but do not need or engage in the medical benefits offered by our church. What is your opinion and how do most churches handle this situation regarding additional […]
Hey Fletch … I’m an XP and we just raised $10 million for a new building. Now what?
DRF—The simplicity of the question has profound implications. It reminds me of the movie “The Candidate.” Though Bill McKay (played by Robert Redford) has no hope of winning a Senate race, he succeeds. A final shot is McKay getting into a car and saying, “What do we do now?” McKay had a plan on running […]
Hey Fletch … What is your position on the XP knowing the financial giving of a) the entire congregation, b) volunteers and key leaders, c) staff & elders and d) none at all.
DRF—Whew, those are tough questions! The answers are based on the culture of each church. The congregations where I have served took the position that pastors should have no knowledge of any person’s giving or giving pattern. They based that […]
Hey Fletch … Thank you for putting together another successful XP-Seminar. I enjoyed it once again and look forward to it each year! I was wondering if you had any insights in the area of accounting software. We currently use Quickbooks Desktop and are in the process of evaluating Quickbooks Online for our church’s accounting software. I was wondering if you knew of any solutions that other XPs are using or […]
Hey Fletch … Where should I email the compensation survey questionnaire I filled out for you?
DRF—XPastor has a Compensation Guide available for $49. You can get a $15 discount if you submit information using the provided spreadsheet. The XPastor survey is smaller than other online compensation data guides. But it gives, in table format, all the key positions in a church, like this:
Hey Fletch … I have been a fan of your work and website for several years. I have a question and would love your insight. As a board member, let me say that our church has a history of taking special offerings whenever there is a disaster. Our congregation loves to give to emergency causes (wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, famine) and tends to give generously. However, our general fund often drops significantly during […]
Hey Fletch … Our church is barely keeping the payroll and bills paid and we enter the budget process in June. Our elders keep casting a vision that requires 10% or more of deficit budgeting. Historical data says we will not receive from donors the needed amount. They say we should budget by “faith.”As a member of the finance team, I have a problem with continually asking the members to […]
Hey Fletch … I doubt you remember me but I was part of a group in 2011. I am currently an XP of Operations. I serve under two Co-Lead Pastors…two young guys who are great! I wanted to ask if you have any metrics/information on the percentage of an overall church budget that goes towards the entire Worship, Arts, Marketing, Media department? We are a church of 1000+ with an annual budget […]
Hey Fletch … Our school is owned by our church. They are the umbrella. All online donations are being completed through the church. For example, if I want to donate to our school, I press the ‘donate now’ button on our website but get redirected to the church website in order to donate. How can I get around this? Folks who wish to donate to our school get confused when they get […]
Hey Fletch … A pastor here at the church allows his assistant to work overtime and then they don’t put it on the assistant’s timecard. I have warned both of them but what more can I do?
DRF—How do you spell ‘hot water’? Let me get startedby saying that Churches can be exempt from the enterprise coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, there are some finely tuned rules that invoke […]
Hey Fletch … Someone who is a supposed tax expert emailed me the following letter in response to a question: “If you buy everything you need or want in the name of the church, everything is deductible. As an employee of a corporation, you have no “income.” The church corporation receives the church donations and you are in charge of their dispersion. You own nothing but have the use of everything. You […]
Hey Fletch … My question is regarding retirement and employer contributions. We’ve had a one size fits all approach but now our staff has grown in numbers and levels of responsibility and we need to revisit it asap. I’m wanting to know how others categorize which staff gets what for retirement.
DRF—That question may be out of my pay grade (pun intended). Let me copy Dixie Beard at GuideStone on this as she […]
Hey Fletch … There was a column on January 14, 2018 that all of a church’s W2s vanished. Some insurance policies have coverage for this and the church may have a legal obligation to monitor the credit of those employees that had their personal information stolen. In California, if it was stolen electronically, cyber hack or a lost computer, there is a protocol for how this needs to be handled. If it is paper […]
Hey Fletch … I just began as the pastor of a rural midwestern church with 150 in worship. We do not have a tax exempt status. We pay tax on what we purchase, but we haven’t paid tax on our income. Maybe that’s not related to being 501(c)3, but I don’t know. I’ve not had to look into this before. Many thanks.
DRF—Congratulations on your new role. That is exciting! Don’t get to […]
Hey Fletch … A guy just told me that he has a lifetime salary from his church. What are your thoughts about that kind of retirement plan?
DRF—In a GuideStone presentation at the XP-Seminar, one year we learned about Rabbi Trusts. They are valid unless the church goes bankrupt. I never thought that I would hear about it again. According to news reports, the Rev. Robert Schuller learned a hard lesson when the […]
Hey Fletch … I’m working my way through the Finance 1 course on XPastor. There was a spreadsheet in class 5 on “offerings received” with an accompanying analysis of current week versus the income budget. More broadly, I’m looking for resources to help our finance reporting so anything you may be able to share with me would be greatly appreciated!
DRF—My favorite reporting mechanism is a 52 row spreadsheet, one line for each […]
Hey Fletch … Someone suggested that we record some songs during our worship service and create a CD from them. Any thoughts on this?
DRF—Off the top of my head, I can think of three issues. First, you will have to pay royalties if you perform a published song (see a lawyer). If the song was created in-house, you will want to have an IP agreement in place, if you want the composer to […]
Hey Fletch … I’m looking over this PDF that you taught at Dallas Seminary on Church Finance 101. Could you send me the full copy of this topic?
DRF—For several years, I gave that lecture on “Basics of Church Finance.” The 36 slides in the PDF constitute the entire lecture. I enjoyed giving the talk because the audience was so unaware of the issues. They came alive when they learned the upsides […]
Hey David … A shipping firm claimed they left the W-2s for all of our employees at the church’s front door. No signature was required and they left the package at 9:00 pm. Financial data, social security numbers, addresses … all vanished.
DRF—I haven’t heard of that one before! I’m so glad that you looked into identity theft protection for all of those affected. All I can suggest is that you go electronic next […]