Gifts or Contributions to Visiting Foreign Ministers

by Thomas Alexander
(Ocoee, Florida)

I would like to know:

1) Can a church member make a contribution to the church, designating that particular contribution to a visiting foreign minister, and, still, claim tax-deduction? If the member is asking the church that, that contribution be given to a particular minister, how can the church have control over that contribution?

2) What are the requirements or responsibilities on the part of the church, in making such contributions to visiting foreign ministers?

Is the church required to issue a Form-1099, or get copies of the minister's passport and visa? Thanks, and blessings!

Comments for Gifts or Contributions to Visiting Foreign Ministers

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Sep 15, 2014
Designated gifts to the church
by: Lewis in NC

The church's governing body should set up "designations" for members to give tax deductible contributions to, i.e. general fund, building fund, cemetery fund, visiting foreign minister funds, etc., and these should be set up in advance of the giving. If I (as a church member) could set up a fund just by writing a check to a particular cause, then this might be construed as money laundering. . .OR, simply by writing a check, I could be forming the mission of the church on my own; and it wouldn't be right.

If there is a (correctly done) designation for visiting foreign minister and the amount he/she is paid is equal to or more than $600 in one calendar year, then yes get the information necessary and send a 1099 form to that individual for their tax files. You probably could get the information needed for sending a 1099 to them from their passport or visa (full name, social security number, current mailing address), but it would not be absolutely necessary for this information to come from those specific documents.

Hope this helps you think through this issue.

Sep 15, 2014
Visiting Foreign Ministers
by: Vickey

If he is not an American citizen, you would not issue a 1099 and your head is going to spin when you look into all you have to do before a church can issue a check to a foreign minister. More on that in a minute.

Let's address the first part of your question. Contributions designated for an individual is not tax deductible. Lewis was right. It would be good if there were funds set aside in advanced; however, if the church initiates and controls an offering taken up for a specific missionary, the contribution is tax deductible for the donor and should be included in the donor's contribution receipts.

Now for the second and third part of your post. The church's requirements for handling a visiting foreign minister are extensive. There is no way I can go into all of it, so I urge you to research this subject thoroughly. Here is some points to get you started:

1. As Lewis stated, you will need to get a copy of their passport and visa. BECAUSE...if they are visiting the US using a tourist visa, they CANNOT be compensated for speaking at churches. Harsh and unfair...but true! 1099s are for US citizens only...so the $600 threshold does not factor into this situation.

2. If they do have a visa that allows them to work during their visit, they are considered a nonresident alien and a whole set of requirements have to be met. It involves how long they are in the US and involves income and is much too detailed to get into here. Research it and/or get the advice of a knowledgeable tax professional.

3. You have to withhold and send to the IRS...30% of the offering ...unless there is a tax treaty with their home country. See Pub 515, Form 1042S, and Form 8109.

Sep 16, 2014
Gifts or Contributions to Visiting Foreign Ministers
by: Lewis in NC

WOW!! DID I EVER GUESS WRONG on the second part of this question in trying to give a reasonable and timely answer. . . MY APOLOGIES TO ALL! I thought it would be safe to "assume" that since a church is a "tax-exempt organization", then it would be sufficient just to report to IRS and the individual receiving the payment, then it would be between the two parties to sort it out. I HAD NO IDEA that to spread the Gospel abroad would be that complex and lucrative to our government. . THANK YOU Vickey for your clarification in this matter. I will do more research.

I had hesitated in answering these specific questions from the beginning. What I think I have learned here is that "tax-exempt" can have a double meaning and doesn't extend beyond our national borders, and of course, never ASSUME anything. Again, my apologies.

Sep 16, 2014
No Apology Necessary!
by: Vickey

I very much appreciate your timely answers. You are a very valuable resource for this site! I have been swamped setting up accounting systems for churches in my new job for the CPA firm, Wisdom Over Wealth. So I am unable to answer all the questions that are posted on this site.

I thank God for you and others that take the time to help out their fellow Christians and answer their inquiries!

I monitor all comments and posts and will add my 2 cents if needed:)

This subject just happened to be one I had to research lately due to a visiting foreign minister at my own church:)

I was so upset to see how the government has tied the hands of churches in regards to missions. While you research how to handle visiting foreign ministers, look into how hard it is to send money overseas for missions.

With all the new rules and regulations under the new anti-terrorist laws, the government has made it almost impossible for small churches to send money overseas on their own.

Found out that small independent churches would probably be better off giving through a big organizations such as AG Giving as they have the resources to track the daily activities of the nonprofit organizations overseas.

May God richly bless you, Lewis in NC!

Jun 08, 2015
Sending money to a missionary in a foreign country
by: Anonymous

My church have been sending monthly financial support to an individual missionary who is a resident in that foreign country.. is this something that we should have not been doing?

We have also been supporting other individual missionaries who are based in other foreign countries on a monthly basis...is this also not permitted by IRS due to the new anti terrorist law?

Thank you

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