Definition of a Church

According to the IRS

Definition of a Church

The definition for a church in the United States can get a bit complicated for tax purposes.

Let me start by saying...the IRS doesn’t actually have an exact church definition.

A former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Jerome Kurtz, stated the following in presenting guidelines for IRS agents in determining if an organization is a church or not:

“Since beliefs and practices are so varied, the IRS cannot define a church, but resorts to a case-by-case approach to determine whether an organization is a church.”

In order for a church to be qualified to receive tax-exempt status for the IRS, they must meet certain conditions.

IRS News Release 1930 listed the following guidelines for its agents in determining whether an organization is indeed a church.

14 Points of Criteria

  • A distinct legal existence.
  • A Recognized creed and form of worship.
  • A definite and distinct ecclesiastical government.
  • A formal code of doctrine and discipline.
  • A distinct religious history.
  • A membership not associated with any other church of denomination.
  • An organization of ordained ministers.
  • Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study.
  • A literature of its own.
  • Established places of worship.
  • Regular congregations.
  • Regular religious services.
  • Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young.
  • Schools for the preparation of its ministers.

**The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics,together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purpose.

If you want to DIY your payroll, I highly recommend you look at using Gusto! It is very user friendly and their support is awesome! Plus they know how to set up and maintain payrolls for churches and nonprofit organizations.

Note: I am a "partner" of Gusto, but as I have told you before ... I never recommend anything that we or our clients have not tried and love =)

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.