Where is the line between missionary and employee

by Erin

I'm aware of all the rules about being able to accept earmarked funds as tax-deductible for missionaries, but I want to take it a further step back and ask what the definition of a missionary is for tax-purposes.

There are obvious missionaries, like folks living in foreign countries, but could employees of the church working locally be considered missionaries and raise funds for their salaries? If so or if not, why? Are there certain ministry activities that define an IRS-approved missionary?

Because I know you could spin that every church employee is a "missionary." I can't seem to find verbage on where that line is drawn, and I know it's got to be drawn somewhere. Thoughts?

Comments for Where is the line between missionary and employee

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Mar 19, 2015
Missionary or employee??
by: Lewis in NC

Maybe you should call IRS with this question.

Mar 24, 2015
Missionary vs. Employee
by: D Fry

Most "missionaries", whether on foreign field or in their home country, are supported through a tax-exempt charitable mission organization. Their support would come through that agency. Paying directly to an individual would not usually qualify as "missionary support". However, I know several bi-vocational pastors who are paid some by a church, some by a mission organization, and work part-time outside the church as well. All of that income is taxable to them, although how their tax return works is best left to a tax professional.
I also know of school teachers in local Christian schools who have raised funds to make up for what the school could not pay, sometimes through a mission organization and sometimes through personal gifts. There can be gift-tax implications for those giving to such individuals, and it's best to talk to a tax professional about those limits.
Short answer - yes, it is possible to raise funds to supplement. But it has to be done properly.

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