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Professional Expenses

The Hole in Your Pastor's Pocket

For many pastor's professional expenses are like a hole in their pocket. Every time they get paid there are always ministry expenses that reduce the amount he can spend on personal bills. And it is often the case that people in the church either don't know about the expenses or assume that those expenses get factored into the pastor's salary.

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In my experience churches often do not even consider the impact of these expenses on pastor salary or simply believe that they can't afford to pay any more than they already are paying in salary.

However, even if your church doesn't have one more dime to spare, there is at least one simple thing you can do to help reduce the impact of ministry expenses on your pastor's salary.

Before we discuss that, however, we need to answer a more basic question.

What Are Professional Expenses?

Ministry expenses for your pastor are very similar to the expenses incurred by business people. Pastor expenses almost certainly include at least the following:

  • Automobile expenses such as fuel, oil, tires, and maintenance. The United States government generally allows a person to either deduct the actual costs incurred during the course of business use, or a certain amount of money per mile driven for business use.
  • When a pastor eats out at a restaurant with someone and pays for that person's meal, the cost of the other person's meal is usually considered a professional expense.
  • When your pastor buys books that help him in his work, they are generally considered a deductible expense.
  • Computers and printers used for church are usually deductible expenses.
  • Office supplies are typically deductible expenses.
  • Conferences, conventions, and pastoral retreats may also be deductible expenditures.
  • Some clothes and dry cleaning might be qualifying expenses.
  • College classes that help him in ministry should also be professional expenses.

As you can see from these examples, a pastor's ministry expenses generally include any money he or she spends on ministry related items or activities.

Churches Can Help With Expenses

No matter what your church's financial condition, you can help your pastor with professional expenses. Consider where your church can help in the following levels of assistance.

  • Complete reimbursement for all ministry related expenses. If he or she spends his own money on anything related to the church and it's work, pay him back.
  • Partial reimbursement for ministry related expenses. Most churches choose to fit their reimbursement policy here. But there are an infinite variety of ways you can go about choosing which expenditures to reimburse, how much to reimburse, and when to reimburse. Probably the easiest way to create a professional expense policy is to start by setting a limit on how much the church is either willing or able to pay back. Then work with your pastor to determine what he feels are the most important expenses.
  • Don't reimburse ministry expenses at all. I don't recommend this option - but it is used by a lot more churches than you might think.

Whether your church reimburses all ministry expenses or none, you can help him reduce his tax burden (at least in the USA). At the beginning of each year church leaders need to work with your pastor to determine how much he or she will spend on church related expenses in the coming year. That amount needs to be approved and written into the leadership meeting minutes. That way your pastor can deduct that amount from his taxable salary. Please consult a reputable tax guide for conditions and more information about professional expenses.

Where Can We Learn More?

I've heard some real horror stories about pastor taxes and professional expenses. Please do everything by the book - and in the USA the best book is the Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers: 2011 Edition

Download the entire pastor salary section of in an ebook format. You can print as many copies as you want. And it will look better than printing each of the 11 pages directly from the web site.
See this page for more information.

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