One of the ways Lisa and I can afford to survive is because of the clergy housing allowance, and we're not alone. There are many pastors and religious school teachers who use this housing allowance in order to make due with lower salaries and benefits. Initial reports indicate that the current bill does not take aim at the clergy. In fact, it even goes so far as repealing an Act that muzzled ministers from preaching politics. While I'm not worried one way or another about that repeal, I am hoping we can still claim our housing allowance.

For those of you who don't know, the clergy housing allowance gives a minister the ability to be paid for housing, thus decreasing the taxable income. We still have to pay Social Security taxes, but Lisa's income is seen as about half of what she is getting paid, since we claim half to pay for housing. While this tax code rule has been abused by some mega-church pastors (in my opinion), who are able to claim very little income and live in extravagant housing, it's really a necessity to pastors and teachers just trying to get by.

If you're wondering whether or not you'll still have this benefit after all the debate, just make sure it's not specifically in the tax bill. If it's not in the bill, it won't be changed. If it is, I'd recommend every pastor and teacher get on the phone. In fact, every parishoner would need to do the same, since it's recommended that if something like that were to pass, churches should make up the difference. And that's thousands of dollars per rostered worker.

With our church body already experiencing a real shortage in teachers, it would be a huge blow to the profession if the clergy housing allowance disappeared. When I was getting into teaching, the perks were summers off and great benefits. I lost the great benefits by the end of my tenure, and the summers were getting shorter and shorter, so that I was looking for a change. Religious school teachers, who make 20% less than public school teachers (some of which is made up for with tax rules), cannot afford a change in taxes that would result in even less money for basic needs. Keep that in mind any time there's a new tax proposal.

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