Why are some churches exempt from paying FICA for their non-ministerial employees?

Few churches qualify to be exempt from paying FICA for their non-ministerial employees. Churches have one chance to exempt themselves from their obligation to pay FICA on behalf of their non-ministerial employees. They may file IRS Form 8274, Certification by Churches and Qualified Church-Controlled Organizations Electing Exemption from Employer Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Churches filing this form must certify that they are opposed for religious reasons to the payment of Social Security taxes, something few churches can do. The deadline for filing Form 8274 relates to the date on which the church must file its first Form 941 on which it reports its employer share of FICA taxes.

When churches file Form 8274, they shift the burden of Social Security taxes to their employees, including non-ministerial employees. That means all their employees must pay SECA taxes as if they were self-employed. Churches that are exempt from paying FICA should be sure that applicants, new hires and current employees understand their obligations to pay SECA taxes.

For more information, view our Ministers Tax Guide

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