The Wall Street Journal this week reported on a recent U.S. tax court ruling that says the tax rules allowing ministers to buy and maintain their "parsonage" tax free - get this - it applies to MULTIPLE homes!
Yes, the tax provision put into place decades ago to help men-of-the-cloth earning meager incomes to be able afford housing, can now be abused by wealthy clergy to purchase and maintain multiple homes - all tax-free.
Furthermore, there is no monetary limit to the tax-free dollars. The fair market rental value of the property including maintenance, furnishings and utilities can be exempted - this could be a small apartment, or could be a multi-million dollar mansion.
And as the Wall Street Journal reports, it can be applied to multiple clergy homes. And to make it worse, clergy can receive a double benefit, as they still can deduct mortgage interest paid if they itemize their deductions. Pastor William Thornton has an excellent article on his blog this week in which he rightly points out that the disgust over this benefit is not over typical pastors who save a few thousand dollars in taxes each year. Rather it is the wealthy ministers who use the loophole to avoid paying taxes on multiple tens of thousands of dollars of income used to buy lavish homes, sometimes second homes, that puts this clergy tax benefit at risk of repeal.
Most Christians would not object to a pastor and his family enjoying such a benefit if they are earning a meager, or even reasonable salary from their small church. But all Christians should be appalled that this benefit applies to the extremely wealthy mega church pastors, especially those who misuses the bible and beat their sheep to convince them that God requires 10% of their income be given to the church.
Not surprisingly, most mega church members are clueless as to the lavish lifestyle their beloved pastors live. Last year it took Brett Shipp at WFAA to expose Ed Young's "parsonage" valued at over a million dollars, and that he owned a second home, a Miami beach house.
I wonder if Ed Young pays for both of these homes and their upkeep and their utilities with tax-free income?
Not sure if the FBC Jax faithful realize that their own pastor owns two homes now. Mac and Deb Brunson own a home in Jacksonville valued at $900,000 (sitting on property given to him by a church member valued at $307,000), and now according to public records, the Brunson family owns a St. Augustine Beach condo purchased in 2009 for $309,000. Apparently the Brunson's formed a corporation called DDCTW, Inc. which owns the condo in St. Augustine Beach. Deb Brunson and daughter Courtney Chesney are the officers of the corporation, and FBC Jax trustee Jarrett McConnell is the corporation's registered agent.
Given the financial blessings Brunson has, it is pretty laughable to hear Brunson compare himself to Job in his recent sermon series, as some sort of suffering servant of God being attacked by the devil.
I wonder if Mac Brunson pays for both of these homes and their upkeep and their utilities with tax-free income?
In my next article, I will address another aspect of this tax loophole for clergy that spells its doom: how in some Southern Baptist Churches, including FBC Jax, only male vocational ministers get to enjoy the clergy tax benefit, while the female ministers are excluded.