How to handle reimbursement of costs for minister’s wife attending conference

Corey Pfaffe, CPA addresses this question at his blog post, Expenses for Wife Attending Conference with Minster:

Is it allowable for a minister to use funds from his professional expense reimbursement plan to pay for the registration of his wife at a Christian conference?
Can the minister and his wife be classified as a “ministry team” and therefore allow such an expense?

Check out his answer and come back for my comments.

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Back already?  Good.

First thought.  Prof. Pfaffe just keeps writing posts I wish I’d thought of.  You would be blessed to visit his blog regularly.

Second, without a bona-fide ministry reason for the minister’s spouse to go on the trip, you could wind up with that reimbursement being considered taxable income to the pastor.

Third, the church probably won’t think to report that as taxable income.  That makes it unreported income, and thus very likely constituting an automatic excess benefit, therefore exposing the minister to some severe penalties.

Fourth, that expense is probably not something the church intended when they approved a professional development budget line item, thus exposing the minister to some accusations of budgetary shenanigans or ethical violations.

Fifth, nothing in this scenario is a good place for someone to be who is trying to live a life above reproach. 

In summary, maybe not a good idea to go there.

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