The following article is directly reprinted from the Internal Revenue Service’s Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations (Publication 1828). You may access the entire publication by clicking here:
“Generally, a minister’s gross income does not include the fair rental value of a home (parsonage) provided, or a housing allowance paid, as part of the minister’s compensation for services performed that are ordinarily the duties of a minister.
A minister who is furnished a parsonage may exclude from income the fair rental value of the parsonage, including utilities. However, the amount excluded cannot be more than the reasonable pay for the minister’s services.
A minister who receives a housing allowance may exclude the allowance from gross income to the extent it is used to pay expenses in providing a home. Generally, those expenses include rent, mortgage payments, utilities, repairs, and other expenses directly relating to providing a home. If a minister owns a home, the amount excluded from the minister’s gross income as a housing allowance is limited to the least of the following: (a) the amount actually used to provide a home, (b) the amount officially designated as a housing allowance, or (c) the fair rental value of the home. The minister’s church or other qualified organization must designate the housing allowance pursuant to official action taken in advance of the payment. If a minister is employed and paid by a local congregation, a designation by a national church agency will not be effective. The local congregation must make the designation. A national church agency may make an effective designation for ministers it directly employs. If none of the minister’s salary has been officially designated as a housing allowance, the full salary must be included in gross income.
The fair rental value of a parsonage or housing allowance is excludable from income only for income tax purposes. These amounts are not excluded in determining the minister’s net earnings from self-employment for SECA tax purposes. Retired ministers who receive either a parsonage or housing allowance are not required to include such amounts for SECA tax purposes.”