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Since the conclusion of Sen. Charles Grassley's (R-Iowa) financial investigation of six large televangelism ministries, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has been chosen to lead a commission responding to Grassley's eight remaining questions about ministry finances, including "Should there be specific guidelines controlling pastoral housing allowances?" The current tax code excludes the rental value of a home from pastors' taxable income.

"In the paradoxical Christian spirit that a little sacrifice by some assures a more abundant future for all, reductions could reflect typical mortgage deductions by phasing out the allowance for pastors who make more than the typical American while leaving the allowance for the rest."  

"There should be a needs limit on the housing allowance. Some pastors are near the poverty line, but it's hard to justify the head of the National Cathedral in Washington, who makes big money, to have a housing allowance as well and not be taxed on it."

"Many might see it as a governmental subsidy or incentive of sorts for religion that is not similarly available for secular tax-exempt entities. The housing-related costs of ministers are no more deserving of housing subsidy assistance than the costs of nonprofit executives."

"Since 1921, clergy have depended on this income tax benefit, but Sen. Grassley's staff has raised questions as to whether a limit should be the amount of the housing allowance and whether a minister should be permitted to exclude expenses for more than one home."

"I'm all for saving tax money, but I do see the legal complication of giving tax breaks just to ministers, structured the way it is. A lot of ministers depend on it, and I don't want ...

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Should Congress Change Pastors' Housing Allowances?
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April 2011

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