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Love Offerings – Questions From Church Treasurers and Secretaries

Question: I kind of understand, then I don’t. (Regarding offerings collected for Pastor) Please help.

2 Examples:
(1) Every other week, the church, collects an offering for the Pastor, and then a check is written from the church’s account to the pastor. Would our contributions to this biweekly offering be deductible?

(2) Once a year, we hold a celebration for our Pastor, and we take up offerings, but we give the money directly to him. So these contributions are not deductible because members of the church took up the offering and the money was given directly to him?

Answer: According to the IRS, love offerings must be:

Spontaneous in nature
Given with proper donor’s intent — If the donor gives the gift out of a detached and disinterested generosity, out of affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses, then it is considered a gift, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
If the process of taking up the love offering follows these guidelines, it will be non-taxable to your pastor and non-deductible to your donors. So your weekly offering would probably be taxable to your pastor and deductible to your donors.

The “annual appreciation” offering would probably not be taxable to him and definitely would not be deductible to your donors as it is not processed through the church.

Question: We’ve had a question arise concerning love offerings. I understand the basic rationale for the offering being non-deductible for the giver, but also not being taxable compensation to the recipient, but my question is this: If an individual writes a check payable to the church, but designated as a love offering to the pastor (or other person), the church does not consider it a charitable contribution and merely processes the check through the church’s bank account and then writes a single check for the love gift.

On your website you made the following comment: “Another example of this is when the church takes up a love offering for the pastor. If the love offering is given directly to the pastor and is not processed through the church’s contribution records, then the donors are not going to be able to deduct their donation. The love offering is a non-taxable personal gift to the pastor by the church members.”

So, I am wondering what it actually means to have a love offering “processed through the church’s contribution records?” If the church merely acts as a conduit, has no control over the gift since it is designated to a specific individual, does not treat the gift as a charitable donation (and communicates this to the giver), would the gift still be considered as being “processed through the church’s contribution records?”

Answer: Love offerings get kind of sticky when it comes to taxes. What I meant when I said is “not processed through the church’s contribution records” is that the donation “gift” is not recorded on that individual’s contribution record and would not be included on their annual contribution statement.

It can; however, be processed through the church’s financial records and in fact must be if there are checks made out to the church and a church check is issued.

However, it must be made obvious to your congregation that a love offering for your pastor is a spontaneous and unsolicited gift of love and affection out of a detached and disinterested generosity and that they will not receive a tax deduction for their gift to your pastor.

If you are giving out love offering envelopes, I would state something like that in bold on the envelopes.

One more quick bit of advice…in order for love offerings to be considered as gifts and not taxable to the recipient or deductible to the giver…the recipient (your pastor) must be receiving a salary or salary compensation package from the church.

Question: Concerning love offerings—- are love offerings tax deductible to the contributor and taxable to the Pastor? Is the pastor allowed to take a love offering and receive salary too? We used to take up regular love offerings for our pastor, but then we put him on salary. However, people are still putting envelopes in the offering container with his name on it and marking the envelope as love offering. We’ve discussed taking the amount in the envelope and subtracting that from his salary. Is this proper? Who can legitimately receive a love offering?

Answer: Love offerings are NOT tax deductible to the contributor and NOT taxable to the pastor…if it is handled properly. Yes, a pastor is allowed to receive a salary and receive love offerings and in my humble opinion definitely should receive both. It would not be proper to deduct his love offerings from his salary.

A “non-taxable” love offering according to the IRS is an offering that is not solicited…must be spontaneous in nature…and must be clearly defined as a gift with no service attached. Giving it to the pastor in his hand or even in a proper stated envelope is fine, but always be sure your donors understand that because it is a non-taxable gift to their Pastor…they cannot take a tax deduction for it.

As far as I know there are no restrictions on who can receive a love offering or gift.

In conclusion, love offerings can be a blessing to the recipient, or it can be a nightmare. Make sure you know the IRS’s rules and regulations on love offerings and be sure you are properly handling and in some cases…properly documenting those offerings.

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