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Christian Living

Finance

Should Pastors Opt-Out of Social Security?

Well . . . I'll give you the short answer first and the long answer second.

Short Answer: Only you can answer that question.

Long Answer: Only you can answer that question because your decision has to be based on your own conscience or Biblical/religious convictions. Let me explain.

In order to opt-out of Social Security, pastors must file Form 4361 (titled, “Application for Exemption From Self-Employment Tax for Use by Ministers, Members of Religious Orders and Christian Science Practitioners”) affirming the following statement:

I certify that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of my religious principles I am opposed to, the acceptance (for services I perform as a minister, member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, or a Christian Science practitioner) of any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care. (Public insurance includes insurance systems established by the Social Security Act.)

I certify that as a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church or a member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, I have informed the ordaining, commissioning, or licensing body of my church or order that I am conscientiously opposed to, or because of religious principles, I am opposed to the acceptance (for services I perform as a minister or as a member of a religious order) of any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care, including the benefits of any insurance system established by the Social Security Act.

I certify that I have never filed Form 2031 to revoke a previous exemption from social security coverage on earnings as a minister, member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, or a Christian Science practitioner.

I request to be exempted from paying self-employment tax on my earnings from services as a minister, member of a religious order not under a vow of poverty, or a Christian Science practitioner, under section 1402(e) of the Internal Revenue Code. I understand that the exemption, if granted, will apply only to these earnings. Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this application and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true and correct.

What this means is that you must have an honest, religiously-based objection to contributing to Social Security or Medicare out of your ministerial income. Financial/political/personal objections do not count and cannot be honestly used. Your objection must be based on either your conscience or on some Biblical principle . . . and, obviously, only you can say whether or not you have this kind of religiously-based objection.

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