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Summary: Self employed church musician question

Self employed church musicians
Summary of responses

Two weeks ago I posted the following message on Choralist:

Dear Choralisters,

I know this is a strange subject to bring up on the Choralist but perhaps some
of you have
had some experience in this matter.

A friend of mine is a choir director at a local church. For tax purposes he
himself as a self-employed, independent contractor with his church which allows
him to
deduct all sorts of expenses (conventions, workshops, etc.) at a more favorable
advantage than having the status of being an employee.

I want to do the same thing and my church says I can't do it. Does anyone out
there in
choral land have experience in this matter? Does anyone else use this method of
reporting? It is only good if you have a lot of expenses because you have to
pay both
parts of social security, but if it is allowed, it could be a great help
(tax-wise) to many

If anyone has experience with this, please e-mail me at my address and I will
post a
summary of responses on the list.

I received 22 responses to this question, some of them extensive.

The bottom line and answer to my original question is no, I cannot do this.
Here's one of
the best explanations:

".... the IRS has been cracking down on self-employment recently and has
produced a list of about 20 items to help folks decide if they're
actually self-employed or not. Few church musicians qualify. If you work
on the church premises, use the church equipment, have your hours set by
the church, receive a regular salary (that doesn't vary according to the
number of hours or projects you do), can't offer your services elsewhere,
etc., you are probably not self-employed."

(My church also came up with this "20 item" list and it appears that most choir
would not qualify.)

A couple of people sent along some other tax ideas....some I will not repeat
because they
don't seem to be legal but the following one seems to be a good idea:

"What I do is have the church pay me slightly less in salary and a
fairly large additional amount for "professional expenses"--music,
dues, conferences, etc. I present the receipts for these items, and
the church reimburses me. Since these are reimbursed business
expenses they are not taxable. The catch is that you get paid
only for the expenses you actually generate, so you have to make sure
that the amount you designate for this is not so large that there
will be much (if anything) left over."

Also, this book was suggested:

"A book I have found helpful (although it is a year out of date) is:
Allen Bernstein, 1994 tax guide for college teachers (Washington, DC:
Academic Information Service, 1993)."

Thanks to all who sent information. Once again you have demonstrated the
generosity of
choral directors (now that should be tax deductible).

John Drotleff

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