Priests pay taxes too

Priests pay taxes too

Fr. Martin Fox blogs about filling out his income tax forms as the deadline approaches to pay off Uncle Sam for another year. Non-clergy readers may not know how bad priest have it.

For one thing, they do have to pay income tax; they are not exempt as religious clergy. And I don’t know if this is true in all dioceses, but in some priests are treated as employees when that benefits the diocese and as subcontractors when that does. For example, they have to pay all of their Social Security taxes as if they were self-employed. And they don’t get paid all that much to begin with.

Just completed my taxes: federal, state, school tax, city tax. Refunds for school and state taxes don’t cover the bill due to Pharaoh.

You may not realize your priest has to pay taxes on the house the parish gives him to live in. That counts as income, along with all meals provided.

The federal forms are pretty straightforward, although the worksheets for Schedule D (that’s what you get to fill out if you have investments or mutual funds, and you get a form detailing things like “capital gains,” “modified capital gains,” and something called “unrecovered section 1250 distributions” or something like that).


The City of Piqua forms are the worst. Get this: last year, I got my form back, because I made a mistake. Okay—so I got a refund. Great, huh? But the refund was reduced by the amount of the penalty … I read the letter three times—couldn’t figure out what the penalty was for, and why I paid a penalty when I overpaid my taxes …

So this year, I just put a lot of squiggles everywhere, and I’ll wait until they tell me my taxes—the $25 penalty counts as a tax-preparation fee.

The state of Ohio’s tax forms were, in contrast, fairly simple and clear. In fact, the state enables you to file online, and it’s very user-friendly. No surprise, I guess, that the state is really, really good at soaking us with taxes, since we can’t get industry to move here.

Total time? Three and a half hours. Not too shabby.

Fr. Fox provides a real service to the community by detailing on his blog what a parish priest’s life is like in the daily minutiae. Too many folks think they sit around all week writing their homily for Sunday and that’s it. I know the reality is vastly different, having lived in a parish rectory for six years.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli