Question 306: I am a pastor of a church. Am I considered an employee of the church, or instead am I a self-employed independent contractor?
Answer: Yes, it's one of those, but I don't have nearly enough facts to determine which one.
What you are asking is in no respect different from saying, "I'm a truck driver. Am I an employee or an independent contractor?" ... With any occupation or profession, one must go through a similar analysis, and the answer could come out either way depending on your factual situation.
Telling me your occupation, without additional facts, does not tell me:
- What your compensation arrangements are
- The extent to which the church controls your ministry
- The expectations between you and the church as to what you will perform
- The benefit programs the church provides for you
These and a host of other factors must be carefully examined. That's why I devote 57 pages to the topic of employee status in my book Who's the Employer, now in its 6th edition.
The determination always involves the examination of the entire relationship between the worker and the person or business for whom the worker provides services. Unfortunately, it's not something that can be done in a single Q&A in this column. You probably should seek advice of an attorney who can look at all of your facts and circumstances.
Also, a way to obtain certainty would be to apply for a ruling from the IRS. An attorney could help you prepare an application for such a ruling.