Clergy taxes are a nightmare. It’s like some folks in the government had a discussion that went like this:
Lawmaker 1: You know what would be funny? To find a group of people who earn very little money and make their taxes nearly impossible to figure out on their own.
Lawmaker 2: Oh, that does sound like a laugh! But who should we choose?
Lawmaker 1: How about pastors?
Lawmaker 2: I love it!
Why is it confusing? I can’t give you the full details because I don’t fully understand them, something about pastors filing taxes under self-employed but technically not being self-employed so everything is a big mess. At any rate, through the advisement of numerous other pastors, we ship our taxes off to an accountant who has experience with clergy taxes (our accountant is a pastor’s wife we met in seminary and is one of the happiest, most helpful people I know).
Despite hiring an accountant, there is still work to be done at home on taxes. One of the big tasks is keeping track of unreimbursed work expenses and housing allowance expenses (because, yes, even though we live in a parsonage, we still have a housing allowance. I told you our taxes were confusing!).
In an ideal world, I would have a system created that makes sorting and tracking these receipts. I even know how I would make it work:
- Create Clergy Tax spreadsheet
- Sort receipts weekly when I do the budget
- Input costs into spreadsheet at the end of every month
- Add up total cost at the end of the year
If I did it this way, total time would take about 10 extra minutes a month.
However, this is what really happens:
- Create Clergy Tax spreadsheet: I actually did this when my husband first started his call. We’re off to a good start!
- Sort receipts when I get around to doing the budget: In a less chaotic time I can actually do this weekly, but sometimes weeks can go by without me looking at the budget. Discipline needs work in this area.
- Shove all unreimbursed/housing allowance receipts into file folder: System is failing.
- Ignore them
- Ignore them
- Ignore them
- Panic because I now have a thick pile of receipts to sort/input and it will take a couple of hours to go through everything: System failed.
Of course, all I can do is look at my failed system and wonder why, why, WHY didn’t I just take the 10 minutes to input the receipts back in January.
*Note: You may be wondering why I’m thinking about taxes in August. I’m currently in full nesting mode and that means I must deal with ALL THE THINGS! You can ask my husband how well that is working with my mental state. But I also remember the first 4 months with Babykins being a sleep-deprived haze and functioning on survival mode. If this is the MO for life with a newborn, then taxes need to be dealt with before Sweet Pea arrives.
My Sunday morning at church usually goes like this: Babykins and I arrive at church and set up our pew. I feel optimistic about whatever new pew strategy I’ve created during the week. Snacks, no snacks, a little toy, no toy, crayons, pencils, books, and so on–I’ve tried all these things. Whatever this week’s plan is makes me feel like I can do this pew-wrangling gig.
Then the next sixty minutes proceed and whatever plan I’ve implemented completely falls apart. Snacks are tossed on the floor, crayons are chucked two pews behind us, hymnals are walked on, and Babykins is yelling because I won’t let her stand by Daddy. By the closing hymn I’ve called it quits and tell myself that I should just expect everything to go wrong in the pew on Sunday.
But time heals many wounds–or at least allows memory to fade–so by next Sunday I have a new plan and a new sense of optimism.
And yes, this coming Sunday will go well, I can just feel it.