Publication 517 - Introductory Material


Future Developments

For the latest information about developments related to Pub. 517, such as legislation enacted after this publication was published, go to www.irs.gov/pub517.

What's New

Health care individual responsibility payment increased. . If you or someone in your household didn’t have qualifying health care coverage or qualify for a coverage exemption for one or more months of 2015, the amount of your shared responsibility payment may be much more this year than it was last year. Like last year, you must either:

  • Indicate on line 61 of Form 1040 that you, your spouse (if filing jointly), and anyone you can or do claim as a dependent had qualifying health care coverage throughout 2015,

  • Attach Form 8965 to claim an exemption from the requirement to have health care coverage, or

  • Make a shared responsibility payment if, for any month in 2015, you, your spouse (if filing jointly), or anyone you can or do claim as a dependent didn’t have coverage and don't qualify for a coverage exemption.

For more information, see the instructions for Form 1040, line 61 and Form 8965.

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. This is a new type of savings account for individuals with disabilities and their families. For 2015, you can contribute up to $14,000. Distributions are tax-free if used to pay the beneficiary's qualified disability expenses. Do not deduct your contributions on your tax return. For details, see Pub. 907 and the instructions for lines 21 and 59 of Form 1040.

Standard mileage rate. The business standard mileage rate for 2015 is 57.5 cents per mile.

Earnings subject to social security. For 2015, the maximum wages and self-employment income subject to social security tax increases from $117,000 to $118,500.

Modified AGI limit for traditional IRA contributions increased. For 2015, you may be able to take an IRA deduction if you were covered by a retirement plan at work and your modified AGI is:

  • Less than $118,000 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er),

  • Less than $71,000 if single or head of household, or

  • Less than $10,000 if married filing separately.

If you file a joint return and either you or your spouse wasn't covered by a retirement plan at work, you may be able to take an IRA deduction if your modified AGI is less than $193,000.

Modified AGI limit for Roth IRA contributions increased. For 2015, you may be able to contribute to your Roth IRA if your modified AGI is:

  • Less than $193,000 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er),

  • Less than $131,000 if single, head of household, or married filing separately and you didn't live with your spouse at any time during the year, or

  • Less than $10,000 if married filing separately and you lived with your spouse at any time during the year.

Earned income credit (EIC). For 2015, the maximum amount of income you can earn and still claim the EIC has increased. You may be able to take the EIC if you earned less than $47,747 ($53,267 for married filing jointly) and you have three or more qualifying children; $44,454 ($49,974 for married filing jointly) and you have two qualifying children; $39,131 ($44,651 for married filing jointly) and you have one qualifying child; and $14,820 ($20,330 for married filing jointly) and you don't have any qualifying children.

Social security information. Social Security beneficiaries may quickly and easily obtain various information from SSA's website with a my Social Security account, including getting a replacement Form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Reminder

Photographs of missing children. The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.

Introduction

Three federal taxes are paid on wages and self-employment income—income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax. Social security and Medicare taxes are collected under one of two systems. Under the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA), the self-employed person pays all the taxes. Under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), the employee and the employer each pay half of the social security and Medicare taxes. No earnings are subject to both systems.

Table 1. Are Your Ministerial Earnings* Covered Under FICA or SECA?

Find the class to which you belong in the left column and read across the table to find if you are covered under FICA or SECA. Don't rely on this table alone. Also read the discussion for the class in the following pages.

Class Covered under FICA? Covered under SECA?
Minister NO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt. YES, if you don't have an approved exemption from the IRS. 
 
NO, if you have an approved exemption.
Member of a religious order who hasn't taken a vow of poverty NO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt. YES, if you don't have an approved exemption from the IRS. 
 
NO, if you have an approved exemption.
Member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty YES, if:
  • Your order elected FICA coverage for its members, or

  • You worked outside the order and the work wasn't required by, or done on behalf of, the order.

 
 
NO, if neither of the above applies.
NO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt.
Christian Science practitioner or reader NO. Your ministerial earnings are exempt. YES, if you don't have an approved exemption from the IRS. 
 
NO, if you have an approved exemption.
Religious worker (church employee) YES, if your employer didn't elect to exclude you.  
 
 
NO, if your employer elected to exclude you.
YES, if your employer elected to exclude you from FICA. 
 
NO, if you are covered under FICA.
Member of a recognized religious sect YES, if you are an employee and don't have an approved exemption from the IRS. 
 
 
NO, if you have an approved exemption.
YES, if you are self-employed and don't have an approved exemption from the IRS. 
 
NO, if you have an approved exemption.
* Ministerial earnings are the self-employment earnings that result from ministerial services, defined and discussed later.

In addition, all wages and self-employment income that are subject to Medicare tax are subject to a 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax if they are paid in excess of the applicable threshold for an individual's filing status. Additional Medicare Tax applies to Medicare wages, railroad retirement (RRTA) compensation, and self-employment income that are more than:

  • $125,000 if married filing separately,

  • $250,000 if married filing jointly, or

  • $200,000 for any other filing status.

Medicare wages and self-employment income are combined to determine if income exceeds the threshold. A self-employment loss isn't considered for purposes of this tax. RRTA compensation is separately compared to the threshold. There is no employer match for Additional Medicare Tax. For more information, see Form 8959, Additional Medicare Tax, and its separate instructions.

This publication contains information for the following classes of taxpayers.

  • Ministers.

  • Members of a religious order.

  • Christian Science practitioners and readers.

  • Religious workers (church employees).

  • Members of a recognized religious sect.

Note.

Unless otherwise noted, in this publication references to members of the clergy include ministers, members of a religious order (but not members of a recognized religious sect), and Christian Science practitioners and readers.

This publication covers the following topics about the collection of social security and Medicare taxes from members of the clergy, religious workers, and members of a recognized religious sect.

  • Which earnings are taxed under FICA and which under SECA. See Table 1 earlier.

  • How a member of the clergy can apply for an exemption from self-employment tax.

  • How a member of a recognized religious sect can apply for an exemption from both self-employment tax and FICA taxes.

  • How a member of the clergy or religious worker figures net earnings from self-employment.

This publication also covers certain income tax rules of interest to ministers and members of a religious order.

A Comprehensive Example shows filled-in forms for a minister who has income taxed under SECA, other income taxed under FICA, and income tax reporting of items specific to a minister.

In the back of Pub. 517 is a set of worksheets that you can use to figure the amount of your taxable ministerial income and allowable deductions. You will find these worksheets right after the Comprehensive Example .

Note.

In this publication, the term “church” is generally used in its generic sense and not in reference to any particular religion.

Comments and suggestions.    We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

  You can send us comments from www.irs.gov/formspubs. Click on “More Information” and then on “Give us feedback.

  Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service 
Tax Forms and Publications 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224

  We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.

  Although we can't respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

Ordering forms and publications.    Visit www.irs.gov/formspubs to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to www.irs.gov/orderforms to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

Tax questions.   If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check IRS.gov and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.

Useful Items - You may want to see:

Publication

  • 54 Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad

  • 525 Taxable and Nontaxable Income

  • 529 Miscellaneous Deductions

  • 535 Business Expenses

  • 590-A Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)

  • 590-B Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)

  • 596 Earned Income Credit (EIC)

Form (and Instructions)

  • SS-8 Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding

  • SS-16 Certificate of Election of Coverage Under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act

  • Schedule C (Form 1040) Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship)

  • Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) Net Profit From Business (Sole Proprietorship)

  • Schedule SE (Form 1040) Self-Employment Tax

  • 1040-ES Estimated Tax for Individuals

  • 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

  • 4029 Application for Exemption From Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Waiver of Benefits

  • 4361 Application for Exemption From Self-Employment Tax for Use by Ministers, Members of Religious Orders and Christian Science Practitioners

  • 8274 Certification by Churches and Qualified Church-Controlled Organizations Electing Exemption From Employer Social Security and Medicare Taxes

  • 8959 Additional Medicare Tax

  • 8962 Premium Tax Credit (PTC)

  • 8965 Health Coverage Exemptions

Ordering publications and forms.   See How To Get Tax Help , near the end of this publication, for information about getting these publications and forms.


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