Tax Organizer









Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. Q. Do I have to file a tax return?

A.General rule: A tax return must be filed if your gross income is greater than or equal to the sum of the standard deduction and the personal exemption amount for your filing status (this amount changes from year to year and can be found on the IRS website). 
If you are self-employed (this includes clergy) and your net business earnings are greater than or equal to $400 or owe any self-employment tax, you must file.
If you are a dependent, you may or may not have to file, depending on your gross income (the filing requirements change from year to year and can be found on the IRS website).
You may still want to file a tax return in order to get a refund of any tax withheld.

  1. Q. How much do you charge to prepare a tax return?

A. Our fees are based on the forms required and the complexity of the return. Most of our fees range between $150 and $250, with an average of $200. Clients with investments, rental property, partnerships, tuition payments, or home-based businesses will incur higher fees. Please use our organizer to help you know what information to bring or send. We also look for ways to simplify your tax return and keep fees to a minimum.

  1. Q. Does Clifford & Associates, LLC audit or review a church?

A. No. If an audit or review is legally required, you must consult with a CPA. We only provide consulting services. We can provide support and training in a variety of areas, including internal controls, bookkeeping, reporting, QuickBooks®/Quicken®, and payroll. Fees vary depending on the scope, the time needed, and the magnitude of any problems encountered. Contact us for a free quote. 

  1. Q. Does Clifford & Associates, LLC accept new clients?

A. Yes. If you know of friends or family who could benefit from our services, please refer them to us. We gladly accept new clients.

  1. Q. How much do you charge to provide payroll services?

A. Payroll service set-up costs depend on the number of employees and the specific services requested. Bookkeeping, consultation, training, compensation planning, and related services are all billed separately and customized according to each client's needs.

  1. Q. What is my filing status?

A. There are five filing statuses. The following are the general requirements for each (there are exceptions):

    • Single:

Unmarried or fail to meet requirements for any other status

    • Married filing jointly:

Married as of the last day of the tax year OR
Spouse died during the tax year

    • Married filing separately:

Married but not filing with spouse and not abandoned

    • Head of household:

Generally must be unmarried or separated for the last 6 months of the year and not entitled to file as a surviving spouse; must also have provided more than half the cost of maintaining as your home a household that was the main home for a qualifying person. A qualifying person includes the following:

      • A qualifying child who is single
      • A qualifying child who is married AND you can claim as a dependent
      • A qualifying relative who you can claim as a dependent (but not because of a multiple-support agreement)

Contact your tax professional for details.

    • Qualifying Widow(er):

Can file as this status for the two tax years following the death of a spouse if all four of the following are met:

      1. You were entitled to file a joint return with your spouse for the year he or she died. It does not matter whether you actually filed a joint return,
      2. You did not remarry in the two years following the year your spouse died,
      3. You have a child or stepchild (not a foster child) for whom you can claim a dependency exemption, and
      4. You paid more than half the cost of maintaining a household that was the main home for you and that child, for the whole year.
  1. Q. How do I get tax forms?

A. Tax forms can be acquired at most local libraries and online in PDF format from the IRS website.

  1. Q. How do I get another copy of my tax return? I can't find my tax information. What do I do?

A. You have several options if you have lost your copy of your return. Your first option is to contact your tax preparer and request another copy of your return. Your preparer may charge a fee. Your second option is to submit Form 4506 ("Request for Copy of Tax Return") to the IRS. The IRS requires a $57 processing fee for each copy requested. Your third option is to request an account or tax return transcript from the IRS. Transcripts are free and, in most cases, are acceptable substitutes for an exact copy of the return. To request a transcript, you can call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or mail Form 4506-T ("Request for Transcript of Tax Return").

If you can't find your tax reporting statements (W-2, 1099, etc.) and have not yet filed your return, you can either contact the issuer and request another copy or you can call the IRS or file IRS Form 4506-T and request a wage and income transcript.

  1. Q. How do I prepare for my tax appointment?

A. Please go to our Downloads section and use our engagement letter and client tax organizer to help you with this process. Bring all W-2's, 1099's, 1098's, investment statements, income & expense reports for home-based businesses, records of tax payments made (estimated payments), your previous tax year statement, and updated personal information. 

  1. Q. When do I throw away my tax records? How long should I keep tax returns and records?

A. It depends. Generally, the IRS has three years from the due date of your tax return to challenge, audit or change the total tax owed. For the IRS' record retention recommendations, refer to IRS Publication 552 and IRS Publication 583. Generally, all tax related records should be kept for at least four years after the filing deadline. Investment records should be retained until the investment is sold plus four years. Rental property records should be kept for four years after the property is sold. However, if you did not file a tax return there is no statute of limitations! Also, there may be non-tax reasons to hold on to records for a longer period of time than the general record retention rules recommend.
We have worked on some audits that required tax records going back over twelve years due to some obscure regulations and circumstances. Corporations, partnerships, trusts and exempt organizations should keep all records at least seven years. Refer to
PDFWhen do I throw away church records? How long should a church keep records? for more details on church record retention guidelines.

  1. Q. When do I file my tax return? What is the due date?

A. Your tax return and payment of any tax liability are due on April 15. If April 15 falls on a weekend or holiday, the return and payment will be due on the next business day. You can file to extend the due date of your return until October 15. However, even if you file for an extension, any tax you owe is still due April 15. Any unpaid tax will accrue interest and penalties if not paid by this date.

  1. Q. When do I file my tax return if I filed for an extension?

A. If you file for an extension the new deadline for your tax return will automatically be October 15. You cannot get an extension of the due date beyond October 15. Even if you file for an extension, your tax payment is still due April 15. It will accrue interest and penalties if not paid by this date.

  1. Q. What is the IRS approved mileage rate for business mileage?

         IRS Annual Mileage Reimbursement Rates:
         2013 ..... $.565
         2012 ..... $.555
         2011 ..... $.555 (Jul.-Dec.)
         2011 ..... $.51 (Jan.-Jun.)
         2010 ..... $.50
         2009 ..... $.55
         2008 ..... $.585 (Jul.-Dec.)
         2008 ..... $.505 (Jan.-Jun.)
         2007 ..... $.485
         2006 ..... $.445
         2005 ..... $.485 (Sep.-Dec.) 
         2005 ..... $.405 (Jan.-Aug.) 

  1. Q. What is the IRS approved mileage rate for medical/moving mileage?

     IRS Annual Mileage Reimbursement Rates:
         2013 ..... $.24
         2012 ..... $.23
         2011 ..... $.235 (Jul.-Dec.)
         2011 ..... $.19 (Jan.-Jun.)
         2010 ..... $.165
         2009 ..... $.24
         2008 ..... $.27 (Jul.-Dec.)
         2008 ..... $.19 (Jan.-Jun.)
         2007 ..... $.20

  1. Q. What is the IRS approved mileage rate for charitable mileage?

     IRS Annual Mileage Reimbursement Rates:
         2013 ..... $.14
         2012 ..... $.14
         2011 ..... $.14 (Jan.-Dec.)
         2010 ..... $.14
         2009 ..... $.14
         2008 ..... $.14
         2007 ..... $.14

  1. Q. Should I issue W-2's for all employees, or just the main ones? 

A. W-2's are required for all employees. Independent contractors should receive Form 1099's. The person in charge of payroll should get Publication 15, Pub. 15-A, or Pub. 5-B annually. Refer to PDFHandout: "Independent Contractor or Employee?"

  1. Q. How much do you charge  to complete Form W-2's and/or other payroll forms? Can you create W-2's for us? 

A. Our fees vary with the number and complexity of forms required.  We will need detailed payroll information--number of employees; job titles; amounts withheld for federal, state, local, FICA, and Medicare taxes; whether 941's, Workman's Compensation, state, and withholding reports have been filed; clergy withholding, housing allowance/parsonage, car mileage reimbursement plan; etc. Fees depend on which forms need to be filed as well as the quality and accuracy of the payroll reports. Information submitted after January 24 may entail late charges. Please call our office for a free quote.

  1. Q. Do I have to pay taxes on an inheritance?

A. It depends.
If any federal estate tax estate tax is due, the estate is responsible. You do not have to pay tax on an inheritance.
Each state has its own separate limits. You may have to pay state inheritance tax. Check with your state to see if this tax applies to you.
If you inherit an IRA or other retirement fund, you may have to pay income tax on any increase in the value of the account(s). For instance, if your ancestor invested $10,000 in an IRA many years ago and the account is worth $100,000 when you inherit it, you would pay income tax on the $90,000 increase in the account.
If you inherit stocks or mutual funds, you may pay income tax when you sell such items. Your cost basis in the shares is usually the fair value of the shares on the date of death of the person from whom you inherited the shares.
For a detailed analysis of your particular situation, please contact our office.

  1. Q. Is there a ceiling or limit on how much a church can designate as housing allowance?

A. No! Set it generously above the expected expenses for the next year. See Nuts & Bolts of Clergy Tax (available in our Books Section) for more information.

  1. Q. Should the church pay for housing or just reimburse the pastor?

A. Either is acceptable, but it is unusual for any employer to pay such expenses directly. Common practice is to pay the housing allowance with each paycheck in equal installments.

  1. Q. Should the church board approve my housing allowance amount?

A. Whoever has the power to set salary (the elders, the congregation, the denomination, etc.) must also set the housing allowance. The determination should be documented in the church minutes. 

  1. Q. Does the amount of housing allowance need to be announced verbally or in written form at a board meeting?

A. Written form.

  1. Q. Does the amount of housing allowance have to be in the minutes of the board meeting?

A. Yes!

  1. Q. Is housing allowance considered income?

A. Housing may or may not be considered income, depending on the type of tax being considered. Housing allowance spent on qualifying housing expenses is generally not income subject to income tax. However, housing allowance earned as an employee is earned income subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes (self-employment taxes). Housing allowance received in retirement is not earned income for Social Security and Medicare tax purposes.

  1. Q. Is the clergy housing & furnishing allowance always tax-free? 

A. NO! Housing allowances and the fair rental value of parsonages are subject to Social Security tax of 15.3%. Also, any amount not spent on housing is fully taxable. 

  1. Q. Is a minister considered self-employed or an employee?

A. A minister is an employee for federal income tax purposes and self-employed for Social Security tax purposes. (For more information, see Nuts & Bolts of Clergy Tax available in our Books Section.)

  1. Q. How do I prepare a Form W-2 for a minister?

A. A minister is an employee for federal income tax purposes and self-employed for Social Security tax purposes. Box 1 of the W-2 should not include clergy housing allowance. The amount of housing allowance should appear in box 14. For more help, try our sample clergy W-2 form, or refer to our sample Form W-2, included in the Nuts & Bolts of Clergy Tax book in our Books Section.)

  1. Q. What is housing allowance? What are deductible housing expenses?

A. Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code provides that clergy may receive a housing/parsonage allowance. Housing allowance may come in the form of a church-provided parsonage and utilities, a cash allowance, or a combination of both. The portion of the allowance that is spent for housing expenses is not subject to federal income tax. However, the entire allowance is subject to Self-Employment tax.
You must have designated housing allowance in order to deduct housing expenses. All expenses to furnish and maintain the home of a minister are housing expenses. Maid and lawn service, food, and personal care products are not housing expenses. A minister does not pay federal income tax on the portion of pay designated as housing allowance if it is spent on qualified housing expenses. A minister still pays self-employment tax on the full amount of housing allowance. Any unspent allowance will be subject to federal income tax. The following list gives some items that are housing expenses:

    1. Mortgage payment (principal & interest) or rent
    2. Real estate taxes on the primary residence
    3. House/property insurance on the primary residence
    4. Utilities
      • Gas/fuel oil/other heating fuel
      • Electric
      • Water
      • Sewer
      • Trash
      • Local phone only (no long distance calls!), including special computer phone line rental
      • Cable TV, cable modems, internet access, DSL lines, & everything related
      • Satellite dishes & Direct TV
      • Internet service provider charges
    1. Maintenance, repairs, & improvements
    2. Major purchases (furniture, appliances, home computers, VCR/DVD player, trash cans, lawn tractors, etc.)
    3. Minor purchases (light bulbs, cleaning supplies for the home, Christmas decorations)
    4. Outdoor expenses (mower, yard bags, garden tools, etc., but not hired labor)
  1. Q. Can I receive housing allowance in retirement? Is housing allowance taxable in retirement?

A. Yes, you may receive housing allowance in retirement. Housing provided by the church to retired pastors, as long as they are no longer performing any services for the church, is not subject to income tax or self-employment tax, per Internal Revenue Code section 1402(a)(8). The portion of distributions from clergy 403(b) plans and equivalent church pension plans used for qualifying housing expenses may be nontaxable. See also PDFMinisterial Housing Allowance in Retirement.

  1. Q. I have bought/sold my house this year. How do I handle buying/selling my house for tax purposes? What do I need to do?

A. Bring a copy of the HUD-1 or similar closing papers to your tax appointment. There may or may not be tax repercussions. If the profit on the sale was below $250.000 ($500,000 if married and filing a joint return) and there was no home business or depreciation involved, there is generally nothing to report. 

  1. Q. Should I pay city income tax? Must I file a city tax return? 
    A.Those who live inside a city with a tax must file. Those who work within a city’s limits must pay. If your employer does not withhold the correct amount, you must file and pay the difference. If there is no withholding, most cities want estimated payments. For most, wages, business profits and rental income are taxable. Clergy housing is exempt. Ohio’s city taxes are among the most complicated of any state.
  2. Q. What is the IRS amount of the Child Tax Credit? 

A.This is a refundable credit of $1,000 for each qualifying child aged 17 and under. Taxpayers may receive less than the full amount of the credit, depending on their tax situation.

  1. Q. How do I qualify for an education credit?

A. The American Opportunity credit is available for students in the first four calendar years of post-secondary education in a degree or certificate program attending at least half-time. The American Opportunity credit is based on 100% of the first $2,000 of qualified tuition, fees, and course materials expenses, plus 25% of the next $2,000 of expenses paid during the year, for a maximum credit of $2,500. Generally, up to 40% of the credit is refundable.
The Lifetime Learning credit is available to any taxpayer who paid qualfied tuition expenses during the year to an eligible educational institution. The credit is based on 20% of up to $10,000 of expenses for a maximum credit of $2,000. It is nonrefundable.
Often students will receive a Form 1098-T showing the amounts billed and/or paid for education. If your Form 1098-T only shows amounts billed, not amounts paid, be sure to obtain an account transcript showing the amounts paid during the year. Only amounts actually paid may be claimed for the credit.

  1. Q. How do I qualify for the energy credits?

A. The Energy Credit is still available for some taxpayers. Certain insulation, windows, doors, water heaters, furnaces, and other improvements are eligible for a tax credit. Ask your vendor if the item qualifies for the credit. You must receive a certificate and save all your receipts for tax time. There is a lifetime limit on the amount of credit you may claim. Check with your tax preparer to see if you qualify.

  1. Q. What is a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)? Should I take a RMD? 

A. If you are over 70½ and have an IRA, 403B or 401K account, you must make a withdrawal or "required minimum distribution" (RMD) from your account every year. The IRS will assess penalties for failure to take the RMD. Check with your financial planner for details. 

  1. Q. I am over 70½ and have an IRA, 403B or 401K account. What is the “Required Minimum Distribution (RMD)? 

A. In most cases, your financial institution or investment advisor will calculate the amount. Distributions must be made by December 31. Check with your financial advisor for details. 

  1. Q. Should I take funds out of my IRA or other retirement account? 

A. It is possible to take funds out of your account, but you may incur large costs. All withdrawals are subject to income tax. If you are under the age of 59 ½, expect a 10% penalty on top of income taxes. If you are 70½ or older, you may be required to take a distribution out of your account. Plan on total federal taxes of 15-35% plus state income taxes. Check with your financial advisor for details.  

  1. Q. How do I check the status of my state tax refund?

A. Most states have an online tool available that will allow you to check the status of your return. Visit our Tools page for our list of links to state tax resources.


Clifford & Associates, LLC
S.D. Clifford Advisors, LLC
Harvest Pension Group, LLC

4150 Belden Village St. NW
Ste. 601
Canton, OH 44718


Steven Clifford, CFP©, EA
Nancy Eagle
Cathy Pappas

Michael Beels, Registered Investment Advisor Representative

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