As a licensed, commissioned, or ordained minister, you may be able to deduct the fair market value of a home, a parsonage (in-kind housing), or a housing allowance. The housing allowance payments must be used in the year received and any allowance that exceeds actual housing expenses counts as income.
The deductible amount is the lowest of:
- The amount actually used to provide or rent a home
- The fair market rental value of the home (including furnishings, utilities, garage, etc.)
- The amount officially designated (in advance of payment) as a rental or housing allowance
- An amount which represents reasonable pay for services.
It is important to know that a clergy person is not allowed the special housing allowance if the church has not previously designated an amount for it in writing. Although the excludable portion of clergy housing isn't subject to federal income tax, you'll still have to pay self-employment taxes on it.