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Steve Nestor, Senior IRS Agent (Ret)

"I am not the only IRS employee who’s wondered why churches go to the government and seek permission to be exempted from a tax they didn’t owe to begin with, and to seek a tax deductible status that they’ve always had anyway. Many of us have marveled at how church leaders want to be regulated and controlled by an agency of government that most Americans have prayed would just get out of their lives. Churches are in an amazingly unique position, but they don’t seem to know or appreciate the implications of what it would mean to be free of government control."

                                                                   Steve Nestor, Senior IRS Agent (Ret),

                                                                       from the Forward of In Caesar's Grip, by Peter Kershaw


If it applies to one Church [Christian Science]

Then it has to apply to all Churches

If it only applies to ONE church, then that church becomes the State Church

as in the Protestants in England or the Catholics in Rome.

Christian Science Practitioner

You can include in medical expenses fees you pay to Christian Science practitioners for medical care.

Members of the Clergy

If you are a member of the clergy, you are treated as self-employed for self-employment tax purposes. Your U.S. self-employment tax is based upon net earnings from self-employment figured without regard to the foreign earned income exclusion or the foreign housing exclusion.

You can receive exemption from coverage for your ministerial duties if you conscientiously oppose public insurance due to religious reasons or if you oppose it due to the religious principles of your denomination. You must file Form 4361 to apply for this exemption.

Nontraditional Medical Practitioners

Medical care expenses include payments for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or payments for treatments affecting any structure or function of the body.

Deductible medical expenses may include but aren't limited to the following:

  • Payments of fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nontraditional medical practitioners

26 U.S. Code § 1402 - Definitions

(c) Trade or business The term “trade or business”, when used with reference to self-employment income or net earnings from self-employment, shall have the same meaning as when used in section 162 (relating to trade or business expenses), except that such term shall not include—


(4) the performance of service by a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church in the exercise of his ministry or by a member of a religious order in the exercise of duties required by such order;      [a Special Ministry, Medical Diocese]

(5) the performance of service by an individual in the exercise of his profession as a Christian Science practitioner; or

(6) the performance of service by an individual during the period for which an exemption under subsection (g) is effective with respect to him. The provisions of paragraph (4) or (5) shall not apply to service (other than service performed by a member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty as a member of such order) performed by an individual unless an exemption under subsection (e) is effective with respect to him.

IRS Defined "Churches"

[this is a IRS ordained Church characteristics]

The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes.

The term church is found, but not specifically defined, in the Internal Revenue Code. With the exception of the special rules for church audits, the use of the term church also includes conventions and associations of churches as well as integrated auxiliaries of a church.


Certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches.  These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions. 


They include:

  1. Distinct legal existence

  2. Recognized creed and form of worship

  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government

  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline

  5. Distinct religious history

  6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination

  7. Organization of ordained ministers

  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study

  9. Literature of its own

  10. Established places of worship

  11. Regular congregations

  12. Regular religious services

  13. Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young

  14. Schools for the preparation of its members



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