SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home1130. Ministers, Members of Religious Orders, and Christian Science Practitioners

1130.1 Are ministers self-employed?

Ministers, members of religious orders who have not taken a vow of poverty, and Christian Science practitioners are covered as self-employed for Social Security purposes beginning in 1968, for their services as a minister, member, or practitioner.

1130.2 How are earnings reported?

You should report your income from these services as net earnings from self-employment, even if you perform your services as an employee.

1130.3 Is an exemption available?

Ministers, members, or practitioners who are conscientiously opposed to, or because of religious principles are opposed to, the acceptance of benefits based on their earnings from these services may elect to be exempt from coverage by applying to IRS for an irrevocable exemption. (See §§1131-1132.)

1130.4 Can the exemption ever be revoked?

Under a special provision of the 1977 amendments to the Social Security Act, individuals who had filed for exemption were given an opportunity to revoke the exemption. The revocation had to be filed before the due date of the income tax return for the individual's first taxable year beginning in 1978. Under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, enacted on October 22, 1986, individuals who had filed for exemption were again given an opportunity to revoke the exemption. The revocation had to be filed before the individual became entitled to Social Security benefits and no later than the due date (including any extension) of the Federal income tax return for the individual's first taxable year beginning after the date of enactment. The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 allows members of the clergy who previously opted not to be covered under Social Security a two-year window in which to elect to be covered. The provisions of this law apply to services performed in taxable years beginning January 1, 2000. The application for revocation of the exemption must be filed with the IRS no later than the due date of the Federal Income Tax Return (including extensions) for the applicant's second taxable year beginning after December 31, 1999. Therefore, the application for revocation must be filed by April 15, 2002 or October 15, 2002 (including all available extensions) respectively.

1130.5 What were the rules before 1968?

Before 1968, a minister, member or practitioner was exempt from coverage as self-employed, unless the person chose to be covered by filing a Form 2031 (Waiver Certificate To Elect Social Security Coverage for Use by Ministers, Certain Members of Religious Orders, and Christian Science Practitioners) with the IRS within a specified period. If you chose to be covered, you may not elect to be exempt from coverage for services performed as a minister, member, or practitioner for taxable years ending after 1967.

1130.6 Who is classified as a minister or practitioner?

A minister must be duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a church or church denomination. (See §934.)

A Christian Science practitioner is one who is a member in good standing of the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and who practices healing in accordance with the teachings of Christian Science. Christian Science practitioners are specifically exempted from licensing by State laws. Some Christian Science practitioners also do work as Christian Science teachers and lecturers.

1130.7 Is income from teaching or lecturing treated differently from that received for work as a practitioner?

Income received by practitioners as teachers and lecturers is treated the same as income from their work as practitioners. Christian Science readers have the status of ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministers, and are covered in the same way as ministers.

1130.8 Are members who have taken vows of poverty covered by Social Security?

A member of a religious order who has taken a vow of poverty is not covered as a self-employed individual, but may be covered as an employee of the order if the order elects Social Security coverage for its members. (See §932.)