The Rev. Tuesday Jane Rupp’s new job came with an interesting perk: an invitation to live in an 181-year-old house. Like many faith communities, her new employer, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Woodbury, Connecticut, owns a parsonage and offers it to rectors as part of their compensation package.
Housing benefits help ensure clergy members can afford to live close to the churches they serve and reflect the congregation’s partial claim on the space. Pastors are often expected to treat their home like a second office and host scripture study groups or parties.
Because of these expectations, the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t tax ministers’ housing-related compensation, just as it doesn’t tax similar benefits offered to members of the military or foreign service. The current exemption has been in place since 1954, but its days could be numbered if a legal challenge from the Freedom From Religion Foundation succeeds.