Should a pastor apply for an exemption from Social Security (Form 4361)?

I have never recommended a minister in our fundamental circles to apply for exemption from Self-Employment Tax (Form 4361). The election to apply for exemption is very clearly not to be a financial decision. A minister must be “conscientiously opposed to… any public insurance that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement; or that makes payments toward the cost of…medical care.” In addition, this conscientious objection must be because of his religious principles. Any minister who files Form 4361 must notify his church that, because of his religious principles, he is opposed to public insurance. I see no scriptural support for opposition to public insurance, and therefore, I do not believe a fundamental minister of the gospel can sign such a statement. There is a general misconception about the election, which implies it to be a good financial decision. I would not concur with that notion! The Social Security program is a good one, and the benefits paid upon retirement are usually the only source of income a minister may have available. The important issue financially is self-discipline. Typically, those who have opted out of Social Security have not made adequate provisions for retirement, disability, and Medicare insurance.

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