Ministers to Foreign Workers: How to Qualify for a Social Security Exemption

As a member of the clergy you are given the opportunity of exemption from Social Security taxes. Most working citizens are required by law to pay Social Security taxes on their income, however, pastors fall into a few specific groups of people that are exempt. If you are a credentialed minister, opposed to any form of public insurance due to religious beliefs, and are working at a tax-exempt religious organization, you may be exempt from paying Social Security taxes.

There are several groups of people that are eligible for Social Security exemption aside from pastors including foreign workers, students, and other conscientious objectors and the process that it takes to stop Social Security payroll deductions differs among each of these groups. Here is some basic information on how to qualify for exemption for a few of these groups. 

Foreign Workers

For foreign workers that are not planning on immigrating to the U.S., authorization of Social Security exemptions are granted on forms I-94 or Form I-20. These exemptions only apply to nonimmigrant students or academic professionals, employees of foreign governments and crew members of foreign vessels, to name a few.

Clergy

Form 4361 must be filed with the IRS if you are a member of the clergy recognized by a religious organization or a Christian Science practitioner. Employers must be notified if employees, including clergy, plan to file an exemption to end payroll deductions.

Amish Workers

IRS Form 4029 must be filed if you are a member of qualifying religious organizations that are also recognized as potentially exempt from Social Security. Examples of such groups include the “Old Order Amish” community, or other religious organizations formed prior to 1950. There is a complete list of recognized religious communities in the “General Instructions: area at the bottom of Form 4029.

If your employer has still deducted Social Security from your paycheck and you have been approved for Social Security exemption, you may be able to ask for a refund from your employer directly or you can also file IRS Form 843 to claim a refund based on improper deductions.

Also forms 4361 and 4029 cannot be filled out if you are merely personally opposed to paying Social Security taxes. Instead, you must be able to prove that you belong to one of the qualifying groups above and/or that you are opposed to any form of public insurance due to religious beliefs.

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Sarah Wozniak

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