Some of you recall my blog “Pay Lay Clergy” in which I speculated on the incomes of general authorities primarily based on extraneous sources such as corporate wikis, county property appraisers and other statements made by church leaders. Now I have some direct evidence supporting these claims.
Recently, I had a chance to read the LDS Church's Mission President's Handbook (©2006 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.). The section on finances (Appendix B) is illuminating. I'll quote some of the Handbook under the fair-use clause for educational purposes.
It begins with this statement:
“While you are serving as mission president, the Church reimburses the necessary living expenses for you, your wife, and your dependent children.”
Note the term “necessary” prefixed to “living expenses”.
These “necessary” living expenses include: “food, clothing, household supplies, family activities, dry cleaning, personal long-distance calls to family, and modest gifts (for example, Christmas, birthdays, or anniversary).”
Housing expenses include “rent (if leased), utilities, telephones, and Internet connection”; “gardening and repair or replacement of household items” which includes hiring a gardener if needed for larger lots; “one part-time housekeeper-cook”; “one mission automobile assigned exclusively to the mission president”; and any assigned mission vehicle can be used by the wife or licensed dependents for “shopping, taking children to school, or other needs.”
The following “necessary” costs are also reimbursed (or provided directly in the mission home):
- Medical expenses (dental, eye care and medically necessary orthodontia)
- Support for children serving full-time missions
- One round trip fare for each child under age 26 to visit the parents’ mission
- Elementary and secondary school expenses for tuition, fees, books, and materials
- Undergraduate tuition at an accredited college or university (Tuition is waived at Church-owned schools.)
I was not aware that tuition, paying for the child’s mission, modest Christmas gifts and more were “necessary living expenses”. Also note, mission presidents are requested not to pay tithing on funds (income) reimbursed by the church.
The handbook advises the mission president that “any funds reimbursed to you should be kept strictly confidential and should not be discussed with missionaries, other mission presidents, friends, or family members.”
Mission presidents are warned that they “should not open a local bank account for personal funds received from the Church . . . especially if the account would produce interest (and thus raise income tax questions).” Instead of allowing mission president control over their personal funds, “a joint personal bank account at Church headquarters is established for you and your wife.”
The tax issue raised is addressed more fully in the handbook. The Church avoids tax issues by carefully defining the relationship between themselves and the mission president as a “volunteer religious service” so that “any funds reimbursed to you from the Church are not considered income for tax purposes; they are not reported to the government, and taxes are not withheld with regard to these funds.”
In order to keep quiet the situation, not only are the mission presidents told not to discuss any funds they receive with any member (as quoted above), but also to “not share information on funds you receive from the Church with those who help you with financial or tax matters.” To “never represent in any way that you are paid for your service.” And “do not list any funds you receive from the Church, regardless of where you serve or where you hold citizenship.”
This secrecy listed in a secret handbook that was formerly only accessible to mission president and general authorities raises the question about the church’s lack of financial transparency. First of all, if mission presidents get the benefit of all living expenses (necessary and beyond) paid by the Church, including highly expensive benefits like college tuition and gardeners, what do the Quorum of the 70 receive? What do the 12 apostles earn?
Secondly, the pretense that the mission presidents are unpaid volunteers is akin to saying the CEO’s of corporations aren’t millionaires when paid only a $200,000 salary but are gifted $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 bonuses and stock options. What does the IRS say about such lucrative back-door payments (i.e., “reimbursements”)?
IRS document http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417.html states:
“A minister who receives a housing allowance may exclude the allowance from gross income to the extent it is used to pay expenses in providing a home. Generally, those expenses include rent, mortgage interest, utilities, repairs, and other expenses directly relating to providing a home. The amount excluded cannot be more than the reasonable pay for the minister's services.”One has to question if gardeners, tuitions, dental plans, dry cleaning, Christmas gifts and more are included in the reasonable pay clause.
Hold on, even though the mission presidents do receive a large allowance, they are told to never claim any pay, so there’s no gross income from which they can exclude these “reasonable” expenses. Tricky tricky.
Tom Phillips, former UK Stake President (and managing editor of Mormonthink who received the second anointing) told me in personal email that he “warned the church that payments to mission presidents should be reported to the UK tax authorities as they were 'employees' under UK tax law.” Tom understood “it was discussed at a First Presidency meeting with the Presiding Bishopric and they decided to continue not reporting, and pay any fines when, and if, they were discovered.”
The disclosures found in the well-guarded Mission Presidents Handbook show that not only are the Pay Lay Missionary policies fraught with intentional concealment, but give near direct evidence that the general authorities and apostles receive generous benefits and reimbursements for most of life’s “necessary” expenses. Likewise, they wouldn't pay tithing on moneys given them by the church. That is, general authorities don't pay tithing (even though they regularly preach paying it to members.) Perhaps these are justifiable on some level. If so, why wouldn’t the church acknowledge them and do more than barely meet the legal requirement rather than the acclaimed “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”?
It depends on what "is" is and what "pay" you pay, I suppose. Slick DC bureaucrats would be proud of Mormon leaders.
The LDS church claims to follow Christ when one of his primary missions was to take care of the poor. However, with ordinary missionaries having to be frugal, missionary couples having to pay for everything, members as free janitors cleaning toilets and them paying tithing when they can't afford their own mortgages, the LDS church by paying for GA's kids private schools, GA's gardeners and GA's up-scale homes has shown its priority to have the poorest members take care of the richest leaders.