Well, it’s that time of year again — tax season. That means this for those of us who do supply preaching: if we receive $400 total or more for services we provide in a given year, we are obligated to pay self-employment tax on our federal income tax returns, by reporting it on a Schedule C form (this applies to any line of work, including preaching). We may also deduct your mileage, which will offset the final amount of self-employment tax due. This can be done in e-filing programs as well as with the paper forms (but may require a 1040 and not a 1040 EZ).
I have heard of some preachers who get financial gain via what is called a “love offering” and never report it as income; but it is in reality money that is provided as a result of the service the person is giving. (This is different from a church giving a gift, such as a pastor appreciation day gift, etc., that is not a standard part of their way of remunerating an individual for ministry.) Only a minority of churches, in my experience, have given a 1099 form for supply preachers, and that was only when I was there enough to receive a certain amount. Therefore, it would be easy to “fly under the radar” and not report this income – I want to make sure we are being above reproach, and that includes disclosing all the income received from ministry for ministry, including that which you have to keep track of yourself.
If you are actually serving as a pastor in a church, the situation may be a bit more complex. I recommend that you consult this guide by Dr. Paul Bufford, pastor of Abingdon Bible Church, to get started, and follow it to find the necessary information. If you have any questions about this, I would encourage you to talk to a tax professional.