Clergy and some lay people are able to allocate up to 30% of stipend and allowances to a special pre-tax account. This account may be used to pay for certain expenses. It may accessed via reimbursement, credit card, or automatically directed to loan or lease payments
What is an RPE Account?
There are several ways in which the various levels of government in this country recognise the value that the community places on the work of the Church and charitable institutions. One of these is through taxation relief for licensed clergy. Whilst there is no guarantee that this particular benefit will continue indefinitely, there seems to be a strong case for accepting the concession gratefully and using it in the ways intended.
Although there is no current legislative restriction on the proportion of the stipend that can be sacrificed in this way, it may be seen to be unfair if religious practitioners contribute little or nothing to the community tax pool. Diocesan Council has agreed upon a maximum of 30% stipend sacrifice. This position has been confirmed by General Synod guidelines and adopted by some other denominations.
A religious practitioner’s package is therefore made up of the taxable component of the stipend (usually 70%, however this may be further reduced by pre-tax voluntary contributions to superannuation), and the non taxable component (usually the stipend sacrifice amount and other allowances). This non taxed amount was previously called the Ministry Account, but has been renamed the Religious Practitioners Exempt (RPE) Account to conform with current taxation language.
Who is eligible for an RPE account?
TR 92/17 Income Tax and Fringe Benefits Tax: “Exemptions for Religious Institutions” of 10 December 1992 rules that benefits will be exempt when paid to a “religious practitioner” of a religious institution, provided they are principally for duties or activities that are pastoral or religious in nature.
Pastoral duties or activities are associated with the spiritual care of the members of the religious organisation, such as:
Communicating religious beliefs
Teaching and counselling adherents and members of the surrounding community
- Providing adherents and members of the surrounding community with spiritual guidance and support
Conducting a seminar of a spiritual nature
- Meeting and visiting adherents, the sick, the poor and persons otherwise in need of emotional and spiritual support.
Religious duties or activities must relate to the practice, study, teaching or propagation of religious beliefs.
Religious Practitioners who may receive exempt fringe benefits will normally be in receipt of remuneration, licensed by the Bishop, and recognised officially by ordination or other official commissioning. This group includes:
Ordained ministers of religion
A student at an institution undertaking a course of instruction in the duties of a minister of religion
- Suitably licensed lay persons acting in the capacity of a minister of religion or in an equivalent position may be treated as a minister while acting in that capacity.
Some examples of people who may not use fringe benefit exempt accounts include:
Administrators of a church or the diocese
- Administrators of a school
Portion payable into an RPE Account
Parishes may pay into an RPE Account:
- A sacrificed portion of the stipend up to a maximum of 30%
- All travelling, housing, book and other work-related allowances or benefits
- Other incidental benefits derived from duties as a religious practitioner, such as wedding and funeral fees, where the fees are collected by the church.
What can I use my RPE Account for?
An RPE Account may be used to pay:
- All ministry-related expenses which would normally be tax deductible, including self education, ministry-related books, study leave expenses, conferences and retreats, removal expenses, clerical clothing, home office expenses, mobile phone, computers, work-related hospitality costs etc.
- Accommodation expenses not paid by the parish or diocese (e.g., private telephone calls, contents insurance, rent)
- Retirement home costs (for one house only)
- Purchase and maintenance costs of the motor vehicle primarily used by the religious practitioner
- Living away from home costs for a student at school or university
- Personal life and private health insurance premiums and additional superannuation payments
- Holiday expenses
- Travel and accommodation costs not provided or reimbursed
- Non-work component of work-related travel costs
- Loan repayments
- School fees and child care costs for dependent children
- Payment may be made directly to a third party or as a reimbursement to the religious practitioner. A tax invoice is required.
- Please note that cash payments from a RPE Account without supporting tax invoices must not be made. Non-compliance with this will incur an income tax liability.
What happens if I leave the Diocese?
If you move to another Diocese, we can transfer your RPE Account balance to your new Diocese. If you retire or leave paid ministry, you must either spend the balance at the time of departure, or the balance will be paid to you and taxed at the marginal rate.