From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 08:38:07


                         TAX STATUS CLAIM 
                 by United Methodist News Service 
(Editor's note: This story about a Methodist pastor's dispute with the 
Internal Revenue Service is reprinted here because tax experts say the 
issues involved will eventually affect all denominations -- Jerry L. Van 
BATH COUNTY, Va.--A three-judge panel heard arguments July 11 on the appeal 
of a September 1994 U.S. tax court ruling against a United Methodist 
pastor's claim of "self-employed" tax status. 
     Randy Worth, attorney for the Rev. Michael D. Weber of Stonewall, 
N.C., declared, "Our position is that Weber is an independent contractor, 
     Kenneth Green, an appellate attorney for the Internal Revenue Service 
stated the government's claim that Weber "is an employee of the United 
Methodist Church because the church has the right to control his day-to-day 
     Early in the proceedings the judges began firing questions at Worth. 
"Does the church agree with appellant Weber's position?"  "How is the 
United Methodist Church structured: isn't the church hierarchical with 
bishops at the top?"  "Doesn't the bishop have the right to fire pastors 
and doesn't the annual conference guarantee a certain minimum salary/" "How 
is Social Security handled?" 
     Judge Kenneth K. Hall of Charleston, W.V., compared the structure of 
the United Methodist Church with that of the federal government, relating 
the appellate judge's position as an employee of the United States, having 
great freedom to decide cases, but bound by the United States constitution, 
federal statutes and Supreme Court rulings. 
     Both attorneys spent their time answering the judges' questions. 
Neither attorney delivered his prepared statement. 
     After the hearing Worth said, "The judges were even handed in their 
questioning, and this was an exciting, unique experience." 
     Sam Witwer Jr., outside attorney for the United Methodist Church's 
General Council on Finance and Administration, commented, "We hope the 
court will see the importance of this issue, particularly as it pertains to 
United Methodist polity and the independence of United Methodist pastors." 
     Worth said it is impossible to predict how the case may be decided 
"based on the oral argument." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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