We are blessed in the NC Conference in countless ways – one of our blessings is our ability to enable ministry to happen by helping to fund travel costs for our clergy and laity serving churches in our conference. It is a gift that we are as able as we are to provide support for ministry in this way. Those who have to travel as part of their ministries (through visitations, travel to meetings, etc.), are more free to go as needed and called when so much concern for the simple logistics of that visitation (like where will I find the money for gas?) is not in the forefront of their minds. How fortunate we are to be able to assist in ministry in this way!
As ones who are given this luxury of reimbursed travel costs, our call to be accountable to those who have entrusted us with this funding is high. We are governed by certain restrictions on required documentation from the Internal Revenue Service in order for reimbursements not to be counted as taxable income – but we are also called to a higher standard than that! We are called to be accountable to God’s church for our use of this gift!
We recommend all travel be paid through a vouchered system – which means documentation is kept and reimbursement is made with evidence of the business purpose of the travel. The days of providing a set amount of money per month with no reporting back of the use of that money should be long gone. Our church members and donors deserve better! We have developed some general guidelines to assist in how to be more accountable and more transparent in travel record-keeping and there is information on Accountable Reimbursement Plans on our Training Materials page. The transparency of travel can seem to be a sensitive matter in churches so it is critical to address it up front and know that it is the responsibility of the church finance committee to make sure travel is documented properly or else to report it as taxable income for the clergy or lay employee of the church. Properly documenting travel costs under an accountable plan can save money on taxes for employees! It is true that keeping a travel log takes more time than just simply receiving a set amount of money per month but the transparency, accountability and confidence that can be found in this effort far out weigh the cost.