What Is a
Church Retirement Plan?

A Church Retirement Plan, or 403(b)(9) Plan, is designed for the unique needs of a church or parachurch organization or those with 501(c)(3) church status.

Who is Eligible?

Church Plans are allowed to choose which employees or group of employees will receive employer retirement plan contributions. Further, the church can decide how much each person, or categories of persons, will receive contributions. You can discriminate.

Tax Benefits of a Church Plan

Participation Flexibility—Church Plans are allowed to choose which employees or group of employees will receive employer retirement plan contributions. Further, the church can decide how much each person, or categories of persons, will receive contributions. You can discriminate.

  1. Housing Allowance—Allows participants to take non-taxable, ministerial housing allowance distributions in retirement from their 403(b)(9) plans, a big tax break.

  2. Pre-SECA Tax—All monies contributed by the participant with a ministerial status are made Pre-SECA tax. The code allows missionaries working abroad to qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, which exempts their first $102,000 of earned income from taxes. This is another large tax advantage for those who qualify and are not “opted out” of social security.

As you can see, the flexibility to choose who participates and how much they receive are big distinguishing characteristics of Church Plans. 

Note: A Roth 403(b) retirement plan allows missionaries abroad to contribute to a Roth 403(b) resulting in tax-free growth and distribution. Because of this option, participants can contribute after-tax, meaning they will not have to pay tax on that money when it is time to use it in retirement.


Envoy does not offer legal or tax advice and encourages that you consult with a lawyer and/or professional tax advisor for personalized tax advice.