Wisconsin Conference UMC Finance News (January 2, 2018)

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January 2, 2018

Happy New Year!

It is the beginning of a new year and a busy season for a lot of us handling church finances. We are in the midst of preparing W-2 forms for employees, contribution statements for donations received, and closing out the books for the previous year. I hope some of the information provided in this month’s newsletter will be helpful to you. Please be sure to visit WisconsinUMC.org/Finance for more information and resources.

Tamara Wims

Year End Tasks

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: In completing this form for clergy, please be sure to reference the Example of Form W-2 for Clergy. This document shows the way to properly include the designated housing allowance, United Methodist Pension Investment Plan (UMPIP) contributions, and other salary reduction items on this IRS form. The deadline for this form is January 31, 2018.
  • Contribution Statements: We must provide a written acknowledgement (letter) that includes the name of the church, the amount of the cash contribution, and a statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization in return for the contribution. These written acknowledgements to donors are typically provided no later than January 31 of the year following the donation.
  • Closing Books: Here are a few tips for closing your books:
    • Perform Bank Reconciliation – If you are not already performing monthly reconciliations, I encourage you to begin now! Bank reconciliations will help you to identify discrepancies in your records and sometimes with the bank.
    • Compare Current Year to Prior Year – Create a report comparing your 2017 financial results to your 2016 financial results and investigate any significant differences. This will help you to identify errors and/or see the major changes in your church financial health that you should report to your finance committee.
  • Statistical Reports: The yearly statistical tables are to be completed by the pastor with the help of church staff with information on membership, worship attendance, and financial results. A memo was sent to the Pastor and Church Treasurer in December along with the December giving reports. The deadline for the 2017 statistical reports is January 31, 2018.
  • Local Church Audit: The United Methodist Book of Discipline assigns the responsibility for the annual audit of financial records to the committee on finance. The committee “shall make provisions for an annual audit of the financial statements of the local church and all its organizations and accounts. The committee shall make a full and complete report to the annual charge conference.” Click here for the Local Church Audit Guide.


  • 2018 IRS Mileage Rates: Beginning January 1, 2018 the standard mileage rate for business travel is 54.5 cents per mile and volunteer travel is 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
  • 2017 Apportionments: The deadline for 2017 apportionments is January 16th. The Conference Finance Office must receive the apportionment by that date and it should clearly indicate that it is for 2017. Click here for the latest report on apportionments paid. We encourage you to sign up with Vanco to pay apportionments online. Contact us for a sign up form if you are interested.
  • 2017 Statistical Reports Due: The Ezra log in information was sent in December to Lead Pastors and Church Treasurers. There will be an Ezra & Church Finance training January 13th at Faith UMC in Neenah. The statistical reports are due January 31, 2018.
  • Bi-Annual Property Tax Exemption Forms Due: In 2018 you will receive a reminder to file the forms with the State of Wisconsin. This is just a heads up in case this is new to you. If the form is not completed by the deadline your church will be assessed a property tax. So it is very important that you complete and submit the forms in a timely manner.

Did You Know?

Renting Vehicle for Church Trips

The question arose about how insurance is handled for renting a car, van, etc. for church trips. It was brought to our attention by Amy at Suamico who called Church Mutual and got this information. Thank you for passing it on so everybody else can know!

If any church member will be driving a rented vehicle while on your trip, you are asked to call Church Mutual Insurance Company (CMIC) as they are the insurance provider that should be contacted in case of an accident, not the driver’s personal insurance. The phone number for CMIC Customer Service is 800-554-2642. A representative will ask a few basic questions about the details of the trip including the dates of the rental and the full name/address of the rental company. An auto rental certificate will be issued for you to use while renting the vehicle.

When calling the rental company, do not list the primary driver’s name as the responsible party. It wouldn’t hurt to tell them it is a business rental as it should be listed as the Church name and the driver(s) are representative(s) of the church. You will still need to present your license for proof of a valid driver. However before signing any rental agreement, make sure that the church is listed as the responsible party and Church Mutual’s insurance information is on file.

Happy and Safe Travels! - Lisa Adler, Conference Finance Office

Beware of E-mail Scams Targeting Churches

Have you received an e-mail requesting a wire transfer? Did the e-mail address appear to be legitimate and that of your pastor? What did you do next?

Recently, one of our United Methodists Churches in Wisconsin experienced a $20,000 loss due to an e-mail scam. The e-mail appeared to be a request from the Pastor to make the wire transfer from the church checking account if the treasurer was available to take care of it. The e-mail read as a friendly request that a Pastor might write, and the e-mail address looked like it was from the Pastor. But the e-mail address was a spoof e-mail. E-mail spoofing is the creation of an e-mail message with a misleading sender address.

Tips on Preventing Scams:

  • Wire Transfer Agreement: Maintain an agreement with your bank that requires two separate persons in the church to authorize any wire transfer or similar disbursement. If one person is unable to identify the request as a scam, maybe another set of eyes will help to prevent the wire transfer from happening.
  • Finance Policy: Establish a finance policy that prohibits making or authorizing distribution of funds based on e-mail or similar instructions alone. You can require that the treasurer verbally speak with the person making the request. Another idea is to establish a finance policy that prohibits the authorization of disbursements without proper and complete supporting documentation, regardless of who makes the request.
  • Use Expense Vouchers: Require the use of an Expense Voucher for any disbursements from your church account. The voucher will request all of the necessary information for making the disbursement including a description of the reason for the expense, the budget information, and the handwritten signature of the person approving. Click here for a sample expense voucher.

Church Finance Trainings

  • Jan 13 - Statistics & Church Finance Training - Faith UMC, 1025 Tullar Rd, Neenah, WI 54956 (9 a.m. – Noon)
  • Feb 10 - Church Finance Training - SE District Meeting, Watertown UMC, 112 Hall St., Watertown, WI (9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
  • Mar 3 - Church Finance Training - Tomah UMC, 1105 Butts Ave., Tomah, WI 54660 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.)
  • Mar 3 - Church Finance Training - Zion UMC, 2106 Peach St., Marshfield, WI 54449 (1:30 – 3:30 p.m.)
  • Mar 10 - Church Finance Training - Dodgeville UMC, 327 N. Iowa St., Dodgeville, WI 53533 (10 a.m. – Noon)
  • Mar 31 - Church Finance Training - Rhinelander UMC, 724 Arbutus St, Rhinelander, WI 54501 (10 a.m. – Noon)

Click here for more details on these trainings.

Finance Office Website

Please visit the Church Finance section of our website for information on Accountable Reimbursements, Internal Controls, Local Tax Requirements, and more. Part of our role is to make sure you have all of the tools you need to properly manage your church’s finances.

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