I am a licensed minister. The church will pay me a housing allowance as part of my salary to cover housing expenses. Will this amount be considered income when determining my SSDI benefit? I called the SSI office and they were unsure of if/how this would be calculated. Do you have any advice about this?
Housing allowances are considered as part of a minister's compensation for services, and are thus counted as earned income. Ministers are not considered to be employees, so their compensation is reported for tax purposes as self-employment. Housing allowances should be included when determining a minister's net self-employment earnings (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0301803251). The resulting net earnings are subject to Social Security taxes, and can be used when determining a minister's Social Security retirement or disability benefit rate.
If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI), your ministerial earnings could cause your benefits to stop if you have net earnings of more than $1,170 per month. For more information on working while disabled, refer to this Social Security publication: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf.