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Senior Missionary Couples - Ward Missionary Accounts

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:40 am
by johnshaw
I have been on the phone for the last couple of days with both the Missionary Department and Local Unit Support and have ferreted out some information that will be beneficial for everyone.

A policy statement came out Nov 7, 2011 regarding Senior Missionary Couples and MLS finance, I had several questions about it, and here is what the results of most of them are:

(1) Senior Missionary Couples with less than 6 months left will be able to opt-in to the program but will not be required
(2) Senior Missionary Couples with greater than 6 months left will be enrolled automatically
(3) Senior Missionary Couples starting after Jan 1, 2012 will be enrolled automatically

The Senior Missionary Couples will have the amount of Housing** given them in their original call packet automatically deducted as an expense each month, just like the young Elders and Sisters.

**Housing is defined as (1) Rent, (2) Utilities (3) Furnishings

Example 1
If a Senior Couple were called on a mission and told:
Monthly Rent = $1600
Monthly Util = $300
Monthly Furn = $100

The total deducted from MLS each month will be $1400 (this example shows the cap in place)

Example 2
If a Senior Couple were called on a mission and told:
Monthly Rent = $1000
Monthly Util = $100
Monthly Furn = $50

The total deducted from MLS each month will be $1150

Clerks will need to understand that Senior Couples will have different values (not to exceed $1400) but as the church deducts these as expenses each month (just like the young Elders and Sisters) it should be easy to keep families on top of the amounts.

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:24 pm
by allenjpl
This doesn't sound in line with my understanding of the new policy at all. Nowhere did I see that the Ward Missionary funds would be used to pay $1,400 towards the Senior Missionary's expenses. Rather, the statement is that Senior Missionaries would pay no more than $1,400 in housing, but would still be responsible for all other costs. So in your first example, the first $1,400 is the responsibility of the Senior Missionaries. The mission secures and pays for the housing, and the Senior Missionaries reimburse the mission up to the $1,400 cap. The remaining $600 is absorbed by the mission. In your second example, the mission would pay $1,150 and the Senior Missionaries would reimburse the mission $1,150.

Why in the world would anything be coming out of the Ward Missionary Account of their home ward?

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:32 pm
by aebrown
JohnShaw wrote:The Senior Missionary Couples will have the amount of Housing** given them in their original call packet automatically deducted as an expense each month, just like the young Elders and Sisters.


Well, that is much more than a clarification. Thanks for the heads-up.

The Nov 7 letter simply said that couples "may donate their monthly housing cost to their home ward or branch missionary fund." Although it's a reasonable inference from that statement that housing costs for those couples would then be deducted from the home ward's missionary fund, that statement by no means states or even implies that housing costs for any other missionary couples would be deducted from the home ward's missionary fund.

That sounds like a nightmare. Missionaries who are currently serving will suddenly be required to figure out how to get money to their home ward, even if they are serving on some remote island in Micronesia, because their ward mission fund is going to have that amount deducted sometime in early January. I'd love to get some official confirmation of this new policy (not that I doubt you, JohnShaw, but it seems like such a major change should come through official channels).

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:37 pm
by russellhltn
aebrown wrote:That sounds like a nightmare.


It also strikes me odd from a tax standpoint since all donations to the Ward Missionary fund are tax deductible. So now it appears that a couple's own living expenses are tax deductible. That doesn't seem right.

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:38 pm
by eblood66
allenjpl wrote:Why in the world would anything be coming out of the Ward Missionary Account of their home ward?


My bishop just last week received an official letter indicating that this is indeed correct. The senior missionary's portion of the housing cost will be donated to the ward mission fund. If you have access to the Official Communications Library you can view the letter here: https://lds.org/letters/document/pdf?item=11862&clang=eng

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:12 pm
by jdlessley
If they want to prevent senior couples from going on a mission this will certainly do that. How in the world would a couple serving in a foreign country get the monthly amount to their home ward in any reasonable amount of time?

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 2:24 pm
by johnshaw
The Official Communications Library policy dated Nov 7, 2011 is the reason for the calls I made, I was hoping to gather information for clerks in my stake.

I spoke first to the Missionary Department and was very surprised at their response, as you all have been on this thread. Today I spoke to Local Unit Support and was told that my information was not correct, and when I read out-loud the Nov 7 policy, the woman on the other end started digging and spent 25 minutes gathering data, eventually she confirmed for me what I had heard from the Missionary Department. I wanted a 2nd witness to what I'd heard yesterday, and got it.

This is not the first time that the clerk community has noticed discrepancies between departments....we know this issue well.

The Local Unit Support woman who first answered my call told me that her information was the Clerks were going to need to process the donated funds and cut checks to send to the Missions.... I nearly collapsed.... I realize that we don't have that many, but surely the church, that already has a process for moving monies from local units to missions would create a process similar for this new policy.... anyway.... after many probing questions, she finally had the same questions and asked around......

Hopefully the questions will spark a clarification sent out.

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:52 pm
by jeromer7
The referenced Nov. 7, 2011 letter (itself a clarification of two earlier letters on the subject) states in the 2nd paragraph that "Beginning January 1, 2012, missionary couples called from the following countries may donate their monthly housing cost to their home ward or branch missionary fund..."
The operative word to me is "may", yet information obtained by John Shaw indicates there will be automatic enrollments. That sounds more like "will" than "may."

Mission President Validation

Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:30 am
by johnshaw
A 3rd witness obtained....

Last night our stake held its monthly Missionary Coordination meeting with the Zone Leaders in our Stake and the Missouri Independence Mission President. After the meeting I spoke to the Mission President about his understanding of the new policy. He proceeded to confirm everything in my initial post (except for the current missionary 6 months issue, I forgot to ask about that one). He told me that all the missions in the qualifying list (see the list of countries in the Nov 7, 2011 policy) were told to prepare for this process. In addition he noted that it is possible that a Senior Couple's costs may vary if they are assigned to a different area during their missions... whatever happens there we'll (clerks) know based on what is expended against their Ward Missionary category.

An interesting note, In these qualifying missions the Mission President is the authority whether the $1400 cap to be used, and now has basically veto power over a couple's decision if it will bring their total housing (rent/utilities/furnishings) over $1400. That sounds compulsory to me as well, like it is a requirement to use the program, not just have it available.

As has been mentioned in this thread, tax status is going to be a concern, there will be different rules out there if a couple maintains a residence while on their mission, or if the mission address is their residence, etc... some things that couples will need to be concerned about differently because with this program comes the potential to qualify their housing as tax-deductible.

Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:04 pm
by jdlessley
JohnShaw wrote:As has been mentioned in this thread, tax status is going to be a concern, there will be different rules out there if a couple maintains a residence while on their mission, or if the mission address is their residence, etc... some things that couples will need to be concerned about differently because with this program comes the potential to qualify their housing as tax-deductible.
Until further instruction is received from CHQ we should not make the assumption that there will be a tax favored status. It has not been in the past.

I don't see how Church subsidized housing expenses would change the tax status of the senior missionary's portion of those expenses. Just because the senior missionary's payment is made through MLS does not change the tax status. But if there is a change to that status I am sure those affected would be notified.