Who is directly responsible for the financial and legal obligations of the church? Is it a joint responsibility or individual responsibility?
This is a multi-faceted question. First of all, it depends on the various aspects of the church operation to determine who is responsible. Remember, the Board of Directors (which normally always includes the pastor) becomes ultimately responsible for all areas of concern. There is that cliché that says, ‘the buck stops here,’ so the top of the organization is where the final responsibility lies, and usually this is the pastor who is the chairman of the board and president of the corporation.
Other officers also are to be held responsible depending on the job description and the statements in the church’s bylaws. For this reason, the bylaws should be reviewed at least every three years and kept current.
When it comes to the areas of payroll and payroll taxes, the responsibility lies in the hands of the person who handles the payroll, usually a secretary or payroll clerk. This is the person that the IRS will consider as the responsible party.
It is the board’s responsibility to approve and maintain the various policies and resolutions necessary to ensure compliance and safety of all church organization.
Legal responsibility is usually determined by the state laws for non-profit organizations. This can vary from state to state but usually is similar in each state. Consulting your attorney in this area is important.