I am a full-time evangelist and drive from church to church for services. Can an evangelist have a housing allowance and if so, how is this established?
Yes to your question. First of all, however, you need to be sure you have an established residence. For example, if you live in a travel trailer all year and do not pay for any rent, etc. for a home, then the IRS will consider you as an itinerant minister. In this case, you will lose your travel expenses as a deduction.
Be sure to have a place you call home. This should be where you get mail; where you stay when not working; where you pay regular rent or make a house payment. Then you will have a place of residence and would qualify for a housing allowance.
A housing allowance is not deemed to be taxable to income taxes but only to self-employment tax. In order to qualify for a housing allowance, as an evangelist you have to do one of two things: According to Code Section 1.107-1(b) of the tax regulations, the term housing allowance means an amount paid to a minister to rent or otherwise provide a home if such amount is designated as a housing allowance pursuant to official action taken in advance of the payment of such amount by “the employing church OR other qualified organization.”
In discussing this with IRS agents and having handled evangelist audits with the IRS, the IRS will accept a designation from each church ministered in or it will accept a designation from the organization where the minister is licensed or ordained.