26 CFR 31.3121(r)-1 - Election of coverage by religious orders.
(a)In general. A religious order whose members are required to take a vow of poverty, or any autonomous subdivision of such an order, may elect to have the Federal old-age, survivors, and disability insurance system established by title II of the Social Security Act extended to services performed by its members in the exercise of duties required by such order or subdivision. See section 3121(i)(4) and § 31.3121(i)-4 for provisions relating to the computation of the amount of remuneration of such members. For purposes of this section, a subdivision of a religious order is autonomous if it directs and governs its members, if it is responsible for its members' care and maintenance, if it is responsible for the members' support and maintenance in retirement, and if the members live under the authority of a religious superior who is elected by them or appointed by higher authority.
(b)Definition of member -
(1)In general. For purposes of section 3121(r) and this section, a member of a religious order means any individual who is subject to a vow of poverty as a member of such order, who performs tasks usually required (and to the extent usually required) of an active member of such order, and who is not considered retired because of old age or total disability.
(2)Retirement because of old age -
(i)In general. For purposes of section 3121(r)(2) and this paragraph, an individual is considered retired because of old age if (A) in view of all the services performed by the individual and the surrounding circumstances it is reasonable to consider him to be retired, and (B) his retirement occurred by reason of old age. Even though an individual performs some services in the exercise of duties required by the religious order, the first test (the retirement test) is met where it is reasonable to consider the individual to be retired.
(ii)Factors to be considered. In determining whether it is reasonable to consider an individual to be retired, consideration is first to be given to all of the following factors:
(A)Nature of services. Consideration is given to the nature of the services performed by the individual in the exercise of duties required by his religious order. The more highly skilled and valuable such services are, the more likely the individual rendering such services is not reasonably considered retired. Also, whether such services are of a type performed principally by retired members of the individual's religious order may be significant.
(B)Amount of time. Consideration is also given to the amount of time the individual devotes to the performance of services in the exercise of duties required by his religious order. This time includes all the time spent by him in any activity in connection with services that might appropriately be performed in the exercise of duties required of active members by the order. Normally, an individual who, solely by reason of his advanced age, performs services of less than 45 hours per month shall be considered retired. In no event shall an individual who, solely by reason of his advanced age, performs services of less than 15 hours per month not be considered retired.
(C)Comparison of services rendered before and after retirement. In addition, consideration is given to the nature and extent of the services rendered by the individual before he “retired,” as compared with the services performed thereafter. A large reduction in the importance or amount of services performed by the individual in the exercise of duties required by his religious order tends to show that the individual is retired; absence of such reduction tends to show that the individual is not retired. Normally, an individual who reduces by at least 75 percent the amount of services performed shall be considered retired.
(iii)Examples. The rules of this subparagraph may be illustrated by the following examples:
(3)Retirement because of total disability. For purposes of section 3121(r)(2) and this paragraph, an individual is considered retired because of total disability (i) if he is unable, by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, to perform the tasks usually required of an active member of his order to the extent necessary to maintain his status as an active member, and (ii) if such impairment is reasonably expected to prevent his resumption of the performance of such tasks to such extent. A physical or mental impairment is an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. Statements of the individual, including his own description of his impairment (symptoms), are, alone, insufficient to establish the presence of a physical or mental impairment.
(4)Evidentiary requirements with respect to retirement. There shall be attached to the return of taxes paid pursuant to an election under section 3121(r) a summary of the facts upon which any determination has been made by the religious order or autonomous subdivision that one or more of its members retired during the period covered by such return. Each summary shall contain the name and social security number of each such retired member as well as the date of his retirement. Such order or subdivision shall maintain records of the details relating to each such “retirement” sufficient to show whether or not such member or members has in fact retired.
(c)Certificates of election -
(1)In general. A religious order or an autonomous subdivision of such an order desiring to make an election of coverage pursuant to section 3121(r) and this section shall file a certificate of election on Form SS-16 in accordance with the instructions thereto. However, in the case of an election made before August 9, 1973, a document other than Form SS-16 shall constitute a certificate of election if it purports to be a binding election of coverage and if it is filed with an appropriate official of the Internal Revenue Service. Such a document shall be given the effect it would have if it were a certificate of election containing the provisions required by paragraph (c)(2) of this section. However, it should subsequently be supplemented by a Form SS-16.
(2)Provisions of certificates. Each certificate of election shall provide that -
(i) Such election of coverage by such order or subdivision shall be irrevocable,
(ii) Such election shall apply to all current and future members of such order, or in the case of a subdivision thereof to all current and future members of such order who belong to such subdivision,
(iii) All services performed by a member of such order or subdivision in the exercise of duties required by such order or subdivision shall be deemed to have been performed by such member as an employee of such order or subdivision, and
(iv) The wages of each member, upon which such order or subdivision shall pay the taxes imposed on employees and employers by sections 3101 and 3111, will be determined as provided in section 3121(i)(4).
(d)Effective date of election -
(1)In general. Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a certificate of election of coverage filed by a religious order or its subdivision pursuant to section 3121(r) and this section shall be in effect, for purposes of section 3121(b)(8)(A) and for purposes of section 210(a)(8)(A) of the Social Security Act, for the period beginning with whichever of the following may be designated by the electing religious order or subdivision:
(i) The first day of the calendar quarter in which the certificate is filed,
(ii) The first day of the calendar quarter immediately following the quarter in which the certificate is filed, or
(iii) The first day of any calendar quarter preceding the calendar quarter in which the certificate is filed, except that such date may not be earlier than the first day of the 20th calendar quarter preceding the quarter in which such certificate is filed.
(2)Retroactive elections. Whenever a date is designated as provided in paragraph (d)(1)(iii) of this section, the election shall apply to services performed before the quarter in which the certificate is filed only if the member performing such services was a member at the time such services were performed and is living on the first day of the quarter in which such certificate is filed. Thus, the election applies to an individual who is no longer a member of a religious order on the first day of such quarter if he performed services as a member at any time on or after the date so designated and is living on the first day of the quarter in which such certificate is filed. For purposes of computing interest and for purposes of section 6651 (relating to additions to tax for failure to file tax return or to pay tax), in any case in which such a date is designated the due date for the return and payment of the tax, for calendar quarters prior to the quarter in which the certificate is filed, resulting from the filing of such certificate shall be the last day of the calendar month following the calendar quarter in which the certificate is filed. The statutory period for the assessment of the tax for such prior calendar quarters shall not expire before the expiration of 3 years from such due date.
(e)Coordination with coverage of lay employees. If at the time the certificate of election of coverage is filed by a religious order or autonomous subdivision, a certificate of waiver of exemption under section 3121(k) (extending coverage to any lay employees) is not in effect, the certificate of election shall not become effective unless the order or subdivision files a Form SS-15, and a Form SS-15a to accompany the certificate on Form SS-15, as provided by section 3121(k) and §§ 31.3121(k)-1 through 31.3121(k)-3. The preceding sentence applies even though an order or subdivision has no lay employees at the time it files a certificate of election of coverage. The effective date of the certificate of waiver of exemption must be no later than the date on which the certificate of election becomes effective, and it must be specified on the certificate of waiver of exemption that such certificate is irrevocable. The certificate of waiver of exemption required under this paragraph shall be filed notwithstanding the provisions of section 3121(k)(3) (relating to no renewal of the waiver of exemption) which otherwise would prohibit the filing of a waiver of exemption if an earlier waiver of exemption had previously been terminated. If at the time the certificate of election of coverage is filed a certificate of waiver of exemption is in effect with respect to the electing religious order or autonomous subdivision, the filing of the certificate of election shall constitute an amendment of the certificate of waiver of exemption making the latter certificate irrevocable.