Why Lazy Accounting Does Not Work for Churches (Or Anyone for That Matter)

Presented by Serenic Software. Download our free whitepaper – “5 Key Reasons Why Great Financial Management is So Important for Your Nonprofit Now”

Just because you’re a church doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a remedial understanding of payroll, GAAP, taxable income, and right/wrong.

Anthony and Harriet Jinwright, husband and wife pastors from Charlotte-based Greater Salem City of Good church, were warned repeatedly that their lazy accounting could get them in trouble, including by a former consultant in 2001.


Some issues brought up by the consultant include (but aited to and are, of course, alleged violations at this point):

• Church donations going directly to Pastor Jinwright but not subsequently appearing on his tax forms

• Blatant violation of the sanctity of GAAP.

• Expense reimbursements to Pastor Jinwright without benefit of receipts nor an expense plan at the church.

• Mismatched deposit envelopes that did not contain the actual amounts reflected on the outside when deposited.

For the love of sweet baby Jesus, what sort of operation were they running over there?!

It appears to be one part run-of-the-mill scam, one part complicated church theft, although Jinwright refused to acknowledge that any of this could be considered suspicious or, worse, fraudulent. The couple deposited $7 million into their bank account from 2002 to 2007 while only reporting $3.3 million for the tax returns for those years.

The US District Court thinks otherwise and “can I get a witness?” has just taken on a whole new meaning as Jinwright’s former assistant and business administrator – as well as the former consultant – have appeared on the witness stand to discuss Greater Salem’s, uh, holier-than-thou accounting tricks:

Anthony Jinwright was not only pastor of Greater Salem Church but also chairman of the church’s board or directors, with sway over the “business and financial dealings of the church.”

Although the church paid the bishop a regular salary, which it reported on his regular W-2 form, Greater Salem also cut checks directly to the bishop and his wife for: vehicle and housing allowances, retirement income, “tax liabilities,” personal vacation and travel, their daughter’s college tuition and at least two types of bonuses – a bonus at Christmas and a “pastoral anniversary” every February.

Both the Jinwrights also collected separate fees for speaking at other churches around the country.

Now listen, I’m sure Jesus wanted little baby Jinwright to go to college but the problem is that the meeting minutes that supposedly contain an authorization from church board members to pay for said college education have, um, disappeared. Funny, didn’t that happen at Arthur Andersen when Enron blew up?

What’s the lesson here? Churches are no less responsible for their financial affairs than publicly-traded companies and in many ways should operate with greater transparency as they are not only partially-funded by members of the congregation but supposedly on some sort of divine mission.

Do you really want to have to explain to the Almighty why you faked his financials at the pearly gates? Didn’t think so.

Jinwrights: Did they hide millions? Or miss details? [Carolina Weekly]
Other Holy Men:
Former Pastor Figures Eighth Commandment Is Overrated, Steals from Nonprofit

Presented by Serenic Software. Download our free whitepaper – “5 Key Reasons Why Great Financial Management is So Important for Your Nonprofit Now”

Just because you’re a church doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a remedial understanding of payroll, GAAP, taxable income, and right/wrong.

Anthony and Harriet Jinwright, husband and wife pastors from Charlotte-based Greater Salem City of Good church, were warned repeatedly that their lazy accounting could get them in trouble, including by a former consultant in 2001.


Some issues brought up by the consultant include (but are certainly not limited to and are, of course, alleged violations at this point):

• Church donations going directly to Pastor Jinwright but not subsequently appearing on his tax forms

• Blatant violation of the sanctity of GAAP.

• Expense reimbursements to Pastor Jinwright without benefit of receipts nor an expense plan at the church.

• Mismatched deposit envelopes that did not contain the actual amounts reflected on the outside when deposited.

For the love of sweet baby Jesus, what sort of operation were they running over there?!

It appears to be one part run-of-the-mill scam, one part complicated church theft, although Jinwright refused to acknowledge that any of this could be considered suspicious or, worse, fraudulent. The couple deposited $7 million into their bank account from 2002 to 2007 while only reporting $3.3 million for the tax returns for those years.

The US District Court thinks otherwise and “can I get a witness?” has just taken on a whole new meaning as Jinwright’s former assistant and business administrator – as well as the former consultant – have appeared on the witness stand to discuss Greater Salem’s, uh, holier-than-thou accounting tricks:

Anthony Jinwright was not only pastor of Greater Salem Church but also chairman of the church’s board or directors, with sway over the “business and financial dealings of the church.”

Although the church paid the bishop a regular salary, which it reported on his regular W-2 form, Greater Salem also cut checks directly to the bishop and his wife for: vehicle and housing allowances, retirement income, “tax liabilities,” personal vacation and travel, their daughter’s college tuition and at least two types of bonuses – a bonus at Christmas and a “pastoral anniversary” every February.

Both the Jinwrights also collected separate fees for speaking at other churches around the country.

Now listen, I’m sure Jesus wanted little baby Jinwright to go to college but the problem is that the meeting minutes that supposedly contain an authorization from church board members to pay for said college education have, um, disappeared. Funny, didn’t that happen at Arthur Andersen when Enron blew up?

What’s the lesson here? Churches are no less responsible for their financial affairs than publicly-traded companies and in many ways should operate with greater transparency as they are not only partially-funded by members of the congregation but supposedly on some sort of divine mission.

Do you really want to have to explain to the Almighty why you faked his financials at the pearly gates? Didn’t think so.

Jinwrights: Did they hide millions? Or miss details? [Carolina Weekly]
Other Holy Men:
Former Pastor Figures Eighth Commandment Is Overrated, Steals from Nonprofit

Have something to add to this story? Give us a shout by email, Twitter, or text/call the tipline at 202-505-8885. As always, all tips are anonymous.

Related articles

RSM US Adds 68 New Partners and Principals

Oct. 1 was a big day for the denizens of RSM US, as 68 new partners and principals were released into the wild. RSM is pleased to announce our 68 newest partners and principals! https://t.co/seOK5zui4F pic.twitter.com/YqsSwVGjiA — RSM US LLP (@RSMUSLLP) October 1, 2018 This year’s class of new partners and principals at the firm […]

Religious Groups Think New Tax On Churches Is Blasphemous

Religious groups are starting to catch wind of a new tax quietly imposed by Republicans on churches and synagogues—and they are pissed. Yes, you read that correctly: a new tax imposed on churches. Politico reports: [Republicans’] recent tax-code rewrite requires churches, hospitals, colleges, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent […]