A Homeschool Leader Gathering

Do you ever wish that you could gather with other homeschool leaders just to receive encouragement, share resources or bend someone’s ear?

020327_1397_0003_dsms1 Last month, 12 homeschool leaders from seven different homeschool groups gathered on a cold winter night in Cincinnati, Ohio just to meet and support each other.

We had coffee, cookies and laughed, gently reproved and empathized with other leaders.

We came from a diverse background.  Some were experienced homeschoolers-one with 15 years of leadership under her belt! Others had only been leading their group for two weeks! We had unschoolers, classical schoolers, virtual schoolers and traditional homeschoolers (whatever that means!)

After we exchanged names and information on our groups, we listed what challenges we face as homeschool leaders.  Here’s what the leaders listed:

Collecting money
Doubling in size in one year
Four of five board members leaving
Facility cost
Undefined roles
Low commitment from board members
Communication
Establishing policies
Parents test limits
Clean up building
New director
Late or unprepared teachers
Need a larger facility

Any of these sound familiar? I think these are common problems.  Sometimes the other leaders had helpful answers and suggestions; sometimes they just offered sympathy and encouragement. Everyone needs someone who can say, “I understand.”

I shared some resources including:

  • My website, HomeschoolCPA.com, for articles and ebooks on running a homeschool organization
  • The Old Schoolhouse magazine’s Homeschool Leader Yahoo group, a wonderful place for homeschool leaders to pose questions and get answers from leaders across the country

I hope you find these resources helpful too.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

How do homeschool groups identify their status as a public charity?

A homeschool group in MO is applying for 501c3 tax exempt status and had a question.

Hello Carol
I am working with Crossroads Christian Connection in MO. We need to complete our 1023 (Note: He means IRS Form 1023 Application for 501 Tax Exempt Status) . The question I have is on Part X Public Charity Status. We are a small homeschooling group of about 45 families with revenue of less then $5,000 per year, on line 5, I need to know how home-school groups identify their status as a public charity.
Do you have samples of other groups that have filed the 1023?
Thanks

Greg S


Greg,

Homeschool groups are usually classified as 509(a)(2) organizations because more than 1/3 of their income comes from membership fees or “activities related to the exempt function” (box 5h).

Form 1023’s are public information so you should be able to request a copy from any other 501c3 organization. You can use the IRS website to find homeschool organizations with 501c3 status. (Go to http://www.irs.gov/charities/index.html and click on Search for Charities on the right column). Guidestar.org also posts Form 1023’s for charities.

I provide a review service for the Form 1023. From my website:


Buying Peace of Mind
A review of forms you have prepared yourself. Save money by doing much of the work yourself. I will review Forms 1023 or Annual Form 990 and offer my opinion and advice. Cost: $100 per form. Time: 1-2 weeks.


I’m doing a review right now for a homeschool group in KY. I just sent them two and a half pages of corrections or omissions they had made on their Form 1023 as well as suggestions on how to phrase their Part III Narrative to help the IRS understand their mission. Please contact me if you’d like me to review your application before you mail it to the IRS. I’d be happy to help.

Carol Topp, CPA

Is it a homeschool co-op or Mary Poppins?

I started my website HomeschoolCPA to help homeschool organizations, but sometimes the lines between a family homeschool and a homeschool organization get a little fuzzy. Here’s one example of the new and creative ways the people are homeschooling today.

I am considering starting a homeschool with a group of 5 children. They are all from different families and none of them is my own. I have a Masters degree in education and am comfortable working as an independent contractor. I plan on teaching these children in one of the boy’s home with the parents’ blessing. Is this legal? What do I need to do to set it up? Would the parents need to set up a homeschool co-op? I am having difficulty finding information about this for Maryland. Thanks for your help!

Mrs. A in Maryland

Dear Mrs A,

Congratulations on your new venture. Teaching other people’s children is certainly a legitimate business. You will be a modern day governess. (like Mary Poppins!)

marypoppins

I do not believe the parents need to set up a homeschool co-op. But you need to set up a small business. I recommend these steps:

* Pick a business name, although you can use your own name

* Consider opening a business checking account to keep your business and personal expenses separate (it helps at tax time)

* Have a written agreement with the parents about your duties and your fees (i.e. how much and when will you be paid)

* Keep good records of all our expenses, especially mileage. Read my Small Business Start-up Guide available to download here: Small Business Start Up Guide

* Set aside 20-30% of your income after expenses (i.e. 20-30% of your profit) to pay income tax and self employment tax. You will probably also need to make quarterly estimates payments to the IRS. Here’s a great blog to help you learn more about being self-employed. http://junewalkeronline.blogspot.com/

I’m not familiar with Maryland’s homeschooling laws, but here in Ohio we must notify if someone other than the parent does a majority of the instruction. Maryland may have a similar notification rule. You might want to do a little digging on-line and ask the families that are hiring you about Maryland’s homeschooling laws.

Best of success to you!

Carol Topp, CPA

W-2s and tax filings for homeschool co-op teachers

A homeschool co-op treasurer asks about the tax filings for paid teachers:

Hi,
I am the treasurer for a new co-op we have setup this summer, and will be starting our class days in the beginning of September. I am looking to get some advice from you on how we need to define our mentors (teachers), and if we need to give them W-2’s, and if we need to with-hold taxes, etc.

We will have about 12 mentors, each teaching a class of 8-9 kids on Fridays. We follow a curriculum that the parents buy on their own. We try to keep the cost very low, so the mentors, which are all mom’s of kids in the program get paid $800 for the year.

We have already been setup as a South Dakota non-profit corporation, and would like to work towards a 501c3 in the future, but not this year. Our main issue right now is we need to move forward with setting up a checking account, which requires an EIN, and to get that we need to know if we have employees. Also, I want to determine how I need to be paying them, as far as tax with-holdings, etc.

Thank you,
Doug M, SD

Doug,
Congratulations on your new co-op. It sounds as if you are off to an great start! You should be very proud of all that you have accomplished.

As you described the co-op’s relationship with the paid mentors, they should all be classified as employees. Your co-op exercises quite a bit of control by telling them what curriculum to use, so they are not independent contractors.

IRS Publication 15 Employers Tax Guide has a nice checklist of forms and dates that you’ll need to file:

You should collect a Form W-4 from each employee for their information and federal tax withholding To make your job simpler you can tell your employees that the co-op will not withhold federal or state income tax since their wages are relatively small. The W-4 is kept by you and not mailed into the IRS.

The co-op will be responsible for paying federal employer taxes (Social Security and Medicare) and filing quarterly statements with the IRS (called a Form 941). See IRS Publication 15

If you have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, your co-op would be exempt from Federal Unemployment tax. But the tax is rather small at 0.8% (See Form 940 and its Instructions)

At the end of the year you will issue a W-2 to each employee and mail copies of the W-2 and W-3 to the Social Security Administration. See Pub 15 (above) for details.

South Dakota may have unemployment tax requirements and workers compensation payments. Contact your state’s department of taxation or employment for details. I’m no expert on SD taxes, but here is a place to start: SD New Hire Reporting

Try not to be overwhelmed by all this. My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help you understand your payroll obligations.

Carol Topp, CPA


payingworkerscoveroutlined

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

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Resolve Conflict: Take a PAUSE

Conflict-it happens in any group of people and homeschool groups are no exception! Maybe it’s worse in a homeschool group because homeschool parents are typically independent-minded, confident people.  Its a wonder we get along with each other at all!

Peacemaker Ministries has a suggestion to dealing with conflict, remember to PAUSE.

  • Prepare (pray, get the facts, seek godly counsel, develop options)
  • Affirm relationships (show genuine concern and respect for others)
  • Understand interests (identify others’ concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears)
  • Search for creative solutions (prayerful brainstorming)
  • Evaluate options objectively and reasonably (evaluate, don’t argue)

babyonbackWe had an example of this at our homeschool co-op recently.  There was a disagreement between our nursery coordinator and one of the mother’s about how to clean the toys in the nursery. Both ladies showed genuine respect for the other’s concerns (Affirm).  They agreed that safety of the children was important to both (Understand). Where they differed was that the nursery coordinator wanted to use only natural products, while the mother, a physician, was concerned that the natural products wouldn’t kill the germs and wanted to use stronger chemicals.  These ladies did research, gathered facts and shared them (Search).  They looked for creative solutions.  They chose to focus on the problem-cleaning the toys without endangering the babies-and they avoided the temptation to lash out personally or gain control (Evaluate options, don’t argue). They did bring our co-op director into the situation, so that she would know what was happening (Prepare).

Our co-op director told the board that several options were being considered and that the two ladies were working together on a solution.  She raved at how mature and respectful they were to each other. Unfortunately, we did have a problem with other people in the co-op. Some people not involved in the discussion were inflaming the issue by interfering where no interference was needed.  Sometimes we need to remember to PAUSE and to mind our own business.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Update on the IRS and Booster Club Fundraising

I mentioned in a previous post that three booster clubs in KY were being fined by the IRS for their fund raising practices. The issue was that the booster club was giving parents credit for their fund raising efforts.

The IRS and Fundraising

The booster clubs have appealed to their congressmen for help.  But it appears the IRS is digging in its heels on this issue. From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Lois G. Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS, explained in a letter to the booster clubs that any booster club that raises money to benefit an individual student rather than a group is in violation of federal law and stands to lose its tax-exempt status. Lerner said the practice was against federal law.

“The requirement that each parent/member of the club must participate in the fund-raising activities in direct proportion to the benefits they expect to receive toward their children’s expenses directly benefits specific individuals and the parents instead of the class of children as a whole,” she wrote.

Do a Google search on “KY Booster Club IRS” to read more on the story (copyright prohibits a direct link)

So my advice is as before: If your organization is sharing, dividing or distributing fund raising proceeds to individuals or families, stop the practice and leave all fund raising proceeds in the general fund to benefit the group at large.

I’ll keep watching this issue. If the congressmen have any success with the IRS, I’ll let you know via this blog and my monthly newsletter (subscribe in the upper right hand corner of this page)

Carol Topp, CPA

Finding a co-op

I’m a homeschooling mom of 5 who lives in Brooklyn, NY. I’m looking to find a co-op where I can have my kids learn maybe 2 days out of the week. Any ideas on how I can find one?
thanks!

Diana,
I recommend that you go to my website www.HomeschoolCo-ops.com and click on the local co-ops link.  There I list two websites that have lists of co-ops by state and city.

A to Z Home’s Cool
Go to your state page and put “co-op” in the browser search

Local Homeschool.com
Search by “Type” for “Co-op” or “Cooperative.” You can further
narrow the search by including your state and/or county.

It may take a bit of hunting, but if you contact a few local groups, they can steer you in the right direction.

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp

P.S.  to homeschool webmasters: If your website lists local co-ops, drop me an e-mail and I’ll link to your site on my Homeschool Co-ops website

A happy co-op member

Homeschool co-ops can be a great addition to your homeschool efforts.  But too much of even a good thing can become overwhelming.

Joanie over at Missouri Homeschool Daily Log blog has some excellent advice about benefiting from the advantages that homeschool co-ops offer without over doing it.

In the beginning I was all for homeschool co-ops and still am now.  Over the years I have gathered experience about what works and what doesn’t in a co-op and for my schedule.  As far as your schedule is concerned I would caution you to not jump in with both feet and offer to teach more than one class. As a matter of fact I would suggest that you attend the first year/semester to get a feel for it before volunteering.  I can not stress this enough especially if you are a new home schooling parent.  Remember you’ll be preparing all your children’s material and then the material for your co-op class once a week or so.  The first year of home schooling is like riding a bike with training wheels.   One class can dominate your home school week placing a lot of strain on you.

Teaching others is a wonderful gift for all involved if the class is well behaved. I enjoyed teaching the classes tremendously and in the process discovered that I have natural born teaching tendencies.  In a group of people, however, discipline is always an issue.  When you look for a co-op make sure that they have good policies in place.  A co-op with good policies will run smoothly and be a joy to all.  What are some good policies?  Policies that I would look for in a co-op would be a clear statement of what their goal is as a group, fair discipline issues established for students and teachers alike, a statement of faith if you are looking for one to be in agreement with your faith, and attendance requirements.  Even loose establishments that just meet for play time need to have some simple policies to prevent hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

If you are homeschooling for religious reasons one of the biggest assumptions that I made was that everyone was homeschooling for the same reasons.  Do not assume that everyone feels the same way as you. Be a careful guardian, fully ascertaining the atmosphere of your co-op.  Attending a few times before deciding to join may be wise and most co-ops will have no problem with you doing so.

Co-op groups can certainly be a blessing to all involved, yet we need to remember that as home schoolers we are not without faults.  This article is intended to be wise advice and not at all a discouragement from finding a co-op.  When I started I wasn’t ready for issues that cropped up and it side-lined me for a while.  Now that the dust has cleared I know what to expect and also more of what I’m looking for when it comes to a homeschool co-op.

Such excellent advice! I thought I heard myself talking as I read Joanie’s post because everything she said I heard over and over again from co-op members as I wrote my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start them, Run Them and Not Burn Out.

If enough experienced people repeat the same advice, we can prevent a lot of frustration and burn out.

Here’s to happy co-ops!

Carol Topp


The IRS and Fund Raising

The IRS is playing Santa Claus this Christmas!

No, the IRS is not giving out presents this Christmas, but they are like Santa Claus and “making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice...” and they have found some naughty children.

It seems that several booster clubs in KY were audited by the IRS and were fined for their fund raising practices. The issue was that the booster club was giving parents credit for their fund raising efforts. Like a lot of organizations, the parents worked at concessions stands, car washes, candy sales and bongo games. The booster club awarded parents monetary credit for working the fundraisers. The IRS fined one organization $61,000! The group is even facing losing 501c3 tax exempt status. Sounds like the IRS is playing Scrooge and not Santa!

It is a common practice to set up individual accounts and split the fund raising proceeds among the parents that participated in the fund raising effort. If Johnny sold the most candy, he gets the largest share of the fund raising proceeds in his account. The IRS is concerned about private benefits. They expect to see the entire group of students benefit from fund raisers, not individuals.

If your organization is sharing, dividing or distributing fund raising proceeds to individuals or families, you are on the IRS naughty list! You had better restructure your fund raising efforts and get on the IRS nice list.

If you care to read more, do a Google search on : “KY Booster IRS.” The report from the Lexington Herald-Leader at Kentucky.com is most thorough in telling the story about KY’s booster clubs. (copyright prohibits me from a direct link)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Update posted January 14, 2009: Update on the IRS and Booster Club Fundraising

Carol Topp, CPA

New EIN for New Officers?

Does your group need a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) when there are new officers?

Hi Carol,
Thanks to your wonderful services in the past we have gone from a ministry under a church to an informal non profit support group within the community. Thanks so much for what you do for homeschool groups!
I was just reading through the list of FAQ’s and have one that has a little twist to what is already there about EIN’s so I thought I would run it past you.
As the current director (board leader), I had been the person to apply for the EIN for our group. I am nearing my finish on the board and we will have new board leaders. Do we have to have a new EIN issued? I know this current one was opened with my name as the responsible party, so I don’t know if that would “tie” me to the non profit for any thing down the road if I am no longer on the board?
Thanks so much for your help and/or direction.
Blessings,
Shawna B, CA


Shawna,
Thank you for your kind words. It was my pleasure.


You do not have to apply for a new EIN just because of a switch in officers. Nonprofits change leadership frequently.

You can have your name on the EIN replaced with the new leader by filling out IRS Form 8822-B

If you are a 501c3 tax exempt organization with more than $50,000 in gross revenue annually, you should be filing the annual Form 990 with the IRS. On the Form 990, you list the new officers’ names.

If your organization makes less than $50,000 per year then you should be filing the 990N, an electronic postcard, with the IRS. The 990N requests only the name of the “principle officer” not the entire board.

For more information on the 990N, visit the IRS website at:

http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=169250,00.html

Carol Topp, CPA