Workshops on micro business, career exploration and more in Cincinnati 2016

Here are my workshops for the Great Homeschool Convention 2016 in Cincinnati.

MBizIdeas2016 A fun, fast-paced workshop to inspire and equip teenagers to start their own business.

CareerExpl2016 Help for teenagers who have no idea of what they want to be!

 

Author2016 Dream of holding your book in your hands?

 

I hope I see you there! Don’t forget to stop by my booth #1411 and chat a bit.

 

Carol Topp

 

Independent Contractors: Type of Relationship

contract_salesman_signature_pen_6424

We’ve looked at two factors the IRS uses to distinguish between employees and independent contractors: Behavioral Control and Financial Control. This blog post will discuss the third factor: Type of Relationship. 

As you read through this factor and the other two, consider how your homeschool group is treating its workers. Make changes to clearly distinguish your employees from your independent contractors.

https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Type-of-Relationship

Type of relationship refers to facts that show how the worker and business perceive their relationship to each other.

The factors, for the type of relationship between two parties, generally fall into the categories of:

  • Written contracts
  • Employee benefits
  • Permanency of the relationship
  • Services provided as key activity of the business

Written Contracts

Although a contract may state that the worker is an employee or an independent contractor, this is not sufficient to determine the worker’s status.  The IRS is not required to follow a contract stating that the worker is an independent contractor, responsible for paying his or her own self employment tax.  How the parties work together determines whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

Employee Benefits

Employee benefits include things like insurance, pension plans, paid vacation, sick days, and disability insurance.  Businesses generally do not grant these benefits to independent contractors.  However, the lack of these types of benefits does not necessarily mean the worker is an independent contractor.

Permanency of the Relationship

If you hire a worker with the expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely, rather than for a specific project or period, this is generally considered evidence that the intent was to create an employer-employee relationship.

Services Provided as Key Activity of the Business

If a worker provides services that are a key aspect of the business, it is more likely that the business will have the right to direct and control his or her activities.  For example, if a law firm hires an attorney, it is likely that it will present the attorney’s work as its own and would have the right to control or direct that work.  This would indicate an employer-employee relationship.

 

Read the other factors that determine worker status:

Financial Control

Behavioral Control

And always remember:

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

PayingWorkersCover
Still confused? Maybe my book, Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help. It’s a short ebook, designed just for homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

Great Homeschool Conventions-Cincinnati 2016

IMG_4055

I always look forward to the largest homeschool convention in the US-Great Homeschool Conventions in Cincinnati.

Not only is it my home, but I get to meet hundreds of homeschool parents and students.

 

This year, I’ll be giving three workshops:

30+ Micro Business Ideas for Teens (and Parents!) Friday, April 1, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Career Exploration for High School Students Friday, April 1, 2016 at 5:30 pm

How You (or Your Child) Can Become a Published Author on Saturday, April 2 at 2:30 pm.

Come by my booth #1411 and introduce yourself!

I hope to see some of you there!

 

Independent Contractors: Financial control

holding_money_bag_400_clr_14048

Since so many homeschool organizations hire workers as Independent Contractors, it might be helpful to examine the difference between employees and independent contractors.

This is the second of a 3-part series on the definition of of independent contractor and  will examine one of the factors the IRS uses to determine worker classification: Financial Control.

The IRS has some helpful information on how to distinguish between an employee and an independent contractor at  https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Financial-Control

 Financial control refers to facts that show whether or not the business (or nonprofit organization) has the right to control the economic aspects of the worker’s job.

The financial control factors fall into the categories of:

  • Significant investment
  • Unreimbursed expenses
  • Opportunity for profit or loss
  • Services available to the market
  • Method of payment

Significant investment

An independent contractor often has a significant investment in the equipment he or she uses in working for someone else.  However, in many occupations, such as construction, workers spend thousands of dollars on the tools and equipment they use and are still considered to be employees. There are no precise dollar limits that must be met in order to have a significant investment.  Furthermore, a significant investment is not necessary for independent contractor status as some types of work simply do not require large expenditures.

Unreimbursed expenses

Independent contractors are more likely to have unreimbursed expenses than are employees. Fixed ongoing costs that are incurred regardless of whether work is currently being performed are especially important. However, employees may also incur unreimbursed expenses in connection with the services that they perform for their business.

Opportunity for profit or loss

The opportunity to make a profit or loss is another important factor.  If a worker has a significant investment in the tools and equipment used and if the worker has unreimbursed expenses, the worker has a greater opportunity to lose money (i.e., their expenses will exceed their income from the work).  Having the possibility of incurring a loss indicates that the worker is an independent contractor.

Services available to the market

An independent contractor is generally free to seek out business opportunities. Independent contractors often advertise, maintain a visible business location, and are available to work in the relevant market.

Method of payment

An employee is generally guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly, or other period of time. This usually indicates that a worker is an employee, even when the wage or salary is supplemented by a commission. An independent contractor is usually paid by a flat fee for the job. However, it is common in some professions, such as law, to pay independent contractors hourly.

 

Read the other factors that determine IC status:

Behavioral Control

Type of Relationship

And always remember:

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

PayingWorkersCover
Still confused? Maybe my book, Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help. It’s a short ebook, designed just for homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

Definition of Independent Contractor: Behavior

stickman_question_mark_Green

Here at HomeschoolCPA, I get a lot of questions about the difference between employees and independent contractors (IC). Many homeschool organizations hire workers as ICs and wonder if they really should be treated as employees.

This is the first of a 3-part series on the definition of IC. I hope it’s helpful.

Lets start with Behavioral Control.

My source is straight from the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Behavioral-Control

Behavioral control refers to facts that show whether there is a right to direct or control how the worker does the work. A worker is an employee when the business has the right to direct and control the worker. The business does not have to actually direct or control the way the work is done – as long as the employer has the right to direct and control the work.

The behavioral control factors fall into the categories of:

  • Type of instructions given
  • Degree of instruction
  • Evaluation systems
  • Training

Types of Instructions Given

An employee is generally subject to the business’s instructions about when, where, and how to work. All of the following are examples of types of instructions about how to do work.

  • When and where to do the work.
  • What tools or equipment to use.
  • What workers to hire or to assist with the work.
  • Where to purchase supplies and services.
  • What work must be performed by a specified individual.
  • What order or sequence to follow when performing the work.

Degree of Instruction

Degree of Instruction means that the more detailed the instructions, the more control the business exercises over the worker. More detailed instructions indicate that the worker is an employee.  Less detailed instructions reflects less control, indicating that the worker is more likely an independent contractor.

Note: The amount of instruction needed varies among different jobs. Even if no instructions are given, sufficient behavioral control may exist if the employer has the right to control how the work results are achieved. A business may lack the knowledge to instruct some highly specialized professionals; in other cases, the task may require little or no instruction. The key consideration is whether the business has retained the right to control the details of a worker’s performance or instead has given up that right.

Evaluation System

If an evaluation system measures the details of how the work is performed, then these factors would point to an employee.

If the evaluation system measures just the end result, then this can point to either an independent contractor or an employee.

Training

If the business provides the worker with training on how to do the job, this indicates that the business wants the job done in a particular way.  This is strong evidence that the worker is an employee. Periodic or on-going training about procedures and methods is even stronger evidence of an employer-employee relationship. However, independent contractors ordinarily use their own methods.

 

 

Read the other factors that determine IC status:

Type of Relationship

Financial Control

And always remember this advice from the IRS (emphasis added)

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

PayingWorkersCover
Still confused? Maybe my book, Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help. It’s a short ebook, designed just for homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

Tax breaks for education in some states

TaxForms_ABalaraman_Freedigitalphotos

I’m frequently asked about tax deductions for homeschooling expenses. The US federal government does not have any tax deductions or tax credits for K-12 education expenses, but some states do offer tax credits or deductions.

This document has a description of state tax breaks for educational expenses. The document is dated 2011.

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/educcred.pdf

There is an 2014 update to the document at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/ss/sseducdc.pdf.

It states:

To date, 14 states in addition to Minnesota provide income tax benefits for education-related expenses.
Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana,Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia all provide tax credits for contributions to nonprofit school tuition organizations that operate like charities; Puerto Rico also allows a similar credit.
Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island allow their credits only for corporate taxpayers; the Florida credit is allowed against corporate, insurance premiums, severance, alcoholic beverage taxes, and sales taxes for certain taxpayers; and Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana,Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia allow credits for both individual and corporate taxpayers.

Arizona also allows credits for individuals who pay extracurricular public school fees and who contribute to character education programs at public schools, and Pennsylvania also allows a corporate credit for contributions to innovative public school programs.

Louisiana allows individuals to claim a tax deduction for qualified education expenses.
Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin provide individuals with nonrefundable tax credits for qualified education expenses, and Alabama allows a refundable credit for tuition expenses of students leaving state-designated low-performance schools. Iowa’s credit applies to tuition for children attending accredited not-for-profit K-12 schools, and Louisiana’s deduction applies to public, private, and homeschool expenses.

Courts in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and New Hampshire have upheld the permissibility of these education credits.

Did you find your state listed? Ask your tax professional if your homeschool expenses qualify for a tax credit or deduction on your state income tax return.

And always remember:

Tax deductions and credits just reduce the tax you pay.

Your state government is not putting cash in your hand to purchase books. You must do that first.

Then you pay a little bit less in tax via a tax deduction.

New website for filing IRS Annual ePostcard Form 990-N

990N

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is changing the website to file the Form 990-N. The Form 990-N used to be hosted by the Urban Institute, but starting February 29, 2016, the IRS will host the Form 990-N submission website.

The new website is www.IRS.gov/990N

The Form 990-N is a short,  annual filing that small (those normally with annual gross receipts up to $50,000) tax-exempt organizations file in place of the lengthier Form 990-EZ or Form 990. In order to file the Form 990-N, all nonprofits will be required to complete a one-time registration and file Form 990-N submissions through the IRS’s website at www.IRS.gov/990N.

Who must file
Most small tax-exempt organizations whose annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less can satisfy their annual reporting requirement by electronically submitting Form 990-N if they choose not to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ instead.

Exceptions to this requirement include:

Form 990-N is easy to complete. You’ll need only eight items of basic information about your organization.

Taxes and your homeschool expenses

DollarsAndSenseShow11

I am pretty new to homeschooling and tax returns. As a matter of fact I have never incorporated my homeschooling into my tax returns since starting homeschool in 2013. What I would be interested in is finding out what are my to-do’s and to-donts when it comes to my household’s tax return and our homeschooling. Please let me know if you can help educate myself and potentially others.

 

Well, your homeschooling expenses are not included on your federal tax return at all, so there is nothing to be concerned about.

Homeschooling expenses are personal expenses, like groceries or clothes, and are not tax deductible on the US federal income tax return.

You cannot deduct your groceries or your clothes on your tax return and you cannot deduct your homeschooling expenses on your federal income tax return.

A few states may allow a tax deduction, a tax credit or an educational saving account. I cover details in this podcast episode:

Any Tax Breaks for Homeschoolers? Dollars and Sense Show podcast Episode 11

Carol Topp, CPA

 

 

Are homeschool co-op tuition discounts taxable income? Probably!

uncle_sam_holding_money_pc_400_clr_1727

Carol,

I see a lot of schools (homeschooling co-ops, private schools, etc) that offer tuition discounts or reduction for parent volunteer hours. If a parent volunteers to teach a  class a few hours a week and receives a tuition reduction for this commitment, is this considered taxable income for the parent?

I have also read this:

“IRS has broadly interpreted a worker’s “compensation” to also include the amount of free or reduced tuition that is given to a parent in consideration for his or her service to the school or church. A worker is no longer considered to be “volunteering” if he or she receives something of value “in kind” for his or her service. In the situation of a working parent whose child is enrolled in the school, it is the student’s waived tuition amount normally charged to nonworking parents that will constitute the worker’s taxable wage amount.”

I would love any follow up information you have about this. Thanks again!

Joanna R.

 

Dear Joanna,

I read the quote you provided with a lot of interest. I did a little research and came across IRS Publication 3079 which, although its title is “Tax Exempt Organizations and Gaming,” had a helpful section titled, “Volunteer Labor”

It stated something I didn’t want to read,

“Compensation is interpreted broadly. A worker who obtains goods or services at a reduced price in return for his services may be considered to be compensated.”

 

When the IRS says “compensated,” they mean taxable income. Ugh! That could mean that hard working volunteers in a homeschool organization, who get a discount on tuition, could have to report and pay taxes on this “compensation.”

But, as with all IRS documents, I kept reading Publication 3079 and found this:

On the other hand, a worker who receives merely insignificant monetary or non-monetary benefits is considered a volunteer, not a compensated worker.
Determining whether a benefit is insignificant requires consideration not only of the value of the benefit but also:
•The quantity and quality of the work performed;
•The cost to the organization of providing the benefit; and
•The connection between the benefit received and the performance of services.
(emphasis added)

 

So, if a co-op gives an insignificant monetary benefit to its volunteers, it is not taxable income. The IRS does not define insignificant, but here ares two examples that might help:

Insignificant benefits to a volunteer
A volunteer teacher was given a $50 discount off her $250 tuition for teaching a class. She put in a minimum of 30 hours preparing and teaching this semester-long class. That’s is an hourly rate of less than $2/hour. That seems pretty insignificant to me! It cost nothing for the co-op to offer this benefit. The co-op offered this discount as an incentive to increase volunteerism and it was not payment for services.

Significant benefits are taxable income
Another co-op gave their director several thousands of dollars in gift cards to grocery stores and Target, gave her children free tuition worth $1,500,  waived all field trip fees, theater ticket fees and registration fees amounting to hundreds more in benefits. These were NOT insignificant and were compensation for her services. The co-op thought that by giving gift cards and reduced tuition they could avoid payroll taxes and the paperwork of hiring and paying their director as an employee. They were wrong! The director should be treated as an employee. She should report all these benefits as taxable compensation.

Conclusion
Homeschool leaders should determine if the benefits of reduced tuition of fees they are giving to volunteers are insignificant. Look to the IRS guidelines in IRS Publication 3079 listed above. If the benefits are significant and are compensation for services, then it needs to be reported as taxable income to the worker/volunteer.

My ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help you determine the paperwork and reporting for workers.

Carol Topp, CPA

Will a nonprofit owe taxes on income from selling ads?

GirlThrowsMoney
We considering including advertising in our conference brochure. Can we consider this conference (exhibitor) income? Or is it UBI (Unrelated Business Income)?
We are also considering placing advertising in our magazine (and our website). Is this UBI? And how do we track it? And how do we report it? And what percent taxes would we pay on it?
Dorothy in OR
Dear Dorothy,
Advertising revenue is definitely Unrelated Business Income (UBIT) in the eyes of the IRS, because selling ads is not related to your tax exempt purpose (education), but you can avoid paying taxes on the unrelated business income in several ways.

The IRS offers several exceptions to UBI Tax (UBIT):

  1.     A $1,000 threshold allows that the first $1,000 in income from an unrelated business will not be taxed.
  2.     If the fundraiser (or unrelated business) is run substantially by volunteer efforts (i.e., no paid staff) then the proceeds are not taxed.
  3.     If the fundraiser is not regularly carried on, such as a once-a-year spaghetti supper, then the proceeds are not subject to UBIT.
  4.     If you are selling donated items, like in a garage sale, the income raised is not taxed.

I think #1 or #2 will apply to your group, so can get income from advertising without worrying about paying tax on it.

It’s a good idea to create a line item in your record keeping labeled “Advertising Income” so it’s clearly differentiated from other income.

Carol Topp, CPA