Converting from a homeschool support group to a full service nonprofit organizaton

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Lots of homeschool support groups find themselves evolving into bigger organizations than their founders imagined. They grew from being small monthly support groups to larger organizations offering field trips, co-op classes, graduation ceremonies, clubs, and other activities.

For example, TACHE (Tyler Area Home Educators) in Tyler, Texas began in the 1980s as a small support group for homeschool families. They grew to over 400 families and now manage an annual budget of nearly $20,000 and offer a plethora of educational activities.

They wisely decided to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation in 2009. But, unfortunately, TACHE did not apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status at that time.

In September 2013 TACHE  decided it was time to apply for tax exempt status as a 501(c)(3) educational organization and contacted me. Because TACHE waited more than 27 months after their date of formation (in 2009) to apply for 501(c)(3) status, we had to explain TACHE’s history to IRS and give an explanation why they did not apply earlier.

I helped TACHE apply for 501(c)(3) status in February 2014 and after about 7 months of waiting, the IRS granted 501(c)(3) status.

But TACHE wasn’t finished with the IRS just yet. TACHE failed to file their Form 990-N Annual Information Return with the IRS for three consecutive years and had their tax exempt status automatically revoked. We were concerned that there would be a period of time when TACHE would have to file and pay income tax. There were a few phone calls and letters to the IRS, but finally the IRS reinstated TACHE’s tax exempt status and agreed that they did not owe any back taxes.

The process is does not always take that long, but here are a few lessons learned.

  • Don’t delay! Apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status within 27 months (or sooner) from your date of formation (usually the date of incorporation in your state as a nonprofit corporation)
  • File the Form 990-N every year. This is required for support groups as well as homeschool co-ops. If you fail to file the Form 990-N, the IRS will automatically revoke your tax exempt status.
  • Get help when you need it. My fees are reasonable and I focus on helping homeschool organizations.  Contact me.
  • Be patient. Although the IRS has cleared a lot of their backlog, it still took 11 months for the IRS to reinstate TACHE’s tax exempt status.
  • Learn all you can about tax exempt status for your homeschool group. My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization, is a good start.

Congratulations to TACHE! It was along process, but it’s finished and TACHE can continue to serve homeschool families in Texas for many years to come.

Carol Topp, CPA


I will be recuperating from surgery and will be unavailable to answer your emails from November 15, 2015 until January 2016. Until then, here’s how you can get help.


Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, is unavailable until January 2016

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Dear homeschool leaders,

I value and love working with each of you, but I will be unavailable from November 15, 2015 until January 4, 2016. I am having some preventive surgery that involves a long recuperation time.

I will not be able to reply to your email or schedule phone consultations for several weeks.

I may to be able to offer limited replies to emails beginning mid December 2015 and hope to return to work part time by January 4, 2016, Lord willing.

If you need help while I am unavailable, please:

  • Search my blog. Go to HomeschoolCPA blog and enter a search topic in the search box on the right-hand column.Searchblog
  • Visit my FAQ page
  • Read the Articles I’ve written for homeschool leaders.
  • Read one of my books.
    • The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization.
    • Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out
    • Money Management in a Homeschool Organization
  • Listen to my podcast. I have several podcast episodes on topics that homeschool leaders frequently ask me.
  • Contact your state homeschool organization. They may be able to answer your questions.
  • Be patient. I will reply to your emails as soon as I can, but it may be several weeks.

Thank you for your patience and allowing me this extended period of recuperation.

Prayers for my surgery on November 20, 2015 and recovery are appreciated!

carol-thumnail

 

 

 

Carol Topp, CPA

How to use another nonprofit’s tax exempt status (legally!)

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Hi Carol,
I run a support group that encourages homeschoolers to engage in STEM competitions. We have had students win prize money in the past and we would like to have be able to open a checking account to receive that prize money. Some organizations will give directly to students, others require an educational organization with a W-9. We are considering a DBA  or an LLC, where any prize money would be granted to the group and then distributed via an application process to homeschoolers who start STEM groups.

I am willing to personally take on the prize money as income to me if someone wins and deduct then the tax amount. Since we do not collect any dues, we do not want to file for 501 tax exempt. There is no money to pay the fee. If no one wins anything, we have no income to report.

Would you suggest either the DBA or the LLC, or do you have another suggestion?

Thank you for any assistance.
Blessings to you!

Kathryn

Kathryn,

Thank you for contacting me. You are doing a wonderful thing for homeschoolers!

From what you described, I don’t think a DBA (Doing Business As name registration for a business) or an LLC (a for-profit business) would be the best arrangement. My concern would be that grantors of the prize money would not award funds to an LLC/for-profit business.

Additionally,  accepting payments in your name might not qualify as an “educational organization” to the grantors.

Instead, you probably need to establish an official nonprofit organization (I can help with that) or find another nonprofit organization to take your STEM program under their umbrella. They let you use their tax exempt status and it’s easier than setting up a new nonprofit organization. It’s called fiscal sponsorship and it’s legal, if done correctly.

Learn more about Fiscal sponsorship

Carol Topp, CPA

Fiscal sponsorship: What is it and how can it work for your homeschool group?

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“Fiscal sponsorship generally entails a nonprofit organization (the “fiscal sponsor”) agreeing to provide administrative services and oversight to, and assume some or all of the legal and financial responsibility for, the activities of groups or individuals engaged in work that relates to the fiscal sponsor’s mission.”(Source: http://www.fiscalsponsors.org/pages/about-fiscal-sponsorship)

Fiscal sponsorship is an agreement for one nonprofit (the sponsor) to  to help another nonprofit (the project), usually in a temporary agreement. It means the sponsor lets the project come under their umbrella for an event, project or activity.

I think it’s a great idea and something your homeschool group should consider.

If you’re a large homeschool group with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status already granted, consider helping a small start up homeschool group in your local area. Agree to let them come under your tax exempt status umbrella for a set time period. This is an excellent arrangement to help a Lego team, a temporary event, a sports team or a new start up co-op.

If you’re a small homeschool group, just getting started, ask a larger, established homeschool group if you could work out a temporary arrangement to use their tax exempt status while you get up and running. Work out the details in a written agreement. Perhaps you can offer to pay the parent organization a small amount in return for being allowed under their umbrella.

Learn more about fiscal sponsorship:

http://fiscalsponsorship.com/

http://www.fiscalsponsors.org/pages/about-fiscal-sponsorship

Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways to Do It Right by Gregory Colvin describes six models of sponsorship that have been approved and accepted by the IRS. It details how the models work and why, how they differ and how they are similar.

Summary of the book and its six models of fiscal sponsorship by the author: http://www.fiscalsponsorship.com/images/WCTEO_Gregory-Colvin.pdf

After reading up on fiscal sponsorship, you might have a few questions. I’d be happy to set up a phone consultation. Contact me.

Carol Topp, CPA

Congratulations to homeschool groups on tax exempt status!

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Congratulations to several homeschool organizations recently granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status by the IRS!

  • LifeShine from San Antonio, TX
  • Grace Home Educators of Martinsville, IN
  • United Christian Homeschool Association in Belton, KY
  • SCOPE Homeschool Group in Ashville, AL

Both Lifeshine and Grace had their tax exempt status automatically revoked for failure to file the IRS Form 990 for 3 consecutive years. Fortunately, I was able to help them get their tax exempt status reinstated and neither group owed any back taxes. Yeah!

Do you know about the IRS required annual reporting for ALL nonprofit organizations (that means your homeschool group, even if you never had to file any reports with the IRS before)?

Do you have questions about the tax exempt status of your organization?

Contact me and I will help your homeschool organization get tax exempt status (or get it back if it was revoked).

It’s better than paying taxes!

Carol Topp, CPA

 

More tips on running a homeschool co-op (podcast)

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Carol Topp, CPA the author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out  covers more tips to starting a homeschool co-op in her podcast.

Listen to the podcast

Carol answers questions from homeschool leaders including:

  • insurance
  • background checks
  • tax exempt status from the IRS
  • required annual reporting to the IRS
  • the need for bylaws and policies

Listen to Part 1 of this podcast.

For more information on starting and running a homeschool co-op visit Carol’s website HomeschoolCPA.com

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Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out has helped more than 1,000 readers run their homeschool co-ops. Get your copy here.

Carol has more podcasts for homeschool leaders. See the list of topics.

Homeschool groups ripe for embezzlement

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From the Columbus (OH) Dispatch comes this warning:

Small nonprofits ripe for embezzlement

They’re often diligent, caring workers, and yet tempted by seemingly easy cash.

Working on the inside, thieves can hit school groups, athletic leagues and churches, especially when they’re surrounded by trusting colleagues and loose security.

And according to one expert, because of the disgrace and embarrassment that the crime brings an organization, their transgressions often are not reported.

The median loss to fraud for religious, charitable and social-service organizations was $106,000 last year, according to an annual survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. “We estimate that organizations lose about 7% of their net worth to fraud each year,” said Scott Patterson, the association’s spokesman.

“There are so many people doing the good work that nobody steps back to say, ‘Should we begin looking at ourselves. We’ve grown. We better put some checks and balances in,'” said Gary Zeune, a fraud expert whose speakers bureau, “The Pros and Cons,” travels the country. “The only people who can steal you blind are those you trust and who don’t have controls.”

Smaller organizations, such as school parent-teacher organizations, are often vulnerable because neighbors and friends are reluctant to offend by suggesting that dishonesty is possible.

“This is typically mothers stealing from their own kids,” Shaw said. “The kids are the shills out there selling cookie dough or doing the walk-a-thon, and the mothers are stealing it.

“If the board is too embarrassed to have checks or balances, they need to have a new board,” she added. “But if you’re an honest person, you shouldn’t be insulted by having a second set of eyes.”

It’s so sad to hear about embezzlement taking place in homeschool groups, but I know from homeschool leaders that it can and does happen!

How can you prevent embezzlement?

Money Mgmt Homeschool

Read Money Management in a Homeschool Organization: A Guide for Treasurers. It  has a helpful list of policies and procedures for your group’s treasurer and your entire board.

Keeping you safe,

Carol Topp, CPA

Can a Classical Conversations community be a tax exempt nonprofit?

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I am directing a local Classical Conversations group, and many churches in our area
will not consider housing us because we are not a nonprofit. Since I am basically an independent contractor licensed by CC corporate to run a community in my area, am I potentially eligible to have my community declared a nonprofit?

-Jen, Classical Conversations Director

 

Jen,

I recently discussed nonprofit status for CC Communities with Classical Conversations COO, Keith Denton.  He explained to me that “CC Directors (who are licensees of CC) may form an entity through which to run their homeschooling operations.

CC does not require a director to run his/her homeschooling program through an entity, nor does it require that such director choose a specific type of entity (non-profit versus for profit) for its homeschooling community.

CC recommends that all directors consult with an accountant and lawyer when making the decision of whether to form an entity, and what type.  The decision of which entity to form depends on a variety of factors specific to the director and state where the homeschooling community is formed.  As such, consultation with an attorney and accountant in a director’s community is highly recommended to best address all relevant factors. ”

That was very helpful!

I can help you weigh the pros and cons of for profit or nonprofit status for your CC Community. Contact me to schedule a phone consultation.

Carol Topp, CPA

Does your homeschool group publish curriculum? Nonprofits and copyrights webinar

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Has your homeschool group considered creating and selling its own curriculum?
Do you know what you need to know about trademarks and copyrights?

 

This webinar on copyrights for nonprofits might be interesting and helpful to you.
I’ll be attending and already submitted a question about copyright ownership by a nonprofit.

 

Ask the Nonprofit Lawyer: Everything You Wanted to Know about Nonprofit Copyrights and Trademarks

Register here (free)

Date: November 5, 2015
Time: 2 p.m. ET

In this Q&A-driven webinar, you’ll have the opportunity to submit your own questions to one of the nation’s leading nonprofit attorneys from the Venable law firm as he walks you through the essentials, highlights common traps and pitfalls, discusses best practices in the nonprofit community, and most importantly, gives you the thoughtful, practical, real-life guidance and tips that you need to know in order to protect your nonprofit in the U.S. and overseas, as well as optimize and capitalize on your nonprofit’s intellectual property.

This webinar is geared toward all nonprofits, probably very large organizations, not specifically homeschool organizations.  Some of the information may not apply to your organization, but if you publish curriculum or have questions about trademarks and copyrights, you might learn a lot!
Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out (podcast)

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In her most recent podcast  Carol Topp, CPA, the author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, covers tips to starting a homeschool co-op.

Listen to the podcast

Carol covers the 4 W’s and 2 Cs that leaders need to answer in launching a new co-op:

What, Where, When, Who, and Cost and Curriculum

 

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Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out has helped more than 1,000 readers run their homeschool co-ops. Get your copy here.

Carol has more podcast episodes for homeschool leaders. View the topic list.