Can’t we operate without IRS tax exempt status?

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Carol,

Does my homeschool support group really need to apply to 501(c)(3) tax exempt status with the IRS? It seems like a lot of time and money. We have a small budget and we don’t accept tax deductible donations.

Can’t we just operate as we are?

You described your group as a support group, meaning you exists for the benefit of the members and you do not accept or plan to seek tax deductible donations.

Many larger homeschool organizations, especially co-ops that have an educational function and not just a support group purpose, seek 501(c)(3) tax exempt status for its many benefits:

  • tax exemption
  • ability to accept tax deductible donations
  • ability to participate in fund raisers only open to 501(c)(3) charities

See my article Do we need 501c3 status?

But homeschool support groups are different. They don’t hold classes; they focus on fellowship. Support groups don’t accept donations; they get all their income from membership dues and maybe a little bit of fund raising.

I attended an IRS webinar and asked your question. Here’s what the IRS said:

It is true the Tax Reform Act of 1969 requirement to “give notice,” (to apply for recognition of tax-exempt status) applies only to organizations wanting section 501(c)(3) status.
So, although other types of organizations are not required to file Form 1024, they may still wish to do so in order to receive a determination letter of IRS recognition of their status. Having the determination letter ensures public recognition of their status and may enable exemption from some state taxes.
Also, even though an organization may “self-proclaim” its tax-exempt status, it is still subject to the rules governing its particular sub-section. It is also subject to IRS examination to determine whether it meets the requirements for the exemption it is claiming.

Translation:

If your organization wished to obtain 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, then you must file an application for that. I can help . See my Services page

If  instead, your group fits the criteria of a social club (what the IRS calls a 501(c)(7)), then your organization can “self-proclaim” that you are tax exempt without filing the paperwork.

But you still have to obey the rules and fit the IRS definition of a social club. 

What it takes to be classified as a 501(c)(7) Social Club

And you don’t have a nice letter from the IRS to prove that you are tax exempt.

So there you have it…most homeschool support groups, if they operate as a social club, can be considered tax exempt without going through the time and expense of tax exempt application with the IRS.

P.S. But even if your group does not have to file the application paperwork (Form 1023 or 1024), your organization must still file an annual information return called a Form 990/ 990EZ or the simple on-line Form 990N with the IRS. Read more here: IRS Form 990N FAQ

Carol Topp, CPA

Lessons from a goose on leadership

Geese

Who knew that geese could tell us so much about leadership?

Geese fly in a V formation to create uplift. They fly 71% farther when flying together than if they flew alone.
Application for homeschool leaders: Don’t run your group alone. Gather other people to help you and you’ll go farther and avoid burnout.

When the lead bird gets tired, he drops out of the head spot and flies in the back to recover and take advantage of the lift from the other birds.
Application for homeschool leaders: Rotate leadership. Bring in fresh, new people. Set term limits for board members.

Geese honk to offer encouragement to each other, sort of an “Atta boy!” or “You can do it! Keep going!” to each other and their leader.
Application for homeschool leaders: Encourage your leaders. Offer appreciation gifts and thank you cards.

Thanks to :

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/apjinternational/apj-s/2007/4tri07/popeeng.htm

Carol Topp, CPA

More nonprofits can file the easy Form 990N

2009 Form 990

Many homeschool organizations that have tax exempt status are small enough they do not have to file any tax forms with the IRS. And now new IRS guidelines mean even more groups are free from IRS filing requirements!

Small exempt organizations can file the simple Form 990-N, the electronic postcard, instead of the longer Form 990-EZ or  Form 990.

For tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2010, exempt organizations may file the e-Postcard if their annual gross receipts were not more than $50,000.  The previous filing threshold was annual gross receipts of no more than $25,000. Gross receipts include every dollar your organization brings in, even if it goes out immediately too.

The e-Postcard is an electronic notice filed at http://epostcard.form990.org.

Need help determining your gross receipts? Send me an email and we can arrange a private consultation over the phone. Email me here.

If your tax exempt homeschool organization needs help filing their Form 990EZ or Form 990, I can help. Read more here.

Would your homeschool group benefit from being tax exempt? Find out by reading my articles on the pros and cons of tax exempt status.

Carol Topp, CPA

Educator Tax Deduction for Homeschoolers?

IRS

The IRS gives a $250 tax deduction to educators for unreimbursed supplies they spend in the classroom.

Can homeschoolers take this deduction?

The IRS guidelines say to be an eligible educator:

“You work at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under state law.”

To work means to get paid for your work as a teacher-employee. Homeschool parents are not employees of a school. We do not get paid; we do not get a W-2. The IRS will check for a W-2 from a school if a taxpayer takes the Educator Expense deduction. Homeschoolers would not have a W-2 from a school, even if your state classifies your homeschool as a private school.

The Educator Expense Deduction was initiated by President Geo W. Bush  attempting to get support from teachers and their powerful unions. It was extended at the end of 2010 for one more year.

I do not recommend that homeschool parents take the Educators Expense deduction. Sorry.

Carol Topp, CPA

P.S. Here are my required “lawyer” words:
Internal Revenue Service Circular 230 Disclosure: Advice relating to federal taxes that is contained in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Paying co-op leaders

meeting

Hello,
I am the leader of a support group with around 65 families.  Our group has a board of elders and by-laws.  We also have a co-op of about half the members of the larger group.  The co-op requires members to be a member of the larger group.  The co-op has separate leadership and it’s own checking account. The by-laws don’t address the co-op specifically.

The co-op pays the leadership and teachers from their account.  Tuition and fees are charged for participating families.  Teachers are written checks from the co-ops account monthly. “Teacher Gift” is always written in the memo in the checks. For the most part, curriculum for the classes are decided upon by the leadership of the co-op. Those in the leadership of the co-op serve no other volunteer function in the main group (their leadership on the co-op has been counted as their volunteer service for all the 7 years the co-op has existed ). Another member of the group has complained that their paid leadership service is not volunteer service and should not be counted toward the main group.  I do agree with this.  But it seems that we need to address this and some other issues that aren’t quite right.

Should our groups separate?  The larger group has not reviewed the co-op’s financial records. The co-op only gave out 1099’s last year for the first time.  I know that whatever is done, there will be hurt feelings and I am at a loss to know where and how to tackle these issues.  Where and what should I start with?

Thanks in advance.

Tina

Tina,

Here’s my advice:
PayingWorkersCoverRead my ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organizations. Available as a pdf for immediate download for $7.00 at
http://homeschoolcpa.com/bookstore/paying-workers-ebook/

Good for your group for finally giving 1099MISC to the teachers!  But you should stop writing “Teacher Gift” in the memo. These are not gifts. They are payments for services.

In my experience, it is untypical for homeschool co-op leaders to be paid. That is because most co-ops cannot afford to pay leaders. Instead, many leaders receive discounted tuition (or free classes) in appreciation for their volunteer efforts.

Since you are paying these leaders, they are employees, not independent contractors as your teachers apparently are (although this statement concerns me: “curriculum for the classes are decided upon by the leadership of the co-op.” It sounds as if they are employees and not independent contractors). Employees require quite a bit more paperwork and may involve paying unemployment tax and workers compensation taxes. I discuss the difference between independent contractors and employees in the Paying Workers ebook.

You asked: “Should our groups separate? The larger group has not reviewed the co-op’s financial records.” Obviously the larger support group has neglected some of their responsibilities. See my blog post on leader responsibilities here:
http://homeschoolcpa.com/what-are-the-legal-responsibilities-of-homeschool-leaders/ Perhaps it is time to weigh the pros and cons of being separate. A lot goes into that decision.

You also said: “Another member of the group has complained that their paid leadership service is not volunteer service and should not be counted toward the main group. I do agree with this. But it seems that we need to address this and some other issues that aren’t quite right.”
You are correct that you cannot pay a volunteer, so perhaps the volunteer service is not fulfilled because they are paid.

If you wish to discuss your group’s issues and concerns, I do offer private phone consultation with homeschool leaders. It’s one of my most popular services. Read more about it here: http://homeschoolcpa.com/services/consultation/

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com Helping homeschool leaders
————

Hi,

I wanted to thank you so much for writing back and give a little update.  The officers met and decided to work at correcting any errors we may be making.  We have a meeting scheduled with the co-op directors in the next couple of weeks.  I think it is so important to set a good example in everything you do.

I do want to add that I was incorrect in that the co-op leaders receive tuition waivers instead of being paid.  Once we get all the information on the finances, then we can make the necessary decisions about our groups.  I am praying for a smooth road.

Your website is very helpful and I have shared it with all the officers of our group.   We are so very appreciative.

Tina

Homeschooling as a home-based business

Teenager&Teacher

Dear Carol,

I am a homeschooling mother of three. I recently named our homeschool and incorporated the name to offer tutoring and testing for income (in my home). What do I need to do to report the income to the IRS. Should the name be a LLC. or S-Corporation? If you can shed some light on how I need to handle this, I would greatly appreciate it. I need the income to continue homeschooling, and this is unfamiliar territory for me. Thank you in advance for help.

Connie

Connie,
Thank you for contacting me. I wish you the best of success in your new endeavor as a business owner! It can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

You said you incorporated the name.  What specifically did you do?  Did you merely register the name or did you file incorporation papers with your state?  There is a big difference with respect to taxes.

Most tutors start out as sole proprietors and never progress to S Corp (or the larger C Corp) status.  There is no need to be a corporation for most tutors. This blog post I wrote might be helpful: Why You Should Be a Sole Proprietor

You might benefit by reading my articles and ebook, Small Business Start Up Guide, available at http://caroltoppcpa.com/services/small-business/

Sole proprietors file a Schedule C as part of there individual Form 1040.  A Schedule C shows all the income and expenses of the business.
Corporations have different IRS forms that are much more complex and usually require a CPA to prepare.

I hope that helps. There is a lot to learn!

Carol Topp, CPA

Duties of a Secretary

The Nonprofit Law Blog explains that the duties of a secretary of a nonprofit is more than attending meetings.

Duties of the Secretary of a Nonprofit Corporation

The secretary position of a non-profit organization plays a critical role in fostering communication and diligence through proper management and utilization of important records such as meeting minutes and the organization’s bylaws.

The secretary position has wide-ranging responsibilities, requiring much more than simply being present at all board meetings. He or she is an active conduit for communication by giving proper notice of any meetings and timely distribution of materials such as agendas and meeting minutes. Additionally, the secretary should be knowledgeable of the organization’s records and related materials, providing advice and resources to the board on topics such as governance issues, amendments to the state laws, and the like, that will assist them in fulfilling their fiduciary duties.

As the custodian of the organization’s records, the secretary is responsible for maintaining accurate documentation and meeting any legal requirements such as annual filing deadlines. The secretary is responsible for reviewing and updating documents as necessary and ensuring all documents are safely stored and readily accessible.

A secretary will be most useful to an organization when his or her role is catered to meet the unique structure and needs of the organization, rather than filling a “one-fits-all” job description. For example, these duties often increase when the corporation is a membership organization, giving members the right to elect the directors. Duties may additionally change from time to time as may be assigned to him or her by the board.

I recommend that every homeschool organization set up a permanent file  to keep important papers including:

  • Bylaws
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Bank account information
  • Name registrations
  • 501c3 determination letter from the IRS
  • Copies of EVERYTHING ever mailed to or received from any branch of the government, IRS, state or local.

Pass this permanent file to the next secretary as board members change.

Happy filing!

Carol Topp, CPA

Are fund raisers harming your chances for tax exempt status?

Many homeschool organizations depend on fund raisers to help run their homeschool co-ops and support groups. These fund raisers could actually harm a group’s chances of obtaining tax exempt status.

True Story:

Julie is treasurer of a homeschool co-op in OK that desires to file for 501c3 tax exempt status with the IRS. I examined her financial statements and saw that the group depended heavily on profit from fund raisers including candy, food and flower sales. These fund raisers required Julie to collect over $12,00o a year in sales. The co-op made a profit of nearly $4,000 every year from their fund raisers.

“It’s a blessing to the co-op, because many of our families cannot afford even the small co-op fees we charge. And friends and neighbors beg us to keep selling our products, especially the locally made food.”

The profit from the fundraisers was actually more than the amount collected in co-op dues.

Unfortunately, with most of the co-op’s income coming from fundraisers and not co-op fees, the IRS may not grant Julie’s co-op 501c3 tax exempt status.

The IRS requires a significant portion of your income come from public support (i.e., the dues from your co-op families) and not from an “unrelated businesses” (i.e. selling products in a fund raiser). The IRS defines “significant” as having more than 1/3 of your income come from public support.

Fortunately for Julie’s group, the IRS has several exceptions. One of them worked for Julie’s group. Her fund raising efforts were all done by volunteers and so the IRS considers that fund raiser as part of the group’s support and they meet the 1/3 test mentioned above.

The IRS rules and exceptions get a bit complicated and both the homeschool leader, Julie, and I did our research. We will be very careful and thorough when explaining the fund raising programs to the IRS when Julie’s co-op files for tax exempt status with the IRS.

If your group has concerns about their fund raising practices, these related blog posts might help:

The IRS’s Word on Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts

The IRS and Fund Raising

What does the IRS mean by not allowing “private benefit” in a fund raiser?

QALeadersCover3DAlso, my ebook, Question and Answers for Homeschool Leaders addresses fundraisers in detail.

Read more including a sample chapter here

Order a copy (in pdf format) for immediate dowload for $8.00 here.

…working to keep you on  the right side with the IRS!

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Finally, attend my free webinar on Fund Raising in a Homeschool Group on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:00 pm EST, 7:00 pm CT. You can listen in on-line and participate in the chat room or phone in and attend the webinar that way. For details on the login in information, phone number to call and workshop handout, click here.

Feel free to tell other homeschool leaders in your area about my webinar. The more, the merrier!

There is no charge for the webinar, except long distance phone charges if you call in .

Carol Topp, CPA

Webinar: Fund Raisers for Homeschool Groups

FundRaisersWebinar

Fund Raisers for Homeschool Groups webinar

We discussed:

  • Ideas: Easy fund raisers for your homeschool group
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • The IRS and Fund Raising: Avoiding stuff that can get you in trouble!

How to listen if you missed the live session:

http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/73712

Grab This Handout

This handout references some links and important information about fund raising pitfalls to avoid.

Fund Raising Webinar Handout

Carol Topp, CPA

A budget can bring relief

My friends Kristen & Denise at Homeschool Group Leader have been running an interview they did with me as a blog series on leader burn out.

This last portion is on budgets titled Budgets Can Bring Relief
Here’s part of the interview:

A lot of leaders think, “What?! I hate dealing with the numbers. I am a people person.”

But what those numbers on a budget do is help you plan, sit down and look to the future. That can do a lot to reduce stress.

If you make a plan and know what might be coming, it will help you set priorities. What is important to us in our group? Is it important that we keep the cost extremely low? That is going to be a very different budget than saying our priority is top quality. It helps you focus, plan and set your group’s priorities.
So, believe it or not–having a budget might sound like it is a limiting thing, and some people don’t like budgets. But instead a budget can bring great freedom and relief from a lot of stress.
If you need help establishing a budget, start with my article  Budgeting basics
MoneyMgmtCover
Then consider ordering my ebook, Money Management for Homeschool Organizations.
Price $7.00. Available for immediate download.  Read more here.
Carol Topp, CPA