Questions on taxes, incorporation and leaving a group

I saw your website and had some general questions for you. Appreciate your ministry to homeschoolers.

1. – Why is the pooling of (already taxed) money from homeschool families and then using it for a rent, insurance and contractor teacher a taxable event in the first place?  Why is it consider “income” if it is just collecting of money to be directly paid out for expenses like rent?

2.  We are trying to decide whether to go with recording our homeschool coop fees/expenses on schedule C of one person or try to establish a unincorporated association. What would be the pros and cons of them?

3.  Lastly, if we set up a unincorporated association via the state under my name but I leave the homeschool coop, how does the state and IRS know that I am no longer part of this association though my SSN or name or address was a part of it when it was established?

Thank you and look forward to your advice.



Good questions! I’ll do my best to understand what you are asking and answer them correctly.

1. When any organization collects money, it is considered a for-profit business. Tax is paid on the surplus (i.e. profit) of the business (not the income). No tax is paid if there is no surplus. Some organizations have a charitable, religious or educational purpose and are granted tax-exempt status by the IRS.

2. A Schedule C entity would be a taxable business entity owned, and therefore controlled, by one person. The owner will bear the sole responsibility for its success or failure and be responsibility for all risk, liabilities and taxes due.

An association is controlled by a group of people and could apply to be tax exempt. The decision rests on the atmosphere of the group; is it perceived to be a joint effort or owned by only a single person who provides services for a fee? It is usually easier to build a cooperative spirit and a base of volunteers with a nonprofit association. Volunteers are usually less willing to give their time freely to a for-profit venture.

3. If a leader or founder leaves an organization, they can notify the state. Every state has a different procedure for doing this. Usually corporations are required to provide the name of a registered agent (someone who knows how to contact the organization and agrees to receive court summons and official correspondence from the state). If the registered agent changes, a form is filed with the state supplying the new agent’s name and address.

In general, it is common practice for the founders (original incorporators) of a nonprofit corporation to change after several years. In my experience, most states do not keep track of new board members or leaders; they only desire the registered agent’s name be kept current. Some require annual reports and a listing of officers.

I think that answers all of your questions! I hope it helps your decision making!


Carol Topp, CPA

Insurance provider works with homeschool groups

Angela, a homeschool leaders in Arkansas, shared some helpful information about insurance for homeschool groups.


As our group grew and I began to understand the potential liability we, especially our leadership, was taking on and heard of more and more groups being sued, our board of directors decided it was imperative that we be insured.
Our search for insurance was very long, and discouraging.  We solicited quotes from companies and were completely turned down, or quoted prices that would have ruined our budget.   Then we found AIM!

Unfortunately, AIM Insurance no longer covers homeschool organizations.


Some homeschool leaders in Indiana and Ohio found that Mennonite Mutual Insurance is covering homeschool organizations.

And NCG Homeschool Solutions offers insurance to homeschool groups ad Classical Conversations Communities


Carol Topp, CPA

Advice for first year director

Advice for first year Executive Director from Jerry Sinclair, President of Faithful and True of Jacksonville, Inc.

1. Never stop prospecting for new donors or new volunteers

2. Keep an eye on the finances. I have a treasurer, but I am still responsible for the financial health of the charity.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate Keep your board informed.

4. Inspect what you expect. If you ask anyone (paid staff or volunteer) to do a task, quietly check to make sure it is done properly.

5. While staying humble, be confident when doing the right thing. Your integrity will be tested more often than in the for-profit world.

6. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. It is far worse to tackle a problem the wrong way in ignorance. Better to admit up front if you are in need of help.

7. Keep the charity mission statement at the forefront of everything you do. Make it a habit to review all of your tasks and directives to make sure they are within the mission statement guidelines.

8. Be prepared to say NO early and often. You and your charity may be asked to do some good things, but it may be outside the DNA of your charity’s ability or staffing resource.

9. Make staff and board meetings timely, efficient and as short as possible.

10. Have FUN!

So many of these suggestions apply to homeschool leaders too!

Seven Sins (and more) of Board Members


I found this list of Seven Deadly Sins of Board Members over at the Drive by Consulting blog. Many homeschool organizations have great boards filled with generous, helpful members. But sometimes we can fall into bad habits.

Give this list to your board members as you launch a new year as a gentle reminder that the mission of your group should be first in their minds.

Seven Deadly Sins of Board Members

  1. Gossip
  2. Breach of confidentiality
  3. Lone Ranger trusteeship (a leader thinking he/she can do it alone)
  4. Micro-management
  5. Unwillingness to ask hard questions and make difficult decisions
  6. Representation of special interests
  7. Self-dealing

Seven More Dangerous Sins of Board Members

  1. Pontification (arrogance)
  2. Always seeking the dark side
  3. Irregular attendance
  4. Thinking they run the organization
  5. Neglecting to support the CEO (or director)
  6. Focus on the present rather than the future
  7. Failing to listen

Any of these true of your board?


Practical helps for leaders from HSLDA

Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has a new spot on their website for homeschool leaders.


Check out the entire site, but I found the Practical Helps page useful.

There I found articles on

  • conflict
  • common co-op problems
  • how to welcome families of handicapped students
  • tips on activities for groups
  • field trip guidelines

and a linkHomeschoolCo-ops to my book  Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out

Vicki Bentley, the HSLDA Group Services Director, explains the site is still under construction and plans to add many more articles.

Thanks to HSLDA for creating a site to help homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA ebooks mentioned by HSLDA

I am pleased to announce that Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has mentioned several of my ebooks and articles on their Group Services webpage.


While homeschool groups are not HSLDA members, HSLDA does offer their group services staff, with more than twenty years experience in local and/or state support group leadership, to assist groups by providing examples of how other leaders have handled similar circumstances.

On the Leader Support tab you’ll see Legal and Finaincial Resources and my ebooks are articles are metioned there including:

Money Management for Homeschool Organizations by Carol Topp, CPA. (e-book)

How Do We Become a Recognized Nonprofit?” by Carol Topp, CPA

Do We Need to Incorporate?” by Carol Topp, CPA

Q&A for Homeschool Leaders (e-book) by Carol Topp, CPA—The most frequently asked questions from homeschool leaders on the IRS, nonprofit and tax exempt status, boards, conflict, money, fund raising, volunteers, paying workers and insurance.

Thanks HSLDA in helping to assist homeschool leaders!

Carol Topp, CPA

Lessons from a goose on leadership


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 :

Carol Topp, CPA

Paying co-op leaders


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.



Here’s my advice:
PayingWorkersCoverRead my ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organizations. Available as a pdf for immediate download for $7.00 at

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: 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:

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp, CPA Helping homeschool leaders


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.


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

Do liability waivers really protect homeschool leaders?

I was recently asked about liability waivers from a homeschool leader:

As we draw up a liability waiver, do we need to have an attorney in our state look at it to make sure it is okay, or are they generally pretty generic forms? It seems those I have filled out in the past were basically the same, with just a few minor changes to make it appropriate for the group and/or event. Judy K. (Tennessee)

I wasn’t sure how to answer Judy, so I turned to Christine Field, an homeschool parent and attorney with Homeschool Legal Advantage:

You don’t think of homeschool groups as engaging in potentially dangerous activity, so the whole idea of waivers and liability insurance may seem unnecessary. Yet many groups are increasingly called upon to obtain liability insurance. The insurer may insist on your group having a release of liability form or a liability waiver.

Many people believe that a signed waiver makes them invulnerable. This is not true. Here are some common misconceptions about liability waivers:

1. If someone signs a waiver, they can’t sue us. This is not true. An injured party can still attack the validity and scope of a waiver.

2. If I have a waiver signed, I send it to the injured party’s lawyer and they won’t sue. Also not true. As a homeschool group, you still need to report the claim to your insurance company along with sending them a copy of the waiver to be used as part of your defense.

3. If I have waivers signed, I don’t need insurance. Definitely not true! In fact, if you have insurance, the insurer will often insist that you obtain waivers or releases from participants.
An enforceable waiver of liability is one which is prepared in accordance with state law, sufficiently describes the risk and is understood by the reader.

Some things to look out for in your releases are as follows:
1. Remember, minors generally cannot release liability. Parents or guardians must sign the release on behalf of the minor.

2. A release can only release from ordinary negligence. In other words, if there is gross negligence or intentional injury, the release will not be effective.

3. The language of the release must be in compliance with the state law and the signer must understand the language of the release. Look for language barriers or other inability to understand.

It is always good to have an attorney licensed in your state take a look at your liability waivers or releases. Doing so provides the best possible protection for your group as well as your directors.

Thank you, Christine, for your reply and insight into the best use of liability waivers for homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA