Can homeschoolers use 529 plans? Maybe!

Congress decided to expand 529 savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act or 2017. 529 plans were originally set up to save for college. The earnings on the savings is tax free. But they specifically excluded homeschool expenses from using 529 funds.

That seemed unfair to a lot of homeschoolers.

But there may be a way for homeschoolers to use their 529 savings accounts for some K-12 expenses.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act or 2017 says this:

the term ‘qualified higher education expense’ shall include a reference to expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.”. (emphasis added)

There are 2 conditions for you to use 529 funds for K-12 expenses:

1) the costs must be for tuition and

2) the institution the family pays must be “a public, private, or religious school”

Some homeschool students take classes from private schools (locally or online). The tuition payments to these schools can use 529 funds.

But the cost of books, supplies, equipment, and payments to organizations that are not schools cannot use 529 funds.

Be careful that the tuition payments are going to a public, private, or religious school. In my experience most homeschool programs (co-ops, tutorials, etc) are NOT schools.

Homeschool parents should check with the program that they are paying tuition to to determine if it is a school according to their state’s definition.

If you have any concern about their status as a school, then do not use 529 funds to pay for the tuition. Withdrawals from a 529 fund that are not “qualified” (i.e. tuition paid to a public, private, or religious school) then you pay income tax and a penalty of 10% on the withdrawn funds. Ouch!

Carol Topp, CPA

What homeschool expenses can I deduct on my taxes?

Here’s a list of homeschool expenses you can deduct on your federal income tax return (Form 1040):

1.

Yes, that’s the list! It’s empty. There are NO homeschool expenses that you can deduct on your individual federal income tax return.

(Sorry for the click bait in the title!)

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, either.

A few states may allow a tax deduction, a tax credit, or an educational saving account. But not your Uncle Sam (the US federal government).

 

Clever ideas to dodge taxes (that won’t work)

Sometimes homeschool families try to get clever and think that they will form a homeschool business and deduct the expenses. The idea is for the dad to hire his wife to teach their children. Then they can deduct school supplies, the mom’s wages as a homeschool teacher, etc.

Sounds pretty clever, huh? Except it doesn’t work anymore than paying mom to cook and feed the family by running an “in-house restaurant” won’t work. That’s because in both these plans (homeschooling as a business and in-house restaurant) there are no customers that are paying for the mom’s services.

Also, the mom has to declare her income to the IRS and she will have to pay taxes on it! That’s why families don’t hire mom to run an in-house restaurant and they shouldn’t hire mom to homeschool the kids either.

So forget the idea of forming your family homeschool as a business.

Homeschools as private school. Any tax breaks?

Some states treat homeschools as private schools, so some families think they can avoid taxes by declaring their private homeschool as a nonprofit organizations and get tax exempt status as a private school. That’s pretty clever too, huh? Only it won’t work.

Briefly, a nonprofit organization exists to serve a group, not an individual. The IRS will not grant “recognized charity” 501(c)(3) tax exempt status to a group that is formed solely to benefit the founder’s family. A tax exempt organization must serve a public good.

The IRS forbids private “inurement” in 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations. Inurement means to be beneficial or advantageous. Inurement occurs when an organization is formed or operates with an incorrect charitable purpose that allows individuals in control to directly and personally benefit from the organization. 501(c)(3) organizations can lose their tax exempt status for practicing inurement.

So forget the idea of your family homeschool becoming a nonprofit organization.

 

In the end, do what the rest of use do, pay your taxes.

Don’t look to Uncle Sam to give you a tax break because you choose to educate your children at home. Instead appreciate the freedom we have an Americans to homeschool.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Ebook Taxes for CC Licensed Directors almost ready!

I just sent the final (I hope) version of my  ebook Taxes for Classical Conversions Licensed Directors off to Classical Conversations, Inc!

The ebook will be distributed by Classical Conversations, Inc to their licensed directors. It is my understanding that the ebook will be available at no charge to the licensed directors.

Update: The ebook was released on the Directors License Guide in late March 2018. Find it here.

If you’ve already prepared your tax return for 2017, you should STILL read this ebook to be sure you did everything correctly!

If you are not a licensed director with CC, I cannot share or sell a copy with you (sorry!), but I recommend you read the following blog posts:

CC Directors: Do not give yourself a 1099-MISC

Tax return for a Classical Conversations homeschool business

I’m a Classical Conversations Director. Do I have to file any forms with the IRS?

Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

 

Carol Topp, CPA


Free Resource

In the ebook, I mention a bookkeeping spreadsheet for CC Directors. You can get the spreadsheet now (all it costs is your email!)

 


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Any Tax Deductions for Homeschoolers This Year?

 

Are there any tax deductions for homeschoolers this year?

Carol Topp, CPA answered this question originally back in 2014, but the answer is still the same-even with the new tax laws passed in 2017. Additionally, Carol gives some details on college expenses that are tax deductible and tax advantaged college savings plans.

This is a repeat of a podcast episode aired in 2014. I (Carol) caught a nasty cold and sinus infection and couldn’t talk without coughing for several weeks. I hope you find the re-broadcast of this episode helpful!

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned these resources:

Home School Legal Defense Association has an explanation of some states’ tax breaks or credits:http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200504150.asp

Ann Zeise of A to Z Home’s Cool has a great, detailed and lengthy post of tax write-offs for homeschoolers:
https://a2zhomeschooling.com/laws/homeschool_laws_legalities/tax_deductions_educational_writeoffs/

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Q&A: Adding another program under your homeschool group’s umbrella

Super Bowl LII is over. Did your team win? Perhaps your homeschool group is considering adding football team.

Tricia, a treasurer if a homeschool program in Texas asked questions here and here about adding a football program. The homeschool group has 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

She had several questions about tax exempt status and financial oversight.

  1.  What steps with the IRS do we need to follow to bring them under our homeschool group’s tax exempt umbrella?
  2. What forms would we need to file?
  3. Would they share our tax ID number or would they need their own?  What are concerns should we consider in doing this?
  4. The benefits to our members are obvious, but we don’t want to overlook concerns if there are any.  They would handle their own bank account, but how much would we need to manage?

 

Tricia,

I read your 501(c)(3) tax exempt application given to the IRS and see that sports teams was part of your mission. That’s good, because you do not have to approach the IRS and ask for permission to add the football program; it was included in your original tax exempt application.

Here are my answers to your questions:

1. When you file your 990 or 990-EZ Annual Information Return with the IRS, you simply list the football program as one of your programs. If your gross revenues are under $50,000 per year, you’ll file the simple Form 990-N and no explanation is required.

2. There are no additional forms to file beyond the annual Form 990/990-EZ or 990-N. That’s because sports teams was part of your mission in your original tax exempt application.

3. Use your main group’s EIN (tax ID number). The football program is just another activity run by the main group, so you should expect the typical concerns such as: Are they following policies, being careful, keeping good financial records and practices, etc? My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization can help in this area.

4. Your main organization should have oversight of the football program’s bank balances. This includes allowing you, as the main group’s treasurer, access to their bank account online and require they give you a monthly bank reconciliation report and monthly reports of the income and expenses.

This may be a lot of extra work for you as a volunteer treasurer, so you may need to hire a bookkeeper or recruit more help from volunteers.

Tricia asked her questions by email. I can do that  for your homeschool program, but it is very time consuming to read and reply to emails. I charge a reduced rate of $50/hour to read and reply to emails. Or perhaps a phone call would be better. Contact me to arrange a private phone consultation.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Taxes for Classical Conversations Directors

Last tax year I was asked a lot of questions about taxes by Classical Conversations directors and tutors. Things like:

  • What tax form should I to use to report my income and expenses?
  • What expenses were tax deductible?
  • What tax forms do I need to give to my tutors?
  • How should tutors be paid?
  • How do I pay myself as a CC Director?

Fortunately, there is an ebook in the works to help CC Directors titled:

Taxes for Classical Conversions Directors

The ebook is available only to Licensed CC Directors from Classical Conversations, Inc

You can find the ebook here

 

I recommend the following blog posts:

CC Directors: Do not give yourself a 1099-MISC

Tax return for a Classical Conversations homeschool business

I’m a Classical Conversations Director. Do I have to file any forms with the IRS?

Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

Consult a local small business CPA. To find a local tax preparer I recommend two sources:

Both of these websites allow you to search for a local tax preparer who is knowledgeable about taxes for small sole proprietor businesses.

 

Carol Topp, CPA


Free Resource

In the ebook, I mention a bookkeeping spreadsheet for CC Directors. You can get the spreadsheet now (all it costs is your email!)

 


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How to Find a Local Tax Professional

I like local!

I try to support local businesses and frequently tell tax clients in other states or cities to use a local tax professional.

How do you find a local tax professional?

Here are some tips:

I am no longer accepting tax clients for individual tax preparation, but I can help you with :

  • Business consultations by phone, especially of you operate a homeschool business like Classical Conversations, etc.
  • Nonprofit consultations by phone, especially of you are a homeschool organization or local Cincinnati nonprofit.
  • Assistance with applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, especially of you are a homeschool organization or local Cincinnati nonprofit.
  • Filing annual IRS Form 990/990-EZ for tax exempt organizations

Please contact me via email, tell me a little about your business or nonprofit, and what questions and issues you have. We’ll see if I can help you or if you need to go local.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Sponsoring a football program under your homeschool group

 
 Super Bowl LII is a few days away! Even though the Green Bay Packers will not be playing (I’m a Packer fan) football is on my mind! Perhaps your homeschool group is considering adding football team. Read on!
I wrote to you about starting a football league and wanting to have a “fiscal sponsorship.”  We postponed the sponsorship last year, but are now wanting to move forward with it.  This has given us new things to consider and I am really out of my league.
  • We are wanting the football program to have a separate bank account from the main checking account, but of course have all the books open and reports/statements submitted to us.  Kind of they way some Boy Scout Troops work with their charter. Will this be a problem?
  •  Will we be able to purchase equipment and supplies for the team using our 501c3 sales tax exemption?
  •  Will businesses be able to make donations specifically earmarked for the football program and then be able to receive a tax deductible letter from us, the main organization?
  • We are planning on purchasing insurance covering the players and cheerleaders. Would the main group need to be on that policy also?
  •  If the football program ever desired to become independent from the main group, would it be able to retain the assets i.e., playing equipment?
I am very overwhelmed at the responsibility involved as a volunteer treasurer. Other board members seem to think I’m overthinking all of this, and that it is no different than a boy scout group and it’s no big deal to get set up–just file some forms and use our tax id to open a bank account for the football program.  I don’t see it as that simple.
Thank you, Tricia
Trisha,
The football program does not have to be a separate legal identity. It can be one of the programs you operate as the main group. Here’s my  reply to your questions.
  • A separate bank account is fine. It will use the main group’s EIN and belong to the parent even though the football program leaders may be signers on the checks.
  • The football program can use the main group’s 501c3 tax status to purchase equipment (sales tax free).
  • Donors can make donations to the football program, but checks should be made out to the main group. You are then obligated to set aside these donations as “restricted funds” only to be used for the football program.
  • Your homeschool group needs to be the owner of the insurance policy because the football program has no separate legal status to buy insurance.
  • All assets belong to the main group, not the football program. If your homeschool group wishes to make a gift to the football program when they split off, it can or you can sell the assets to the football program at a reduced price. I recommend you put something in writing in your fiscal sponsorship agreement about who owns the assets, but leave it up to the board to decide when the time comes whether to sell or gift the equipment to the football program.

I agree with the board; you might be over-thinking this. While it’s good to do your due diligence, it should be pretty easy to add the football program to your homeschool group’s activities.

I do recommend you write up an fiscal sponsorship agreement. Here’s a website with a few examples. I also attached an example I found at Mr Colvin’s law firm website, http://www.adlercolvin.com/index.php You can simplify the language if you wish.

I hope this allows you to sleep better tonight! 🙂

Carol Topp, CPA

Followup: Tricia had additional questions concerning sharing the tax exempt status of her organization and the finances of this new program. Read more here.

Adding a football program to a homeschool organization

Super Bowl LII is a little over a week away! While my beloved Green Bay Packers will not be playing 🙁 football is on my mind! Perhaps your homeschool group would like to add a football or other sports program. Read on!
We are a homeschool organization with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and have been approached by a new member to start a football program. He is interested in starting a football league for our members. He discovered we are a 501c3 organization and our status could help him.

 

I am a little hesitant in sharing our status with a program that is yet to be established.  However, we like the idea of our boys having the option to play football.  He wants to start practices NEXT week and wants to use our checking account for depositing the funds paid by parents.

 

On top of all the other responsibilities of budgeting the events we provide, I’m at a loss as where to begin in this new endeavor or if we should?  Would he need a board of directors?  By-laws of his own?  Would we umbrella this league?  I don’t know where to start or how to advise him.

 

I’m not sure I can take on more responsibilities, especially one this large.  Can you offer advice or point me in the right direction as how to proceed?  I am thinking perhaps he should be independent for a year to “prove himself” before we allow him under our 501c3 status?
Trisha

Tricia,

Wow, nothing like pressure to make a decision!

What the football coach is proposing is called a fiscal sponsorship, i.e. using your 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as an umbrella he can fit under. Usually the sub organization pays a fee 1%-10% of their revenue to the parent organization.

There are pros and cons to a fiscal sponsorship arrangement. It can be temporary, just a year or two until the football program is spun off to be independent.

I recommend a book called Fiscal Sponsorship: 6 Ways to Do It Right by Greg Colvin. http://fiscalsponsorship.com/ the book and the website will help a lot.

You definitely want the fiscal sponsorship agreement written up and signed by both parties so that everything is clear.

You could set up the football program as one of your activities. This increases the risk to your group (football is a risky venture because of potential injuries). Make sure your insurance allows a football program; it may not.

Or you can require his organization have a separate board, bylaws, insurance, etc.  Ask to see the list of board members, minutes of meetings, bylaws and most importantly the insurance policy.

Don’t be pressured into making a decision just because he wants to start the program now. Poor planning on his part does not constitute an emergency (or quick decision) on your part.

 

Tricia asked her questions by email. I can do that  for your homeschool program, but it is very time consuming to read and reply to emails. I charge a reduced rate of $50/hour to read and reply to emails. Or perhaps a phone call would be better. Contact me to arrange a private phone consultation.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Follow up: Tricia’s homeschool organization postponed the sponsorship for a year and in the following year started a six-man football team and it was very successful.  They even added cheerleaders!

Read additional questions and answers Tricia had about operating a large program under her homeschool group’s tax exempt umbrella.

 

Paypal sent homeschool leader a 1099-K. Is it taxable income to her?

 

Our homeschool co-op leader set up a Paypal account to collect payments from our parents. She was very surprised when Paypal sent her a 1099-K for $40,000 with her name on it! Does she have to report this on her tax return even though it was for the co-op?

 

Oh dear. It appears that leader used her personal name and Social Security Number when setting up the Paypal account. She also used her name and SSN when setting up a checking account. This is not good!

This group was in the process of forming  as a nonprofit corporation in her state, getting an EIN for the corporation, and then applying for tax exempt status with the IRS. But the parents starting paying before all the paperwork was completed so the leader simply set up a personal Paypal account. It’s easy to set up a Paypal account (I have 3 Paypal accounts myself). But now she has a tax mess on her hands!

She should have filed as a nonprofit corporation, gotten an EIN and then set up the PayPal account in the name of the new nonprofit corporation with their new EIN. Then the 1099-K would have come to the homeschool group, not her personally.

But that’s water under the bridge.

In the eyes of Paypal and the IRS, the leader has started a business, collected money, and now needs to report that on her income tax return. Ugh!

She should file a Schedule C Business Income on her personal Form 1040 and report the Paypal income as Gross Receipts. At this point the leader should contact me or a local CPA for assistance in preparing her tax return. This is not the year for DIY! She does not want an IRS audit!

Additionally, she needs to set up this homeschool organization properly with nonprofit corporation, getting an EIN, and then applying for tax exempt status with the IRS, ASAP! I can help with that.

Download my list of steps to take to set up a nonprofit homeschool organization.

 

Please homeschool leaders, do not set up Paypal accounts, bank accounts or EINs in your personal name. Establish an organization and conduct business in the organization’s name only. Otherwise, you may face a complicated tax issue like this poor leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA