Is the rent our homeschool group pays to a church a donation?

Our homeschool co-op meets at a church, but they do not want to bill us for rent. The co-op gives a  gift/donation to the church as a thank you and so the church records it that way for their tax purposes.  Do we need to classify our “donation” to the churches as rent?
We have been informed by the church that this would affect their taxes and financial recordings since they are classifying our payment as a donation received. The last thing we want to do is cause problems for the churches sharing their space with us. Please advise/explain.
Kelly
Let me start off by saying that simply calling what you give to the church a “donation” is a simply renaming the payment. Calling your payment a donation does not change the fact that you are giving money to this church in exchange for use of its space. Even if they do not bill you, it is payment for use of space and not a donation. Be honest. Call it what it is in your records: rent. What the church wants to call it is up to them.
I’m not alone in my opinion about this. Attorney and CPA, Frank Sommerville, says

“Many churches try to disguise rents by using other terminology or by claiming that the other organization is simply giving a donation to the church. Other times the church calls it a “cleanup fee” or tells the tenant to pay the janitor directly for his services. None of these name games work. If any amount is paid by the other organization to the church or the church’s workers, then the IRS and state taxing authorities will likely treat it as rent paid to the church.”
Source: Frank Sommerville, JD, CPA https://www.wkpz.com/content/files/Use%20of%20Church%20Facilities%20by%20Outside%20Groups.pdf

But the church is worried about taxes, so let’s address that. The church is worried about two things:

  • IRS federal income tax exempt status as a 501(c)(3) religious organization
  • Local property tax exemption.

Let’s address each concern:

IRS federal income tax exemption.
The church has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status as a religious organization and probably also charitable and educational purposes as well. So long as they stick to religious, charitable, and educational activities their 501(c)(3) status is not in jeopardy.

But renting space is a commercial activity and not religious, charitable or educational. So the IRS considers income from renting space as “unrelated business income” and will charge an unrelated business income tax called UBIT on the profits from the rented space.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to UBIT. Three factors will determine whether the church would owe any UBIT on rental income (See IRS Pub 598 ) :

  1. Whether the group renting the church space helps the church fulfill its mission in some way. There is no UBIT if the tenant’s activities helps the church meet its mission. Your homeschool co-op, if religious in its purpose, helps the church accomplish its mission and the rent you pay would not be an unrelated source of income for the church.
  2. Whether the church is charging fair market value for the space. If they are charging above fair market value, there is a profit and therefore tax to pay.
  3. The church has a mortgage or other debt financing on the building (called debt-financed property by the IRS). If the building is debt financed property, the rental income is unrelated business income and therefore taxable.

If the church determines they have unrelated business income, they will have to file a Form 990-T to declare the unrelated business income. But they are also allowed to deduct any expenses related to the rental income such as utilities, custodian care, etc. Typically the expenses  outweigh the income and so no tax is owed. But the church needs to file the 990-T to prove that don’t owe any tax.
Thanks to http://www.corestrategies4nonprofits.com/nonprofit_core/Go_Ahead_-_Rent_Your_Extra_Space

Kelly’s homeschool group’s purpose (religious and educational) helps fulfill the church’s mission and does not threaten its 501(c)(3) status. The church, if it has a mortgage, may need to prepare a IRS Form 990-T and may (or may not) owe UBI tax on the rental income. So, in other words, it is the church’s mortgage that could cause UBIT, not the fact that Kelly’s group is paying rent to use their space.

Property tax exemption:
The church may be concerned about its property tax exemption from the state or county. In general if the tenant’s mission matches the church’s mission (religious, charitable and/or education), the church’s property tax exemption is not jeopardized.

BTW, if your homeschool group is not a nonprofit organization (meaning it is a for-profit business), using church property could endanger the property tax exemption of the church. The loss of property tax exemption can be in whole or in part; it depends on local and a state property tax exemption laws.

Kelly’s organization is a nonprofit with religious, charitable and educational purposes. It ‘s use of the church building does not threaten the church’s property tax exemption.

Conclusion:
Kelly could go back to the church and determine the basis for their concern. In all likelihood things will continue as usual with Kelly’s organization making a payment to the church as they see fit. I recommend that Kelly record this in her group’s bookkeeping as “rent.” How the church wishes to record it is ultimately up to them, but in my opinion (and other professionals’ opinions), it is not a donation; it is payment for use of space.

Hopefully the church will be honest to the government and prepare the Form 990-T, if required.  This is rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (Matt 21:22). Whether or not the church will owe UBI tax on this money is dependent on if they have a mortgage on the building and the amount of expenses they have.

Carol Topp, CPA

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What is the IRS planning to do in 2018 for tax exempt organizations?

The IRS Exempt Organization (EO) released their 2018 work plan. It reviews what they did in 2017 and what they will focus on in 2018.

(Note: this is not the individual or business part of the the IRS. This is only the tax exempt part of the IRS.)
Here’s an excerpt that affects homeschool tax exempt organizations:

IRS EO expects to receive an increased number of determination applications in FY 2018. In early 2018, the EO will implement revisions to the Form 1023-EZ, including a required activity description and additional questions on gross receipts, asset thresholds, and foundation classification. As a result of these changes, EO expects the average processing time for a Form 1023-EZ to increase. EO will continue pre-determination reviews of a statistical sample of Form 1023-EZ applications and will continue to analyze the data from these applications to mitigate risks and identify opportunities to improve this form and its instructions.

Okay, now in plain English, the IRS EO (Exempt Organization) will:

  • Ask for a short description of your activities when applying for 501(c)(3) status using the short Form 1023-EZ.
  • They will ask more questions about:
    • Your gross receipts (your sources of income)
    • Your assets (what you own) and
    • what kind of foundation you are. Most homeschool groups are public charities and not private foundations, so most likely this won’t affect you.

The IRS expects it will take longer to get 501(c)(3) approval using Form 1023-EZ. Right now it takes about 2-3 weeks.

They will still randomly sample some 1023-EZ applications and decide if they need to make changes to the form in the future.

 

If your homeschool group has questions about tax exempt status or would like to apply for tax exempt status, please contact me.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Homeschool support group has problems with bank and IRS

Carol – I just got off with the IRS and I am EXTREMELY irritated and frustrated!!!!! Our homeschool group is a 501c7 social club; we have adopted by-laws. To open up a bank account, the bank wants documentation from the IRS giving proof that we are recognized as a nonprofit organization.

I spoke with two different people at the IRS and the last one was in the tax exempt dept. He and I did not communicate well. He said we had no paperwork in and that I needed documentation for our group. I explained that I had by-laws but he wanted to know if they were signed. I asked if that meant with a signature and he just kept saying the same thing without answering my question.  We kept going round and round with him asking me the same question. Just frustrating!!!

So what do we need to do to be able to get our checking account opened?

Joy

 

Joy,
I’m sorry you had such difficulty with that IRS employee.

The IRS Exempt Organization has lost many of its experienced employees to retirement and to other parts of the IRS managing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And what we’re left with is robots like you talked to. They simply read from a script. I’ve heard several complaints.

Forget the IRS. Go back to the bank. Explain to them that you do not have IRS proof because you are a self-declared tax exempt 501c7 Social club. Bring your bylaws, a list of board members, and your EIN letter form the IRS. Common law states that a nonprofit is formed when you have a board and bylaws.

Proof from the IRS is not needed to establish a nonprofit checking account because the IRS grants tax-exempt status, not nonprofit status. There IS a difference.

Read this article: How to become a recognized Nonprofit

You may need to educate the bank teller. They are frequently misinformed.

Hand them this blog post: http://homeschoolcpa.com/banker-wants-irs-letter-t…

Tell him that 501c7 social clubs can self-declare tax exempt status and do not need a letter from the IRS to prove tax exempt (or nonprofit) status.

Read more about self declaring tax exempt status: Homeschool Groups as Social Clubs

Act informed and confident. You are eligible to open a nonprofit checking account and do not need “proof” from the IRS of self-declared tax exempt status.

Good luck!!

Carol Topp, CPA
Helping homeschool leaders

 

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Tax Exempt Q&A with Homeschool Leaders

 

Have questions about tax exempt status for your homeschool group?

This short podcast episode (16 minutes) from Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA,  is an excerpt from the Indiana Homeschool Leaders Retreat. Carol Topp discusses tax exempt status and answers questions from homeschool leaders about self-declaring tax exempt status for your homeschool support group.

 

 

In the podcast I mentioned my book

The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization

Does your homeschool group need to pay taxes? Could they avoid paying taxes by being a 501c3 tax exempt organization? Do you know the pros and cons of 501c3 status? Do you know what 501c3 status could mean for your homeschool group?

I have the answers for you in my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. The information I share in my book has been helpful to homeschool support groups, co-ops, music and sports groups and will help you understand:

  • The benefits of 501c3 status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Don’t tell the IRS your homeschool group is a private foundation (if it’s not).

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Oh this is a sad, sad story.

I’ve seen this twice recently: a homeschool group prepares their own 501(c)(3) application (Form 1023 or 1023-EZ) with the IRS and incorrectly tells the IRS they are a private foundation.

Homeschool co-ops or other nonprofit educational programs are not private foundations. Private foundations are charitable organizations that are funded by an individual, family, or corporation, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Homeschool organizations are public charities, serving the public good (the education of children). Both of these homeschool organizations didn’t think of themselves as charities. They misunderstood that the IRS uses the word charity to include educational organizations. They also didn’t think of themselves as “public,” because they didn’t not understand the IRS use of that word.

The IRS means serving a public good and being supported financially by the “public” (meaning lots of people) but that does not mean you have to open your doors to the general public! You may still have an application process and limit your membership or participation to your programs.

I spend a lot of time with my nonprofit clients explaining the IRS terms and proper classification, but neither of these organizations hired me to prepare their Form 1023/1023-EZ. Neither of them even asked for a phone consultation or for me to look over the application before sending it to the IRS.

Now they have a real mess on their hands.

They have to file an IRS form to change their status. This requires providing financial statements, explanations, and supporting documents and IRS fees.  Meanwhile, they have to be filing a Form 990-PF, which is quite complex. You need an experienced CPA to prepare a 990-PF.

This is going to be expensive and time consuming. It will probably cost hundreds of dollars in IRS and CPA fees to get it straightened out.

Sad, sad, sad…

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping homeschool leaders with tax and legal compliance

 

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How does the IRS see my homeschool support group?

Your homeschool support group is probably a social club in the eyes of the IRS. Listen to this short podcast as Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA explains that social clubs can get automatic tax exempt status without applying, but they must maintain that tax-free status.

Listen to the podcast (14 minutes)

Here’s a link to the blog post Carol mentioned in the podcast: How to get into the IRS exempt database:

How to get added to the IRS database and file the Form 990N

FEATURED PRODUCT from HomeschoolCPA:

The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization

Does your homeschool group need to pay taxes?  Could they avoid paying taxes by being a 501c3 tax exempt organization? Do you know the pros and cons of 501c3 status? Do you know what 501c3 status could mean for your homeschool group?  I have the answers for you in my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. The information I share in my book has been helpful to homeschool support groups, co-ops, music and sports groups and will help you understand:

  • The benefits of 501c3 status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Click Here to request more information!

 

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Self-declared tax exempt status for 501c3 homeschool groups

We are just starting up our group and we do not want to do anything illegal, but we would not qualify as a nonprofit right now, so as per your IRS book, we would be labeled an Unincorporated Association. My question is… Do we need to do anything legally to continue as a group. We do plan to open a checking account and have an EIN number.
I just felt that for a group that is just starting and is not a nonprofit or at the 501 (c) (3) status yet, we don’t know the first steps to get a group of and running and if we need to do anything legally to start. Thank you so much for your time!
-EC

 

Dear EC,

Please watch this video 3 times (yes, 3 times!):

 

You will hear that to legally and correctly set up a nonprofit you need 3 things:

  1. A mission that is not motivated by profit
  2. A board
  3. Organizing documents. Usually bylaws but Articles of Association are also recommended. Get samples here

If you have those three things, your organization is a nonprofit. Congratulations! It may not be a nonprofit corporation; instead it is an unincorporated association, as you mentioned, but it is still a nonprofit.

But, there is a difference between nonprofit status and tax exempt status

Nonprofit status is granted by your state while tax exempt status is granted by the IRS to qualifying nonprofit organizations. Typically nonprofits need to formally apply for tax exempt status with the IRS.

But small nonprofits can self declare  501(c)(3) tax exempt status if your annual gross revenues* are $5,000 or less.

*Annual gross revenues are all the money you take in in a year, even if it just goes right back out. It’s not what is left over at the end of the year. It is not the amount in your checkbook. It is annual (yearly) gross (all) revenues (intake).

This video may be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCFjnnY7mEw

 

How to self declare 501c3 tax exempt status

Since you have not officially applied on paper for 501(c)(3) status  (you self-declared 501(c)(3) status and don’t have to file the paperwork), your nonprofit organization is not in the IRS database (yet), so you need to call the IRS Customer Account Services at 1-877-829-5500 and be added to their database so you can begin filing the Form 990-Ns.

It typically takes 6 weeks after you call to be added to the IRS database.

Say something like this,

“We’re a brand new 501(c)(3) educational organization and I needed to get added to the IRS exempt organization database so we can start filing our 990-Ns.”


**Note that only 501(c)(3) organizations with less than $5,000 annual gross revenues can “self-declare” their tax exempt status. Organizations with more than $5,000/year in revenues must apply for 501(c)(3) status using Form 1023 or the new, shorter Form 1023-EZ.


The IRS employee will ask for your EIN and organization’s name, address, and probably a contact name.

They may also ask what date your fiscal year ends. Many homeschool groups operate on a calendar year, but some operate on a school year with a year end of June 30 or July 31. Look at the form you filed when you applied for your EIN to see what you chose as your fiscal year end.

They may ask if you have “organizing documents.” They mean bylaws or Articles of Association. So create bylaws or Articles of Association/Articles of Incorporation before you call the IRS. Get the board to approve and sign them. Sample bylaws and Articles of Association can be found here.

Call the IRS early in the morning. They open at 8 am ET and you can usually get through pretty quickly of you call then. Record the date you call, the IRS employee name and their identification number.

 

How to keep your 501(c)(3) tax exempt status

Be sure you go online (IRS.gov/990n) to file the Form 990-N anytime after your fiscal year ends and before its due date which is 4 1/2 months after the end of your fiscal year. If you operate on a calendar year, the 990-N is due May 15.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping homeschool leaders with legal and tax compliance

 

IRS tries to decrease errors in automatic revocations for tax exempt organizations

IRS-Building1

Every year the exempt organization (EO) branch of the IRS send out a Work Plan for the upcoming year and reviews what it accomplished in the past year.

IRS Exempt Organization 2017 Work Plan (24 pages)

Here’s something interesting I found:

In FY 2016, EO Determinations focused on its objectives to improve processing of applications and enhance customer satisfaction. We implemented several programs to accomplish these goals.
Erroneous Revocation Prevention: On May 3, 2016, EO Rulings and Agreements formalized procedures to identify and prevent erroneous automatic revocation before the organizations are notified and before the revocations are posted to EO Select Check. Preventing these erroneous revocations eliminates adverse impact to organizations and removes the burden from organizations to identify and notify the IRS of the error. Since March 2015, we have reviewed 13,933 potential auto-revocations and prevented 3,202 erroneous revocations (through June 2016).

In plain English, thousands of nonprofits found their tax exempt status was revoked automatically before the organizations were told (!) and before the revocations were posted to EO Select Check (that’s the IRS online database of tax exempt organizations).

Over 3,000 revocations that were an error! What a mess!

The IRS didn’t get specific about why these organizations had their tax exemption revoked or how they fixed the problem, but I have some ideas:

1. It takes 6-8 weeks (yes, that’s WEEKS, not DAYS) for the IRS to update their exempt organization database so that small organizations can file their annual Form 990-N Information Return. If the organization is granted tax exempt status close to their due date for filing the 990-N, they may be unable to timely file a 990-N because the  IRS takes 6-8 weeks  to update their exempt organization database!

This happened to one of my small nonprofit clients. They had failed to file their 990-N for two years (they didn’t know about the requirement) and the deadline for the third year was quickly approaching. Failure to file your 990/990-EZ/990-N for three consecutive years means automatic revocation of tax exempt status. We were sweating bullets that they could file the 990-N on time. The board president was checking the IRS database daily as the deadline drew nearer. She managed to file the 990-N just days before the deadline! Whew!

If the IRS database of Exempt Organizations were updated in a more timely manner, then there could be fewer erroneous automatic revocations.

 

2. Another small nonprofit told me that they received an automatic revocation letter, but had never received a “You’re late in filing the Form 990-N” type of letter or a warning! This nonprofit had not changed their address, either.

So another thing the IRS could do to reduce erroneous automatic revocation is to mail organizations a reminder and a warning letter for failure to file a 990/990-EZ or 990-N.

I hope my suggestions are what the IRS has put in place.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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How can I thank my volunteers?

 

It’s the end of your homeschool organization’s school year and you want to thank your volunteers. They work so hard, so you hand out generous gift cards as thank you gifts. You may have just created a tax liability for your volunteers! Carol Topp, CPA, the Homeschool CPA discusses ways to thank your volunteers that are tax-free.

Listen to the podcast

 

Do you have more questions about volunteers and paying workers? I spent at lot of time doing research so that homeschool leaders will know if they are paying their volunteers, board members, and workers legally and correctly. It’s all in this new book:

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Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

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Is there a penalty for misclassifying my homeschool group’s workers?

Is there a penalty for misclassifying my homeschool group’s workers?

The IRS imposes strict penalties on an employer who treats workers as Independent Contractors when they should be employees. These penalties have put homeschool businesses and nonprofits out of business. Carol Topp, CPA discusses this topic and some programs the IRS has to avoid crippling penalties.

Listen to the podcast 

Worker Classification Consultation

  • Is your homeschool teacher an employee or independent contractor?
  • Should your homeschool co-op director be paid as an employee?
  • How hard is it to set up a payroll system?
  • What happens if my homeschool group misclassifies a worker? Are their penalties?

Worker classification can be a confusing topic.

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help clear a lot of confusion, but perhaps you want to discuss your particular situation in a private, individual phone consultation.

I offer phone consultations to help you determine if your homeschool organization’s workers are employee or independent contractors. The phone call will be followed up with an email containing a fact-based determination and information to help you take the next steps.

Click Here to request more information!

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