Homeschool leaders summer reading: Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

 
This summer I’m encouraging homeschool leaders to take time to become a better leader by reading through my books. This week I’m featuring my book,

 

When I originally published this book in 2008, it was a short 40 page ebook and had a horrible cover.  I was still learning and self-publishing was brand new!
MoneyMgmtCover
An update was badly needed and I tackled that project in 2014. The book ballooned to 131 pages and I subtitled it “A Guide for Treasurers.” I feel like I poured my CPA brain into this book.

 

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org
 Topics covered in this book include:
Chapter 1: Your Treasurer is a Gem!
Chapter 2: Checking Accounts Done Right
Chapter 3: Super Simple Bookkeeping Basics
Chapter 4: Show Us Your Books! Regular Reporting on Financial Status
Chapter 5: Establish a Budget: You’ll Thank Me Later
Chapter 6: Get What’s Coming to You: Collecting Fees
Chapter 7: Do I Have to Report This? Reimbursement Policies and Avoiding Taxes
Chapter 8: Using Software to Stay Sane
Chapter 9: Fraud: It Couldn’t Happen to Us
Chapter 10: Need More Money? Easy Fundraisers for Homeschool Organizations
Chapter 11: Risky Business: Insurance for Homeschool Groups
Chapter 12: Paying Workers: Hiring Employees and Independent Contractors
Chapter 13: Homeschool For Profit: Running a Homeschool Group as a Business

 

 

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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My homeschool is a private school. Can I use 529 funds?

I explained in “Can homeschoolers use 529 plans? Maybe!” that you can use 529 savings account funds for tuition paid to 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 without  penalty or taxes.

So that begs the question,

“In my state, my homeschool is considered a private school. So can I use 529 funds for my private school/homeschool expenses?”

No. Sorry!

Here’s why:

The expenses must be to pay tuition. You don’t pay yourself tuition! That would be silly and not tax-smart.

Your other homeschool expenses such as books, curriculum, school supplies, field trips and are not paymnets for tuition and so you cannot use 529 funds without paying a hefty penalty!

Tuition payments to organizations that are not schools like your local co-op, Classical Conversations, etc.  cannot use 529 funds either (without incurring taxes and a 10% penalty!)

Carol Topp, CPA

Boards, Bylaws and Budgets for Your Homeschool Co-op

 

Does your homeschool co-op have a budget?

When running your homeschool co-op, you should have a board, bylaws and a budget. In this short podcast episode (10 minutes), Carol Topp, CPA offers advice and tips on these important topics to running a successful group. This podcast is an excerpt from a workshop titled Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out.

 

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned other podcast episodes in this series. Find them (#121-125) at HomeschoolCPA.com/Podcast

 

Featured resource

Phone Consultation with Carol Topp, CPA

Phone Consultation: A pre-arranged phone call to discuss your questions. My most popular service for homeschool leaders. It’s like having your own homeschool expert CPA on the phone!

Cost: $75/hour to nonprofit organizations.  $100/hour to for-profit businesses. $60 minimum.

Q &A by Email:  I am willing to answer questions by email, 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. Minimum $25.

Contact HomeschoolCPA, Carol Topp, CPA, to arrange a telephone consultation.

Click Here to request more information!

Carol Topp, CPA

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Should my homeschool group tithe?

If we want to tithe on our income (from registration fees and donations) are there any restrictions, red tape, or regulations we should know about? Do you have advice or thoughts on tithing by a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization?

Homeschool leader in Idaho

 

The only restrictions is that the purpose of recipient of your tithe must be in line with your exempt purposes (charitable, educational and religious for this particular group).

So you shouldn’t give any part of your tithe to a for-profit business or to a nonprofit whose mission is outside of your purpose as you indicated to the IRS when you applied for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status (say an animal shelter).

Most 501(c)(3)s do not tithe because they consider themselves as recipients or stewards of donations for their specific mission. But some organizations do tithe. My church, for example, budgets 13% of our income to missions. We consider that part of a tithe.

From a Biblical perspective, it’s unclear if nonprofits should tithe.

Here’s a blog post from a pro-life group LifeMatters Worldwide with food for thought:

Should your ministry give a portion of your budget to the Lord’s work? That sounds good, but isn’t 100 percent of your budget already dedicated to advancing the Kingdom to your particular target audience? If you believe that a nonprofit organization should give because God will bless you in a special way, why stop at 10 percent?

Your board should discuss these questions:

  • If you choose to tithe, where would you direct the funds?
  • Would you give to a church? That could be problematic.
  • Would you only give to other similar agencies? Donors who give to your nonprofit expect that 100 percent of their gift will be used to support your mission.
  • What if you choose an organization that your donors don’t believe in?
  • Would they quit supporting you if they knew that a portion of their gift ultimately supported another organization that they don’t like? Their reason for not liking the other organization doesn’t have to be doctrinal or philosophical. Maybe they don’t like the director, or maybe they simply aren’t interested in that particular cause.

The blog post writer concludes with this:

When a nonprofit decides to give to other nonprofits, in a sense they become mutual fund managers. You are deciding for your donors how to spend a portion of their gift that is not directly connected to your ministry. As a donor, I’m writing a check because I want to support the impact your organization is making. If I wanted to support the organization that you choose for me, I would give to them directly.

The biblical instructions about tithing and giving primarily apply to individuals. Business owners may choose to tithe their income, but a nonprofit ministry should not view giving from the same perspective.

There is one critical difference — nonprofit organizations don’t earn income, you are merely stewards of the gifts someone has entrusted to your care to accomplish your mission. When you look at nonprofit tithing from a donor’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense to give something away that isn’t really yours.

I think that will give your board something to discuss!

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Carol’s book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization  will help your homeschool organization create a budget and live by it!

 

How long do I need to keep these homeschool group records?

From the I Am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook group (if you’re not a member yet request to join us. We’d love to have you!)

 

How does your group handle old financial records? What do you keep, what gets tossed and when?

When I began as treasurer, I received tons of files, receipts, bank statements, old insurance policies, order forms and the like. Our group is 30 years old. It’s a lot of stuff! Don’t want to toss anything that’s needed, but thinking that much of this is not necessary anymore.

Julie

 

I found some helpful lists of what to keep and for how long:

Document Retention for US Nonprofits: A Simple Guide

Document Retention Policies for Nonprofits

Both of these lists are for large nonprofits with employees, buildings, etc. so the lists are crazy long and overly detailed for most homeschool groups.

So I culled it down to this:

Keep these records permanently

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Determination Letter from the IRS
  • IRS Tax Exempt Application Form 1023/1023-EZ
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Information Returns, Form 990/990-EZ or 990-N
  • State Information returns or annual reports

Keep for 7 years

  • Financial statements (year-end)
  • Canceled checks
  • Bank Statements
  • Leases (5 years after lease ends)
  • Background checks
  • 1099-MISC  given to Independent Contractors
  • Employment Tax records (Form 941, W-2s etc)
  • Payroll records (although one list said to keep these permanently!)

Keep for 3-5 Years

  • Minutes of board meetings (although one list said to keep these permanently!)
  • Invoices
  • Reimbursements
  • Receipts of expenses
  • Insurance  policies

 

Where do you store these documents and papers? Most of the documents will probably be stored at the Treasurer’s and Secretary’s homes.

But the documents to be kept permanently should be stored in a board members’ binders and passed down to future board members. Each board member should have a copy of the important “Keep permanently” documents.

I have created a Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It is a template to create a board member binder. It has:

  • A list of important documents to keep in your binder
  • Section dividers so you can organize the important papers
  • Tools to help you run your meetings smoothly including
  • A sample agenda that you can use over and over again
  • A calendar of board meetings

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

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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Does refunding homeschool dues cause a tax problem?

 Due to some circumstances, our homeschool group will no longer be able to offer classes and we wish to refund members the dues paid to our group within the past few months.  Will we run into any taxation problems or other problems involving the IRS?  Thank you!
Andrea
Andrea,

 

It is perfectly acceptable for your homeschool group to refund the class dues since you never delivered the service (i.e. the classes).

 

Since you didn’t deliver the classes the customer is due a refund.

 

What is not allowed for a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit group like yours is to distribute any funds if your group dissolves. The IRS requires that assets (money in the bank and anything you own) of a 501(c)(3) organization must go to another 501(c)(3) organization when it closes. The assets cannot be divvied up among the members or leaders.

 

This refund is not taxable income to the parents. It is just a refund of a payment for services that were never delivered.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Using QuickBooks Online for small nonprofits & churches

 

Here are some helpful books written by Lisa London, CPA from The Accountant Beside You, if you are using QuickBooks in your homeschool nonprofit organization.

Using QuickBooks Online for Small Nonprofits & Churches

is for users of QuickBooks Online. I recommend  QuickBooks online so that several people can log into the record keeping system including a bookkeeper, board members, the Treasurer and an outside accountant. i wish all my larger homeschool clients would use QuickBooks online.

http://accountantbesideyou.com/using-qbo-for-small-nonprofits-churches/

 

 

If you use the desktop version of QuickBooks, there’s a different book for you.

Using QuickBooks For Nonprofit Organizations, Associations & Clubs

http://accountantbesideyou.com/using-quickbooks-for-nonprofit-organizations-associations-clubs-paperback/

 

Lisa London, CPA from The Accountant Beside You, also offers classes on QuickBooks which some people prefer to reading books.

Carol Topp, CPA

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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