What is Unrelated Business Income Tax?

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Sometimes a homeschool group brings in a lot of money from fund raising. These efforts are so successful you may wonder if your group owes anything to the government in taxes. For the most part, fund raising is not considered part of your group’s mission; it is just a means to the end. After all, your group’s mission is to encourage homeschooling, not to sell ads, pizza or other products.

The Internal Revenue Service calls the money you raise “Unrelated Business Income,” meaning it is money collected in a trade or business that is not related to your primary mission. The IRS assess a tax on unrelated business income called the Unrelated Business Income Tax or UBIT. The purpose of this tax is to prevent nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations from having an unfair advantage over the for-profit marketplace.

The best example of unrelated business income is a gift shop in a nonprofit hospital. The income from a gift shop is not related to the hospital’s primary purpose of giving medical treatment, so the profits from the gift shop are taxed.

Your homeschool organization could have unrelated business income if you sell T-shirts, candy bars, entertainment books, candles, pizza coupons and a host of other products or if you make money from ads or Amazon commissions on your website.

Fortunately, the IRS has several exceptions to paying the UBIT tax:

  • A $1,000 threshold allows that the first $1,000 in profit from an unrelated business will not be taxed.
  • If the fundraiser (or unrelated business) is run by volunteer efforts (i.e., no paid staff) then the proceeds are not taxed.
  • If the fundraiser is not regularly carried on, such as a once-a-year spaghetti supper, then the proceeds are not subject to UBIT.
  • If you are selling donated items, like in a garage sale, the income raised is not taxed.

One of these exceptions are bound to apply to most homeschool organizations.

The rules regarding UBIT are complex. You can read more about UBIT in IRS Publication 598 Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p598.pdf).

Carol Topp, CPA

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Audits: should your group be doing them?

Hi Carol,

I am looking on your HomeschoolCPA web site for a list of services that you provide.  Our homeschool group is wondering if you offered a service for auditing our books each year to make sure everything is in order?

Debi K

Debi,
Here’s the link to my services: http://homeschoolcpa.com/services/

I can offer to look over your record keeping system and offer recommendations, but I cannot (and will not) do a full audit.

The word audit has  a specific meaning in accounting and it involves an in-depth look at your entire accounting operation. It is very time consuming and expensive ($3,000 and up). I don’t do audits because they require  a staff of people to perform and require a review of my accounting practice by other CPAs, which would cost me at least $1,000.

Instead,  I can offer my consulting services and discuss your records and system of handling your money and make recommendations. That would help your organization quite a bit, but not be a full audit. I’ve done that type of work for homeschool groups before.

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.

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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.

http://www.hslda.org/GroupServices/Leaders.aspx/Legal

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

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

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

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
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Then consider ordering my ebook, Money Management for Homeschool Organizations.
Price $7.00. Available for immediate download.  Read more here.
Carol Topp, CPA

Audits for small nonprofits are rarely needed

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Dear Carol:

Our organization was organized last year. It is a non-profit group that was designed to offer homeschool sports to our local homeschool athletes.

In January we received our 501c3 status as a non-profit group. It is time for our annual audit, but I am not sure which way to go now and who to get to do the audit.

I used an excel spreadsheet to do our check register.

Any help or suggestions that you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Nikki D

Nikki,

Congratulations on obtaining your 501c3 status.  that’s a huge accomplishment!

I’d be happy to help you in any way that I can. You mentioned your “annual audit.”  Does your organization really need an annual audit?  An audit has  a specific meaning in accounting and it involves an in-depth look at your entire accounting operation. It is very time consuming and expensive ($3,000 and up). Since you said that you keep your records on an Excel spreadsheet, I assume that the record keeping is pretty simple. So, that makes me wonder if you mean an “audit” or something else, like just filing your annual information return with the IRS.

Carol Topp, CPA

Follow up: Nikki sent me the bylaws for her organization and I made some recommended changes, gave her some financial practices to follow.

Read an excerpt from Money Management in a Homeschool Organization about the financial practices I recommended to Nikki and to all homeschool groups

I also suggested she consider doing an internal audit.

Some small nonprofits and churches do an internal audit annually or every other year. An internal audit goes beyond the financial practices I recommended, but it is not as extensive as a full audit. Internal audits are performed by people within the organization. They check accounting records for compliance with the financial practices.

The following website explains internal audits for small churches and nonprofits:
http://www.freechurchaccounting.com/churchaudit.html

It also contains a checklist for conducting an internal audit:
http://www.freechurchaccounting.com/support-files/internalauditchecklistguidelines.pdf

Should you compensate board members?

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I know that the board members of a homeschool groups are hard-working people.  They not only homeschool their own children, but they organize support groups and co-ops to help other homeschool families.  Sometimes a homeschool group would like to “reward” these generous individuals.

Is it OK to compensate your board members?

A homeschool co-op in the Midwest contacted me recently to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status.  The Treasurer told me that her co-op had been paying their leaders anywhere from $200-$1,200 a year for their service on the board.  I discussed why paying board members was not a typical practice.  Here is some of what we discussed:

  • Payments to board members can create a conflict of interest. Does the loyalty of the leader lie in herself or in the best interests of the group?
  • Paying board members can call into question the duty of loyalty of the board member.  Is she acting in the best interest of the group rather than a personal, financial interest?
  • Payment could compromise the leader’s duty of care. A leader should act in good faith, with the care an ordinary, prudent person would exercise and with the best interest of the group in mind.
  • Payments on nonprofit boards is not a typical practice.  Charities do not usually compensate their board members. Their funds usually go back into the program. Board members serve because they have a passion for the mission and a concern for the members.
  • Board payments can undermine the volunteer spirit of other members. Why should a member volunteer her time when others are paid for their efforts?
  • Paying a board member can cause dissension and a sense of injustice or imbalance in the group.
  • In this particular case the payments did not have member approval. The board voted themselves compensation, but never put the idea to a member vote. This could be considered inurement  which is forbidden for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations and could put the organizations tax exempt status at risk.
  • Paying board members involves correctly classifying them as employees or independent contractors. The classification is a matter of IRS law, not your choice.

This group has wisely decided to stop payments to board members. I think the group will be better served by an all-volunteer board and healthier in the long run.

payingworkerscoveroutlinedYou can pay board members, but the income is taxable income. My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization explains the correct way to pay board members as employees or independent contractors and alternative tax-free ways to thank your hard-working board members.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Bank account for your family homeschool

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This homeschooling mother in NC ran into a problem when she tried to open a bank account for her family homeschool.

I live in North Carolina, homeschool my children and want to do some fund raising for some projects and field trips and also school supplies.

I went to the bank, wanting to open an account in the homeschool’s name and they said that I would have to open up an account in my name doing business as my homeschool’s name.

My question to you is, how do I go about paying taxes on the money? I do not want to get into trouble with the IRS. Was that the right thing for me to have done? Waiting to hear from you soon!
Kim

Dear Kim,

I’ve been asked questions like yours before. I answered them in two posts on my blog.

Can we (an individual homeschool) be allowed to do fund raising similar to youth sports groups, scouts,etc?

Yes, you can participate in a fund raiser if the fund raising organization allows it. BUT, the profit you make is taxable income and you’ll need to report it on your tax return.

Can my individual homeschool have a fundraiser?

Individual fundraisers and homeschool groups

I hope that answers your question; let me know if it doesn’t.

Carol Topp, CPA

Handling funds for big events like a senior formal

Hi Carol,
I’m the Treasurer for our local Home School Co-op and we are in the process of implementing some policy and procedures. My question is: What would be an effective policy for the handling of funds received by the various age-level activity coordinators?
Some activities are free or have a very small fee, while others are big events with tickets being sold and expenses incurred (High School Formal)..  Should there be a set amount that does not need to flow through the checking account and the coordinator be responsible for the collection of fees and the disbursement of funds, or should all monies flow through the checking account and expenses paid by the Treasurer?
Thank you,
Terri K
Terri,

Excellent question!

In general, I recommend that all activities under your co-op flow through your organization’s checking account. It might make more work for the treasurer, but it provides accountability and oversight of the program that will bear your name.

That being said, I am treasurer of a separate graduation ceremony fund for my homeschool group.  We (the parents of the graduates) set up a separate checking account just for the graduation ceremony.  I believe it was so that only the parents with graduates were funding the graduation, not the entire student body/homeschool group.  We have to stay on budget because there is no “slush fund” from the larger group to fall back on if we overspend.

There is no set amount to help you make a determination.  I would base my decision on the nature of the activity.  If it is recurring (like our graduation ceremony) then perhaps a separate account could be set up; if it is only a one-time event like a field trip, then keeping income and expenses part of the larger group’s system would make sense. Also consider the fiscal responsibility of the leaders of your separate activity.  If no one cares to handle the money in a responsible manner, then don’t let them open a separate account.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA