Starting a Homeschool Co-op with a Friend

 

Is it a good idea to start a homeschool co-op with a friend?

Carol Topp, the author of  Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out explains the pitfalls to avoid when starting a co-op with a friend.

Listen to the podcast (10 minutes)

FEATURED PRODUCT from HomeschoolCPA:

Homeschool Co-ops:  How to Start Them, Run Them, and Not Burn Out

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op? Are you afraid it will be too much work? Do you think you’ll have to do it all by yourself? Starting a homeschool co-op can be easy! This book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out will give you ideas, inspiration, tips, wisdom and the tools you need to start a homeschool co-op, run it and not burn out!

Click Here to request more information!

Homeschool or microschool?

I have been a teacher at a small private Christian School for many years. I have been asked by 15 families to homeschool their children, beginning in the fall. I have agreed. I purchased your books and read them (so helpful!!) I have done quite a bit of work already, but after filling out half of the 501(c)(3) form, have decided that I really want to make sure this is all done right and am requesting your help.
-S

 

Dear S,

Homeschooling the children from 15 families is not really homeschooling. Perhaps forming a microschool be a better option.

What’s a microschool?

According to Meridian Learning, a resource and advocacy organization for grassroots micro-schools,

a micro school is a purposely small school led by a trained professional and focused on meaningful, sustainable, whole student learning.

Microschools are also called the modern-day one-room schoolroom.

Microschools are not the same as homeschool co-ops, tutorials or programs. Micro schools are registered schools in their states and meet the compulsory attendance requirements of the state. Instead, homeschool programs supplement the main teacher, the parent, with classes and extra curricular activities, but the students are homeschooled under their state laws for homeschooling.

It’s a lot of work to set up a microschool so learn more about starting a running a micro school at Meridian Learning. Meridian will be hosting virtual training sessions this summer (2017) on topics such as:

  • Teacherpreneur
  • How to Start a Microschool
  • Montessori for Business

I will be presenting information at the Teacherpreneur 101 and How to Start a Microschool classes.

Also, please visit this Facebook page on Grassroots Microschools to meet other people running microschools.

I’m committed to helping homeschool leaders, but sometimes other options may work better for some people. I hope S. finds a program that meets the needs of the students and parents.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Homeschool Treasurers: Do this before giving your board a financial statement

Homeschool treasurers: before you prepare a financial statement for your board meeting you should reconcile your bank account!

Why is reconciling bank accounts so important?

Vickey Richardson of FreeChurchAccounting.com explains,

 I have discovered with my bookkeeping business that reconciling accounts are not very high on some organization’s to-do list. When accounts are not reconciled … financial statements are usually NOT accurate.

REMEMBER…before generating your financial statements, there is a process you should go through to ensure the accounting reports you give your pastor, treasurer, or governing council are accurate and complete.

One of the most important steps is the bank reconciliation!

See how to reconcile your bank account and additional steps you should take BEFORE you start on your monthly, quarterly, or annual reporting …

Bank Reconciliation First then Financial Statements

(click for Vickey’s detailed steps )

I completely agree with Vickey. When I see regular bank reconciliations, the financial statements are almost always correct. When a organization does not reconcile their accounts, the financial statements are usually a mess.

Vickey also reminds us that credit card statements need to be reconciled too! And so do PayPal accounts. A credit card or PayPal account is really just a type of bank account with inflows and outflows. So reconcile them monthly as well.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Creative Ways to Run Your Homeschool Co-op Without Employees

So you really don’t want your homeschool co-op to hire teachers as employees, but how can you run your group without them? Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA , offers a few creative ways to run a homeschool co-op without hiring employees or dealing with payroll.

Listen to the podcast.

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization

Are you paying workers in your homeschool organization? Can a volunteer be paid? Should a worker be treated as an employee or independent contractor? Do you know the difference?

Homeschool leader and CPA, Carol Topp, has the answers to your questions in her book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization.

This 130 page book covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

Click Here to request more information!

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Can my homeschool group collect money now that’s for next year?

 

Many homeschool groups collect deposits in the spring for next fall’s programs. This helps with determining how many families will be returning. But how should these early deposits be recorded in a homeschool group’s bookkeeping? Carol Topp, CPA the HomeschoolCPA offers some ideas.

 

Listen to the podcast

In the podcast Carol mentioned a handout that explains how to record early deposits in accounting software like QuickBooks.

Here it is: Deferred Revenue in QuickBoooks (pdf)

Do you have more questions about managing the money in your homeschool organization?

MONEY MANAGEMENT FOR HOMESCHOOL ORGANIZATIONS: A GUIDE FOR TREASURERS

  • Does your homeschool group manage their money well?
  • Do you have a budget and know where the money is spent?
  • Do you know how to prevent fraud?

This 115 page book will help you to open a checking account, establish a budget, prevent mistakes and fraud, use software to keep the books, prepare a financial statement and hire workers. Sample forms and examples of financial statements in clear English are provided.

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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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Is My Homeschool Co-op Teacher an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Is My Homeschool Co-op Teacher an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Should your homeschool co-op teacher be classified as an employee or an Independent Contractor? What’s the difference and how do you make the decision? Carol Topp, CPA, the HomeschoolCPA, sheds light onto this confusing topic and tells you how she determines if a co-op teacher is an employee or Independent Contractor.

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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Can my landlord get a tax deduction for the free rent he gives us?

I have a few questions for you about a tax deduction for our “landlord.” We just received 501(c)(3) tax exempt status form the IRS. Does this mean that our landlord can claim a deduction the reduced rent she gave us?  RW

 

Dear RW,

Donations of cash or physical goods to your organization are tax deductible charitable donations.  But donations of services or use of leased property is not a tax deduction.

If your landlord gave your homeschool organization free or reduced rent, that is not a tax deductible donation for the landlord. Sorry.

Here are some articles that explain the IRS rules on donating leased space.
Can landlords take a tax-deduction for the donation of leased space?

When a property owner transfers title to a charity of all or part of real property, the owner can generally take a tax deduction for the gift.  However, offering a charity leased space for free or at a reduced rate is a not a gift of an ownership interest and is not considered deductible by the IRS.

Landlords do a good deed by donating leased space to a charity but they are not permitted to receive a tax benefit for their action.

Tax treatment of the provision of rent free

For this reason, donations of services or loans of property to a charity do not qualify as gifts because they do not transfer a property interest to the charity. They simply allow the charity to use the property of the donor, or to benefit from the donor’s services, free of charge.

Here’s the official word from the IRS from Revenue Ruling 70-477.

“a contribution, made after July 31, 1969, to a charitable organization of the right to use property is treated as a contribution of less than the entire interest in the property and does not give rise to a deduction.”

In other words, if someone donates a building (i.e. “the entire interest in the property” ) to a charity, it is a tax deductible donation. But if the contribution is the right to use the property, then there is no tax deductible donation.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Are homeschool groups “schools”?

Some homeschool groups look a lot like schools. They offer a full curriculum, there are teachers teaching classes, they rent space to conduct the classes, etc.

So is a homeschool program a school?

I’m a CPA, so I tend to follow the IRS definition of “school.” This blog post is filled with lots of IRS-ese. Dig in and slog through the details if you wish or just scroll to the bottom for my answer.

 

IRS definition of “school” is found in the Internal Revenue Code Section 170 https://www.irs.gov/irm/part7/irm_07-026-002.html#d0e549

IRC 170 (b)(1)(A)(ii) Exclusion—Educational Organizations

  1. Educational organizations described in IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) and Reg. 1.170A–9(b)(1), such as primary schools and universities, are excluded from private foundation status under IRC 509(a)(1).
  2. IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) organizations are commonly known as “schools.”
  3. An IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) organization must:
    1. present formal instruction as its primary function,
    2. normally maintain a regular faculty and curriculum, and
    3. normally have a regularly enrolled body of pupils or students in attendance at the place where its educational activities are regularly carried on

IRC Section 170 reference Reg, 1.170A-9(b)(1) which states:

An educational organization is described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) if its primary function is the presentation of formal instruction and it normally maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and normally has a regularly enrolled body of pupils or students in attendance at the place where its educational activities are regularly carried on. The term includes institutions such as primary, secondary, preparatory, or high schools, and colleges and universities. It includes Federal, State, and other public-supported schools which otherwise come within the definition. It does not include organizations engaged in both educational and noneducational activities unless the latter are merely incidental to the educational activities. A recognized university which incidentally operates a museum or sponsors concerts is an educational organization within the meaning of section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii). However, the operation of a school by a museum does not necessarily qualify the museum as an educational organization within the meaning of this subparagraph. (emphasis added)

In the Instructions to Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3), the IRS gives a clearer definition of a school:

An organization is a school if it:

  • Presents formal instruction as its primary function.
  • Has a regularly scheduled curriculum.
  • Has a regular faculty of qualified teachers.
  • Has a regularly enrolled student body.
  • Has a place where educational activities are regularly carried on.

The term “school” includes primary, secondary, preparatory, high schools, colleges, and universities. It does not include organizations engaged in both educational and non-educational activities, unless the latter are merely incidental to the educational activities. Non-traditional schools such as an outdoor survival school or a yoga school may qualify.   The term “school” does not include home schools.

Answer “Yes” if you have a regularly scheduled curriculum, a regular faculty of qualified teachers, a regularly enrolled student body, and facilities where your educational activities are regularly carried on. Submit evidence establishing that you meet these factors, as described below:

  • Evidence that you have a regularly scheduled curriculum includes a list of required courses of study, dates and times courses are offered, and other information about how to complete required courses.
  • Evidence that you have a regular faculty of qualified teachers, includes certifications by the appropriate state authority or successful completion of required training.
  • Evidence of a regularly enrolled student body includes records of regular attendance by students at your facility.
  • Evidence of a place where your exclusively educational activities are regularly carried on includes a lease agreement or deed for your facility.

If you answer “No,” do not complete Schedule B. You do not meet the requirements of a school and you will need to go back to Part X, line 5, to reconsider your public charity status.


I highlighted a few portions to emphasis a crucial point. Most instructors at homeschool organizations do not fit the definition of “qualified” faculty because they are not certified teachers by the state and may not have training in the subject they are teaching. That doesn’t make them unqualified for your purposes; it just doesn’t fit the IRS’s definition of “qualified.”

I do not consider most homeschool programs to be schools.


If homeschool programs are not schools, what are they?

They are educational organizations.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Is your homeschool program running a daycare?

baby-playing-on-floor

True story: A homeschool program was meeting at a church one day a week. They provided nursery care and a preschool for younger siblings of the homeschool students enrolled in the program. The church also had a preschool program operating as a licensed daycare. One day while a state inspector was visiting the church’s preschool, he noticed another group of young children in another hallway.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Well, those are the children involved in a homeschool program that meets here,” was the reply.

The inspector visited the homeschool program to ask a few questions to determine if the homeschool program was running an unlicensed daycare!

Is your homeschool program running an unlicensed daycare? Should your homeschool preschool be licensed?

It pays to take a little time to check your state laws regarding allowable exemptions from being licensed.

I checked out the laws regarding childcare or daycare licensing in my state of Ohio.

Some examples of programs which do not require licensure (in Ohio):
• Care provided in a child’s own home;
• Programs which operate two weeks or less a year;
• Programs where parents remain on the premises (unless at the parent’s employment site);
• Specialized training in specific subjects, such as art, drama, dance, swimming, etc.
• Programs which operate one day a week for no more than six hours.

So a homeschool program in Ohio might qualify to run a childcare program without being licensed if the parents remain on the premises or the program operates only one day a week for less than 6 hours. The other criteria of specialized training may apply as well, but a lot of homeschool programs do not specialize; they offer a variety of educational classes.

Check out your state laws regarding daycare licensing. Every state is different!

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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