Are my homeschool co-op fees a tax deductible donation?

I’m a homeschool parent and member of a homeschool co-operative that weeks weekly. I have to pay tuition to this group for the classes my children take there. Can my children’s tuition for the co-op be a tax deduction?

 

I assume you mean deductible as a charitable donation.

Co-op fees are not a tax deductible charitable donation because services (co-op classes for your children) were received in return for the tuition payments. Tuition payments are not a tax deductible donations.They are personal expenses and are not tax deductible.

But if a parent makes a charitable gift to the homeschool group (assuming it has 501c3 tax exempt status from the IRS) above and beyond the tuition and fee payments, then this amount would be a tax deductible donation.

Some homeschool parents ask if co-op fees can be deducted as childcare expenses. My reply is “usually not” and here are the details: Are homeschool co-op fees child care tax deductions?

 


Did you get paid for teaching at a homeschool program? You may have questions about your taxes? I offer webinar to help you understand the tax implications of being a paid homeschool co-op teacher or tutor:

I recorded a webinar on Tax Preparation for Homeschool Business Owners. It should be a lot of help to tutors, non-employee co-op teachers and other homeschool business owners! You can watch the recording at HomeschoolCPA.com/HSBIZTAXES for a small fee of $10.

Carol, thank you again for the webinar. It was one of the BEST webinars I’ve EVER attended. If you do hold another one, I would pay for it hands down. Totally worth the $10! -Denise, webinar attendee

“I actually don’t care for webinars at all – it is not my learning style at all and I struggle to focus, but this one was extremely value and had my attention”. -Mary, webinar attendee


I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Helping homeschool leaders

13 benefits of homeschool co-ops

This is a throwback to 2009 when first posted and is still a great list of benefits to homeschool co-ops!

Heart of the Matter had a great article written by Katie Kubesh on the benefits of homeschooling with co-ops.  She surveyed several co-ops members and here is what they received by being in a homeschool co-op:

  1. Kids enjoy the variety of resources and materials provided
  2. Parents do not have to do as much research and footwork on their own; they are able to share with other co-op parents
  3. Co-ops gives homeschooling families the opportunity to bond with other families in their city or state
  4. Co-ops keep homeschooling families on schedule
  5. Co-ops keep homeschooling families accountable for their studies
  6. The extracurricular activities are fun for both the parents and kids, including football games, craft parties, theme parties, field trips, etc.
  7. People who belong to co-ops sponsored by their church appreciate the opportunity to share their faith and bond with other parish families and the pastors, who sometimes participate also
  8. Co-ops that offer classes or unit studies give students the opportunity to learn a broader range of topics and/or to learn a subject their own parents may not be comfortable teaching, for example higher level mathematics, music, or foreign languages
  9. Students are exposed to different types of teachers
  10. Students are held accountable by someone other than their parents
  11. Parents provide each other with support and encouragement
  12. Students have the opportunity to interact with kids of all ages, not just their grade or age level
  13. People who belong to co-ops have a wide selection of experiences. Some belong to large co-ops that include over 200 families. Larger co-ops are able to teach many classes (one offers 80 different classes from preschool through high school with subjects ranging from science, math, history, art, music, foreign languages, drama, and public speaking) and sponsor many field trips and other activities. Some larger co-ops even offer courses that students earn college credits for.

Isn’t that a great list?  I especially like # 9, 10 & 11  because those are the main benefits I received from my homeschool co-op.

Katie goes on to explain the benefits or large and small co-ops.  Sometimes small co-ops grow into large co-ops and the leaders find themselves managing larger groups of people, in a larger space and handling more money.

My book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out can also help a homeschool co-op leader run a successful co-op, whether small, medium or large, without burning out!

Carol Topp, CPA

California homeschool leaders: A webinar just for you!

For California homeschool leaders: I have something special for you!
A free webinar
on

Money Tips and Traps for Homeschool Organizations

Monday December 3, 2018 at 6:30 pm California time

and
Carol Topp, CPA, the HomeschoolCPA

 

The webinar is for all homeschool leaders of co-ops, support groups, CC Communities, sports, music, clubs, etc! Whether your group is large or small, new or mature, you can learn something new or improve on what you are currently doing!
The webinar will cover:
  • Tips for managing the money in your homeschool group
  • Board duties (what leaders should be doing!) concerning money
  • What financial reports California requires
  • What reports you should be filing with the IRS
  • Money traps to avoid
  • Taxes and tax exempt status
  • Paying workers
  • Avoiding errors and embezzlement

There will also be time for your questions and answers!

The webinar will be held  Monday December 3, 2018 at 6:30 pm California time
You can join my phone, PC, Mac, iphone, iPad, etc. from wherever you are!

 

The webinar is free, but you must register to be emailed the link.

 

In addition the webinar will be recorded, so be sure to register so you get the recording link emailed to you!
If you can’t attend the live webinar, still register, so you will be sent the link to view the webinar later.

 

I hope you can join me on Monday December 3, 2018  at 6:30 pm PT
Thanks to CHEA for hosing and helping put on his webinar for homeschool leaders!

 

Register today even if you can’t join us live so you will get the link to the recording.

 

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

How should a homeschool co-op set up their Quickbooks account?

Do you have something on your website or a resource on how a co-op should set up their QuickBooks accounts?

Michelle

 

Michelle,

I have a few posts about how to set up QuickBooks for a homeschool co-op:

Quickbooks Tips for Homeschool Groups on Sales
What financial reports do we need to generate monthly?

If you receive money in one year, but it’s really for next year (like early registration) then this is helpful:
Deferred Revenues in QuickBooks (opens a pdf file)

 

I actually don’t spend a lot of time talking about QuickBooks on this blog because there are so many good resources our there like this one (check out her QuickBooks tutorials):

5MinuteBookkeeping

A nonprofit called TechSoup has some great videos for using QuickBooks in a nonprofit:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRCtupIatuLkSlhtlXDyo7P7woeHORwgn

Finally, my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization  has some tips for using QuickBooks like setting up a Chart of Accounts and a who are your “Customers” and what are your “Sales.”
I hope that helps,
Carol Topp, CPA

Should your homeschool group be collecting sales tax?

Sales tax. Ugh!! As if dealing with the IRS and income tax isn’t enough of a headache, your homeschool organization might need to be collecting and paying sales tax as well!

From the Church Law and Tax blog comes some helpful information about sales tax that applies to homeschool organizations.

Sales taxes are collected in 44 states. Each state has a different sales tax statute and exempts certain types of purchasers from the payment of sales tax.

Some states exempt any organization with 501(c)(3) status from paying sales tax on purchases. Other states offer limited sales tax exemptions.

Collecting Sales Tax

But I’m not talking about paying sales tax when you buy stuff like paper towels or microscopes.

I’m talking about when your homeschool group sells stuff (aka tangible personal property).

What kind of stuff? How about:

  • Text books (some states exempt textbooks form sales tax.)
  • Tickets to drama performances (yes, some states add sales tax to ticket sales!!)
  • Food sales (in some states food sales, especially snack foods and soft drinks are sales-taxable)
  • T shirts, even if they are a fundraiser!

The rules for when an organization is exempt from collecting sales tax are different form the rules about paying sales tax.

Most states do not exempt churches from collecting sales tax on taxable transactions. As a result, a church that conducts taxable transactions is required to have a sales tax permit.

Most states have a nuisance exception to the requirement of having a sales tax permit, which allows churches to have taxable sales a couple of days a year without the requirement of collecting sales tax. Since every state is different, you should check with your state revenue department. (Source: https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2008/september/exceptions-to-exemption.html)

 

For example: In Ohio a homeschool co-op with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status can buy things (like books, supplies, etc) without paying sales tax.

But Ohio only allows nonprofits 5 days a year to hold sales without collecting sales tax. It’s kind of like they are saying, “use those 5 days wisely…you only get 5 sales-tax free days to sell stuff each year!” So maybe the co-op wants to have a big fundraising event and sell items. That’s one of the 5 days they can sell items and not have to collect sales tax.

 

Sales Tax on Fundraiser Sales

You may be thinking your homeschool group can avoid collecting sales tax because you only sell things as part of a fundraiser. Sorry, bed news…

Virtually any form of fundraiser that involves the sale of a product will also require the collection of sales tax. (Source: https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2008/september/exceptions-to-exemption.html)

Sales Tax Laws vary by State

Each state has different rules about how and what they apply sales tax to and what organizations can be exempt from collecting sales tax.

It will take some detective work to figure out what your state’s rules are! It’s one of the headaches of living in a country with 50 states (and Washington DC!).

How to Get Help

  • Start with your state’s department of revenue website. Look for words like “sales tax” and then “exemptions” Then look for words like “nonprofit” and “exemption.” Happy reading. The states don’t make it easy to find the exceptions to taxes!
  • Google “Sales tax exemption nonprofit YOUR STATE” and start hunting.
  • I find TaxJar.com and Avalara.com are two helpful websites with information on sales tax.
  • Contact me, Carol Topp, CPA. I’ve done the detective work for several states (about 30) and can sometimes help you or at least point you in the right direction. I charge a fee for this research of $50.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

QuickBooks tip for homeschool groups: Sales

 

Here’s a  tip for all you homeschool groups using QuickBooks (or something similar like Apolos or Wave)

In the homeschooling world don’t usually think of our members as “customers” but that’s what QuickBooks calls them.

Members = Customers

We also don’t think of collecting registration dues or field trip fees as “sales” but that’s what QuickBooks calls it when you collect money and provide a service.

Registration Fees = Sales Income

Field Trip fees = Sales Income

Co-op Class fees = Sales Income

You should set up several categories on your Chart of Accounts for different types of Income. You may want to change the titles of Income accounts in QuickBooks to match your program. So instead of “Sales” Use “Program Income” or just plain “Income”

Make use of subaccounts under Income for things like

  • Membership dues
  • Co-op Tuition
  • Field Trips Income
My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization  has some tips for using Quickbooks like setting up a Chart of Accounts and a who are your “Customers” and what are your “Sales.”

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschooCPA.com

 

 

Hybrid Homeschool Programs: How to Use Them Successfully

 

The Old Schoolhouse magazine published an article I wrote on article I wrote on hybrid homeschool programs

Hybrid homeschool programs are a mix of education done at home and classes outsourced to:

  • online classes
  • a homeschool drop-off program
  • a homeschool tutorial or university-model program
  • classes at a local private or public school or college

In the article I discuss the popularity of hybrid programs and the challenges as well.

Then I conclude with some advice and warnings including:

  • delaying hybrid classes until age junior high or older
  • delaying hybrid programs until you’ve been homeschooling a year or two.
  • a reminder that you can successfully homeschool without using a hybrid program!

I thought long and hard before writing that advice.

I may get some push back on my recommendations, but having seen homeschooling grow and change over the years, I’m trying hard to encourage homeschooling parents to embrace the freedom and joy that comes from educating your children–especially the young ones–yourself!

Don’t let a hybrid program steal that freedom and the joy!

Read the article here: Hybrid Homeschool Programs article

Carol Topp, CPA

Top 5 risks to churches (and maybe your homeschool group as well)

From the Managing Your Church webpage, I learned the Top 5 Reasons Churches are Taken to Court.

Maybe they are a risk to your homeschool group as well.

In 2017, the top five reasons were

(1) sexual abuse of a child,

(2) property disputes,

(3) personal injuries,

(4) zoning disputes, and

(5) insurance disputes.

 

The article goes on to say:

Churches must be aggressive (in preventing child abuse). Any reasonable suspicion of child abuse must be reported immediately. It doesn’t matter if you or your colleagues are defined as a mandatory reporter in your state or not. Report it. Transfer the risk to the state in terms of what can be done about it.

I think that advice applies to homeschool groups, as well.

Please, please protect the children in your program and get training on how to spot and deal with child abuse.

The article lists the following resources (check with your church host; they may already have some of these resources):

Reducing the Risk, a comprehensive child abuse prevention training program (available in DVD format or online streaming)

50-State Child Abuse Reporting Laws Survey for Clergy and Church Leaders (available as a PDF download or for ChurchLawAndTax.com subscribers)

Church Board Guide to a Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Policy

Child Sexual Abuse Response Plan

Draw the Line: Relational Boundaries for Safe Youth Ministry

Let’s work hard to keep children safe.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

A homeschool group is using free Paypal. Is that legit?

Hi Carol!

Our small homeschool group set up our business account with PayPal to collect payments from our families.

A friend/homeschool leader said we should accept money through the “friends and family” option on PayPal and avoid the PayPal fees. I didn’t even realize this was an option for a business account, but it is. I’m not sure if that’s legit. 

What scenario would I ever accept money via friends and family?

Thanks so much for your service to us homeschooling mamas!

-V, a homeschool group leader

 

Dear V,

Since you are accepting payment for rendering a service, you cannot avoid the PayPal fee.

To use the “friends and family” option would be deceitful.That option is for true transfers of money among friends, but not if your group is getting paid for rendering a service.

No one likes paying fees, but PayPal is doing your organization a service (processing credit card or debit card payments) and you should expect to pay for that service. You may have to increase your fees to the families a bit to cover the extra expense, but paying the Paypal fees is the correct, proper and legal way to run your homeschool group.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomechoolCPA.com

 

Have more questions about managing the money in your homeschool group? My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization may be just what you need!

Money Management for Homeschool Organizations

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.


Paperback $9.95

Ebook(pdf) $3.99

Kindle $3.99

 

 

Motivation to homeschool is changing. How does your group adapt?

Homeschool is changing! I know that you as a homeschool leader see those changes.

In her 2012 book Home Is Where the School Is, sociologist Jennifer Lois broadly divided homeschoolers into two groups: first-choice and second-choice homeschoolers.

A 2017 Pioneer Institute whitepaper characterized the groups this way: “The ‘first-choice’ family is in essence the traditional homeschooling family, viewing homeschooling as a lifestyle and an integral part of a student’s growth.

‘Second-choice’ homeschooling parents might be described as ‘pragmatic homeschoolers,’ perhaps even ‘reluctant homeschoolers.’ . . . this sub-set tends to view homeschooling as a stop-gap solution to a school-based problem as opposed to an overall family lifestyle.”

As more people start homeschooling for different motivations other than as a lifestyle, raising life-long learners, or faith, how does your group adapt?

Are you accommodating the parents who are just looking for a stop-gap solution?

Here is what some groups are trying:

  • Allowing more drop off students  and less parental involvement
  • Hiring more paid teachers
  • Offering more parent education on how to homeschool
  • Opening their formerly exclusive groups to allow public-school-at-home families to join

Share your ideas in the comments or join the I Am a Homeschool Group Leader group on Facebook and leave a comment.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping Homeschool Leaders