Are discounts to homeschool board members taxable compensation?

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My homeschool group gives a fee waiver of our dues to our board officers. Would that discount be reported to our officers as taxable compensation?

Melissa

 

Melissa,

This is an excellent question because I’ve encouraged homeschool groups to offer discounts on membership fees to their volunteers or board members as a way to show appreciation.

The IRS defines compensation as:

compensation includes salary or wages, deferred compensation, retirement benefits…, fringe benefits (personal vehicle, meals, lodging, personal and family educational benefits, low interest loans, payment of personal travel, entertainment, or other expenses, athletic or country club membership, and personal use of your property), and bonuses.[i]  (emphasis added)

[i] Instructions for Form 1023 https://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1023/ch02.html#d0e1909

 So free or reduced fees that are educational benefits is taxable compensation to your board members.

So here’s my advice:

  • Keep your fee waivers to board members small and insignificant. The IRS does state that insignificant benefits to volunteers is not taxable income.
  • Consider showing appreciation with noncash gifts such as food, chocolate, or flowers. Buy resources to make their jobs easier including helpful books, hiring a payroll company (your treasurer will love it!), accounting software, etc.
  • Have the amount of fee waivers decided by a separate, independent committee or put it to the vote of the full membership. The board should not vote themselves a fee waiver. Its a conflict of interest.
  • Add a provision to your bylaws allowing a small fee waiver (or tuition discount) to board members or other volunteers. Consider granting a percentage discount instead of a dollar amount such as 20% off the fee.

 


Have more questions about compensation to board members in your homeschool organization?

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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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Carol Topp, CPA

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Government Intrusion and 501c3 Tax Exempt Status for Homeschool Groups

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Hi Carol,

I am part of a homeschool group in Colorado.  We do not have a non-profit status and most people in our group do not want to organize that much.  Some of the people in our group have had some experiences with 501c3 status that the government has made them open their group up to individuals that they would not normally allow in their group because they are a government entity (like permitting someone not in our faith to teach a class).

Thank you so much for your help to the homeschool community and for whatever answers you can give us.

Sincerely,
Michelle P

 

Michelle,
Good for you in wanting to make sure that you are doing things properly in your homeschool group.

Your people are mistaken. Receiving 501(c)(3) tax exempt status does not make your organization a government entity; it simply means that you are exempt from paying income tax on your profit and donors can make tax-deductible contributions.  It’s a tax status.

501(c)(3) status does not mean you  must open up your group to everyone. You are free to set membership requirements and choose who teaches a class. Does a Catholic school have to allow non-Catholics teach in their school?  No. Sometimes a Catholic school may hire non-Catholic teachers, but the teacher usually must agree to uphold Catholic principles.

 

IRS and Your Homeschool Org cover

My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization explains the pros and cons of applying for tax exempt status and the process and tips for getting approved.

The process to become tax exempt is not as scary or as difficult as it used to be. In 2014 the IRS introduced an easier, online application for small nonprofit organizations, the Form 1023-EZ.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Summer reading to be a better homeschool leader: The IRS and Your Homeschool organization

Summer is a great time for homeschool leaders to catch up on some reading. I’m highlighting a book each week of summer and this week I’m spotlighting,

I know it’s not a catchy title, but it explains what the book is about. I have no expectations of this book ever being a best seller, but I wrote it to be helpful to the hundreds of homeschool organizations that need to understand tax exempt status.
This book began in 2008 under the title of  Tax Exempt 501c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations with a cover as boring as the title. It was an ebook with only 51 pages.
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In 2011, I expanded the book to 124 pages and changed the title to The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization with the subtitle Tax Exempt 501c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations. And I improved the cover.

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After the IRS simplified the process to apply for 501(c)(3) status in 2014, I updated the book. The second edition includes a chapter on getting tax exempt status reinstated if it is revoked. I also added an index to make finding specific topics easier.
Who should read this book?
  • Anyone running a homeschool organization that’s been around a long time but has never filed anything with the IRS.
  • Anyone who mistakenly thinks they don’t have to do any annual reports to the IRS.
  • Anyone who fears their previous leaders did not do things properly.
  • Anyone starting a new homeschool organization and wants to be sure they are set up properly.

Here’s a special for the summer. Buy my books for homeschool leaders at 25% off. Get paperback versions for $7.50 (usual price $9.95) or ebooks for $3.99 (usual price is $4.95).

Order The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization


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Checklist for homeschool co-op

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We are going through the process to create a non profit homeschool co-op and were wondering how much it would cost for you to review our paper work or how much it would cost for you to do and submit our paperwork.

Candace

Candace,

I have a listing of my fees here: http://homeschoolcpa.com/services/

My services vary depending on what you mean by “filing your paperwork.” There’s paperwork with your state and paperwork with the IRS. I can help with both types of filings.

Here’s a helpful checklist to keep it all straight!

Carol Topp, CPA

 


 

Candace’s question prompted me to update my Checklist for Homeschool Organizations Applying for Tax Exempt Status.

I know that forming a nonprofit organization and applying for tax exempt status can be confusing. There are just too many unfamiliar terms, IRS thresholds, steps to take and numbers!

This checklist will help you know the steps to take and the correct order.

If you need help at any step or want a personal consultation to discuss your unique situation, please contact me.

I am available to assist your homeschool organization every step of the way. Through my blog posts, books, podcast, and consultations, I try to make confusing IRS rules easy to understand. I have assisted over 80 organizations receive 501c tax exempt status.

Carol Topp 1200x1800

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

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Homeschool co-op gives “scholarships.” What are the tax liabilities?

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I am curious how a scholarship for a family works in terms of tax liability in an all volunteer co-op with no payment to teachers, board members, etc. Each family pays a membership fee which covers expenses for family events, insurance, state filing fees, etc.

For example, family A donates the amount of a family membership to the organization. The board notices that Family B is out of work and therefore credits the amount paid by Family A to Family B’s registration fees. Family B still pays things like class fees, but the annual registration was not paid by Family B.

What duty does the co-op have in terms of tax liability for itself and are there any potential pitfalls to be aware of?
Marisa

Marisa,

Your organization does not have to give the recipient of a benevolent gift any documentation. Some homeschool organization call this gift a tuition discount or a “scholarship.”  Read here why I don’t like the word scholarship when you are really giving a needy family a tuition discount.

The donor can be given a receipt for their donation. Taxpayers must have a receipt if the donation is more than $250, so frequently charitable organizations give every donor a receipt (an email is OK). Be sure to include the statement that “No goods or services were received in exchange for this contribution.”

The IRS requires 501c3 organizations filing a Form 990 with a total of more than $5,000/year in grants or assistance to individuals to keep a record of the amounts and purpose of the grants. These records are submitted to the IRS on Form 990 Schedule I. These records are not reported to the IRS if your organization files a 990-EZ or 990-N. In other words, only large charities (more than $200,000 in annual revenues) report information on the grants to individuals. The names of the individuals are not given to the IRS, just the amount and purpose of the assistance.

IRS Publication 4221PC has guidelines to follow regarding charitable gifts and record keeping.
It’s kind of a dry publication, but very important. The IRS used to mail Pub 4221 with your letter approving 501c3 status, but stopped doing that several years ago to save printing costs. It’s such an important publication that I recommend treasurers read it regularly, maybe once a year. Find it online here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4221pc.pdf

Hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

Summer reading for homeschool leaders: Homeschool Co-ops

 

This summer, I’ll be featuring one of my books for homeschool leaders every few weeks (and offering special discounts!). I’m also updating one of my books this summer…can you guess which one?

I’ll start with my first book for homeschool leaders,

I published this book in 2008 with a different cover. In 2013 I updated it and chose a new cover.
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Original cover

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Updated cover

This book will help homeschool leaders start and run a homeschool co-op.

It has chapters on:

Part One: Starting a Homeschool Co-op
Chapter One: Benefits of Co-ops
Chapter Two: Disadvantages of Co-ops
Chapter Three: Different Types of Co-ops
Chapter Four: Your First Planning Meeting
Chapter Five: What’s in a Name? Names, Missions

Part Two: Running a Homeschool Co-op
Chapter Six: Leadership
Chapter Seven: Co-op Offerings
Chapter Eight: Money Management
Chapter Nine: Managing Volunteers and Conflict
Chapter Ten: Ready for the Next Step? 501c3 Tax Exempt Status

Part Three: Not Burning Out
Chapter Eleven: Avoiding Burn out

Read a sample chapter

Read more about Homeschool Co-ops the book


Here’s a special for the summer. Buy Homeschool Co-ops at 25% off. Get the paperback version for $7.50 (usual price $9.95) or ebook version for $3.99 (usual price is $4.95).


Order Homeschool Co-ops in paperback

Order Homeschool Co-ops in ebook Kindle  or pdf

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How you pay your homeschool teachers could affect the property tax exemption for your host church

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Several homeschool leaders have recently learned that the way that their homeschool groups are compensating the teachers (parents paying teachers directly) jeopardizes the property tax exemption of their host churches.

The problem

Some state laws limit churches renting their building for business purposes to only a few days a year.
One homeschool program was arranging for teachers to conduct classes for homeschooled children each week for about 30 weeks of the year. Each teacher was paid by the parents, so each teacher was essentially a business owner. That meant the church exceeded the state-set limit on business activities.

This situation can put a church’s property tax exemption in jeopardy. It is likely the church would no longer wish to host a homeschool organization. If churches cease hosting homeschool programs, it could mean the end of many homeschool programs hosted in churches.

What can a homeschool group do?

I read about these state laws and the church’s limits on business activities. The reason co-op classes jeopardize a church’s property tax exemption is because the class teacher was a business and exceeded the state limit on days a church can host for-profit businesses in its building.

 

I recommended that homeschool organizations in this situation begin collecting the money from the parents and pay the teachers as employees (or independent contractors) hired by the homeschool group. Many homeschool organizations are 501(c)(3) educational nonprofits. The state laws usually allows a church to rent space to a nonprofit if they have a charitable, educational, or religious purpose with no loss of property tax exemption.

 

It’s more work for the board to negotiate the payments and for the treasurer to prepare the checks and give 1099MISC or W-2 forms to the teachers, but it keeps the homeschool program running and the church keeps its property tax exemption.

 

Can this happen to my homeschool group?

So here are some issues for all homeschool leaders who conduct classes in churches to consider:

  • Be aware of the limits on business activities conducted by churches in your state’s property tax exemption laws. Begin by googling “YOUR STATE nonprofit property tax exemption” or “YOUR STATE church property tax exemption.” The rules vary by state and so far only a few states limit business activities in a church.
  • Talk to your host church about this issue. Ask what they know about limits on business activity for churches in your state.
  • If your state’s property tax laws limit your host church, consider changing how your teachers are paid, so that the church is not renting space for business activities to for-profit businesses (i.e., individual teachers).
  • Be sure your activities are in line with the religious and charitable purposes of your host church.

Note that this affects churches’ property tax exemption, not their income tax exemption at the federal or state levels.

I’ll keep an eye on this issue and keep you informed. Sign up for my email list (top right corner) to be notified of future blog posts on this issue.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Opening another branch of a homeschool co-op

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I am in the process of organizing a co-op. We are actually going through another established co-op and establishing a north branch of the existing co-op. They are already a 501(c)(3) and carry liability insurance so we would be under them. We would be the same program but in our location. However, we would need to raise most of our own funds. Do you see any issues or possible issues with this set-up?

How would we go about keeping our money appointed to the correct branch?
I appreciate any help!
Corrinn

 

Corrinn,

I think your set up sounds great. It’s like a store with two locations. You could set up two separate checking accounts, both using the same EIN (Employer Id Number) from the original (parent) group. Your checking account could say “HOMESCHOOL CO-OP NORTH BRANCH”

Accounting Software

As for accounting software you might consider an online program such as Quickbook Online which lets you set up multiple “locations” or “departments.” I’ve been recommending WaveApps.com (it’s free) but I’m not sure if they can set up multiple locations/departments like you want. Of course you could set up separate Wave accounts since you’ll probably have separate checking accounts.

Transparency

I recommend that the Treasurer of parent organization be a check signer on your checking account and be given access to your bank account and accounting software (that’s why online accounting software would be helpful). You need to be open and transparent to the parent group.

Joint IRS Returns

At the end of your fiscal year all your income and expenses will need to be reported to the parent group so it can be added to their income and expenses on the IRS Annual Form 990 Information Return.

Good luck!

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Tracking payments to homeschool co-op teachers

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If teachers are paid directly how does the homeschool co-op know about who has paid in order to keep track of payments?

 

It’s very common got homeschool co-ops and tutorial programs to ask parents to pay the teachers directly and not pay through the co-op or homeschool tutorial. This eliminates payroll paperwork and lessens the income and financial transactions flowing through the homeschool organization (and this makes life easier on your treasurer!).

Your homeschool co-op doesn’t need to keep track of which families paid the teachers. It’s the teachers job to get payments from the families.

The teachers are independent contractors and therefore are supposed to bear the burden of the risk of not getting paid. Your co-op should not carry this risk.

The IRS definition of an independent contractor says “Having the possibility of incurring a loss indicates that the worker is an independent contractor.”

Source: https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Financial-Control

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

Are homeschool co-op tuition discounts taxable income? Probably!

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Carol,

I see a lot of schools (homeschooling co-ops, private schools, etc) that offer tuition discounts or reduction for parent volunteer hours. If a parent volunteers to teach a  class a few hours a week and receives a tuition reduction for this commitment, is this considered taxable income for the parent?

I have also read this:

“IRS has broadly interpreted a worker’s “compensation” to also include the amount of free or reduced tuition that is given to a parent in consideration for his or her service to the school or church. A worker is no longer considered to be “volunteering” if he or she receives something of value “in kind” for his or her service. In the situation of a working parent whose child is enrolled in the school, it is the student’s waived tuition amount normally charged to nonworking parents that will constitute the worker’s taxable wage amount.”

I would love any follow up information you have about this. Thanks again!

Joanna R.

 

Dear Joanna,

I read the quote you provided with a lot of interest. I did a little research and came across IRS Publication 3079 which, although its title is “Tax Exempt Organizations and Gaming,” had a helpful section titled, “Volunteer Labor”

It stated something I didn’t want to read,

“Compensation is interpreted broadly. A worker who obtains goods or services at a reduced price in return for his services may be considered to be compensated.”

 

When the IRS says “compensated,” they mean taxable income. Ugh! That could mean that hard working volunteers in a homeschool organization, who get a discount on tuition, could have to report and pay taxes on this “compensation.”

But, as with all IRS documents, I kept reading Publication 3079 and found this:

On the other hand, a worker who receives merely insignificant monetary or non-monetary benefits is considered a volunteer, not a compensated worker.
Determining whether a benefit is insignificant requires consideration not only of the value of the benefit but also:
•The quantity and quality of the work performed;
•The cost to the organization of providing the benefit; and
•The connection between the benefit received and the performance of services.
(emphasis added)

 

So, if a co-op gives an insignificant monetary benefit to its volunteers, it is not taxable income. The IRS does not define insignificant, but here ares two examples that might help:

Insignificant benefits to a volunteer
A volunteer teacher was given a $50 discount off her $250 tuition for teaching a class. She put in a minimum of 30 hours preparing and teaching this semester-long class. That’s is an hourly rate of less than $2/hour. That seems pretty insignificant to me! It cost nothing for the co-op to offer this benefit. The co-op offered this discount as an incentive to increase volunteerism and it was not payment for services.

Significant benefits are taxable income
Another co-op gave their director several thousands of dollars in gift cards to grocery stores and Target, gave her children free tuition worth $1,500,  waived all field trip fees, theater ticket fees and registration fees amounting to hundreds more in benefits. These were NOT insignificant and were compensation for her services. The co-op thought that by giving gift cards and reduced tuition they could avoid payroll taxes and the paperwork of hiring and paying their director as an employee. They were wrong! The director should be treated as an employee. She should report all these benefits as taxable compensation.

Conclusion
Homeschool leaders should determine if the benefits of reduced tuition of fees they are giving to volunteers are insignificant. Look to the IRS guidelines in IRS Publication 3079 listed above. If the benefits are significant and are compensation for services, then it needs to be reported as taxable income to the worker/volunteer.

My ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help you determine the paperwork and reporting for workers.

Carol Topp, CPA