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?

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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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What tax forms does a homeschool co-op teacher file?

Hi Carol.
Thank you for all the help you have already given our homeschool community!
There is a homeschool co-op that allows teachers to charge the parents $0-$45 per student.  As a teacher, how would I report any net income on my income tax return? Payments are made directly to me, the teacher.

Best regards,

Lynn (New York)

 

 

Lynn,

You report all your income and expenses on a Schedule C or the shorter form Schedule C-EZ as part of your federal form 1040.

The net amount (Income less all your business expenses) is carried onto page one of your 1040 and added to your other income  from W-2s etc.

If you made more than $400 in net income (your income less any expenses) in the year, you will also have to fill in a Schedule SE and pay Self-employment tax (it’s Social Security and Medicare taxes for self-employed people).

Hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA


Homeschool leaders: If you hired and paid a teacher in the past year you may need to file some paperwork with the IRS! The deadline is January 31 to give your workers a 1099-MISC or W-2.

Find out what to do in my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization.

 

 


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Are homeschool co-op fees childcare tax deductions?

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Carol,

A parent asked me for our tax ID number to give to her accountant for listing our tuition as a childcare expense. Is this common practice? Is it the EIN that she’s asking for? Should I give it to the accountant directly? We are 501(c)(3) state-registered corporation.

–Lisa C

 

Lisa,

The parent is asking for your EIN (Employer Identification Number), but the tuition and fees she pays to your homeschool program are (probably) not tax deductible.

IRS Pub 503 Child and Dependent Care expenses make it clear that tuition/education expenses are not child care and are not tax deductible.

Expenses to attend kindergarten or a higher grade are not expenses for care. Do not use these expenses to figure your credit.
However, expenses for before- or after-school care of a child in kindergarten or a higher grade may be expenses for care.
Summer school and tutoring programs are not for care.

If the child was in preschool at your co-op, then, maybe, the portion for the child’s preschool expenses could be childcare. By the way you may need to check your state laws to see if you are required to be licensed as a daycare.

But the child car tax deduction is only allowed for the parent to work. Was this mom going to work while her preschool daughter was at co-op? If yes, then it’s childcare; if no, then it’s not childcare and not eligible for a tax deduction.

I recommend that you not give her your EIN and explain that her tuition and fees to your homeschool organization are not child care expenses and not tax deductible.

In reality, she could find your EIN on the internet if she knew where to look, but it’s more important that you explain that tuition and fees are not tax deductible child care expenses.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

 

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Top 10 blog posts of 2016

 

Here is a round up of the top 10 most important blog posts from HomeschoolCPA in 2016.

 

Many of them have to do with paying workers in a homeschool organization, probably because I was asked a lot of questions about paying volunteers, giving discounts in stead of paying teachers and the difference between employees and independent contractors.

I also spent a lot of time in 2016 researching and writing Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization and my blog posts reflect what I was learning.

Compensation to homeschool board members is taxable income

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization updated book is ready!

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

Can you discount a homeschool co-op class in lieu of paying the teacher?

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

Can a homeschool group just get together without having to report to the IRS?

Adding religious purpose to bylaws and Articles

Use Quickbooks online for free

Are discounts to homeschool board members taxable compensation?

How the IRS defines a school

I wonder what 2017 will bring in the world of homeschool organizations!

Sign up for my email list to be kept up to date on the questions homeschool leaders are asking.

P.S. Subscribers to my email list get freebies, discounts and special reports I share only with them.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

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Fine line between a homeschool co-op and running a micro school

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Dear Carol,
I am considering homeschooling and I don’t really know where to begin. I have certification in Ohio to teach in a non-tax supported school. I would be team teaching in my home with one, and possibly two, other mothers. We would be teaching our own children, as well as children from one other family in which the parents both work. There would be 7-9 children. My children would be in 4th and 2nd grades.  I would be teaching the children in 8th and 9th grades, and possibly teaching part time the 4th grade children.
I have so many questions!  Is this legal?  Do we need to establish an organization and if so, what kind?
Thank you!
Faye T in Ohio
Faye,
I think what you are proposing is legal, but there are a lot of questions you’ll need to answer.

For-profit or nonprofit?

Is this your business?  You you want control and the ability to keep the profits for yourself? Or do you want to form an educational nonprofit and have the program run by a board of directors?

Micro school or homeschool co-op?

As for what type of organization to set up, it probably depends on how the other parents view this arrangement and your future plans. Are the parents legally homeschooling according to your state laws? Or should your program be registered as a micro school in your state.

The type of organization to set up (nonprofit or for-profit, micro school or homeschool program) also depends on the amount of money trading hands (if any) and the amount of time spent in this shared arrangement.

HS Co-ops Cover_400

If the parents are legally homeschooling, I would recommend limiting the shared teaching to no more than 2 or 3 days a week.  This would be a homeschool co-op. The rest of the time the students should be learning at home with their parent’s supervising them or the older students working independently.

My book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out would be a great help if you want to run this as a homeschool co-op.

This would be difficult for the working parents, I realize. With them, you need to discern if the parents are legally homeschooling, or if they want you to run a micro school. Be very cautious about taking on the responsibility of educational duties that belong to the parents such as granting a grade or a transcript, awarding high school credit, or even picking the curriculum.

If you are proposing to teach in this arrangement for 5 days a week (i.e, 100% of the children’s school time), then you would be running a micro school for those children. I would caution you against doing that at this point in your homeschool experience.

You are walking a fine line between homeschooling and running a micro school. It can begin to blur and get confusing very quickly.

I hope that gives you some food for thought.  If you need more specific advice on establishing this as a for-profit business or as a nonprofit, I would be available for a consultation.  We can discuss the pros and cons of for-profit vs nonprofit.

Carol Topp, CPA

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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.
    • I can help you determine if your fee waivers or discounts are “insignificant.” Just contact me.
  • 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. It’s 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?

payingworkerscoveroutlined

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.
TEx501c3Cover
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.

IRS and Your Homeschool Org cover

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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