Can homeschool teachers be allowed to keep extra money as a donation?

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Dear Carol,

I have purchased and am reading your ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. Thank you for making this available!

We are a co-operative, so all are teachers are basically volunteers. I do, however, collect on their behalf an estimated class contribution to help them cover costs related to teaching: curriculum, printing handouts and lesson plans, consumables used in class etc. This amount is determined by the teacher, usually $5-10 up to $50 per semester depending on the class. These funds are collected and then dispersed to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. We don’t require receipts or an accounting to be submitted. Any remaining funds are considered a “donation” to the teacher to recognize their time and effort in preparing and teaching the class. Teachers are not required refund monies back to the families.

Most of us feel that this structure is reasonable. However, one member is questioning. Does our policy seem acceptable from a legal position?

Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to answer my questions.

God bless your service,
Rose

Rose,

Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the book was helpful. It’s been updated since you read it and has grown from a 20 page ebook, to a 130-page paperback.

This statement bothers me greatly, “We don’t require receipts or an accounting to be submitted. Any remaining funds are considered a “donation” to the teacher to recognize their time and effort in preparing and teaching the class.”

When you do not request receipts, you are running what the IRS calls an “non-accountable” plan for reimbursements.

The remaining funds that you let your teachers keep is not a donation, it is a payment for services and is taxable income that needs to be reported to the IRS. Actually, the full amount you give to the teachers is taxable income under a non-accountable plan.

I have written a few blog posts on the topic of paying volunteers, requesting receipts for reimbursements, etc. Please read these:

No receipts for expenses can get you in trouble
and
Should my homeschool co-op be giving any tax forms to our teachers?

In my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization I discuss how to properly set up an accountable reimbursement plan (Chapter 7).

I hope you will change your practices (i.e set up an accountable plan for reimbursements and start requiring receipts) so that your teachers do not have to report their payments as taxable income.

You may also find my updated version of Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization helpful.

Carol Topp, CPA

 


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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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Converting from a homeschool support group to a full service nonprofit organizaton

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Lots of homeschool support groups find themselves evolving into bigger organizations than their founders imagined. They grew from being small monthly support groups to larger organizations offering field trips, co-op classes, graduation ceremonies, clubs, and other activities.

For example, TACHE (Tyler Area Home Educators) in Tyler, Texas began in the 1980s as a small support group for homeschool families. They grew to over 400 families and now manage an annual budget of nearly $20,000 and offer a plethora of educational activities.

They wisely decided to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation in 2009. But, unfortunately, TACHE did not apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status at that time.

In September 2013 TACHE  decided it was time to apply for tax exempt status as a 501(c)(3) educational organization and contacted me. Because TACHE waited more than 27 months after their date of formation (in 2009) to apply for 501(c)(3) status, we had to explain TACHE’s history to IRS and give an explanation why they did not apply earlier.

I helped TACHE apply for 501(c)(3) status in February 2014 and after about 7 months of waiting, the IRS granted 501(c)(3) status.

But TACHE wasn’t finished with the IRS just yet. TACHE failed to file their Form 990-N Annual Information Return with the IRS for three consecutive years and had their tax exempt status automatically revoked. We were concerned that there would be a period of time when TACHE would have to file and pay income tax. There were a few phone calls and letters to the IRS, but finally the IRS reinstated TACHE’s tax exempt status and agreed that they did not owe any back taxes.

The process is does not always take that long, but here are a few lessons learned.

  • Don’t delay! Apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status within 27 months (or sooner) from your date of formation (usually the date of incorporation in your state as a nonprofit corporation)
  • File the Form 990-N every year. This is required for support groups as well as homeschool co-ops. If you fail to file the Form 990-N, the IRS will automatically revoke your tax exempt status.
  • Get help when you need it. My fees are reasonable and I focus on helping homeschool organizations.  Contact me.
  • Be patient. Although the IRS has cleared a lot of their backlog, it still took 11 months for the IRS to reinstate TACHE’s tax exempt status.
  • Learn all you can about tax exempt status for your homeschool group. My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization, is a good start.

Congratulations to TACHE! It was along process, but it’s finished and TACHE can continue to serve homeschool families in Texas for many years to come.

Carol Topp, CPA


I will be recuperating from surgery and will be unavailable to answer your emails from November 15, 2015 until January 2016. Until then, here’s how you can get help.


More tips on running a homeschool co-op (podcast)

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Carol Topp, CPA the author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out  covers more tips to starting a homeschool co-op in her podcast.

Listen to the podcast

Carol answers questions from homeschool leaders including:

  • insurance
  • background checks
  • tax exempt status from the IRS
  • required annual reporting to the IRS
  • the need for bylaws and policies

Listen to Part 1 of this podcast.

For more information on starting and running a homeschool co-op visit Carol’s website HomeschoolCPA.com

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Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out has helped more than 1,000 readers run their homeschool co-ops. Get your copy here.

Carol has more podcasts for homeschool leaders. See the list of topics.

Homeschool groups ripe for embezzlement

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From the Columbus (OH) Dispatch comes this warning:

Small nonprofits ripe for embezzlement

They’re often diligent, caring workers, and yet tempted by seemingly easy cash.

Working on the inside, thieves can hit school groups, athletic leagues and churches, especially when they’re surrounded by trusting colleagues and loose security.

And according to one expert, because of the disgrace and embarrassment that the crime brings an organization, their transgressions often are not reported.

The median loss to fraud for religious, charitable and social-service organizations was $106,000 last year, according to an annual survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. “We estimate that organizations lose about 7% of their net worth to fraud each year,” said Scott Patterson, the association’s spokesman.

“There are so many people doing the good work that nobody steps back to say, ‘Should we begin looking at ourselves. We’ve grown. We better put some checks and balances in,'” said Gary Zeune, a fraud expert whose speakers bureau, “The Pros and Cons,” travels the country. “The only people who can steal you blind are those you trust and who don’t have controls.”

Smaller organizations, such as school parent-teacher organizations, are often vulnerable because neighbors and friends are reluctant to offend by suggesting that dishonesty is possible.

“This is typically mothers stealing from their own kids,” Shaw said. “The kids are the shills out there selling cookie dough or doing the walk-a-thon, and the mothers are stealing it.

“If the board is too embarrassed to have checks or balances, they need to have a new board,” she added. “But if you’re an honest person, you shouldn’t be insulted by having a second set of eyes.”

It’s so sad to hear about embezzlement taking place in homeschool groups, but I know from homeschool leaders that it can and does happen!

How can you prevent embezzlement?

Money Mgmt Homeschool

Read Money Management in a Homeschool Organization: A Guide for Treasurers. It  has a helpful list of policies and procedures for your group’s treasurer and your entire board.

Keeping you safe,

Carol Topp, CPA

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

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In her most recent podcast  Carol Topp, CPA, the author of Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out, covers tips to starting a homeschool co-op.

Listen to the podcast

Carol covers the 4 W’s and 2 Cs that leaders need to answer in launching a new co-op:

What, Where, When, Who, and Cost and Curriculum

 

Homeschool Co-ops Cover

Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out has helped more than 1,000 readers run their homeschool co-ops. Get your copy here.

Carol has more podcast episodes for homeschool leaders. View the topic list.

Preparing Strong Independent Contractor Agreements

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From Veneable.com, a website with articles focusing on nonprofit law, comes this excellent list of items to have in an agreement with an independent contractor.

Many homeschool organizations hire independent contractors to teach a class or offer a service, so having a good, strong IC agreement is important.

I included a sample independent contractor agreement in my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization. I might need to tweak it and include some of these provisions.

I hope you find this list helpful.

Preparing Strong Independent Contractor Agreements

“Must-haves”:
–Written agreement signed by both parties
–Clearly defined scope of work
–Worker decides how the work is to be performed
–Require invoicing and, if practicable, fixed-fee-type payments
–Clearly defined and, if practicable, limited termination rights
–Clear statement of independent contractor status and ineligibility for benefits

“Like-to-haves”:

–Limited training or instruction required
–Worker decides when and where work is to be performed or works off-site
–Worker provides own tools, equipment, staff
–Worker has freedom to contract with others for his or her services
–Compensation should not resemble a salary
–Termination only for nonperformance/breach of contract
–Avoid circumstances where contractor position is identical to those of W-2 employees

Source: https://www.venable.com/files/Event/624c3096-6e46-4d2c-8fdc-a674c30ad5f0/Presentation/EventAttachment/48ae10be-17a8-426b-af57-5124c79aab61/Focus_on_Nonprofit_Employee_Misclassification_slides-06-16-15.pdf

Carol Topp, CPA

Using Paypal in a homeschool group

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Over at the I am a Homeschool Group Leader there was a discussion on using PayPal to collect fees.

Here’s some of the tips and advice given:

We set up a PayPal and separate bank account. It has made it so easy for accepting payments. Our registration is $100. If they pay by PayPal, we’ve included a $4 fee to cover the finance charges. Nobody has complained. Others have mailed in checks for just the $100.

 

We set up a co-op email & registered the PayPal account to that email exclusively. We didn’t think to increase the fees to cover the PayPal fees, but will probably do that next year – since they are something like 2% plus $.30 cents per transaction. This has made the PayPal account entirely for the co-op – even the email comes up with the co-op name in the email. All deposits or payments to or from the PayPal account will only be linked to our co-op account. Similar to another member, myself, and the treasurer have access to our bank accounts and PayPal accounts and they are checked very regularly.

 

One other thing… you have to connect this to an email address that does not yet have a PayPal account (last time I talked to PayPal, they were discussing changing this) so you may have to set up an email for your group, if you don’t already have one.

 

Any other payments can also be received there for other things like field trips, parties, etc. I love it. Makes keeping the books so easy. There are a few people who still don’t use PayPal (especially in light of their new privacy policy), so we do still keep some records the old fashioned way.

 

You can setup a nonprofit account with PayPal so your fees aren’t as high. We only use PayPal for enrollment so we opened the account for two months. Closed it with no issues and will reopen next year during enrollment. No need to pay monthly fees for an account we aren’t using accept once a year.

 

We started using PayPal as soon as we started using Homeschool-Life website. It has been so much easier for our treasurer than cash & checks and tracking people down. We use this site to help us figure our PP fees http://thefeecalculator.com/
We ne
ed to look into converting it to a non profit account since we have our official 501 status. I believe the fees are lower then. Our families love the convenience and the generated receipt from PayPal.

 

Does your homeschool group use Paypal? Anything to add? Comment below or on my Facebook page.

Carol Topp, CPA

Co-ops, Support group? How to define homeschool organizations

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I frequently ask homeschool leaders, “Is your homeschool group a co-op or a support group?”

It’s a basic questions that will influence how I advise them. It should be easy to answer, but more often I hear “Both” or “Well…I’m not sure” or even “We’re sort of a school for homeschoolers.”

The world of homeschooling is changing and it’s getting harder to define our groups.  Support groups morph into co-ops. Co-ops add many support activities. Some co-ops grown into school-like programs.

The Arizona Home Education website has a definition of each type of homeschool group.

Homeschool Support Group Definitions

What do you think of their definitions?

Pretty good, I think.

Here’s my attempt to define each type of homeschool group. It’s incomplete and will probably change over time as creative homeschoolers start new types of groups to meet the needs of future homeschooling families..

Support Group: a gathering of homeschool parents or those interested in homeschooling for information and support. Typically hold monthly meetings for parents and may organize field trips or social events for children and families.

Homeschool Co-op: A gathering of homeschool parents and students who cooperate together in sharing teaching responsibilities for their homeschooled students. Usually meets once a week and frequently all-volunteer.

Homeschool Educational Program: Academic and enrichment classes for homeschooled students. May hire qualified teachers to conduct the program. Usually more expensive than an all volunteer co-op.

Homeschool Sport/Music/Art Program: Similar to a homeschool program , but focuses on sports, music, or art.

Homeschool Club (Lego, Speech/Debate, Yearbook, etc): A club focusing on a specific topic for homeschooled students. Frequently organized under a homeschool support group, but clubs can be stand-alone as well.

Homeschool Business: a for-profit business offering services to homeschooling families. Can be tutors, book sellers, and even my, business HomeschoolCPA offering accounting and tax advice to homeschool organizations.

 How did I do? Leave your comments here or on my Facebook page.

Carol Topp, CPA

Is my homeschool group considered a school?

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Hi Carol,
I took a look at the 1023-EZ worksheet to see if we qualify for filing as a tax exempt organization. Question #11 asks if we are an educational facility. Then it goes on to define what they mean. I do not know how our organization would not fall into that category. Our goal is to support homeschooling families by providing weekly classes for middle and high school students. We do make it clear that our tutors are working alongside parents. Parents have the final decision on the grade their student will receive for the class. So, what do you think? Does that mean we do not qualify to apply for tax exempt status?

Virginia

 

Virginia,
Form 1023-EZ Eligibility Checklist Question #11 asks if your origination is a school, college or university described in section 170(b)(1)(a)(ii). That part of the Internal Revenue Code describes a school. I do not consider homeschool programs to be a school as the IRS defines “school.”

One aspect of a school is a “regular faculty,” which the IRS defines as

“qualified teachers instruct the students, and the same teachers do so on a recurrent basis.”

Source: Internal Revenue Manual  viewed http://www.irs.gov/irm/part7/irm_07-026-002.html#d0e549 on 5/11/15.

And by “qualified” the IRS means:

“certifications by the appropriate state authority or successful completion of required training.”

Source: Instructions for Form 1023

So when you look beyond the Eligibility Checklist into the guts of the IRS code, you’ll probably agree with me that homeschool organizations are not schools because they do not have regular, “qualified” faculty. Most of the teachers in your homeschool organization may be qualified to teach a class at your homeschool co-op, but are not state certified, nor trained as teachers.

Your homeschool organization (probably) qualifies to be a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization as an educational organization, but not as a school.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

“Is my idea a homeschool co-op or not?”

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Hi Carol,

I would like to start a homeschool support or enrichment group. I have a large home on 1/2 acre that is perfectly suited for a co-op or school type gathering place for homeschoolers and unschoolers. I would like to offer all inclusive art, drama, stretching and balance, cooking, gardening classes and help with school work. Hours would be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. with children able to come and leave at their own schedule.

I would like to offer part time or full time based on the families needs. I would like to charge a monthly fee of around $200/month per child and less for part time. Could you please tell me if this is legal and if there is a cap on the number of children I could have in my home? If my idea sound like it is covered in your book I would be happy to buy it, I am not sure if this is a co-op?

Would I need to file anything or get a license or could I just advertise and start. Any help you could give would be great because I can’t seem to find any info on my particular idea, and I would love to use your services if they could apply to my situation

Thank You!
Heather M in California

 

Heather,

You have a pretty neat idea!

What you need to decide is if you’re going to run this as a business with you as owner (since you are using your property) or if you want it to set up a nonprofit organization (a homeschool co-op).  No one “owns” the co-op; you may help lead it with others and you can offer (or rent) your space to the organization.

Your specific questions on the maximum number of children and licensing are California specific and I cannot answer them. And they probably apply more to for-profit school/daycare than a nonprofit association (i.e a gathering of moms and kids).

In my opinion, if the parents stay on the premises and help out, you have a co-op and fewer regulations because you are a gathering of moms and kids and not a “school.” And my book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out would be extremely helpful.

My advice is to start small and learn as you go. For example, start with one or two classes, one day a week, but not Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm. Make the full time operation your goal after a year or two. After a year of running your program, you’ll know if you should get licensed, operate as nonprofit or for-profit business.

Carol Topp, CPA