Simplify your homeschool group fees (please!)

Carol,

Our all volunteer homeschool co-op charges fees for several things:

  • A $20/family registration fee.
  • A $12/family fee to pay a cleaning crew for cleaning.
  • The building usage fee is $40/student/school year.
  • A $4 PayPal fee per transaction.

Then some of the class teachers charge a supply fee or require the parents to purchase books, etc.
Is there a way to simply these fees?
Emily

 

Emily,

I’ve seen lots of homeschool groups with complicated fee structures. There are separate fees for the facility, the supplies, the insurance, the website, etc. The list of fees on the parents invoice is 5-6 separate lines!

Something like this is invoice overkill!

You don’t need to be this complicated with all the separate fees!

Most preschools, private schools, colleges,  etc. include all their fees into one tuition fee charged to parents. (Okay, I  know that colleges love to charge lots of fees for supplies, etc. and then can claim they are not increasing tuition!)  The school adds up all the expenses to operate their program and charge the parents enough to cover those expenses (that’s why a budget is so important). They lump everything into one bill to the parents called “tuition.”

Instead, just lump it all the fees into one fee, call it student fees or “tuition,” if you like. The parents do not need to see all the details of what goes into running the organization; that’s what the board does. The budget is the place to list the expenses and see if the tuition charged is enough to cover all the expenses.

Simpler invoice to send to parents. All fees lumped together.

P.S. About the Paypal fee you’ve been charging…Paypal forbids you tacking on an extra charge to cover their fee. It’s in the User Agreement your organization agreed to when you signed up for a Paypal account. It says, “You agree that you will not impose a surcharge or any other fee for accepting PayPal as a payment method.” So just roll that fee into your total fee charged to parents.

Why You Can’t Charge Clients Paypal Fees + What to Do About It.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping homeschool leaders

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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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Accepting contributions for a needy family

Hi Carol,
We just suddenly lost a dad from our homeschool co-op.  He leaves a wife and 6 children.  We have been receiving donations for them left and right through PayPal.  We will also start receiving checks from various people and churches.
As a 501c3 organization, what is our responsibility with donation letters and such?  For PayPal payments, I’ve been forwarding the receipt to the donor, thanking them for their donation and reminding them to hold on to their PayPal receipt for tax purposes as we are a 501c3 and their donation is tax deductible.
MG in NJ

So sorry for the loss of one of your fathers. How horribly sad.

What are you doing with these contributions? Are you passing them along to the family who lost their father/husband? I imagine that you are and that is very kind of you, but then these are not tax deductible donations. These contributions are gifts to the family (funneled through your co-op). Gifts to an individual family are NOT tax deductible donations to the donor.

The IRS rules for tax deductible donations are quite clear: contributions earmarked for a certain individual (or family) including those that are needy or worthy are not deductible.

IRS Publication 526

Contributions to Individuals

You can’t deduct contributions to specific individuals, including the following.

Contributions to individuals who are needy or worthy. You can’t deduct these contributions even if you make them to a qualified organization for the benefit of a specific person. But you can deduct a contribution to a qualified organization that helps needy or worthy individuals if you don’t indicate that your contribution is for a specific person.

The reason the donors funneled these gifts through your homeschool organization is that they want a tax deductible receipt, but you should not give the donors a tax deductible receipt for these gifts that are designated to go to the specific family.

My advice at this point is to thank people for their contributions, but do not give out tax deductible receipts. Some nonprofit experts advise that you tell the donors that their gift is not a tax-deductible contribution.

 

P.S. You might want to contact The Homeschool Foundation, a benevolent fund established by Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They have a fund just for widows to help purchase curriculum.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Accepting in-kind donations of equipment or services

Carol,

My homeschool group (a 501c3 nonprofit) was donated $500 in science equipment. How to I record a gift like this in my record keeping? We use QuickBooks.

 

How wonderful to receive such a generous donation. As a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization the donation is a tax deductible contribution for your donor.

Thank the donor

First, be sure to thank the donor with a nice letter. State what the donation was (science equipment) but not the dollar amount. Only state the dollar amount when the gift is cash.

And be sure to include this note: “No goods or services were provided in exchange for this donation.”

Understand in-kind donations

A contribution that is paid or given in goods, commodities, or services instead of cash is called an “In-kind” contribution.

Free Church Accounting offers some great information on accepting and recording in-kind donations for small nonprofits like homeschool groups.

There are typically three categories of in-kind donations. They are

  • contributions of tangible and intangible goods
  • use of property
  • donations of services

Tangible gifts in-kind (physical goods that can be touched or held) include: furniture, equipment, food, clothing, supplies.

Example: The donation of science equipment is a tangible in-kind contribution.

Intangible gifts in-kind (goods have value but do not have a physical presence) include: trademarks, copyrights, patents, royalties, advertising.

Example: If a member of your homeschool group lets you print copies of her book or curriculum at no cost she has granted you an in-kind contribution of her copyright.

Use of property include free leased space and discounted rent.

Example: A church lets your homeschool co-op use their building for free.

Professional services given as gifts in-kind include services of accountants and bookkeepers, lawyers, plumbers or electricians, computer programmer, designers, technical support, etc.

Example: One of your members is an attorney and created bylaws for your organization.

Recording donations of in-kind contributions

Some small homeschool organizations don’t record in-kind contributions at all because they do not have to report financial statement to the IRS (they file the Form 990-N) or don’t use accounting software.

But if you would like to record your in-kind contributions in your accounting software here are a few examples from Free Church Accounting

An accountant donates 5 hours a month to do some accounting work that your organization would have had to pay another accountant to do. She regularly charges $100 per hour to do a similar service. To record this gift in-kind you would:

  • Debit Professional Service In-Kind $500
  • Credit In-Kind Contributions $500

Important reminder: Thank your donor for their services, but do not give them a tax deductible receipt for the value of their services. Donors cannot take a deduction for the time that they donated. Only donations of cash, tangible and intangible goods are tax deductible, not the value of services.


A business donates a portable building valued at $12,000. Assuming that your organization has a policy to capitalize assets of this value (meaning you depreciate the value over several years), you would record this gift in-kind like this:

  • Debit the fixed asset account (Portable Building In-Kind) $12,000
  • Credit the In-Kind Contributions $12,000

A person donates an computer valued at $400. Assuming that your organization has a policy to expense assets of this value (meaning you do not depreciate it; you deduct the full amount as an expense in one year), you would:

  • Debit the Equipment In-Kind (expense account) $400
  • Credit the In-Kind Contributions $400

 

Have more questions about properly recording your income, expenses and contributions? My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization can help.

Or contact me to get help with your accounting set up and transactions. I can refer you to a cadre of homeschool parents with experience in bookkeeping.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Are you asking for donations on your website?

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Does your homeschool group accept donations on your website? Lots of nonprofits do and its a handy way for donors to send a donation.

But did you know that having a donation button on your website could mean that your organization would need to register as a charity in almost all 50 states? What a load of paperwork!

Harbor Compliance explains that, fortunately, many states follow the Charleston Principles for accepting donations on a website.

Generally, the Charleston Principles assert that registration (with each state) should only be required if:

  • non-internet activities alone suffice to require registration, or
  • the nonprofit solicits contributions through its interactive website or specifically invites further offline activity to complete a contribution, and either:
    1. Specifically targets persons physically located in the state, or
    2. Receives repeated or substantial contributions. (“Repeated” and “substantial” are left up to each state to define.)

The principles leave a lot of room for interpretation, which brings us to some practical state-specific pointers.

Top 5 Tips When Soliciting Donations Online:

As you prepare to solicit donations online:

  1. Always register in your state of incorporation.
  2. Following-up with fundraising contacts residing in unregistered states may trigger registration. For example, you receive an unsolicited and insubstantial contribution through your website from a resident of a state in which you are not registered. If you then solicit that contact via e-mail, phone, mail, or any other medium, that will be treated as solicitation triggering registration. E-mail is generally treated the same as a mail or in-person solicitation.
  3. Soliciting through a charity portal alone such as www1.networkforgood.com does not trigger registration. That is because it is a donor-advised fund that exists to distribute funds to other nonprofits. Technically the donation is given to the fund as the payee. Scrutinize any website before assuming it is a donor-advised fund; their fine print may pass the burden of charitable registration on to you.
  4. Your nonprofit may consider hosting a non-interactive websites that encourage donations through third-party sites or offline means. This may still trigger registration – it is not a loophole.
  5. You can use social media to send out information about your nonprofit’s activities without needing to register. When your language invites solicitation, you do need to register. A fan promoting donation independent of the nonprofit does not trigger registration.

Thanks to Harbor Compliance for this helpful information.

My source: https://www.harborcompliance.com/information/online-fundraising-charleston-principles

Carol Topp, CPA

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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

Homeschool leader collecting donations without tax exempt status.

PCmakesmoney

Our homeschool group leader just opened a Paypal account and has begun asking for donations. This seems a little weird and as though we need to be a nonprofit if money is collected from members. I referred her to your website, but she believes we have nothing to worry about. Is this true? Should we be a nonprofit if money is involved? How can I help her understand the ramifications of not using your resources?
Randi

Randi,

Thank you for contacting me.

Oh dear, your leader thinks she has nothing to worry about! It’s just not that way anymore!

Whenever an organization collects money from either member dues or donations, the leaders have a fiduciary responsibility for managing that money properly. If they do not manage the money properly or get organized properly with the IRS, the leaders can be held personally liable for any mistakes.

This blog posts explains the fiduciary responsibility of leaders: http://homeschoolcpa.com/what-are-the-legal-responsibilities-of-homeschool-leaders/

An organization cannot accept tax deductible donations unless they have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the IRS. Most homeschool groups collect membership dues, but those are not “donations” and they should not be called donations.

How can you help your leader be more responsible? Explain that if your group is not properly organized then the money she is accepting will be seen as her taxable income by the IRS and she will have to pay taxes on it!

To get properly organized start by reading a few of my blog posts and articles.

This quick video may help as well: https://youtu.be/FLvfw23z7M0

Good Luck!

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Giving receipts for donations to a homeschool group

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Do we need to offer a written letter or some sort of receipt for donations to our organization?
If we are hosting a parent event and door prizes have been donated, how is that handled?
Do we need for the donor to give us a receipt or some sort of written statement stating the value of an item that has been donated?
Is there a particular format or template for receipts given to donors?
Thanks so much!
Darlene
Darlene,

Yes, you should give a receipt for donations. The IRS Publication 4221-PC p. 26 explains it all. Be sure to include a note about “No goods or services were given in exchange for this donation.”The value of donated goods is determined by the donor, not your organization as the charity. You can give a thank you letter to the donor and fill in a description of the item donated, but not its value.

Sort of like Goodwill does when you drop off stuff. They have a stack of cards at the drop off counter. Goodwill fills in the date, but the value of the donation is filled in by the donor.
No, there are no official donation receipt forms.
Just follow the example of Goodwill or your church.
Carol Topp, CPA

Can a homeschool group give discounts to a family in need?

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Carol,
Our homeschool group is a 501c3 organization. A parent member of our group recently approached me and asked if we could start a scholarship program. (This would not be a college scholarship program.) The parent’s hope is that a parent (or any individual) could give a donation to the organization to be used for scholarships for families who were facing financial hardship to attend our classes.
The scholarship would only be used to reduce a needy family’s tuition at our co-op. The parent that asked this question was hoping to get a tax deduction for his gift. I know that there could potentially be an issue with private inurement* for the families receiving a “scholarship” in this situation.
I would greatly appreciate your input. I am happy to schedule a phone consult with you.
Thanks!
Sharon in PA
Sharon,
What your member is proposing is a type of benevolent fund.
I don’t like the use of the word “scholarship” because, to the IRS, “scholarship” means payments on behalf of a student to a college.
I wrote a blog post about it: http://homeschoolcpa.com/do-not-call-a-fee-discount-a-scholarship/
Granting a tuition discount to a needy family is not inurement* if you put into practice a few safeguards such as:

  • the board, or a committee decides on the criteria to grant a tuition discount for a hardship (consider creating a policy)
  • the family receiving the benevolent discount has no vote or decision in granting the discount
  • the donation is not “ear marked” for a specific family. The board gets to decide who gets a benevolent discount, not the donor.

*Inurement is when the earnings of the organization are used for the advantage of a specific individual instead of the purpose of the organization. Inurement is forbidden for 501(c)(3) organizations.

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

Got donations? Confirming contributions in a homeschool organization

donation_money_insert_400_clr_5537Is your homeschool group fortunate to have received a donation this year?

It’s important you you to know what your organization needs to do confirming contributions.

Only if your homeschool organization is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, can your donor deduct the donation on their tax return.

If your group does not have 501(c)(3) status, you should thank the donor, but not give them a tax deductible receipt.

(Not sure if your group is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization? Read more here…)

 

Here’s some advice from a fellow CPA, Dennis Walsh on confirming contributions.

From http://www.blueavocado.org/content/treasurers-all-volunteer-organizations-eight-key-responsibilities

 

Confirm contributions

A prompt thank you letter that includes what donors need for tax purposes is an effective way to keep your contributors up to date on the great work you’re doing.  The IRS says it’s okay to send this information by email. When different financial duties are assigned to a variety of people, the chances increase that any misappropriated donations will be detected more readily.

Here’s a sample of the essential information to include in your thank you letter:

“Date

“Name and address of nonprofit
“Donor name and address

“We wish to thank you for your 20xx contribution of cash in the amount of $500.00.  We did not provide any goods or services in exchange for this contribution. XYZ Nonprofit is an organization exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and contributions are deductible to the extent allowed by law.”

Remember to separately list any single contribution of $250 or more.  If the donation is other than cash, describe the property but do not indicate a value.

If you provided the donor with goods or services as part of the contribution, you could delete the second sentence in the above example and substitute the following:

“We provided you with two theater tickets with a fair market value of $50. Your tax deduction is limited to the amount of cash and value of any property contributed, reduced by the value of any goods or services received in return.  Accordingly, the amount eligible for a federal income tax deduction is $450.”

There are exceptions for items of minimal value such as pens and mugs.  See the discussion regarding “quid pro quo” donations in IRS Publication 1771.

Dennis Walsh, a certified public accountant who lives in Jamestown, North Carolina, is the author of Legal and Tax Issues for North Carolina Nonprofits. Through the Deborah and Dennis Walsh Foundation, he provides volunteer technical assistance to help empower community nonprofits. He can be reached at drwalsh at triad.rr.com