Starting a Homeschool Co-op with a Friend

 

Is it a good idea to start a homeschool co-op with a friend?

Carol Topp, the author of  Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out explains the pitfalls to avoid when starting a co-op with a friend.

Listen to the podcast (10 minutes)

FEATURED PRODUCT from HomeschoolCPA:

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

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op? Are you afraid it will be too much work? Do you think you’ll have to do it all by yourself? Starting a homeschool co-op can be easy! This book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out will give you ideas, inspiration, tips, wisdom and the tools you need to start a homeschool co-op, run it and not burn out!

Click Here to request more information!

Self-declared tax exempt status for 501c3 homeschool groups

We are just starting up our group and we do not want to do anything illegal, but we would not qualify as a nonprofit right now, so as per your IRS book, we would be labeled an Unincorporated Association. My question is… Do we need to do anything legally to continue as a group. We do plan to open a checking account and have an EIN number.
I just felt that for a group that is just starting and is not a nonprofit or at the 501 (c) (3) status yet, we don’t know the first steps to get a group of and running and if we need to do anything legally to start. Thank you so much for your time!
-EC

 

Dear EC,

Please watch this video 3 times (yes, 3 times!):

 

You will hear that to legally and correctly set up a nonprofit you need 3 things:

  1. A mission that is not motivated by profit
  2. A board
  3. Organizing documents. Usually bylaws but Articles of Association are also recommended. Get samples here

If you have those three things, your organization is a nonprofit. Congratulations! It may not be a nonprofit corporation; instead it is an unincorporated association, as you mentioned, but it is still a nonprofit.

But, there is a difference between nonprofit status and tax exempt status

Nonprofit status is granted by your state while tax exempt status is granted by the IRS to qualifying nonprofit organizations. Typically nonprofits need to formally apply for tax exempt status with the IRS.

But small nonprofits can self declare  501(c)(3) tax exempt status if your annual gross revenues* are $5,000 or less.

*Annual gross revenues are all the money you take in in a year, even if it just goes right back out. It’s not what is left over at the end of the year. It is not the amount in your checkbook. It is annual (yearly) gross (all) revenues (intake).

This video may be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCFjnnY7mEw

 

How to self declare 501c3 tax exempt status

Since you have not officially applied on paper for 501(c)(3) status  (you self-declared 501(c)(3) status and don’t have to file the paperwork), your nonprofit organization is not in the IRS database (yet), so you need to call the IRS Customer Account Services at 1-877-829-5500 and be added to their database so you can begin filing the Form 990-Ns.

It typically takes 6 weeks after you call to be added to the IRS database.

Say something like this,

“We’re a brand new 501(c)(3) educational organization and I needed to get added to the IRS exempt organization database so we can start filing our 990-Ns.”


**Note that only 501(c)(3) organizations with less than $5,000 annual gross revenues can “self-declare” their tax exempt status. Organizations with more than $5,000/year in revenues must apply for 501(c)(3) status using Form 1023 or the new, shorter Form 1023-EZ.


The IRS employee will ask for your EIN and organization’s name, address, and probably a contact name.

They may also ask what date your fiscal year ends. Many homeschool groups operate on a calendar year, but some operate on a school year with a year end of June 30 or July 31. Look at the form you filed when you applied for your EIN to see what you chose as your fiscal year end.

They may ask if you have “organizing documents.” They mean bylaws or Articles of Association. So create bylaws or Articles of Association/Articles of Incorporation before you call the IRS. Get the board to approve and sign them. Sample bylaws and Articles of Association can be found here.

Call the IRS early in the morning. They open at 8 am ET and you can usually get through pretty quickly of you call then. Record the date you call, the IRS employee name and their identification number.

 

How to keep your 501(c)(3) tax exempt status

Be sure you go online (IRS.gov/990n) to file the Form 990-N anytime after your fiscal year ends and before its due date which is 4 1/2 months after the end of your fiscal year. If you operate on a calendar year, the 990-N is due May 15.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping homeschool leaders with legal and tax compliance

 

Need advice when hiring your first employee? Discount program available to nonprofits.

Hiring employees can seem like a taunting task. My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help a lot, but if you want extra services, consider contacting a service like HR Solutions Partners.

The HR Solutions Partners discount program at TechSoup provides human resources support services to eligible nonprofit organizations, charities, and public libraries throughout the United States.

With minimal experience, you can use HR Solutions Partners services for support in training employees, administering payroll, measuring employee performance, and more.

I’ve not used them, so I cannot vouch for their services, but it can’t hurt to call and talk to them.

Carol Topp, CPA

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

$9.95 paperback

$3.99 ebook

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How to Self Declare Tax Exempt Status

Your homeschool group can have tax exempt status without applying with the IRS.

Want to know how?

In this short podcast, Carol Topp, CPA, the HomeschoolCPA, tells you how to self declare tax exempt status, keep all of your surplus for your group and not pay the IRS.

Listen to the podcast (15 minutes)

 

FEATURED PRODUCT from HomeschoolCPA:

The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization

Does your homeschool group need to pay taxes?  Could they avoid paying taxes by being a 501c3 tax exempt organization? Do you know the pros and cons of 501c3 status? Do you know what 501c3 status could mean for your homeschool group?  I have the answers for you in my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. The information I share in my book has been helpful to homeschool support groups, co-ops, music and sports groups and will help you understand:

  • The benefits of 501c3 status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Click Here to request more information!

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What homeschool leaders should do this summer to be ready for next year

Sometimes homeschool leaders take the summer off to have a break for running their homeschool programs. But Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, doesn’t want you to completely forget about your homeschool group this summer. She offers a few tasks that you should do this summer to make the fall much easier!

Listen to the podcast

Carol mentioned this list of topics for your board to discuss: http://homeschoolcpa.com/calendar-of-board-topics-for-homeschool-groups/

Homeschool Co-ops:
How to Start Them, Run Them and not Burn Out

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op? Are you afraid it will be too much work? Do you think you’ll have to do it all by yourself? Starting a homeschool co-op can be easy! This book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out will give you ideas, inspiration, tips, wisdom and the tools you need to start a homeschool co-op, run it and not burn out!

Click Here to request more information!

Homeschool or microschool?

I have been a teacher at a small private Christian School for many years. I have been asked by 15 families to homeschool their children, beginning in the fall. I have agreed. I purchased your books and read them (so helpful!!) I have done quite a bit of work already, but after filling out half of the 501(c)(3) form, have decided that I really want to make sure this is all done right and am requesting your help.
-S

 

Dear S,

Homeschooling the children from 15 families is not really homeschooling. Perhaps forming a microschool be a better option.

What’s a microschool?

According to Meridian Learning, a resource and advocacy organization for grassroots micro-schools,

a micro school is a purposely small school led by a trained professional and focused on meaningful, sustainable, whole student learning.

Microschools are also called the modern-day one-room schoolroom.

Microschools are not the same as homeschool co-ops, tutorials or programs. Micro schools are registered schools in their states and meet the compulsory attendance requirements of the state. Instead, homeschool programs supplement the main teacher, the parent, with classes and extra curricular activities, but the students are homeschooled under their state laws for homeschooling.

It’s a lot of work to set up a microschool so learn more about starting a running a micro school at Meridian Learning. Meridian will be hosting virtual training sessions this summer (2017) on topics such as:

  • Teacherpreneur
  • How to Start a Microschool
  • Montessori for Business

I will be presenting information at the Teacherpreneur 101 and How to Start a Microschool classes.

Also, please visit this Facebook page on Grassroots Microschools to meet other people running microschools.

I’m committed to helping homeschool leaders, but sometimes other options may work better for some people. I hope S. finds a program that meets the needs of the students and parents.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Keep Up To Date on State Filings for Your Homeschool Nonprofit

Most homeschool leaders know that they need to report annually to the IRS, but did you know that there are probably filings to do in your state every year? Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, discusses the most common state reports that homeschool nonprofit organizations need to file.

Listen to the podcast

The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization

Does your homeschool group need to pay taxes?  Could they avoid paying taxes by being a 501c3 tax exempt organization? Do you know the pros and cons of 501c3 status? Do you know what 501c3 status could mean for your homeschool group?  The answers are in  The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. The information in this book has been helpful to homeschool support groups, co-ops, music and sports groups and will help you understand:

  • The benefits of 501c3 status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Click Here to request more information!

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Homeschool Treasurers: Do this before giving your board a financial statement

Homeschool treasurers: before you prepare a financial statement for your board meeting you should reconcile your bank account!

Why is reconciling bank accounts so important?

Vickey Richardson of FreeChurchAccounting.com explains,

 I have discovered with my bookkeeping business that reconciling accounts are not very high on some organization’s to-do list. When accounts are not reconciled … financial statements are usually NOT accurate.

REMEMBER…before generating your financial statements, there is a process you should go through to ensure the accounting reports you give your pastor, treasurer, or governing council are accurate and complete.

One of the most important steps is the bank reconciliation!

See how to reconcile your bank account and additional steps you should take BEFORE you start on your monthly, quarterly, or annual reporting …

Bank Reconciliation First then Financial Statements

(click for Vickey’s detailed steps )

I completely agree with Vickey. When I see regular bank reconciliations, the financial statements are almost always correct. When a organization does not reconcile their accounts, the financial statements are usually a mess.

Vickey also reminds us that credit card statements need to be reconciled too! And so do PayPal accounts. A credit card or PayPal account is really just a type of bank account with inflows and outflows. So reconcile them monthly as well.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Creative Ways to Run Your Homeschool Co-op Without Employees

So you really don’t want your homeschool co-op to hire teachers as employees, but how can you run your group without them? Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA , offers a few creative ways to run a homeschool co-op without hiring employees or dealing with payroll.

Listen to the podcast.

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization

Are you paying workers in your homeschool organization? Can a volunteer be paid? Should a worker be treated as an employee or independent contractor? Do you know the difference?

Homeschool leader and CPA, Carol Topp, has the answers to your questions in her book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization.

This 130 page book covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

Click Here to request more information!

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IRS tries to decrease errors in automatic revocations for tax exempt organizations

IRS-Building1

Every year the exempt organization (EO) branch of the IRS send out a Work Plan for the upcoming year and reviews what it accomplished in the past year.

IRS Exempt Organization 2017 Work Plan (24 pages)

Here’s something interesting I found:

In FY 2016, EO Determinations focused on its objectives to improve processing of applications and enhance customer satisfaction. We implemented several programs to accomplish these goals.
Erroneous Revocation Prevention: On May 3, 2016, EO Rulings and Agreements formalized procedures to identify and prevent erroneous automatic revocation before the organizations are notified and before the revocations are posted to EO Select Check. Preventing these erroneous revocations eliminates adverse impact to organizations and removes the burden from organizations to identify and notify the IRS of the error. Since March 2015, we have reviewed 13,933 potential auto-revocations and prevented 3,202 erroneous revocations (through June 2016).

In plain English, thousands of nonprofits found their tax exempt status was revoked automatically before the organizations were told (!) and before the revocations were posted to EO Select Check (that’s the IRS online database of tax exempt organizations).

Over 3,000 revocations that were an error! What a mess!

The IRS didn’t get specific about why these organizations had their tax exemption revoked or how they fixed the problem, but I have some ideas:

1. It takes 6-8 weeks (yes, that’s WEEKS, not DAYS) for the IRS to update their exempt organization database so that small organizations can file their annual Form 990-N Information Return. If the organization is granted tax exempt status close to their due date for filing the 990-N, they may be unable to timely file a 990-N because the  IRS takes 6-8 weeks  to update their exempt organization database!

This happened to one of my small nonprofit clients. They had failed to file their 990-N for two years (they didn’t know about the requirement) and the deadline for the third year was quickly approaching. Failure to file your 990/990-EZ/990-N for three consecutive years means automatic revocation of tax exempt status. We were sweating bullets that they could file the 990-N on time. The board president was checking the IRS database daily as the deadline drew nearer. She managed to file the 990-N just days before the deadline! Whew!

If the IRS database of Exempt Organizations were updated in a more timely manner, then there could be fewer erroneous automatic revocations.

 

2. Another small nonprofit told me that they received an automatic revocation letter, but had never received a “You’re late in filing the Form 990-N” type of letter or a warning! This nonprofit had not changed their address, either.

So another thing the IRS could do to reduce erroneous automatic revocation is to mail organizations a reminder and a warning letter for failure to file a 990/990-EZ or 990-N.

I hope my suggestions are what the IRS has put in place.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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