When someone volunteers you


Have you ever been volunteered by someone else?

I’ve volunteered a lot over the years, but it was my choice to volunteer.

Once I was volunteered (more like assigned) by a fellow board member to do promotion for our annual fundraiser. I was absent at the meeting where they divvied up the jobs, so when this board member called to tell me what I had been “volunteered” to do, she said, “Well, I thought you’d want to help out. Everyone else is.”

So I was volunteered and guilt-ed into it, too!

I declined, explaining that I had not experience or gifts in marketing and promotion a fundraising event.

It doesn’t feel good to be volunteered into doing something does it?

A homeschool mom emailed me to say that she teaches at a local homeschool program. The homeschool organization gives free classes to board members. That’s very generous of them.

This teaching-parent is paid based on the number of children enrolled in her class and was pretty surprised when she was told she would have two of a board member’s children in her class and they would “be pro bono cases.” That means she wasn’t going to get paid for these two students in her class! This teacher has a written contract with the homeschool group and it does not mention any “pro bono cases.”

Pro bono means “for the public good” and refers to an attorney offering his or her services for free to help a public cause.

I find it odd that the homeschool organization used the term “pro bono” like this. They shouldn’t obligate someone else (the teacher in this case) to work “pro bono.” It’s like volunteering someone else!

Some homeschool groups waive tuition and fees for board members, but that doesn’t mean the group should stiff the teachers! It means the homeschool group absorbs the cost themselves.

So homeschool leaders, go ahead and be generous. Offer discounts to your hard working board members (but read this to make sure the discounts are not taxable income to your board members), but please treat your paid teachers well too!

Don’t go “pro bono” or volunteer someone else. It’s just not nice.

Carol Topp, CPA


How to Have Happy and Thankful Homeschool Co-op Members


Are your homeschool co-op members happy and thankful? Or maybe they are complaining to you. Can that be changed?

In this short podcast episode (14 minutes)  Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, interviews homeschool leader Becky Abrams who started and leads a homeschool co-op in Oregon.

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast Becky explains:

  • How she went about finding help
  • How her co-op’s board came together
  • How to have happy and thankful co-op members!
  • How Becky invited new board members to join the leadership team
  • How to let co-op members have a voice

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

Help your homeschool group get organized and run smoothly!

Author and homeschool advisor, Carol Topp, CPA, has created a Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It is a template to create a board member binder. It has:

  • A list of important documents to keep in your binder
  • Section dividers so you can organize the important papers
  • Tools to help you run your meetings smoothly including
  • A sample agenda that you can use over and over again
  • A calendar of board meetings

But this is more than just a few cover sheets for your binder. It is also a 55-page board training manual with helpful articles on:

  • Suggested Board Meeting Topic List
  • Board Duties
  • Job Descriptions for Board of Directors
  • What Belongs in the Bylaws?
  • Compensation and Benefits for Board Members
  • Best Financial Practices Checklist
  • How to Read and Understand Financial Statements
  • Developing a Child Protection Policy

Read more about the Homeschool Organization Board Manual


Carol Topp, CPA



How should a homeschool co-op set up their Quickbooks account?

Do you have something on your website or a resource on how a co-op should set up their QuickBooks accounts?




I have a few posts about how to set up QuickBooks for a homeschool co-op:

Quickbooks Tips for Homeschool Groups on Sales
What financial reports do we need to generate monthly?

If you receive money in one year, but it’s really for next year (like early registration) then this is helpful:
Deferred Revenues in QuickBooks (opens a pdf file)


I actually don’t spend a lot of time talking about QuickBooks on this blog because there are so many good resources our there like this one (check out her QuickBooks tutorials):


A nonprofit called TechSoup has some great videos for using QuickBooks in a nonprofit:


Finally, my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization  has some tips for using QuickBooks like setting up a Chart of Accounts and a who are your “Customers” and what are your “Sales.”
I hope that helps,
Carol Topp, CPA

Necessity Leads New Homeschooler to Start a Homeschool Co-op


Homeschool mother Becky Abrams started homeschooling out of desperation. “By October homeschooling was a disaster!” she said. Her 3 sons were miserable and lonely, and Becky had a newborn and was lonely herself! She tells host Carol Topp how desperation and necessity drove Becky to start a homeschool field trip group and later launch a homeschool co-op–all as a brand new homeschooler herself!

In today’s podcast Carol Topp interviews homeschool leader Becky Abrams who started and leads a homeschool co-op in Oregon.   

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA  (12 minutes) podcast Becky explains:

  • Why she started homeschooling her 3 sons
  • What drove her to start meeting other homeschool families
  • How she connected with other homeschool families as a new homeschooler
  • What she did when her sons needed to find friends

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

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

Have you ever thought about starting a homeschool co-op like Becky did? 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!

Carol Topp, CPA



How does the IRS prove my homeschool group’s tutor should be an employee?


D. is a leader of a homeschool program, Classical Conversations, who asked me about the worker status of tutors in her program: Should they be employees or Independent Contractors? This question applies to many homeschool groups, not just Classical Conversations.

What evidence would the IRS use to prove an “employee” was “treated” wrong (i.e., misclassified as an Independent Contractor when they should be an employee)? If it’s how much freedom the tutor felt they had, I am confused.

If I hire a independent contractor to paint my walls do I not have full rights to specify how, what color, the time frame I need it done, etc? How can this truly be an issued PROVED by IRS?

(edited for clarity and spelling)



Let me clear up something.

The IRS rulings, decisions and determinations on worker status are based on common law, not scientific facts.

Common law is the body of law derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes. Common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts (Wikipedia definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_law)

The common-law system is used in all the states of the United States.

Common law and the IRS does not use the word “prove” as used in science. Instead judges and the IRS make judgements or determinations. Application of IRS regulations and determinations is not science, it’s law and that’s a different mindset.

Things cannot be “proven” in law like they can in science.

Under a common-law system, disputes are settled through an adversarial exchange of arguments and evidence. Both parties present their cases before a neutral fact finder, either a judge or a jury. The judge or jury evaluates the evidence, applies the appropriate law to the facts, and renders a judgment in favor of one of the parties. Following the decision, either party may appeal the decision to a higher court. Appellate courts in a common-law system may review only findings of law, not determinations of fact. Source: https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/common+law

I’ve written several blog posts on the factors (or “evidence”) that the IRS considers in making a worker determination. Here’s one: Behavior Control of an Independent Contractor

Behavioral Control, which you mentioned in your question, is only one of the many factors to be considered.

The IRS says,

“Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.”

So citing an Independent Contractor painting your walls is not relevant in determining worker status of a teacher in a homeschool program or Classical Conversations group. They are very different situations.

A better comparison is an adjunct instructor at a local college. The IRS has several rulings about the worker status of college instructors. There have been several court cases involving instructors in an education setting. Reading these court cases and IRS rulings and determinations have led me to the conclusion:

Because instruction is a fundamental component of a homeschool organization, instructors, tutors and teachers should be treated as employees because the homeschool group will always exert control over these workers. (from Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization by Carol Topp, CPA)


If you want more details, my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization will be a big help.

I also offer a Worker Determination service to help decide if your tutors are misclassified as Independent Contractor  when they should be paid as employees.
Carol Topp, CPA

Are You Helping or Hindering Parents to Homeschool?


You lead a homeschool group to help parents successfully homeschool, right? But could your homeschool program actually be hindering their success as a homeschool parents?

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast, Carol Topp will share:

  • How homeschool groups take on responsibilities that belong to the parent
  • Do you assume your parent, especially new ones, don’t know how to homeschool? Some homeschool program undermine confidence of homeschool parents
  • Some homeschool programs foster dependence on their program to homeschool successfully
  • Is your group too controlling?
  • Are your parents dependent on your group or program to successfully homeschool?
  • How to identify if you are helping or hindering parents

Here’s a quote from the podcast:

 “If your group is taking over the education of the children then you are not helping that parent, especially that mom, to homeschool successfully. You are actually hindering her. You are making her dependent on your group.”

Instead you should empower her to homeschool her kids on her own

If one of your parents says, “I couldn’t have homeschooled without your group!” you should reflect on this question:

If my group closed tomorrow would our parents still continue to joyfully and confidentially continue to homeschool?

I hope so!

Share your thoughts on the I am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook group!


Do you have questions about running your homeschool group?

Start by reading the Articles or search the blog. For more detailed information visit the bookstore  and listen to HomeschoolCPA’s podcast.

If you want individual help, consider a phone consultation with Carol Topp, CPA

Phone Consultation: A pre-arranged phone call to discuss your questions. My most popular service for homeschool leaders. It’s like having your own homeschool expert CPA on the phone!

Cost: $75/hour to nonprofit organizations.  $100/hour to for-profit businesses. $60 minimum.

Q &A by Email:  I am willing to answer questions by email, but it is very time consuming to read and reply to emails. I charge a reduced rate of $50/hour to read and reply to emails. Minimum $25.

Contact HomeschoolCPA, Carol Topp, CPA, to arrange a telephone consultation.

Click Here to request more information!

Carol Topp, CPA



Board member of a homeschool nonprofit feeling vulnerable!

I’m the president of a homeschool co-op. Am I personally liable if someone were to sue or come after the co-op? I already feel slightly vulnerable in this area as the president and having my signature on our building contract, etc.



As president your are an officer of our nonprofit organization and as an officer there are certain responsibilities that you carry more so than other board members and certainly more so than the co-op’s family participants.

With the authority comes responsibility.

But responsibility does not automatically mean personal liability, if you do your fiduciary duties and do not commit acts of gross negligence or fraud.

What are those fiduciary duties?

Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty, Duty of Management and Duty of Compliance

To better understand these duties as board members and do them here’s some help:

A prudent board member can reduce the risk of lawsuits by understanding the duties and

  • incorporating as a nonprofit
  • obeying the bylaws and laws in general
  • carrying insurance
  • being educated on nonprofit duties and risk

To get educated, there are some excellent resources online for nonprofit boards like these:

Each of these websites have excellent resources to help you run your nonprofit.
Ultimately, feeling slightly vulnerable will probably force you to manage risk, do your duties, and run the organization properly, so that’s a good thing!
In other words, it keeps you on your toes to feel the weight of responsibility!
Carol Topp, CPA

Do financial reports confuse you?

Has this happened to you?

You are at your homeschool leaders meeting. The treasurer hands out a paper showing the group’s financial status. It’s confusing, hard to read, and has weird dollar signs and labels.

You’re too embarrassed to show your ignorance about the report, so you don’t ask any questions.

Neither does anyone else.

You’re wondering, “Am I the only one who finds this confusing? No one else asked any questions, so they must get it. I’ll just keep quiet and hope for the best.”

Good news! The problem isn’t you!

It’s probably the way the treasurer is displaying the financial report.


I’ve seen all kinds of financial reports from homeschool groups. Many are very confusing and difficult to understand (and I’m an accountant!).

This prompted me to offer a webinar for homeschool group leaders on how to present financial reports that are clear and easy to understand to board members.

During this webinar you will learn:

  • What are the two most important reports for your board to see regularly
  • What mistakes treasurers make
  • How to read a financial report
  • Know what red flags to look for
  • Know if your organization is healthy or doing poorly
  • How to a better manager and leader
  • Use the financial report to make decisions and set goals.

You will be shown the good, the bad and the ugly of financial reports.

Join me on Monday October 29 at 8 pm ET, 7 pm CT, 6 pm MT and 5 pm PT for a one-hour webinar

Financial Reports for Homeschool Groups: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


(There is no charge, but a payment is gladly accepted to offset the cost of hosting the webinar).
https://Paypal.Me/CarolTopp/5 to pay $5.00
https://Paypal.Me/CarolTopp/10 to pay $10.00

The webinar will be recorded, so please Register  so that you will be emailed the link to the video.

The advantages of attending live:

  • Time for your questions and answers from Carol (Carol charges $75/hour for a private phone consultation)
  • Interact in the chat room with other homeschool leaders
  • It will get done! I know you have good intentions to watch the video later, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.

Register now and join us on Monday October 29, 2018 at 8 pm ET, 7 pm CT, 6 pm MT and 5 pm PT

Like handouts? Here’s a helpful handout: Financial Reports Webinar Handout (pdf)

Carol Topp, CPA


Should your homeschool group be collecting sales tax?

Sales tax. Ugh!! As if dealing with the IRS and income tax isn’t enough of a headache, your homeschool organization might need to be collecting and paying sales tax as well!

From the Church Law and Tax blog comes some helpful information about sales tax that applies to homeschool organizations.

Sales taxes are collected in 44 states. Each state has a different sales tax statute and exempts certain types of purchasers from the payment of sales tax.

Some states exempt any organization with 501(c)(3) status from paying sales tax on purchases. Other states offer limited sales tax exemptions.

Collecting Sales Tax

But I’m not talking about paying sales tax when you buy stuff like paper towels or microscopes.

I’m talking about when your homeschool group sells stuff (aka tangible personal property).

What kind of stuff? How about:

  • Text books (some states exempt textbooks form sales tax.)
  • Tickets to drama performances (yes, some states add sales tax to ticket sales!!)
  • Food sales (in some states food sales, especially snack foods and soft drinks are sales-taxable)
  • T shirts, even if they are a fundraiser!

The rules for when an organization is exempt from collecting sales tax are different form the rules about paying sales tax.

Most states do not exempt churches from collecting sales tax on taxable transactions. As a result, a church that conducts taxable transactions is required to have a sales tax permit.

Most states have a nuisance exception to the requirement of having a sales tax permit, which allows churches to have taxable sales a couple of days a year without the requirement of collecting sales tax. Since every state is different, you should check with your state revenue department. (Source: https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2008/september/exceptions-to-exemption.html)


For example: In Ohio a homeschool co-op with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status can buy things (like books, supplies, etc) without paying sales tax.

But Ohio only allows nonprofits 5 days a year to hold sales without collecting sales tax. It’s kind of like they are saying, “use those 5 days wisely…you only get 5 sales-tax free days to sell stuff each year!” So maybe the co-op wants to have a big fundraising event and sell items. That’s one of the 5 days they can sell items and not have to collect sales tax.


Sales Tax on Fundraiser Sales

You may be thinking your homeschool group can avoid collecting sales tax because you only sell things as part of a fundraiser. Sorry, bed news…

Virtually any form of fundraiser that involves the sale of a product will also require the collection of sales tax. (Source: https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2008/september/exceptions-to-exemption.html)

Sales Tax Laws vary by State

Each state has different rules about how and what they apply sales tax to and what organizations can be exempt from collecting sales tax.

It will take some detective work to figure out what your state’s rules are! It’s one of the headaches of living in a country with 50 states (and Washington DC!).

How to Get Help

  • Start with your state’s department of revenue website. Look for words like “sales tax” and then “exemptions” Then look for words like “nonprofit” and “exemption.” Happy reading. The states don’t make it easy to find the exceptions to taxes!
  • Google “Sales tax exemption nonprofit YOUR STATE” and start hunting.
  • I find TaxJar.com and Avalara.com are two helpful websites with information on sales tax.
  • Contact me, Carol Topp, CPA. I’ve done the detective work for several states (about 30) and can sometimes help you or at least point you in the right direction. I charge a fee for this research of $50.

Carol Topp, CPA


Webinar: Financial Reports for Homeschool Groups


I’ve seen all kinds of financial reports from homeschool groups. Many are very confusing and difficult to understand (and I’m an accountant!).

So I am offering a webinar for homeschool group leaders on how to present financial reports that are clear and easy to understand to board members.

During this webinar you will learn:

  • How to read a financial report
  • Know what red flags to look for
  • What are the two most important reports for your board to see regularly
  • What mistakes treasurers make
  • Use the financial report to make decisions and set goals.

You will be shown the good, the bad and the ugly of financial reports.

Financial Reports for Homeschool Groups: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


The webinar was recorded and you can watch it on YouTube


Like handouts? Here’s a helpful handout: Financial Reports Webinar Handout (pdf)

Carol Topp, CPA