Homeschooling and Happy Birthday USA!

Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

I am very appreciative of the freedom we have in the USA to homeschool our children.

I had my eyes opened recently at the National Conference for Homeschool Leaders sponsored by HSLDA that 90% of the world’s homeschoolers are in the United States.

Take a look at how many places in the world where homeschooling is illegal. It might surprise you:

Germany: Homeschooling is illegal, public or approved private education is mandatory
Greece: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.
Liechtenstein: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.
Netherlands: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.
Sweden: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.
Guatemala: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.
El Salvador: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.
Brazil: Homeschooling is illegal, public education is mandatory without known exceptions.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling_international_status_and_statistics (accessed June 19, 2017)

I’ve very happy to be living in the USA and enjoyed my freedom to homeschool.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

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Don’t tell the IRS your homeschool group is a private foundation (if it’s not).

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Oh this is a sad, sad story.

I’ve seen this twice recently: a homeschool group prepares their own 501(c)(3) application (Form 1023 or 1023-EZ) with the IRS and incorrectly tells the IRS they are a private foundation.

Homeschool co-ops or other nonprofit educational programs are not private foundations. Private foundations are charitable organizations that are funded by an individual, family, or corporation, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Homeschool organizations are public charities, serving the public good (the education of children). Both of these homeschool organizations didn’t think of themselves as charities. They misunderstood that the IRS uses the word charity to include educational organizations. They also didn’t think of themselves as “public,” because they didn’t not understand the IRS use of that word.

The IRS means serving a public good and being supported financially by the “public” (meaning lots of people) but that does not mean you have to open your doors to the general public! You may still have an application process and limit your membership or participation to your programs.

I spend a lot of time with my nonprofit clients explaining the IRS terms and proper classification, but neither of these organizations hired me to prepare their Form 1023/1023-EZ. Neither of them even asked for a phone consultation or for me to look over the application before sending it to the IRS.

Now they have a real mess on their hands.

They have to file an IRS form to change their status. This requires providing financial statements, explanations, and supporting documents and IRS fees.  Meanwhile, they have to be filing a Form 990-PF, which is quite complex. You need an experienced CPA to prepare a 990-PF.

This is going to be expensive and time consuming. It will probably cost hundreds of dollars in IRS and CPA fees to get it straightened out.

Sad, sad, sad…

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping homeschool leaders with tax and legal compliance

 

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How does the IRS see my homeschool support group?

Your homeschool support group is probably a social club in the eyes of the IRS. Listen to this short podcast as Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA explains that social clubs can get automatic tax exempt status without applying, but they must maintain that tax-free status.

Listen to the podcast (14 minutes)

Here’s a link to the blog post Carol mentioned in the podcast: How to get into the IRS exempt database:

How to get added to the IRS database and file the Form 990N

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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Is there a rule about keeping our nonprofit bank account under $25,000?

There has been a “rule” passed down from former leaders of our homeschool group to me that we have to keep our bank accounts under $25,000 or we will lose our tax exempt status. I do the books for another tax exempt organization and we often have our accounts over that amount.

I think they may be getting confused with the 990 rules regarding the limit to file the 990N, which is gross receipts under $50,000. Maybe it used to be $25,000?

In any case, that is gross receipts not assets and we don’t have gross receipts or assets over $50,000. So, I have never heard of this rule with the $25,000 bank balances, as I have done 990 taxes before. But I wanted to be able to feel confident that I did not miss anything and verified it with one other reputable source.

Can you tell me if I am correct in my assumptions?

Teri in Ohio

Terri,

You are correct!

They are confusing gross revenues (which used to have a threshold of $25,000 for filing the the 990N) with assets.

Gross revenues are the total (gross) revenues (income) that come into your organization in a year. The IRS uses gross revenues as a threshold very frequently such as which annual information return, the Form 990 to fie.
Assets are what your organization owns. For most homeschool groups their assets is the money in their checking accounts.

A nonprofit organization can have any amount they wish in assets (in your case, the bank account).

For example, the American Red Cross has $517 million in cash and checking accounts (Source: Form 990 dated June 30, 2015). Their other assets include buildings, a huge investment portfolio, and inventory. They need all this money in reserve so that they can assist victims when the next natural disaster happens.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard gross revenues and assets get confused.

My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization would probably be helpful. I try to make confusing topics like money and taxes clear!

Carol Topp CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

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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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