Should a Homeschool Nonprofit Let Members Vote?

 

Should your homeschool nonprofit group let its members vote? There are many nonprofit groups that do not give their members a vote, but some do! What are the pros and cons or each arrangement?

In this short podcast episode (12 minutes)  Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, will share:

  • Is it okay to not allow members a vote?
  • Sample bylaws can be found at   HomeschoolCPA.com/Samples
  • Can a board chose its own replacements?
  • How can a board get input from the membership?

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

 

Homeschool Organization Board Manual

Sometimes current group leaders have none of the important paperwork for their organizations. Homeschool board members should keep all their organization’s important papers in a safe and accessible place. Usually, a 3-ring binder works well.

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

Click Here for more information!

Carol Topp, CPA

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Can homeschool groups give free tuition to teachers like private schools?

I taught at a private school before I started homeschooling and I received free tuition for my children. Now I teach at a homeschool program. Can homeschool groups give free or reduced tuition as a fringe benefit like private schools?

 

Maybe!

You’re talking about what the US Tax Code calls “Qualified tuition reduction.”

The United States Tax Code, or 26 U.S.C. § 117(d) has some good news:
 In General. – Gross income shall not include any qualified tuition reduction.
“qualified tuition reduction” means the amount of any reduction in tuition provided to an employee of an organization described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii)

 

In plain English that means a school may provide its employees with tuition breaks, or cash grants for payment of tuition, without that benefit being considered taxable income to the employee. Good news for school employees!

But notice a few important words: employee and school

Are you an employee of the homeschool program?

If so, keep reading. But if you are an Independent Contractor, you cannot get tax-free tuition reduction benefits.

Is the homeschool program you work for as an employee a “school”?

The US Tax Code defines a school in section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii):

 An educational organization is described in section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii) if its primary function is the presentation of formal instruction and it normally maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and normally has a regularly enrolled body of pupils or students in attendance at the place where its educational activities are regularly carried on. The term includes institutions such as primary, secondary, preparatory, or high schools, and colleges and universities. It includes Federal, State, and other public-supported schools which otherwise come within the definition.

 

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

Hmmm…

…regular faculty…regularly enrolled student body…qualified teachers…recurrent basis…teacher certifications…

Do those words used to definition a “school” apply to your homeschool program?

Maybe. Or maybe not. It might be hard to tell what the IRS meant since this part of the US Tax Code was written long before anyone thought of homeschool programs employing teachers.

Here’s my concern: If a homeschool program fits the IRS and US Tax Code definition of “school” so that its employees can get tax-free fringe benefits, is that homeschool program also a school in the eyes of its state laws regarding private schools? And are the students then attending a school and not really legally homeschooling?

Additionally, since states regulate education in the USA, your state’s definition of school may be VERY different from the US Tax Code’s definition.

It gets confusing. Very confusing. I’m a pretty conservative CPA and don’t like advising my clients unless things are pretty clearly stated in the tax code.

I also don’t want homeschool programs to be treated as schools or to even call themselves schools. I’m concerned that if homeschool programs call themselves “schools” the state may start imposing all the rules that schools must follow onto independent homeschool programs. That will stifle creativity, educational freedom, add a paperwork and reporting burden, and may end up restricting our homeschool freedoms.

It’s just not worth it!

My advice: Avoid attempting to fit the US Tax Code definition of “school.” Avoid even calling your homeschool program a school with both the IRS and with your state. Maintain homeschooling freedom even if it means you cannot offer your employees tax-free fringe benefits of “qualified tuition reduction.”

You may decide differently from what I wrote above. You may decide your homeschool program is a “school” by the IRS and US Tax Code definition. But if you do, please, please get a legal opinion on your organization’s status as a school from a qualified attorney experienced in educational institutions and get it in writing. Yes, you’ll have to pay for it, but it will be your defense if your State Board of Education wants to regulate your homeschool program!

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Does My Homeschool Group Need Directors and Officers Insurance?

Does My Homeschool Group Need Directors and Officers Insurance?

 

Does your homeschool group need to protect your leaders? Sure you do, so you may consider purchasing Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance.

In this short podcast episode (12 minutes)  Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, will explain:

  • What is D&O insurance?
  • What does D&O insurance protect?
  • When to buy D&O insurance?
  • How does being a nonprofit corporation help?
  • Article on Insurance for Homeschool Groups.

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

Does your homeschool group manage their money well? Do you have a budget and know where the money is spent? Do you know how to prevent fraud? This 115 page book will help you to open a checking account, establish a budget, prevent mistakes and fraud, use software to keep the books, prepare a financial statement and hire workers. Sample forms and examples of financial statements in clear English are provided.

Click Here to request more information!

Carol Topp, CPA

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Motivation to homeschool is changing. How does your group adapt?

Homeschool is changing! I know that you as a homeschool leader see those changes.

In her 2012 book Home Is Where the School Is, sociologist Jennifer Lois broadly divided homeschoolers into two groups: first-choice and second-choice homeschoolers.

A 2017 Pioneer Institute whitepaper characterized the groups this way: “The ‘first-choice’ family is in essence the traditional homeschooling family, viewing homeschooling as a lifestyle and an integral part of a student’s growth.

‘Second-choice’ homeschooling parents might be described as ‘pragmatic homeschoolers,’ perhaps even ‘reluctant homeschoolers.’ . . . this sub-set tends to view homeschooling as a stop-gap solution to a school-based problem as opposed to an overall family lifestyle.”

As more people start homeschooling for different motivations other than as a lifestyle, raising life-long learners, or faith, how does your group adapt?

Are you accommodating the parents who are just looking for a stop-gap solution?

Here is what some groups are trying:

  • Allowing more drop off students  and less parental involvement
  • Hiring more paid teachers
  • Offering more parent education on how to homeschool
  • Opening their formerly exclusive groups to allow public-school-at-home families to join

Share your ideas in the comments or join the I Am a Homeschool Group Leader group on Facebook and leave a comment.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping Homeschool Leaders

Blurring Lines of What is Homeschooling

 

On the I Am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook page, a lot of discussion happened around the topic of being an inclusive group (open at all) or exclusive group (limiting membership). Several homeschool leaders contributed the reasons for their group’s decision. Carol Topp shared those views in Episodes # 129 and #130 which you can find here:

Reasons to be an Inclusive Homeschool Group

Reasons to be an Exclusive Homeschool Group

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast, Carol Topp will share some of the reasons that some groups are exclusive (they do not allow public school students into their homeschool group) but it comes from a few people who are active in legislation or in their state homeschool groups. They have a different viewpoint that you may find insightful and interesting.

These state homeschool leaders mentioned:

  • The lines of what is homeschooling are blurring and state legislators may not understand the difference between traditional or independent homeschooling and public-school-at-home.
  • There are concerns about government control and oversight
  • There is a concern of being grouped with charter schools or public school funding and therefore be subject to more government oversight

 

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned the Facebook  group for homeschool leaders I am a Homeschool Group Leader. Join 400+ homescool leaders for ideas, encouragement and respective exchange of ideas. https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

 

Featured resource:

Phone Consultation with Carol Topp, CPA

You can learn a lot about running your homeschool group from the HomeschoolCPA podcast and website (and books) , but sometimes you just need to TALK to someone who understands homeschooling, running a group and the laws surrounding the finainces and operations of homeschool groups. Why not call Carol Topp, the Homeschool CPA, to set up a personal call?

Carol is happy to set up a conference call so several of your leaders can join in from their own homes. The call can be recorded or future reference or for those who are unavailable. This is Carol’s 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.

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

Click Here to request more information!

Carol Topp, CPA

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Why is being a homeschool group leader so exhausting and thankless?

On the Facebook group I am a Homeschool Group Leader, Lesley asks,

Why is being a homeschool group leader so exhausting and thankless?

Here are some replies from other homeschool group leaders (my emphasis added).

Jennifer: Because those you are leading haven’t done it and don’t have a full appreciation for the workload. Empathy is hard to come by when a person hasn’t ‘been there.’

Some people just don’t know how to say thank you. We had a team of 5 leaders. Every semester, I gave them a small gift and thank you note, letting them know I appreciated what they personally brought to our group.

 

Beth: Do you have a reliable team of leaders working alongside you? That has made all the difference as I’ve been in homeschool group leadership – as president as well as a numerous other roles – over the past 24 years. Our group grew from 20 families to almost 400 families during that time. There have been tough seasons and also smooth seasons. Make sure you prioritize and try to delegate or let go of things to minimize stress where you can.

The leaders don’t plan everything, but provide the structure and administration for the group, and establish policies as needed. I started our group with 2 other moms, and we were the core at first. When we found like-minded people, we mentored them and encouraged them to use their gifts and talents for the benefit of the group. We really did find some wonderful people who saw that their own families benefited by their contribution. We worked hard to repeatedly convey the message that we all helped one another. We also have those who just want to be served, and it can be frustrating as a leader when you also “are busy” and have your own family to homeschool and care for.

 

Melissa: First because the workers are volunteering so you don’t always get what you need from who is willing to work for free. It can be difficult to fill all the positions with people that will work as a team, complimenting each other’s skills. Sometimes you take what you can get.
Second, you are working for a group of people that want a service. It’s not like you are all saving the whales. The parents want something. For as low cost as possible.

 

Cheryl: Sometimes effective leaders seem to have it all under control in a way that makes others think they’re not needed. Those who stepped in in the group took time to figure out jobs that needed doing and clearly and repeatedly asked for help. And then let people run with those jobs rather than micromanaging them.

Another difference I see is in expressing thanks. Leaders who manage teams well tend to be public and loud with praise on a regular basis—rather than criticizing often. Speaking about them to the group with thankfulness for their work, mentioning in emails or other group communication their hard work, giving out awards and certificates, etc. can help.

Darlene Cheryl, this reminded me of another problem I saw in a group that I was part of several years ago. The leader of the group was a very capable woman. Someone in another role would falter or step away, and she would fill that role. After a few years, she wanted to step away from the head position. The problem was that everyone looked at her and said, “I can’t do that!” She was wearing too many hats! Her job looked daunting. We had to break down all she did into about a dozen positions before anyone would step forward to take on any of it.

Sheri: Hmmm. Are you expecting too much? Too little? Giving too much guidance? Not enough guidance? Are you working with their personality type and not against it?
Start with your WHY. Why do you exist? What is your vision? Then work on clearly communicating that vision. People will “catch” a passionate, clear vision and buy into it. Don’t try to be all things to all people; those who have a different vision, let them go with your blessing to find or start something else. I’d rather have a small group of committed people than a large group of apathetic people.
We made our yearly planning meeting mandatory. We asked for ideas and wrote them on a whiteboard. Then I would ask who would run that. If no one volunteered, I just erased it off the board. One year our favorite event, a yearly picnic, no one stepped up and I erased it. I think members thought the board would just do it, but we did not. Everyone complained but we stood firm. That next year, it was quite simple to get a whole 5 person committee to step up and make it happen.
Also, I paid attention to who was proposing events but never volunteering. As leader, I would take them aside and have a talk.

  • Are there extenuating circumstances?
  • Are they intimidated?
  • Lazy?
  • Overwhelmed?
  • Apathetic?
Depending on what I discerned in conversation, I could approach it several ways.
  • Sign them to assist someone else,
  • give them something simple,
  • discourage them from asking for events that they wouldn’t also work for, etc.
  • Even someone with a chronic illness can head a field trip with no cost; they can call the facility to arrange a date, set out a sign up sheet at meetings, and call the facility back with a final number.

Sometimes they just need a little guidance.

 

That’s helpful advice for Lesley and maybe you too!

If you need help running your homeschool group my books can help.
My  Homeschool Organization Board Manual may be very helpful. It is a combination of a template for your board to create binders to keep important documents and a board training manual to explain the board’s duties and responsibilities.
Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Reasons to be an Exclusive Homeschool Group

 

Is your homeschool group exclusive, meaning you limit who can join? Should public school-at-home parents be joining your homeschool group? Some homeschool groups desire to be more exclusive and have all members be “independent” or “traditionally” homeschooling.

 

On the I Am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook page, a question was asked about the pros and cons of mixing homeschool and public-school-at-home students in your group-or, put differently, being inclusive (open at all) or exclusive (limiting membership). Many homeschool leaders contributed their experiences and reason for their group’s decision.You can listen to that podcast at

Reasons to be an Inclusive Homeschool Group

In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast, Carol Topp will share some of the reasons that some groups are exclusive and do not allow public school students into their homeschool group including:

  • Leaders cannot serve everyone!
  • Overcrowding pre-schools or other activities in the homeschool group
  • Public school students have their own groups and support networks
  • It’s easier to be exclusive. There were too many disagreements in inclusive group
  • The group could lose a place in homeschool sports competitions if public school students are included

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned the Facebook  group for homeschool leaders I am a Homeschool Group Leader. Join 400+ homeschool leaders for ideas, encouragement and respective exchange of ideas. https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

Featured resource

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

Need more information on how to start and run a homeschool co-op? Carol Topp’s book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out  is packed with helpful tips and advice from other homeschool leaders.

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

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Is our homeschool group required to have a president?

I recently purchased your ebook The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. It is so helpful! I do have one question that I hope you can help me with. Are we required to have a president for our organization in Ohio? I see lots of websites saying that we do but not a word about it on any of the actual Ohio documents.

Thank you for your time.

Ashley

 

Dear Ashley,

You asked, “Are we required to have a president for our organization in Ohio. I see lots of websites saying that we do but not a word about it on any of the actual Ohio documents.”

Well, not everything that is a good idea is a codified into a law or specifically spelled out in a document! Like brushing your teeth  for example! 🙂

This document from the Ohio attorney general’s office is helpful.
Guide for Charity Board Members

It explains that there are duties and responsibilities for board members such as the duty of care, duty of management and duty of compliance with stated laws.

If you can execute those duties without a president, then you do not have to have a president. But it is nearly impossible to properly run a nonprofit without someone in the role of chair/president calling meetings, setting an agenda, running the meetings, providing oversight, etc.

So why not have a president (or chair)?

Of course, all the board members are expected to help run the organization. The president should not do it alone. The best board presidents I have served under were good at delegating, listening, and leading, but not doing everything themselves. The worst presidents or board chairs are those who decide everything themselves and try to control too much. They burn out and sometimes damage the group and its activities for a very long time.

There may be some back story and history (or even a dispute) to your question, so if you’d like I would be happy to arrange a phone consultation with you.

If your homeschool program would like to arrange a phone consultation with Carol Topp, CPA contact her here. She is happy to arrange a conference call and each persona can call in form heir own home or location. The conversation can be recorded for those unable to attend.

 

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Reasons to Be an Inclusive Homeschool Group

 

Is your homeschool group open to including everyone (inclusive)? An inclusive homeschool group allows everyone to join regardless of their method of homeschooling and that includes students public-school-at-home students. Should public school-at-home parents be joining your homeschool group?  Some leaders grapple with the question of whether their group should be inclusive or more exclusive.

I the Facebook group I Am a Homeschool Group Leader  a question was asked about the pros and cons of mixing homeschool and public-school-at-home students. The discussion had many homeschool leaders contributing their experiences and reason for their group’s decision. In this episode of the HomeschoolCPA podcast, Carol Topp will share some of the reasons that leaders gave to allow public-school-at-home students in your group:

 

  • Openness to all regardless of their choice of homeschool methods
  • A desire to help everyone concerned about their children’s education
  • The parents feel like they are homeschooling and still need support
  • Public-school-at-home parents see the freedom that traditional homeschoolers have and many switch to traditional homeschooling.
  • The group feels that they are stronger together, especially when facing legislative battles

 

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned a Facebook  group for homeschool leaders, I am a Homeschool Group Leader. Join 400+ homeschool leaders for ideas, encouragement and respective exchange of ideas. https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

 

 

Featured resource

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

Need more information on how to start and run a homeschool co-op? Carol Topp’s book, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out  is packed with helpful tips and advice from other homeschool leaders.

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

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Summer reading for homeschool leaders: Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization

Summer is a great time for homeschool leaders to catch up on some reading. I’m highlighting a book each week of summer and this week I’m spotlighting,

 

This book began in 2009 as a 20 page ebook. Homeschooling has changed a lot in the past 9 years and homeschool leaders are asking a lot of questions about paying workers. The book grew from 20 to 130 pages!
I expanded it in 2016 and then it needed an update in late 2017!
 

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.

 Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Can You Pay a Volunteer?Chapter 2: Paying Board Members and Other LeadersChapter 3: Employee or Independent Contractor? Worker ClassificationChapter 4: Guidelines for Hiring Independent Contractors

Chapter 5: Tax Forms for Independent Contractors

Chapter 6: Payroll Taxes for Employers

Chapter 7: Tax Forms for Employers

Chapter 8: Sample Agreements

Chapter 9: Resources

Who should read this book?
  • Anyone running a homeschool organization that pays workers of any kind.
  • Anyone who wonders is a volunteer be paid?
  • Anyone who has ever asked,”Should a worker be treated as an employee or independent contractor?”
  • Anyone who gives payments or significant discounts to board members or volunteers.
 Carol Topp, CPA

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