Paying co-op leaders

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Hello,
I am the leader of a support group with around 65 families.  Our group has a board of elders and by-laws.  We also have a co-op of about half the members of the larger group.  The co-op requires members to be a member of the larger group.  The co-op has separate leadership and it’s own checking account. The by-laws don’t address the co-op specifically.

The co-op pays the leadership and teachers from their account.  Tuition and fees are charged for participating families.  Teachers are written checks from the co-ops account monthly. “Teacher Gift” is always written in the memo in the checks. For the most part, curriculum for the classes are decided upon by the leadership of the co-op. Those in the leadership of the co-op serve no other volunteer function in the main group (their leadership on the co-op has been counted as their volunteer service for all the 7 years the co-op has existed ). Another member of the group has complained that their paid leadership service is not volunteer service and should not be counted toward the main group.  I do agree with this.  But it seems that we need to address this and some other issues that aren’t quite right.

Should our groups separate?  The larger group has not reviewed the co-op’s financial records. The co-op only gave out 1099’s last year for the first time.  I know that whatever is done, there will be hurt feelings and I am at a loss to know where and how to tackle these issues.  Where and what should I start with?

Thanks in advance.

Tina

Tina,

Here’s my advice:
PayingWorkersCoverRead my ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organizations. Available as a pdf for immediate download for $7.00 at
http://homeschoolcpa.com/bookstore/paying-workers-ebook/

Good for your group for finally giving 1099MISC to the teachers!  But you should stop writing “Teacher Gift” in the memo. These are not gifts. They are payments for services.

In my experience, it is untypical for homeschool co-op leaders to be paid. That is because most co-ops cannot afford to pay leaders. Instead, many leaders receive discounted tuition (or free classes) in appreciation for their volunteer efforts.

Since you are paying these leaders, they are employees, not independent contractors as your teachers apparently are (although this statement concerns me: “curriculum for the classes are decided upon by the leadership of the co-op.” It sounds as if they are employees and not independent contractors). Employees require quite a bit more paperwork and may involve paying unemployment tax and workers compensation taxes. I discuss the difference between independent contractors and employees in the Paying Workers ebook.

You asked: “Should our groups separate? The larger group has not reviewed the co-op’s financial records.” Obviously the larger support group has neglected some of their responsibilities. See my blog post on leader responsibilities here:
http://homeschoolcpa.com/what-are-the-legal-responsibilities-of-homeschool-leaders/ Perhaps it is time to weigh the pros and cons of being separate. A lot goes into that decision.

You also said: “Another member of the group has complained that their paid leadership service is not volunteer service and should not be counted toward the main group. I do agree with this. But it seems that we need to address this and some other issues that aren’t quite right.”
You are correct that you cannot pay a volunteer, so perhaps the volunteer service is not fulfilled because they are paid.

If you wish to discuss your group’s issues and concerns, I do offer private phone consultation with homeschool leaders. It’s one of my most popular services. Read more about it here: http://homeschoolcpa.com/services/consultation/

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com Helping homeschool leaders
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Hi,

I wanted to thank you so much for writing back and give a little update.  The officers met and decided to work at correcting any errors we may be making.  We have a meeting scheduled with the co-op directors in the next couple of weeks.  I think it is so important to set a good example in everything you do.

I do want to add that I was incorrect in that the co-op leaders receive tuition waivers instead of being paid.  Once we get all the information on the finances, then we can make the necessary decisions about our groups.  I am praying for a smooth road.

Your website is very helpful and I have shared it with all the officers of our group.   We are so very appreciative.

Tina

Homeschooling as a home-based business

Teenager&Teacher

Dear Carol,

I am a homeschooling mother of three. I recently named our homeschool and incorporated the name to offer tutoring and testing for income (in my home). What do I need to do to report the income to the IRS. Should the name be a LLC. or S-Corporation? If you can shed some light on how I need to handle this, I would greatly appreciate it. I need the income to continue homeschooling, and this is unfamiliar territory for me. Thank you in advance for help.

Connie

Connie,
Thank you for contacting me. I wish you the best of success in your new endeavor as a business owner! It can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

You said you incorporated the name.  What specifically did you do?  Did you merely register the name or did you file incorporation papers with your state?  There is a big difference with respect to taxes.

Most tutors start out as sole proprietors and never progress to S Corp (or the larger C Corp) status.  There is no need to be a corporation for most tutors. This blog post I wrote might be helpful: Why You Should Be a Sole Proprietor

You might benefit by reading my articles and ebook, Small Business Start Up Guide, available at http://caroltoppcpa.com/services/small-business/

Sole proprietors file a Schedule C as part of there individual Form 1040.  A Schedule C shows all the income and expenses of the business.
Corporations have different IRS forms that are much more complex and usually require a CPA to prepare.

I hope that helps. There is a lot to learn!

Carol Topp, CPA

Are fund raisers harming your chances for tax exempt status?

Many homeschool organizations depend on fund raisers to help run their homeschool co-ops and support groups. These fund raisers could actually harm a group’s chances of obtaining tax exempt status.

True Story:

Julie is treasurer of a homeschool co-op in OK that desires to file for 501c3 tax exempt status with the IRS. I examined her financial statements and saw that the group depended heavily on profit from fund raisers including candy, food and flower sales. These fund raisers required Julie to collect over $12,00o a year in sales. The co-op made a profit of nearly $4,000 every year from their fund raisers.

“It’s a blessing to the co-op, because many of our families cannot afford even the small co-op fees we charge. And friends and neighbors beg us to keep selling our products, especially the locally made food.”

The profit from the fundraisers was actually more than the amount collected in co-op dues.

Unfortunately, with most of the co-op’s income coming from fundraisers and not co-op fees, the IRS may not grant Julie’s co-op 501c3 tax exempt status.

The IRS requires a significant portion of your income come from public support (i.e., the dues from your co-op families) and not from an “unrelated businesses” (i.e. selling products in a fund raiser). The IRS defines “significant” as having more than 1/3 of your income come from public support.

Fortunately for Julie’s group, the IRS has several exceptions. One of them worked for Julie’s group. Her fund raising efforts were all done by volunteers and so the IRS considers that fund raiser as part of the group’s support and they meet the 1/3 test mentioned above.

The IRS rules and exceptions get a bit complicated and both the homeschool leader, Julie, and I did our research. We will be very careful and thorough when explaining the fund raising programs to the IRS when Julie’s co-op files for tax exempt status with the IRS.

If your group has concerns about their fund raising practices, these related blog posts might help:

The IRS’s Word on Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts

The IRS and Fund Raising

What does the IRS mean by not allowing “private benefit” in a fund raiser?

QALeadersCover3DAlso, my ebook, Question and Answers for Homeschool Leaders addresses fundraisers in detail.

Read more including a sample chapter here

Order a copy (in pdf format) for immediate dowload for $8.00 here.

…working to keep you on  the right side with the IRS!

_____________________________________

Finally, attend my free webinar on Fund Raising in a Homeschool Group on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:00 pm EST, 7:00 pm CT. You can listen in on-line and participate in the chat room or phone in and attend the webinar that way. For details on the login in information, phone number to call and workshop handout, click here.

Feel free to tell other homeschool leaders in your area about my webinar. The more, the merrier!

There is no charge for the webinar, except long distance phone charges if you call in .

Carol Topp, CPA

Webinar: Fund Raisers for Homeschool Groups

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Fund Raisers for Homeschool Groups webinar

We discussed:

  • Ideas: Easy fund raisers for your homeschool group
  • Pitfalls to avoid
  • The IRS and Fund Raising: Avoiding stuff that can get you in trouble!

How to listen if you missed the live session:

http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/73712

Grab This Handout

This handout references some links and important information about fund raising pitfalls to avoid.

Fund Raising Webinar Handout

Carol Topp, CPA

A budget can bring relief

My friends Kristen & Denise at Homeschool Group Leader have been running an interview they did with me as a blog series on leader burn out.

This last portion is on budgets titled Budgets Can Bring Relief
Here’s part of the interview:

A lot of leaders think, “What?! I hate dealing with the numbers. I am a people person.”

But what those numbers on a budget do is help you plan, sit down and look to the future. That can do a lot to reduce stress.

If you make a plan and know what might be coming, it will help you set priorities. What is important to us in our group? Is it important that we keep the cost extremely low? That is going to be a very different budget than saying our priority is top quality. It helps you focus, plan and set your group’s priorities.
So, believe it or not–having a budget might sound like it is a limiting thing, and some people don’t like budgets. But instead a budget can bring great freedom and relief from a lot of stress.
If you need help establishing a budget, start with my article  Budgeting basics
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Then consider ordering my ebook, Money Management for Homeschool Organizations.
Price $7.00. Available for immediate download.  Read more here.
Carol Topp, CPA

New article: Easy Fund Raisers for Homeschool Groups

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I have just uploaded an article I wrote for The Old Schoolhouse magazine  titled

Easy Fund Raisers for Homeschool Groups

The articles covers several ideas for easy fund raisers including:

  • Food as a fund raiser
  • Coupons and reward programs
  • Donation drives
  • Income from your website

Other issues are addressed as well such as whether the income from a fund rasier is taxed and whether a family can hold a fundraiser for their individual homeschool.

Here’s an excerpt:

Many homeschool groups bring in needed income through fundraisers. Through experience I have found that some fundraisers are much easier to conduct than others. Although very common, selling products door to door is one of the hardest ways to raise money because managing the orders, delivering the product, and storing inventory is a lot of hard work. My homeschool group had tried selling products in the past, but we wanted an easier way to bring in funds. We found several ideas that have worked well for homeschool groups including reward and coupon programs, fund raising dinners, donation drives and website income.

Read the entire article on my Leader Tools/Articles page (scroll down to the bottom)

Carol Topp, CPA

What business structure and tax forms are needed for a new homeschool co-op?

Hi,
I am a 15 year homeschooling veteran who started a co-op last fall.  I am now being asked by my church for ‘official’ documents to include:  business status, liability insurance, tax information.  I have a checking account for our co-op.
We offer 30 classes, one day a week, for 5 hours.  Six of the 30 classes are paid classes.  The student gives the co-op ~$2.00 each class.  I write a check to the teacher for $20.00 each time they teach.  The teacher always makes $20.00.  The student pays a varying rate dependant upon how many students are in the class.What business status do I need?

What tax forms am I required to file?
What type of liability insurance do I need if the parents are always on site and never drop off students?
Thank you greatly for the information.
Sincerely,
Lauren T
Lauren,
Good for you for starting a homeschool co-op. I’m sure it is a blessing for many families.Your business status could be a for-profit or a nonprofit. It depends on whether you own and run the co-op  as your businessor whether you have a board to make decisions. It also depends on how you opened up the checking account (although that can be changed). Did you use your personal name and SSN? Then you would be a for profit sole proprietorship.

Or did you organize without a profit motive and assemble a board to lead the group? Then you are a nonprofit.

These articles might be helpful:
Getting an EIN from the IRS
Checklist for new  homeschool organizations.pdf
Choosing a leadership teamThe tax forms depend on your business structure. Sole proprietors report business income on Schedule C of their 1040.

Most nonprofits apply for 501c3 tax exempt status to avoid paying taxes on their surplus.

There can still be a need for insurance, even if parents stay on site. Accidents can happen, damage to property can happen. You might benefit from reading my article on  Insurance for homeschool groups.

Since you are paying teachers, you should read my ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. You need to determine their worker status as either employees or independent contractors and be giving them a W-2 or Form 1099MISC showing their wages.
You can learn a lot by listening to a podcast I recorded on Paying Workers.
HS Co-ops Cover_400My book Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out covers a lot of your questions. It is available in print or electronic format. Read more here.I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

Are you burned out? Know the symptoms

As a guest blogger at The Homeschool Classroom, I wrote a blog entry about leader burnout.

Here’s an excerpt:

It is important to distinguish between temporary “busy-ness” or fatigue and full fledged burn out, which is accumulated strain and stress that affects other areas of your life. After nearly every co-op day, I feel exhausted. One fellow board member takes a nap after co-op, but she is only temporarily fatigued. We joke that we love when co-op starts, but we also love when it ends!

A symptom of burn out would be the loss of the initial enjoyment and anticipation that co-op day should bring. I know that I am tired at the end of a long co-op day because I have invested so much into my students. I really enjoy teaching and I experience a “good” type of fatigue.

To read the entire post, go here: Leader Burnout

HomeschoolCo-ops

Need help avoiding burnout? Read Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them , Run Them and Not Burn Out.

Available as an ebook or in print here.

Carol Topp

Do liability waivers really protect homeschool leaders?

I was recently asked about liability waivers from a homeschool leader:

As we draw up a liability waiver, do we need to have an attorney in our state look at it to make sure it is okay, or are they generally pretty generic forms? It seems those I have filled out in the past were basically the same, with just a few minor changes to make it appropriate for the group and/or event. Judy K. (Tennessee)

I wasn’t sure how to answer Judy, so I turned to Christine Field, an homeschool parent and attorney with Homeschool Legal Advantage:

You don’t think of homeschool groups as engaging in potentially dangerous activity, so the whole idea of waivers and liability insurance may seem unnecessary. Yet many groups are increasingly called upon to obtain liability insurance. The insurer may insist on your group having a release of liability form or a liability waiver.

Many people believe that a signed waiver makes them invulnerable. This is not true. Here are some common misconceptions about liability waivers:

1. If someone signs a waiver, they can’t sue us. This is not true. An injured party can still attack the validity and scope of a waiver.

2. If I have a waiver signed, I send it to the injured party’s lawyer and they won’t sue. Also not true. As a homeschool group, you still need to report the claim to your insurance company along with sending them a copy of the waiver to be used as part of your defense.

3. If I have waivers signed, I don’t need insurance. Definitely not true! In fact, if you have insurance, the insurer will often insist that you obtain waivers or releases from participants.
An enforceable waiver of liability is one which is prepared in accordance with state law, sufficiently describes the risk and is understood by the reader.

Some things to look out for in your releases are as follows:
1. Remember, minors generally cannot release liability. Parents or guardians must sign the release on behalf of the minor.

2. A release can only release from ordinary negligence. In other words, if there is gross negligence or intentional injury, the release will not be effective.

3. The language of the release must be in compliance with the state law and the signer must understand the language of the release. Look for language barriers or other inability to understand.

It is always good to have an attorney licensed in your state take a look at your liability waivers or releases. Doing so provides the best possible protection for your group as well as your directors.


Thank you, Christine, for your reply and insight into the best use of liability waivers for homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

Ever tried team teaching in your co-op?

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Have you ever tried team teaching in your homeschool co-op?  Most homeschool parents are pretty independent, or may have a Lone Ranger mindset and may never consider team teaching.

But you may be missing out on something good.

Elain from The Community Co-op blog shares how well team teaching worked for her.

Team Teaching Saves the Day!

When the founders of co-op got together and got serious about starting this not for profit organization, we asked ourselves, “How can parents lead quality, consistent classes?”

After all, it’s one thing to homeschool your own children, quite another to plan an entire semester, and lead a class of 12 or more children!

Some of us had prior teaching experience in some form or another, one teaching in a school, another teaching adults in continuing education — but most parents coming in as volunteers wouldn’t have that.

Lori had the idea of Team Teaching. The idea is that two parents are the Leads of the class and lead as, well, a team. The two leads plan the class together and teach together. If one person is having a hard time with a project, or an explanation, the other team member is there to step in and help out.

Another part of the team work is ongoing debriefing, checking in, how’s it going? How did I do today? Was that clear? Did the class flow well today? Do we have the right number of stations set up?

Initially, I was hesitant about this team teaching thing. Bit of a Lone Ranger type. In our first year of co-op, I didn’t have a co-lead, it just worked out that way, there didn’t happen to be someone available.

This year, I do, and it’s great! No more Lone Ranger for me. My co-leader and I got together to plan our class, Studio Art. She had a wonderful idea that I never would have had — why not have as our organizing theme, the history of art? You know, the entire history of art, starting with the cave paintings?

One semester in to the plan, it’s going great. The class this year is larger than last year, but since we have this teaching team in place, class actually feels easier.

After the Winter Break, we’ll start in on the Middle Ages!

Thanks, Elain, for sharing your story! Sounds as if team teaching is Co-operation at its best!

Carol Topp, CPA