Can a homeschool co-op have independent contractors and follow the IRS guidelines?

Hi Carol!

Are you aware of any homeschool co-ops/tutorials that have hired teachers as independent contractors and do it in a way that follows the IRS guidelines?
Thanks!
Lauren

Lauren,

I am aware of a lot of homeschool co-op and tutorials that pay teachers as Independent Contractors. Are they following the IRS rules?

Maybe. It depends. Read on…

After a lot of research into IRS rulings and US Tax Court cases concerning the classification of teachers (usually college professors), I learned that one of the factors that weighed heavily in the decision (employee or Independent Contractor) was:

Does the worker provide the primary activity of the organization.

This was really important in the IRS and tax court decisions.

Case 1: employees: I spoke to one homeschool leader who ran a homeschool tutorial program with 12 teachers, all paid instructors. There were no volunteer teachers. Those teachers are providing the key activity of the business. Without them, there would be no homeschool tutorial program. Those teachers are employees.

Case 2: Independent Contractor: On the other hand, I spoke to a homeschool co-op leader who had 15 parents volunteering as teachers and one paid outside person to teach one class. This person was very independent (she had an established tutoring business, picked her own curriculum, received no training or benefits from the co-op, brought in her own supplies, and many other factors).  She was treated as an Independent Contractor. Her services were not the key activity of the co-op; what the volunteer parents provided was the key activity of the co-op. The co-op could continue to exist if that Independent Contractor teacher was unavailable.
This co-op did everything they could to avoid controlling their Independent Contractor teacher. They also has a written agreement and she invoiced the co-op for her services.

But just to be sure, they requested I write a letter clearly stating the facts of their situation and my determination that the outside teacher was correctly classified as an Independent Contractor. It’s called a comfort letter.

My letter, as the opinion of a tax professional licensed to practice before the IRS, can serve as a reasonable basis if the IRS ever questions the homeschool co-op. This reasonable basis will help the homeschool co-op avoid any penalties and back taxes from the IRS.

See how the facts and circumstances of each case can be different? There is not bright line test in worker classification. The determination if your homeschool program teacher is an employee or Independent Contractor depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.

If you would like help determining your teacher’s status or have me write a “comfort” letter, contact me. We’ll set up a phone call where I ask you a bunch of questions. The phone call will be followed up with an email containing a fact-based determination and information to help you take the next steps.

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization is a great place to start to understand how to properly classify your workers.

I released a podcast on creative ways that homeschool co-ops hire teachers without paying them as employees. It runs about 9 minutes long.

Creative Ways to Run Your Co-op Without Employees

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping homeschool leaders

Update to the Paying Workers Book

 

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization was released only a year ago, but it already needed an update.

Lots of things happened in the homeschool world that meant author Carol Topp, Homeschool CPA, needed to release a new edition.

Find out what happened and what has changed in the book.

For  the document of changes go to Changes to Paying Workers-3rd edition.docx

 

Featured resource

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 for more information!

 

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Update to Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization

 

I released the 2nd edition of my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization in November 2016, 11 months  ago.

Now, less than a year later, it needs an update. Several events occurred that required me to research the issue of worker classification for homeschool organizations. As a result of my research, I have made several changes to the book.

The update is significant enough that I’m calling it the 3rd edition!

 

The paperback book will be unavailable for a short time while it is getting updated. I expect the paperback and Kindle versions to be ready by October 15, 2017.

Update (October 13, 2017): The paperback version has not been updated. The Kindle update should be completed before November 1, 2017.

The ebook version (in pdf) is available now.

Wonder what changed? Or maybe you bought an earlier version of the book and you want to know what’s different.

I created a document explaining what was added or eliminated from the book between the 2nd and 3rd editions. I clarified when a teacher should be paid as an employee and added some additional Sample Agreements including an employment agreement.

Summary of Changes to Paying Workers 3rd edition (click to open the file).

Carol Topp, CPA

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IRS amnestry program for employers (how to avoid penalties for paying workers as Independent Contractors)

You may have heard about the IRS crackdown on misclassifying workers and the penalties that your business or homeschool program could face if  your business is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For a true but sad story about the Landry Academy read this.

What can you do to avoid the IRS penalties?

The IRs has a program called the Voluntary Classification Settlement program (VCSP) .

Eva Rosenberg, the Tax Mama, explains the IRS Voluntary Classification Settlement Program in plain, clear English. Just the way your mama would talk to you.

The VCSP (aka the IRS amnesty program) allows employers to avoid the penalties for paying your workers as Independent Contractors when they should have been paid as employees.

IRS Amnesty Program? Yes There IS an Employer Amnesty Program

Eva explains,

For those employers who do apply for the VCSP, the savings can be substantial. For example, take a calculation based on unreported payroll of $625,000 in the prior year. Under the amnesty, the full payment to the IRS would be under $6,600. Without the amnesty, with the IRS looking back for only three years, it would cost the employer over $292,000 (for six years, over $620,000).

I can help you determine if the IRS amnesty program is a good option for your homeschool business or nonprofit organization. Contact me and we can talk about your options.

One homeschool group leader decided to apply for the IRS amnesty program and convert her tutors to employees. She said, “For $145 (her fee to the IRS), I can sleep better at night knowing the IRS won’t audit me or make me pay a penalty.”

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping homeschool leaders

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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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Is there a penalty for misclassifying my homeschool group’s workers?

Is there a penalty for misclassifying my homeschool group’s workers?

The IRS imposes strict penalties on an employer who treats workers as Independent Contractors when they should be employees. These penalties have put homeschool businesses and nonprofits out of business. Carol Topp, CPA discusses this topic and some programs the IRS has to avoid crippling penalties.

Listen to the podcast 

Worker Classification Consultation

  • Is your homeschool teacher an employee or independent contractor?
  • Should your homeschool co-op director be paid as an employee?
  • How hard is it to set up a payroll system?
  • What happens if my homeschool group misclassifies a worker? Are their penalties?

Worker classification can be a confusing topic.

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help clear a lot of confusion, but perhaps you want to discuss your particular situation in a private, individual phone consultation.

I offer phone consultations to help you determine if your homeschool organization’s workers are employee or independent contractors. The phone call will be followed up with an email containing a fact-based determination and information to help you take the next steps.

Click Here to request more information!

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Is My Homeschool Co-op Teacher an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Is My Homeschool Co-op Teacher an Employee or Independent Contractor?

Should your homeschool co-op teacher be classified as an employee or an Independent Contractor? What’s the difference and how do you make the decision? Carol Topp, CPA, the HomeschoolCPA, sheds light onto this confusing topic and tells you how she determines if a co-op teacher is an employee or Independent Contractor.

Listen to the podcast

Worker Classification Consultation

  • Is your homeschool teacher an employee or independent contractor?
  • Should your homeschool co-op director be paid as an employee?
  • How hard is it to set up a payroll system?
  • What happens if my homeschool group misclassifies a worker? Are their penalties?

Worker classification can be a confusing topic.

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help clear a lot of confusion, but perhaps you want to discuss your particular situation in a private, individual phone consultation.

I offer phone consultations to help you determine if your homeschool organization’s workers are employee or independent contractors. The phone call will be followed up with an email containing a fact-based determination and information to help you take the next steps.

Click Here to request more information!

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What should a Classical Conversations tutor do if she thinks she’s misclassified?

 

How should Classical Conversations’ tutors handle their employment situation? They are required to use a specific curriculum, during a specific time and attend training.

In light of Landry Academy switching to employees but still not being able to stay in business, I am wondering what your thoughts are.

-KT

 

KT,

The closing of Landry Academy in late December 2016 was certainly sad and an eye opener. I don’t know the details of what happened to them, but it does seem they underwent an IRS audit and had to reclassify their teachers as employees.

I usually advise the business owners such as a Director of a CC community, but you are asking what should the CC tutor (i.e. the worker classified as an independent contractor) do if she thinks she is misclassified and should be treated as an employee.

1. Always report in full ALL your earned income received from CC on your tax return, even if you do not receive a 1099-MISC or W-2.

2.  Discuss your classification with your CC Director. Express your concern for her potential liability if she is misclassifying workers. Tell her about this IRS website and my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. I also offer a service for business owners like CC Directors or nonprofit leaders to help them correctly classify and compensate their workers.

3.  Discuss your classification with your tax preparer. Seek his or her opinion on whether you wish to take advantage of the IRS reporting program. Visit this IRS page for details. If you do not have a tax preparer, you can arrange a phone consultation with me to discuss your particular situation.

Most important is for you to follow #1: Report all your earned income on your tax return even if you do not receive a 1099-MISC from your CC Director.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping homeschool leaders (and tutors!)

 

 

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Recording of Business Failure in the Homeschool Marketplace webinar

Yesterday I presented a webinar “Business Failure in the Homeschool Market that many of you (about 90!) attended.

 

Here’s the link to download the recording of the webinar.
The webinar lasted 2 hours because of all the questions asked, so it may take a few minutes to download.

 

Here’s a handout of the information I discussed.

 

We talked about
  • What triggers an IRS audit into worker classification
  • Factors to determine independent contractors or employee status
  • Consequences of misclassification and IRS programs to avoid penalties
  • What options are there for a homeschool co-op or academy
  • Are homeschool tutors or teachers at risk

I referenced my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization which may be helpful to many of you.

 I also mentioned that I offer a Worker Classification determination service if you need help determining if your workers are independent contractors or employees.

I’m happy to help and relieve any anxiety you have about this confusing topic.

Carol Topp, CPA

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What are the consequences of misclassifying a worker?

In the news and social media recently has been the sad story about a popular service offering classes for homeschool students having to close. In late December 2016, Landry Academy announced “It is with much sadness that we close the doors of Landry Academy.”

I do not know the details of their unfortunate situation, but it seems that there was an IRS requirement for Landry Academy to reclassify their teachers as employees, rather than independent contractors.

You may be wondering: What are the consequences of misclassifying workers?

Here’s what I tell business owners, nonprofit leaders, and anyone else hiring workers:

IRS Penalties

Under Internal Revenue Code section 3509 the penalties for worker misclassification include:

  • Paying a portion of federal income tax (1.5% of payroll),
  • Employer (100%) and employee (20%) shares of FICA taxes
  • Federal unemployment compensation taxes (FUTA).
  • In addition penalties for missed deposits (10%) and withholdings (20%) can be assessed.

Additional penalties include:

  • $50 for each Form W-2 that the employer failed to file because of classifying workers as an independent contractor.
  • A Failure to Pay Taxes penalty equal to 0.5% of the unpaid tax liability for each month up to 25% of the total tax liability.

Other Penalties

That’s pretty bad when you ad it all up, but the list of consequences goes on to include:

  • Penalties for failure to file state and local income tax withholding
  • Penalties due to unemployment insurance shortfalls
  • Worker’s compensation violations
  • Improper exclusion from benefit plans such as pension, retirement plans, health insurance, paid leave, severance pay, etc.

Here’s a long list of The Consequences of Misclassifying Your 1099 Contractors

Scared yet? You probably should be.

Worker misclassification is a serious issue and can cause significant financial hardship and has caused several businesses to close.

Here’s help

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help clear a lot of confusion, but perhaps you want to discuss your particular situation in a private, individual phone consultation.

I offer phone consultations to help you determine if your homeschool organization’s workers are employees or independent contractors. The phone call will be followed up with an email containing a fact-based determination and information to help you take the next steps.

To request a consultation, please contact me. I’m happy to help and relieve any anxiety you have about this confusing topic.

Carol Topp, CPA

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