Can a teacher work off their tuition to a homeschool co-op?

TOSMoneyTaxesHSFamily

We have recently started an inclusive homeschool co-op. I have three of your ebooks and I’m a bit confused on a few issues.

1. Each family pays the outside teachers directly. We do a registration process, but the cash or checks go to the teacher, not the co-op. Do we mark that money “in the books” or is that outside of co-op money?

2. I am also confused with the differences between volunteer parents teaching a class for reduced fees for classes and  an Independent Contractor working off their tuition.

What am I missing?

Thank you so much for your time,
Heather

Heather,
Thank you for contacting me. To answer your questions:
1. Since the funds never come to your group, they are not recorded in your books as income to your group.

2. Volunteer vs Independent Contractor (IC). It’s a world of difference because an IC is not supposed to receive any fringe benefits such as free or reduced tuition. If you give an IC fringe benefits, then they are an employee and you need to set up payroll, pay unemployment taxes, workers comp, SS/Medicare taxes, etc…The IRS is very clear and very strict about ICs not receiving benefits.
Employees of educational institutions can receive tax-free tuition discounts. Colleges and private schools do that a lot for their employees.

On the other hand, a volunteer can receive reduced or free tuition as a nontaxable benefit if it is insubstantial. If the free tuition is substantial, then the IRS would consider this compensation and the volunteer should report it as taxable income on her tax return. Read more about insubstantial benefits to volunteers.

This explanation may help:
(this is from an article “Money, Taxes and Your Homeschool Family” in the March/April edition of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Read the full article here: http://ow.ly/uAkhI

Teresa, a homeschool mom who teaches at a co-op where her own children take classes, was told by her co-op that they would just deduct her co-op tuition from her income as a teacher. Teresa’s co-op paid her as an independent contractor and this arrangement didn’t seem correct to her.

Fortunately, she emailed me, asking, “Can I work off my co-op fees by teaching a class?”

The answer is no, you cannot.

The homeschool co-op should pay Teresa with a paycheck. Then, as a separate transaction, Teresa should pay her fees to the co-op. It is important to separate the two transactions because of taxes. Being paid for teaching is earning taxable income. Paying tuition is a personal expense and not tax deductible. The two do not negate each other for tax purposes.

It may seem like more work for the co-op’s treasurer to pay and collect money from the same person, but the separation is important for clarity and correct reporting of taxable income to Teresa.

I hope that helps explain the difference.

My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help homeschool leaders understand how to properly set up compensation for volunteers and Independent Contractors.

Carol Topp, CPA


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Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

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Is a homeschool tutor an employee of the family who hires her?

Teenager&Teacher

I am hoping you can help me. I recently got hired as a homeschool teacher. I am reading articles that say I am not an independent contractor and this is really concerning me. I am hearing that I am an employee and to do things legally my employer has to fill out all this paperwork.

I want to be legal, but I don’t want to burden my new employer with all of this.

She did give me materials, an hourly wage and the times she wants me to come over.
Thanks,
Stephanie

Stephanie,

Thank you for contacting me. Worker status as an employee or independent contractor is a difficult and confusing issue.

What the IRS says about worker status
The IRS says that the facts and circumstances of each situation determines the worker status, not our desire to avoid paperwork and taxes(!). But they are the IRS, so of course they will say things like that!

What to do as a independent contractor
In practice, you and the family who hired you need to have a common understanding of your employment situation. If you agree to be an IC, then make sure you act like one. Have a written agreement stating you agree to do a certain job for a certain amount of pay. Both parties should sign it. Invoice the family on a regular basis listing the times and hours you worked for them. Make sure the family does not tell you how to do your job; you should already know how to do your job. You should also bring your own tools and supplies, although the student can have their own school supplies and books as well.

I think it is also fairly typical for private tutors to be ICs rather than employees. You are much like a piano teacher who agrees to go to a family’s home to teach. The IRS has a tendency to look at industry practice when determining worker status.

You cannot avoid some paperwork
Make sure the family gives you a 1099MISC and you report the income on your taxes at the end of 2014. You should also fill out a W-9 form Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and give it to them, so they have your legal name and SSN.

All these practices will help confirm your worker status as an IC, rather than an an employee.

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

Homeschool co-op has a super volunteer. Can she be paid?

SuperMom Cartoon

Hi Carol,

Our co-op is a nonprofit corporation. Almost all of our tutors in the co-op are moms with kids in the program. The moms do not get pay in money for teaching but are offered “credits” against tuition.

1) Are we correct to assume that we are not dealing with either Independent Contractors (IC) or employees in this circumstance?

2) We have one tutor who gets “credits” and payment. Can we regard her as an IC if she submit an invoice?

We do have a few tutors whom we pay and we will need to look more closely into invoices and 1099 MISC.

Thank you so much for your advice. If these questions are covered in your ebook, please let me know.

-MG

 

Dear MG,

Thank you for contacting me. Let’s see if I can answer your questions.

1. Sounds like your tutors are volunteers. You thank them with tuition discounts (or “credits” as you call them). The more a person volunteers, the larger the discount/credit. There is no problem with doing that, except the “credits” are really a form of compensation for her services and are taxable income to the recipient. Your”volunteers” won’t like hearing that news!

Paying a Volunteer

2. Paying a volunteer gets very tricky. She’s no longer a volunteer because she is paid. She’s actually a mix; some volunteer and some paid. That’s what’s confusing. If you can clearly separate her volunteering from her paid tasks, then do that. For example, if she tutors and gets credits (which are taxable compensation) and then in addition designs your website for free, it’s pretty easy to separate those two jobs.

Super volunteers

But some people are what I call “super volunteers.” They volunteer so much beyond their discounts or credits that the organization pays them for their extra volunteering. But volunteers cannot get paid, so she’s either an employee or an IC.I cannot determine her worker status with the information you gave me.

If you want to treat her like an independent contractor, then she cannot receive benefits like tuition credits. The value of these credits need to be reported to the IRS and added to her taxable income.
I discuss this in Money Management in a Homeschool Organization. See Chapter 12.

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org

The Money Management book will be helpful and so will my Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization book, because it shows the forms needed for employees and Independent contrcators.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Is a homeschool co-op teacher an independent contractor if paid by the parents?

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After reading through a bit of your material, we have decided that each family will pay our homeschool co-ops teachers individually. How would we label teachers that are not on a payroll, not volunteers, and not an independent contractor of the co-op?

The way we look at is that we simply provide a space and venue for outside teachers to offer their services. Is this correct? Our group will not provide them with any money. However, the group plans on “negotiating” the per student cost of a class.

Thank you for your insight
Heather

Heather,

Thank you for contacting me.

Teachers that are not your employees are called independent contractors IC), hired by each parent, but not the co-op.

I think you explained the arrangement correctly.

I recommend you have a written statement explaining what the co-op will do and what you will not do for the ICs. Have each teacher sign it. Call it a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). MOU’s are not legally binding and do not involve an exchange of money. They are different from a contract in that way.

Be careful about too much negotiating with the teachers. You don’t want to give the appearance that they are working for your co-op. You could certainly tell them a typical fee that parents would be willing to pay, but ICs are supposed to bear the risk of doing business which includes setting their price. In other words, help them by offering a suggested range of fees, but do not dictate what they can charge.

 

Cover Money Mgmt HS OrgHave questions about paying teachers in your homeschool co-op? My latest book, Money Management in a Homeschool Organization will help. I devote a chapter to hiring workers.

Order a copy today.

You may also find these two podcasts helpful:

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization Part 1

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization Part 2

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Where to find a sample teacher agreement for a homeschool co-op?

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Hi Carol,

Thank you so much for the wealth of information you provide through your writings!
Where might I find an example Independent Contractor Agreement we might use for our homeschool cooperative?

Thanks!

Lisa T in NYC

Lisa,You can try googling “Independent contractor homeschool” and see if any groups have posted their agreements.

In my ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization I have a sample agreement. http://homeschoolcpa.com/bookstore/paying-workers-ebook/

You could join the Facebook group I am a Homeschool Group Leader and see if anyone will share their agreement. https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

Carol Topp, CPA

Crackdown on using Independent Contractors

This article from Forbes discusses independent contractors and employees.

The Department of Labor is considering requiring businesses (and that would include nonprofits) to give every IC a “Right to Know” document explaining why they are not classified as employees.

 

It would require giving each independent contractor a kind of written Miranda warning notifying the independent contractor about:

  1. The federal tax obligations of an independent contractor;
  2. The labor and employment law protections that do not apply to independent contractors; and
  3. The right each independent contractor has to ask the IRS to determine whether he or she is an employee or independent contractor.

These might affect you if your homeschool organization hires independent contractors. A lot of homeschool co-ops hire teachers as independent contractors.

I’ll keep you posted if these regulations come to pass.

Carol Topp, CPA

Is your homeschool co-op’s hired teacher really an employee?

A homeschool nonprofit I work with called me quite frantic.  They had received a letter form the IRS.  It seems that a former teacher of one of their classes  was asking for an examination of her status as an independent contractor (using IRS Form SS-8).  She thought that she should be classified as an employee of this homeschool nonprofit.  If the IRS agrees with this worker, the homeschool organization may have to pay back taxes (Social Security and Medicare) and perhaps penalties.

Fortunately this homeschool group did many things right:

1. They had all their paid teachers sign a Independent Contractor Agreement.
2. They did not control the content of the class, nor dictate to the teacher what curriculum she must use.
3. They offered no benefits to teachers.
4. They did not train their teachers.

But these are only a few of the factors to address in making a worker determination.

How about your homeschool group?  Would you pass an IRS examination?

Do your hired teachers sign an Independent Contractor agreement?

Do you avoid controlling their work as you might an employee?

Here’s an RS brochure regarding employee or independent contractor status (IRS Pub 1779).

 

My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization explains in detail how to determine of your worker is an employee or an Independent Contractor.

You may want to have a private consultation to discuss your unique situation. I offer a Worker Classification Determination consultation to put your mind at ease.

Carol Topp, CPA


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Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

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Paying co-op leaders

meeting

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
————

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

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

IRS auditors crackdown on independent contractors

IRS

According to CNNMoney, the IRS is going to do random audits of 6,000 companies that use independent contractors.

CNN Money: Auditors Crackdown on Indedendent Contractors

Homeschool organizations might be caught in the web if they are paying teachers as independent contractors.

Here’s what the article states:

(CNNMoney.com) — If your business uses independent contractors, get ready for new scrutiny. Hoping to boost tax revenue, the IRS and many state governments are cracking down on how companies classify their workers.

When employers report wages for independent contractors on IRS form 1099, rather than a W-2, they aren’t required to pay unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation insurance or payroll taxes for them. But the rules governing which workers are genuinely “independent” are strict — and often flouted.

The Internal Revenue Service launched a program last month that will randomly examine 6,000 companies over the next three years for employee misclassifications. The federal government estimates it will raise $7 billion over the next 10 through tighter enforcement.

Should you as a homeschool leader be concerned? Probably, if your organization has been paying people as independent contractors when they are really employees. How can you tell the difference?

I can 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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