Preparing Strong Independent Contractor Agreements

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From Veneable.com, a website with articles focusing on nonprofit law, comes this excellent list of items to have in an agreement with an independent contractor.

Many homeschool organizations hire independent contractors to teach a class or offer a service, so having a good, strong IC agreement is important.

I included a sample independent contractor agreement in my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization. I might need to tweak it and include some of these provisions.

I hope you find this list helpful.

Preparing Strong Independent Contractor Agreements

“Must-haves”:
–Written agreement signed by both parties
–Clearly defined scope of work
–Worker decides how the work is to be performed
–Require invoicing and, if practicable, fixed-fee-type payments
–Clearly defined and, if practicable, limited termination rights
–Clear statement of independent contractor status and ineligibility for benefits

“Like-to-haves”:

–Limited training or instruction required
–Worker decides when and where work is to be performed or works off-site
–Worker provides own tools, equipment, staff
–Worker has freedom to contract with others for his or her services
–Compensation should not resemble a salary
–Termination only for nonperformance/breach of contract
–Avoid circumstances where contractor position is identical to those of W-2 employees

Source: https://www.venable.com/files/Event/624c3096-6e46-4d2c-8fdc-a674c30ad5f0/Presentation/EventAttachment/48ae10be-17a8-426b-af57-5124c79aab61/Focus_on_Nonprofit_Employee_Misclassification_slides-06-16-15.pdf

Carol Topp, CPA

Tax forms for a special ed homeschool teacher

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Carol,

We started homeschooling our daughter who is special needs. We hired a special ed teacher and now with taxes around the corner we don’t know what we need to file.

Regards, B

Dear B,

I wrote a blog post on this topic that you may find helpful: Can I hire a homeschool governess?

In the article I mention the term “Household employee.” That’s the IRS term for nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, etc. who work in or around a personal residence.

Your hired teacher is probably not a “household employee.” Your hired teacher is probably similar to hiring a piano teacher or a tutor.Piano teachers and tutors are business owners, not household employees.  You are a customer of a person who is running her own business.

The teacher is the one who has to worry about reporting her income from you (or anyone else she works for) and deducing her expenses on her tax return.

I hope you had a clear discussion or written agreement with the special ed teacher about her employment status.

You do not get a tax deduction for what you pay her. There are (probably) no tax forms for you to give her.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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