Tax deductible donations without IRS determination letter

We have an EIN and file 990-N annually but fall under the classification of a group self declares our tax exempt status because we make less than $5,000 a year. We have not gone through the formal 501(c)(3) application process with the IRS. I was talking with IRS today and I believe I understood them to say we cannot give a form to a donor stating their contribution is tax deductible.

If that is the case how can we assure potential donors we are tax deductible and doesn’t a donor need documentation for when they file their taxes?

Mark

 

Mark,

One of the major drawbacks for small 501(c)(3) organizations who chose to “self-declare” their tax exempt status is that they lack the official IRS determination letter proving that donations are tax deductible (See the photo above for an example of the IRS determination letter).

This important letter can give donors assurance that their donations are indeed tax deductible.

Technically, your organization can still receive tax deductible donations, but your organization lacks “proof” to show a donor.

A donor must keep a record if the donation is more than $250. This record is usually a letter from the charity, but a bank record (a cancelled check) may suffice. This record is only given to the IRS if the donor is being audited by the IRS.

Your homeschool group may be listed in the IRS database of Exempt Organizations since you have been filing your  Form 990-Ns every year. Visit IRS Select Check and see if your can find your organization listed as “Has filed Form 990-N” or “Are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.” If you are in the IRS database you can be assured that you can accept tax deductible contributions.

The best way to assure potential donors would be to file the Form 1023-EZ (fee $275 to the IRS and takes about 3-4 weeks). Then you get the official IRS determination letter.

I can assist you in filing the Form 1023-EZ. While it is a much simpler form than the full Form 1023, it can be confusing and you will want to be sure it is filed correctly.

Email me if you’d like my help.
Carol Topp, CPA

What homeschool expenses can I deduct on my taxes?

Here’s a list of homeschool expenses you can deduct on your federal income tax return (Form 1040):

1.

Yes, that’s the list! It’s empty. There are NO homeschool expenses that you can deduct on your individual federal income tax return.

(Sorry for the click bait in the title!)

Homeschooling expenses are personal expenses, like groceries or clothes, and are not tax deductible on the US federal income tax return.

You cannot deduct your groceries or your clothes on your tax return and you cannot deduct your homeschooling expenses on your federal income tax return, either.

A few states may allow a tax deduction, a tax credit, or an educational saving account. But not your Uncle Sam (the US federal government).

 

Clever ideas to dodge taxes (that won’t work)

Sometimes homeschool families try to get clever and think that they will form a homeschool business and deduct the expenses. The idea is for the dad to hire his wife to teach their children. Then they can deduct school supplies, the mom’s wages as a homeschool teacher, etc.

Sounds pretty clever, huh? Except it doesn’t work anymore than paying mom to cook and feed the family by running an “in-house restaurant” won’t work. That’s because in both these plans (homeschooling as a business and in-house restaurant) there are no customers that are paying for the mom’s services.

Also, the mom has to declare her income to the IRS and she will have to pay taxes on it! That’s why families don’t hire mom to run an in-house restaurant and they shouldn’t hire mom to homeschool the kids either.

So forget the idea of forming your family homeschool as a business.

Homeschools as private school. Any tax breaks?

Some states treat homeschools as private schools, so some families think they can avoid taxes by declaring their private homeschool as a nonprofit organizations and get tax exempt status as a private school. That’s pretty clever too, huh? Only it won’t work.

Briefly, a nonprofit organization exists to serve a group, not an individual. The IRS will not grant “recognized charity” 501(c)(3) tax exempt status to a group that is formed solely to benefit the founder’s family. A tax exempt organization must serve a public good.

The IRS forbids private “inurement” in 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations. Inurement means to be beneficial or advantageous. Inurement occurs when an organization is formed or operates with an incorrect charitable purpose that allows individuals in control to directly and personally benefit from the organization. 501(c)(3) organizations can lose their tax exempt status for practicing inurement.

So forget the idea of your family homeschool becoming a nonprofit organization.

 

In the end, do what the rest of use do, pay your taxes.

Don’t look to Uncle Sam to give you a tax break because you choose to educate your children at home. Instead appreciate the freedom we have an Americans to homeschool.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Can a homeschool group deduct tuition from a teacher’s pay?

A homeschool program charges $2,300  per student per year for tuition. Many of the teachers in the program also have their children enrolled in the program.

The leader, Lauren, was deducting the amount of tuition owed from the teacher’s pay and reporting only the difference that she actually paid the teacher.

For example:

Teacher’s earnings: $4,000

Tuition that the teacher owed: $2,300

Teacher’s paychecks: $1,700 ($4,000 less $2,300)

Additionally, Lauren was filing the teacher’s W-2 (or 1099-MISC) and reporting wages of only $1,700, but the true earnings were $4,000.

I advise that homeschool organization DO NOT net the teacher’s pay and her tuition owed like this!

Here’s why:

Picky CPA reason: This netting (subtracting the amount paid to the teacher by the tuition she owed) masks the true amount of teacher pay and the true amount of tuition received in your bookkeeping. The homeschool leadership needs to know the total income from tuition and the total expenses paid for teachers. Netting them masks the true income and true expenses. Additionally, the total amounts of income and expenses must be reported to the IRS (usually on Form 990 or 990-EZ).

More important reason: Taxes! 

The teacher’s payments for her services is taxable earned income. But her child’s tuition is a personal  expense and not tax deductible.

I recommend that the teacher should be paid the full amount earned (in my example, $4,000) and in a separate transaction, she should pay her tuition to Lauren’s homeschool program.

Lauren was advised that she will need to amend the W-2s she gave to her teacher to correct this mistake. This will be an unwelcome surprise to the teacher, but it’s the correct, legal amount to report.

I know it seems like extra work and more complicated, but netting or offsetting the two transactions could distort the total amount of compensation the teacher needs to report to the IRS. It’s mixing taxable income with a non-tax-deductible personal expense.

That’s called tax evasion and the IRS doesn’t take kindly to tax evasion.

Cover Money Mgmt HS OrgFor more information on paying workers and correctly recording transactions in an accounting system, you may find my book, Money Management in a Homeschool Organization, helpful.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Ebook Taxes for CC Licensed Directors almost ready!

I just sent the final (I hope) version of my  ebook Taxes for Classical Conversions Licensed Directors off to Classical Conversations, Inc!

The ebook will be distributed by Classical Conversations, Inc to their licensed directors. It is my understanding that the ebook will be available at no charge to the licensed directors.

Update: The ebook was released on the Directors License Guide in late March 2018. Find it here.

If you’ve already prepared your tax return for 2017, you should STILL read this ebook to be sure you did everything correctly!

If you are not a licensed director with CC, I cannot share or sell a copy with you (sorry!), but I recommend you read the following blog posts:

CC Directors: Do not give yourself a 1099-MISC

Tax return for a Classical Conversations homeschool business

I’m a Classical Conversations Director. Do I have to file any forms with the IRS?

Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

 

Carol Topp, CPA


Free Resource

In the ebook, I mention a bookkeeping spreadsheet for CC Directors. You can get the spreadsheet now (all it costs is your email!)

 


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Any Tax Deductions for Homeschoolers This Year?

 

Are there any tax deductions for homeschoolers this year?

Carol Topp, CPA answered this question originally back in 2014, but the answer is still the same-even with the new tax laws passed in 2017. Additionally, Carol gives some details on college expenses that are tax deductible and tax advantaged college savings plans.

This is a repeat of a podcast episode aired in 2014. I (Carol) caught a nasty cold and sinus infection and couldn’t talk without coughing for several weeks. I hope you find the re-broadcast of this episode helpful!

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned these resources:

Home School Legal Defense Association has an explanation of some states’ tax breaks or credits:http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200504150.asp

Ann Zeise of A to Z Home’s Cool has a great, detailed and lengthy post of tax write-offs for homeschoolers:
https://a2zhomeschooling.com/laws/homeschool_laws_legalities/tax_deductions_educational_writeoffs/

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Taxes for Classical Conversations Directors

Last tax year I was asked a lot of questions about taxes by Classical Conversations directors and tutors. Things like:

  • What tax form should I to use to report my income and expenses?
  • What expenses were tax deductible?
  • What tax forms do I need to give to my tutors?
  • How should tutors be paid?
  • How do I pay myself as a CC Director?

Fortunately, there is an ebook in the works to help CC Directors titled:

Taxes for Classical Conversions Directors

The ebook is available only to Licensed CC Directors from Classical Conversations, Inc

You can find the ebook here

 

I recommend the following blog posts:

CC Directors: Do not give yourself a 1099-MISC

Tax return for a Classical Conversations homeschool business

I’m a Classical Conversations Director. Do I have to file any forms with the IRS?

Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

Consult a local small business CPA. To find a local tax preparer I recommend two sources:

Both of these websites allow you to search for a local tax preparer who is knowledgeable about taxes for small sole proprietor businesses.

 

Carol Topp, CPA


Free Resource

In the ebook, I mention a bookkeeping spreadsheet for CC Directors. You can get the spreadsheet now (all it costs is your email!)

 


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How to Find a Local Tax Professional

I like local!

I try to support local businesses and frequently tell tax clients in other states or cities to use a local tax professional.

How do you find a local tax professional?

Here are some tips:

I am no longer accepting tax clients for individual tax preparation, but I can help you with :

  • Business consultations by phone, especially of you operate a homeschool business like Classical Conversations, etc.
  • Nonprofit consultations by phone, especially of you are a homeschool organization or local Cincinnati nonprofit.
  • Assistance with applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, especially of you are a homeschool organization or local Cincinnati nonprofit.
  • Filing annual IRS Form 990/990-EZ for tax exempt organizations

Please contact me via email, tell me a little about your business or nonprofit, and what questions and issues you have. We’ll see if I can help you or if you need to go local.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Do I give a 1099-MISC to a place we rented?

Is a 501(c)(7) social club required to issue a 1099 to every vendor for an expenditure over $600? For instance, if we pay a band $1,000 for one of our dinner-dances or an event hall $800 for rental of their facility, does that mean we have to issue a 1099 to them?

Donald

 

Dear Donald,

The instructions for the 1099-MISC say:

File this form (1099-MISC) for each person to whom you have paid during the year at least $600 in:

rents;
services performed by someone who is not your employee;
prizes and awards;
other income payments;
medical and health care payments;
crop insurance proceeds;
cash payments for fish you purchase from anyone engaged in the trade or business of catching fish;
generally, the cash paid from a notional principal contract to an individual, partnership, or estate;
payments to an attorney; or
any fishing boat proceeds

I highlighted the issues that apply to you (rents and payments for services).

You do not have to give a 1099-MISC to corporations, so ask the band and the event hall if they are corporations. My guess is that the band is not a corporation, but the event hall is a corporation and therefore you don’t give them a 1099-MISC.

You should also have collected a IRS Form W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number from the band and any person you pay for their services. On the Form W-9 they indicate if their business is a corporation or not.

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

Paypal sent homeschool leader a 1099-K. Is it taxable income to her?

 

Our homeschool co-op leader set up a Paypal account to collect payments from our parents. She was very surprised when Paypal sent her a 1099-K for $40,000 with her name on it! Does she have to report this on her tax return even though it was for the co-op?

 

Oh dear. It appears that leader used her personal name and Social Security Number when setting up the Paypal account. She also used her name and SSN when setting up a checking account. This is not good!

This group was in the process of forming  as a nonprofit corporation in her state, getting an EIN for the corporation, and then applying for tax exempt status with the IRS. But the parents starting paying before all the paperwork was completed so the leader simply set up a personal Paypal account. It’s easy to set up a Paypal account (I have 3 Paypal accounts myself). But now she has a tax mess on her hands!

She should have filed as a nonprofit corporation, gotten an EIN and then set up the PayPal account in the name of the new nonprofit corporation with their new EIN. Then the 1099-K would have come to the homeschool group, not her personally.

But that’s water under the bridge.

In the eyes of Paypal and the IRS, the leader has started a business, collected money, and now needs to report that on her income tax return. Ugh!

She should file a Schedule C Business Income on her personal Form 1040 and report the Paypal income as Gross Receipts. At this point the leader should contact me or a local CPA for assistance in preparing her tax return. This is not the year for DIY! She does not want an IRS audit!

Additionally, she needs to set up this homeschool organization properly with nonprofit corporation, getting an EIN, and then applying for tax exempt status with the IRS, ASAP! I can help with that.

Download my list of steps to take to set up a nonprofit homeschool organization.

 

Please homeschool leaders, do not set up Paypal accounts, bank accounts or EINs in your personal name. Establish an organization and conduct business in the organization’s name only. Otherwise, you may face a complicated tax issue like this poor leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

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