Government Intrusion and 501c3 Tax Exempt Status for Homeschool Groups

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Hi Carol,

I am part of a homeschool group in Colorado.  We do not have a non-profit status and most people in our group do not want to organize that much.  Some of the people in our group have had some experiences with 501c3 status that the government has made them open their group up to individuals that they would not normally allow in their group because they are a government entity (like permitting someone not in our faith to teach a class).

Thank you so much for your help to the homeschool community and for whatever answers you can give us.

Sincerely,
Michelle P

 

Michelle,
Good for you in wanting to make sure that you are doing things properly in your homeschool group.

Your people are mistaken. Receiving 501(c)(3) tax exempt status does not make your organization a government entity; it simply means that you are exempt from paying income tax on your profit and donors can make tax-deductible contributions.  It’s a tax status.

501(c)(3) status does not mean you  must open up your group to everyone. You are free to set membership requirements and choose who teaches a class. Does a Catholic school have to allow non-Catholics teach in their school?  No. Sometimes a Catholic school may hire non-Catholic teachers, but the teacher usually must agree to uphold Catholic principles.

 

IRS and Your Homeschool Org cover

My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization explains the pros and cons of applying for tax exempt status and the process and tips for getting approved.

The process to become tax exempt is not as scary or as difficult as it used to be. In 2014 the IRS introduced an easier, online application for small nonprofit organizations, the Form 1023-EZ.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Summer reading to be a better homeschool leader: The IRS and Your Homeschool organization

Summer is a great time for homeschool leaders to catch up on some reading. I’m highlighting a book each week of summer and this week I’m spotlighting,

I know it’s not a catchy title, but it explains what the book is about. I have no expectations of this book ever being a best seller, but I wrote it to be helpful to the hundreds of homeschool organizations that need to understand tax exempt status.
This book began in 2008 under the title of  Tax Exempt 501c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations with a cover as boring as the title. It was an ebook with only 51 pages.
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In 2011, I expanded the book to 124 pages and changed the title to The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization with the subtitle Tax Exempt 501c3 Status for Homeschool Organizations. And I improved the cover.

IRS and Your Homeschool Org cover

After the IRS simplified the process to apply for 501(c)(3) status in 2014, I updated the book. The second edition includes a chapter on getting tax exempt status reinstated if it is revoked. I also added an index to make finding specific topics easier.
Who should read this book?
  • Anyone running a homeschool organization that’s been around a long time but has never filed anything with the IRS.
  • Anyone who mistakenly thinks they don’t have to do any annual reports to the IRS.
  • Anyone who fears their previous leaders did not do things properly.
  • Anyone starting a new homeschool organization and wants to be sure they are set up properly.

Here’s a special for the summer. Buy my books for homeschool leaders at 25% off. Get paperback versions for $7.50 (usual price $9.95) or ebooks for $3.99 (usual price is $4.95).

Order The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization


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Checklist for homeschool co-op

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We are going through the process to create a non profit homeschool co-op and were wondering how much it would cost for you to review our paper work or how much it would cost for you to do and submit our paperwork.

Candace

Candace,

I have a listing of my fees here: http://homeschoolcpa.com/services/

My services vary depending on what you mean by “filing your paperwork.” There’s paperwork with your state and paperwork with the IRS. I can help with both types of filings.

Here’s a helpful checklist to keep it all straight!

Carol Topp, CPA

 


 

Candace’s question prompted me to update my Checklist for Homeschool Organizations Applying for Tax Exempt Status.

I know that forming a nonprofit organization and applying for tax exempt status can be confusing. There are just too many unfamiliar terms, IRS thresholds, steps to take and numbers!

This checklist will help you know the steps to take and the correct order.

If you need help at any step or want a personal consultation to discuss your unique situation, please contact me.

I am available to assist your homeschool organization every step of the way. Through my blog posts, books, podcast, and consultations, I try to make confusing IRS rules easy to understand. I have assisted over 80 organizations receive 501c tax exempt status.

Carol Topp 1200x1800

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

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HomeschoolCPA increased my fees, but you’ll get more!

GirlThrowsMoney

I don’t do this often, but I recently increased some of my fees.

My popular phone consultation fee is the same at $60/hour.

My fee preparing the IRS Form 1023-EZ application for 501(c)(3) status for small organizations has increased from $150 to $250.

But starting July 1, 2016 the IRS fee for Form 1023-EZ drops from $400 to $275, so overall your total fee will be less than before. Gotta like that.

Additionally, I used to charge separately for reviewing your Articles of Incorporation  for compliance with the IRS 501(c)(3) rules. Now that will be included in the $250 fee.

And I will also include a letter explaining what your state filing requirements will be for your newly formed 501(c)(3) organization. I used to charge separately for that as well, but it’s now included.

So, your homeschool group can apply for 501(c)(3) status (or get reinstated if your tax exempt status was revoked because you failed to file the annual Form 990-Ns) for less money and get more services!

What’s not to like about that?

Helping homeschool leaders,

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

 

 

 

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IRS lowers fees on Form 1023-EZ

 

 PRICE CUT:  $400   $275

 

The IRS recently announced in Revenue Procedure 2016-32, dated May 31, 2016 that it will be decreasing the Form 1023-EZ user fee from $400 to $275.

The fee reduction will be effective July 1, 2016.

If you are about to file, waiting until after July 1 could save you $125.

The Form 1023-EZ in an online application for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Organizations must have less than $50,000 in annual gross revenues and meet other eligibility tests to use the Form 1023-EZ.

 

If you need assistance in determining your homeschool organization’s eligibility for use the Form 0123-EZ or assistance in completing the form, please contact me. I’ve assisted more than 20 homeschool organizations apply for 501c3 tax exempt status using the Form 1023-EZ.

Carol Topp, CPA

Can a homeschool group just get together without having to report to the IRS?

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Can a homeschool group just get together without having to report to the IRS?

Dorothy

 

Ddorothy,

Yes, a group of homeschool families can just gather together, but the group will be limited in their size and to dealing in cash only.

Very small homeschool groups are more like a play group or group of friends pooling their money to pay group expenses, like a field trip.

I compare it to a group of friends all going out to dinner. They each pitch in to pay the bill. These tiny groups do not file reports with the IRS. Very tiny homeschool groups can operate like this.

In this case, a group may not need an EIN or to open a checking account for the group, but they would be limited in size and limited to cash only. It’s usually when a group needs a checking account that they have dealings with the IRS, because they need an EIN to open a checking account.

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool groups and huge fundraisers can be a bad thing!

Hey Carol –

I have been perusing your site as we are getting ready to start a new homeschool group (breaking off a larger group) in our area. Based on the info I have read, I feel that we identify the most as a 501c7 social group.

We will be offering clubs, fellowship, and field trips as our primary purpose. As a larger homeschool group, we have sold Discount Cards with local businesses/restaurants giving certain discounts to patrons. We sold them for $5 each. This has been a huge fundraiser for the bigger group. One box of cards is $5,000 (not all profit as there is expense from the printing).

My question is if as a new group we could sell these to help with our expenses and if the UBI would be taxable? We definitely want to do things correctly. The sellers would be the members of the group and done voluntarily.

I appreciate any help you can provide. Thanks!

Joyell

Joyell,
Your organization avoids the UBIT tax because the fundraiser is conducted substantially (or in your case, completely) by volunteers.

But you need to be careful that at least 65% of your total income comes from membership dues. Therefore, a maximum of 35% your income can come from fundraisers. Note that this is income, not the net proceeds of your fundraiser.

Something like this:

Your group’s total income = $10,000

Membership dues (this can include field trip income) must be $6,5000 or more (at least 65% of total income)
Fundraiser income cannot be more than $3,500 (max of 35% of total income)

One of the problems with this type of fundraiser is that it brings in so much income (and of course has substantial expenses as well), it can that it can jeopardize your 501(c)(7) tax exempt status because the fundraiser income exceeds 35% of total income.

This may mean that you are no longer tax exempt and will owe taxes on your surplus each year.

IOW, the IRS requires 501(c)(7) social clubs organizations to get most of their funds from members and not from selling products or other fundraisers.

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp CPA

New website for filing IRS Annual ePostcard Form 990-N

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is changing the website to file the Form 990-N. The Form 990-N used to be hosted by the Urban Institute, but starting February 29, 2016, the IRS will host the Form 990-N submission website.

The new website is www.IRS.gov/990N

The Form 990-N is a short,  annual filing that small (those normally with annual gross receipts up to $50,000) tax-exempt organizations file in place of the lengthier Form 990-EZ or Form 990. In order to file the Form 990-N, all nonprofits will be required to complete a one-time registration and file Form 990-N submissions through the IRS’s website at www.IRS.gov/990N.

Who must file
Most small tax-exempt organizations whose annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less can satisfy their annual reporting requirement by electronically submitting Form 990-N if they choose not to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ instead.

Exceptions to this requirement include:

Form 990-N is easy to complete. You’ll need only eight items of basic information about your organization.

Are homeschool co-op tuition discounts taxable income? Probably!

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Carol,

I see a lot of schools (homeschooling co-ops, private schools, etc) that offer tuition discounts or reduction for parent volunteer hours. If a parent volunteers to teach a  class a few hours a week and receives a tuition reduction for this commitment, is this considered taxable income for the parent?

I have also read this:

“IRS has broadly interpreted a worker’s “compensation” to also include the amount of free or reduced tuition that is given to a parent in consideration for his or her service to the school or church. A worker is no longer considered to be “volunteering” if he or she receives something of value “in kind” for his or her service. In the situation of a working parent whose child is enrolled in the school, it is the student’s waived tuition amount normally charged to nonworking parents that will constitute the worker’s taxable wage amount.”

I would love any follow up information you have about this. Thanks again!

Joanna R.

 

Dear Joanna,

I read the quote you provided with a lot of interest. I did a little research and came across IRS Publication 3079 which, although its title is “Tax Exempt Organizations and Gaming,” had a helpful section titled, “Volunteer Labor”

It stated something I didn’t want to read,

“Compensation is interpreted broadly. A worker who obtains goods or services at a reduced price in return for his services may be considered to be compensated.”

 

When the IRS says “compensated,” they mean taxable income. Ugh! That could mean that hard working volunteers in a homeschool organization, who get a discount on tuition, could have to report and pay taxes on this “compensation.”

But, as with all IRS documents, I kept reading Publication 3079 and found this:

On the other hand, a worker who receives merely insignificant monetary or non-monetary benefits is considered a volunteer, not a compensated worker.
Determining whether a benefit is insignificant requires consideration not only of the value of the benefit but also:
•The quantity and quality of the work performed;
•The cost to the organization of providing the benefit; and
•The connection between the benefit received and the performance of services.
(emphasis added)

 

So, if a co-op gives an insignificant monetary benefit to its volunteers, it is not taxable income. The IRS does not define insignificant, but here ares two examples that might help:

Insignificant benefits to a volunteer
A volunteer teacher was given a $50 discount off her $250 tuition for teaching a class. She put in a minimum of 30 hours preparing and teaching this semester-long class. That’s is an hourly rate of less than $2/hour. That seems pretty insignificant to me! It cost nothing for the co-op to offer this benefit. The co-op offered this discount as an incentive to increase volunteerism and it was not payment for services.

Significant benefits are taxable income
Another co-op gave their director several thousands of dollars in gift cards to grocery stores and Target, gave her children free tuition worth $1,500,  waived all field trip fees, theater ticket fees and registration fees amounting to hundreds more in benefits. These were NOT insignificant and were compensation for her services. The co-op thought that by giving gift cards and reduced tuition they could avoid payroll taxes and the paperwork of hiring and paying their director as an employee. They were wrong! The director should be treated as an employee. She should report all these benefits as taxable compensation.

Conclusion
Homeschool leaders should determine if the benefits of reduced tuition of fees they are giving to volunteers are insignificant. Look to the IRS guidelines in IRS Publication 3079 listed above. If the benefits are significant and are compensation for services, then it needs to be reported as taxable income to the worker/volunteer.

I can help you determine if your fee waivers or discounts are “insignificant.” Just contact me.

My ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help you determine the paperwork and reporting for workers.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Will a nonprofit owe taxes on income from selling ads?

GirlThrowsMoney
We considering including advertising in our conference brochure. Can we consider this conference (exhibitor) income? Or is it UBI (Unrelated Business Income)?
We are also considering placing advertising in our magazine (and our website). Is this UBI? And how do we track it? And how do we report it? And what percent taxes would we pay on it?
Dorothy in OR
Dear Dorothy,
Advertising revenue is definitely Unrelated Business Income (UBIT) in the eyes of the IRS, because selling ads is not related to your tax exempt purpose (education), but you can avoid paying taxes on the unrelated business income in several ways.

The IRS offers several exceptions to UBI Tax (UBIT):

  1.     A $1,000 threshold allows that the first $1,000 in income from an unrelated business will not be taxed.
  2.     If the fundraiser (or unrelated business) is run substantially by volunteer efforts (i.e., no paid staff) then the proceeds are not taxed.
  3.     If the fundraiser is not regularly carried on, such as a once-a-year spaghetti supper, then the proceeds are not subject to UBIT.
  4.     If you are selling donated items, like in a garage sale, the income raised is not taxed.

I think #1 or #2 will apply to your group, so can get income from advertising without worrying about paying tax on it.

It’s a good idea to create a line item in your record keeping labeled “Advertising Income” so it’s clearly differentiated from other income.

Carol Topp, CPA