Is my homeschool graduation fundraiser breaking the law?

Hi Carol,
The past 3 years we have held a graduation. The graduate families have been doing the fundraising, with the amount earned going into our checking account and then paid out for speakers, food, programs, and etc. I am concerned after reading your book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization: A Guide For Treasurers that we have been doing this all wrong!
 Are we instead supposed to fund raise as a whole group, and have graduation as a budgeted item in place of creating the graduation fund in our checking account?
Thank you so much for all your help!

Heidi,

 

Heidi,

The fundraising to pay for the graduation expenses is fine. The fundraiser proceeds are going to an event that your homeschool organization operates, not to individual families.

What is prohibited by the IRS is private inurement which is when an organization earmarks fundraiser proceeds as belonging to specific families to defray their specific and particular expenses. That’s a no-no. The purpose of those fundraising monies to to further your exempt purpose (homeschooling), not to give a financial break to specific, individual families.

There was a homeschool group that showed me their spreadsheet of about 10 fundraisers(!) and the 20 families that participated and how each dollar of profit from the fundraiser was divvied up to each family. Yikes! It was a record-keeping marvel, but prohibited by the IRS! I warned them to cease and desist immediately.

I think the graduation event should be included in your budget with both the revenues (parents paying money and the fundraisers proceeds) and the expenses (speakers, food, programs, etc) recorded.

 I hope that helps,
Carol Topp, CPA

 

 Learn more about managing money and IRS tax exempt status for your homeschool organization

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How can I thank my volunteers?

 

It’s the end of your homeschool organization’s school year and you want to thank your volunteers. They work so hard, so you hand out generous gift cards as thank you gifts. You may have just created a tax liability for your volunteers! Carol Topp, CPA, the Homeschool CPA discusses ways to thank your volunteers that are tax-free.

Listen to the podcast

 

Do you have more questions about volunteers and paying workers? I spent at lot of time doing research so that homeschool leaders will know if they are paying their volunteers, board members, and workers legally and correctly. It’s all in this new book:

payingworkerscoveroutlined

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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Can my homeschool group collect money now that’s for next year?

 

Many homeschool groups collect deposits in the spring for next fall’s programs. This helps with determining how many families will be returning. But how should these early deposits be recorded in a homeschool group’s bookkeeping? Carol Topp, CPA the HomeschoolCPA offers some ideas.

 

Listen to the podcast

In the podcast Carol mentioned a handout that explains how to record early deposits in accounting software like QuickBooks.

Here it is: Deferred Revenue in QuickBoooks (pdf)

Do you have more questions about managing the money in your homeschool organization?

MONEY MANAGEMENT FOR HOMESCHOOL ORGANIZATIONS: A GUIDE FOR TREASURERS

  • Does your homeschool group manage their money well?
  • Do you have a budget and know where the money is spent?
  • Do you know how to prevent fraud?

This 115 page book will help you to open a checking account, establish a budget, prevent mistakes and fraud, use software to keep the books, prepare a financial statement and hire workers. Sample forms and examples of financial statements in clear English are provided.

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Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

It’s tax season and I’ve been getting several emails from homeschool business owners, especially Classical Conversations directors, about how to fill out their tax returns.

The IRS has a terrific website called Understanding Taxes that explains how to fill out a simple business tax return.

It’s quite good. I’ve used their simulations when I taught personal finance at my homeschool co-op

Visit these websites to learn how to fill out your Schedule C Business Income and Loss.

Understanding Taxes home page

Simulation of filing a simple business tax return using Schedule C-EZ

Simulation of filing a simple business tax return with a 1099-MISC (this simulation would be helpful for a Classical Conversation tutor who receives a 1099-MISC).

 

You could also try searching Youtube for helpful videos on preparing a business tax return. Here’s one I found:
How to Fill Out Schedule C for Business Taxes He goes over the Schedule C line by line in about 20 minutes.

 

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

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Are violin lessons and ballet classes tax deductions?

Hi Carol, I just discovered your great website.
I pay several people for private instruction for my child: violin lessons by a private teacher, gymnastics, ballet in a nonprofit ballet school.
Can I send a 1099-MISC to any of these people or organizations?
I’d like to keep my tax liability as low as possible.
Thanks for any guidance you can provide.
Kimberly

Kimberly,

The Form 1099-MISC is to be given to a person who provide services to your trade or business. You do not give 1099-MISC to people you hire for your personal expenses (violin lessons for your children, etc).

Here’s what the IRS website says:

  • Report payments made in the course of a trade or business to a person who is not an employee or to an unincorporated business. (my emphasis added)
  • Report payments of $10 or more in gross royalties or $600 or more in rents or compensation. Report payment information to the IRS and the person or business that received the payment.

Your personal expenses (violin lessons, gymnastics, ballet) are not tax deductible expenses.

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

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How to account for a surplus in your nonprofit records

Female hand counting money on computer keyboard calculator.

 Does your homeschool organization end the year with a surplus? Congratulations! Now, how do you record that surplus in your bookkeeping.
Currently we are carrying money over into this year from last year. This money doesn’t have a name, we have it on a line that says, “Balance Carried Forward from 2015-2016” in our income column. Should this be called “Starting Balance,” or should this be named something else?
In our next two budget years, we will have a surplus. We are unsure what to call this surplus money. We do have a reserve fund already set up in  our budget; would this be the place to put the surplus money and then carry that reserve fund over to the income/expense section year to year?
Thank you so much for all your help!!
Heidi R in PA

Heidi,

You’ve hit on something very basic in accounting: how to account for accumulated money (aka a surplus).

The surplus is not income for the year so it should not be added to your other sources of income. The surplus is really an asset. It is cash sitting in your checking account.

Accountants created a special financial statement called a Balance Sheet to list the assets and liabilities. For nonprofits, it’s called a Statement of Financial Position, which I like better as a name.

stmtfinlposition

I recommend you create a mini balance sheet/Statement of Financial Position to the side of your income and expenses statement. Put the bank balance as of a certain date. List any liabilities (debts you owe) too. Make a note of the cash in the bank that is set aside as your reserve fund.

Your reserve fund is not an expense. It is an asset (cash in the bank). It should be mentioned in a note on the Statement of Financial Position as a reminder to your board that although the money is in the bank, it’s not supposed to be spent.  It’s held in reserve for emergencies.

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org

I give examples of financial statements including the Statement of Financial Position in Chapter 4 of Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com
Helping homeschool leaders

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Use Quickbooks online for free

I encourage my nonprofit clients to use QuickBooks online (or other online accounting software) and now qualified nonprofits can use QuickBooks online for FREE!

TechSoup, a charity that arranges free or discounted software for nonprofit organizations, offers

One year subscription to Quickbooks online for up to 5 users.

Do this NOW!

If you manage bring in than $20,000 in revenues per year I recommend you start using accounting software. If you have more than $50,000 in revenues in a year I HIGHLY recommend you start using accounting software and Quickbooks online is an excellent choice.

Make it a New Years resolution for 2017 to start using accounting software and be a better money manager of your homeschool organizations finances.

Lots of homeschool parents are depending on you to run your organization successfully.

The advantages are huge:

  • Multi-user so you don’t overburden one person with all the record keeping. Even a bookkeeper or CPA (like me) can log in remotely (with your permission).
  • Online backup so nothing is lost.
  • Email invoices so you can easily track who still owes you.
  • Create reports that show how much money has been spent.

Help is available

Are you afraid of accounting software? It can be complicated, but Tech soup offers some helpful videos.

Or if you prefer more personal help I can recommend some homeschool moms and dads with accounting and bookkeeping experience who can help you. They know QuickBooks and have experience with homeschool organizations. These wonderful bookkeepers can help you get setup (that’s the hardest part), do a monthly or quarterly check up to see if you’re using the software correctly, and answer questions you have.

Email me to get a recommendation of a homeschool-friendly QuickBooks expert.


There are a few catches to TechSoup’s free program:

  • You need to be a qualified nonprofit organization, that means nonprofits with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
  • You need to re-subscribe each year, but the renewal fee is free.

What have you got to lose?

If you don’t take advantage of this offer please tell me why in the comments or email me. I want to understand your concerns or obstacles.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

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Can homeschool teachers be allowed to keep extra money as a donation?

Dollarsinhand

Dear Carol,

I have purchased and am reading your ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. Thank you for making this available!

We are a co-operative, so all are teachers are basically volunteers. I do, however, collect on their behalf an estimated class contribution to help them cover costs related to teaching: curriculum, printing handouts and lesson plans, consumables used in class etc. This amount is determined by the teacher, usually $5-10 up to $50 per semester depending on the class. These funds are collected and then dispersed to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. We don’t require receipts or an accounting to be submitted. Any remaining funds are considered a “donation” to the teacher to recognize their time and effort in preparing and teaching the class. Teachers are not required refund monies back to the families.

Most of us feel that this structure is reasonable. However, one member is questioning. Does our policy seem acceptable from a legal position?

Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to answer my questions.

God bless your service,
Rose

Rose,

Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the book was helpful. It’s been updated since you read it and has grown from a 20 page ebook, to a 130-page paperback.

This statement bothers me greatly, “We don’t require receipts or an accounting to be submitted. Any remaining funds are considered a “donation” to the teacher to recognize their time and effort in preparing and teaching the class.”

When you do not request receipts, you are running what the IRS calls an “non-accountable” plan for reimbursements.

The remaining funds that you let your teachers keep is not a donation, it is a payment for services and is taxable income that needs to be reported to the IRS. Actually, the full amount you give to the teachers is taxable income under a non-accountable plan.

I have written a few blog posts on the topic of paying volunteers, requesting receipts for reimbursements, etc. Please read these:

No receipts for expenses can get you in trouble
and
Should my homeschool co-op be giving any tax forms to our teachers?

In my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization I discuss how to properly set up an accountable reimbursement plan (Chapter 7).

I hope you will change your practices (i.e set up an accountable plan for reimbursements and start requiring receipts) so that your teachers do not have to report their payments as taxable income.

You may also find my updated version of Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization helpful.

Carol Topp, CPA

 


payingworkerscoveroutlined

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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Homeschool groups ripe for embezzlement

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From the Columbus (OH) Dispatch comes this warning:

Small nonprofits ripe for embezzlement

They’re often diligent, caring workers, and yet tempted by seemingly easy cash.

Working on the inside, thieves can hit school groups, athletic leagues and churches, especially when they’re surrounded by trusting colleagues and loose security.

And according to one expert, because of the disgrace and embarrassment that the crime brings an organization, their transgressions often are not reported.

The median loss to fraud for religious, charitable and social-service organizations was $106,000 last year, according to an annual survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. “We estimate that organizations lose about 7% of their net worth to fraud each year,” said Scott Patterson, the association’s spokesman.

“There are so many people doing the good work that nobody steps back to say, ‘Should we begin looking at ourselves. We’ve grown. We better put some checks and balances in,'” said Gary Zeune, a fraud expert whose speakers bureau, “The Pros and Cons,” travels the country. “The only people who can steal you blind are those you trust and who don’t have controls.”

Smaller organizations, such as school parent-teacher organizations, are often vulnerable because neighbors and friends are reluctant to offend by suggesting that dishonesty is possible.

“This is typically mothers stealing from their own kids,” Shaw said. “The kids are the shills out there selling cookie dough or doing the walk-a-thon, and the mothers are stealing it.

“If the board is too embarrassed to have checks or balances, they need to have a new board,” she added. “But if you’re an honest person, you shouldn’t be insulted by having a second set of eyes.”

It’s so sad to hear about embezzlement taking place in homeschool groups, but I know from homeschool leaders that it can and does happen!

How can you prevent embezzlement?

Money Mgmt Homeschool

Read Money Management in a Homeschool Organization: A Guide for Treasurers. It  has a helpful list of policies and procedures for your group’s treasurer and your entire board.

Keeping you safe,

Carol Topp, CPA

Teaching Teenagers and Recent Grads About Money (podcast)

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My latest podcast episode is part 2 of a presentation on how to teach kids about managing money. I explain the important lessons to teach high school students and young adults.

Listen here.

This Handout lists helpful resources for teaching teenagers about managing money.

 

This is part 2 of a two-part presentation. Listen to Part 1 .

You might be interested in my 4-part podcast series in teaching kids about money:

Episode 7: Teach Preschoolers About Money

Episode 8: Teach Kids About Money

Episode 9: Teach Pre-Teens About Money

Episode 10: Teach Teenagers About Money

 

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My newest book Career Exploration for Homeschool High School Students is available in print and ebook format. Learn more.