Should my homeschool group tithe?

If we want to tithe on our income (from registration fees and donations) are there any restrictions, red tape, or regulations we should know about? Do you have advice or thoughts on tithing by a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization?

Homeschool leader in Idaho

 

The only restrictions is that the purpose of recipient of your tithe must be in line with your exempt purposes (charitable, educational and religious for this particular group).

So you shouldn’t give any part of your tithe to a for-profit business or to a nonprofit whose mission is outside of your purpose as you indicated to the IRS when you applied for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status (say an animal shelter).

Most 501(c)(3)s do not tithe because they consider themselves as recipients or stewards of donations for their specific mission. But some organizations do tithe. My church, for example, budgets 13% of our income to missions. We consider that part of a tithe.

From a Biblical perspective, it’s unclear if nonprofits should tithe.

Here’s a blog post from a pro-life group LifeMatters Worldwide with food for thought:

Should your ministry give a portion of your budget to the Lord’s work? That sounds good, but isn’t 100 percent of your budget already dedicated to advancing the Kingdom to your particular target audience? If you believe that a nonprofit organization should give because God will bless you in a special way, why stop at 10 percent?

Your board should discuss these questions:

  • If you choose to tithe, where would you direct the funds?
  • Would you give to a church? That could be problematic.
  • Would you only give to other similar agencies? Donors who give to your nonprofit expect that 100 percent of their gift will be used to support your mission.
  • What if you choose an organization that your donors don’t believe in?
  • Would they quit supporting you if they knew that a portion of their gift ultimately supported another organization that they don’t like? Their reason for not liking the other organization doesn’t have to be doctrinal or philosophical. Maybe they don’t like the director, or maybe they simply aren’t interested in that particular cause.

The blog post writer concludes with this:

When a nonprofit decides to give to other nonprofits, in a sense they become mutual fund managers. You are deciding for your donors how to spend a portion of their gift that is not directly connected to your ministry. As a donor, I’m writing a check because I want to support the impact your organization is making. If I wanted to support the organization that you choose for me, I would give to them directly.

The biblical instructions about tithing and giving primarily apply to individuals. Business owners may choose to tithe their income, but a nonprofit ministry should not view giving from the same perspective.

There is one critical difference — nonprofit organizations don’t earn income, you are merely stewards of the gifts someone has entrusted to your care to accomplish your mission. When you look at nonprofit tithing from a donor’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense to give something away that isn’t really yours.

I think that will give your board something to discuss!

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Carol’s book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization  will help your homeschool organization create a budget and live by it!

 

How long do I need to keep these homeschool group records?

From the I Am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook group (if you’re not a member yet request to join us. We’d love to have you!)

 

How does your group handle old financial records? What do you keep, what gets tossed and when?

When I began as treasurer, I received tons of files, receipts, bank statements, old insurance policies, order forms and the like. Our group is 30 years old. It’s a lot of stuff! Don’t want to toss anything that’s needed, but thinking that much of this is not necessary anymore.

Julie

 

I found some helpful lists of what to keep and for how long:

Document Retention for US Nonprofits: A Simple Guide

Document Retention Policies for Nonprofits

Both of these lists are for large nonprofits with employees, buildings, etc. so the lists are crazy long and overly detailed for most homeschool groups.

So I culled it down to this:

Keep these records permanently

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Determination Letter from the IRS
  • IRS Tax Exempt Application Form 1023/1023-EZ
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Information Returns, Form 990/990-EZ or 990-N
  • State Information returns or annual reports

Keep for 7 years

  • Financial statements (year-end)
  • Canceled checks
  • Bank Statements
  • Leases (5 years after lease ends)
  • Background checks
  • 1099-MISC  given to Independent Contractors
  • Employment Tax records (Form 941, W-2s etc)
  • Payroll records (although one list said to keep these permanently!)

Keep for 3-5 Years

  • Minutes of board meetings (although one list said to keep these permanently!)
  • Invoices
  • Reimbursements
  • Receipts of expenses
  • Insurance  policies

 

Where do you store these documents and papers? Most of the documents will probably be stored at the Treasurer’s and Secretary’s homes.

But the documents to be kept permanently should be stored in a board members’ binders and passed down to future board members. Each board member should have a copy of the important “Keep permanently” documents.

I have created a Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It is a template to create a board member binder. It has:

  • A list of important documents to keep in your binder
  • Section dividers so you can organize the important papers
  • Tools to help you run your meetings smoothly including
  • A sample agenda that you can use over and over again
  • A calendar of board meetings

Can homeschoolers use 529 plans? Maybe!

Congress decided to expand 529 savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act or 2017. 529 plans were originally set up to save for college. The earnings on the savings is tax free. But they specifically excluded homeschool expenses from using 529 funds.

That seemed unfair to a lot of homeschoolers.

But there may be a way for homeschoolers to use their 529 savings accounts for some K-12 expenses.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act or 2017 says this:

the term ‘qualified higher education expense’ shall include a reference to expenses for tuition in connection with enrollment or attendance at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.”. (emphasis added)

There are 2 conditions for you to use 529 funds for K-12 expenses:

1) the costs must be for tuition and

2) the institution the family pays must be “a public, private, or religious school”

Some homeschool students take classes from private schools (locally or online). The tuition payments to these schools can use 529 funds.

But the cost of books, supplies, equipment, and payments to organizations that are not schools cannot use 529 funds.

Be careful that the tuition payments are going to a public, private, or religious school. In my experience most homeschool programs (co-ops, tutorials, etc) are NOT schools.

Homeschool parents should check with the program that they are paying tuition to to determine if it is a school according to their state’s definition.

If you have any concern about their status as a school, then do not use 529 funds to pay for the tuition. Withdrawals from a 529 fund that are not “qualified” (i.e. tuition paid to a public, private, or religious school) then you pay income tax and a penalty of 10% on the withdrawn funds. Ouch!

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

 

Does refunding homeschool dues cause a tax problem?

 Due to some circumstances, our homeschool group will no longer be able to offer classes and we wish to refund members the dues paid to our group within the past few months.  Will we run into any taxation problems or other problems involving the IRS?  Thank you!
Andrea
Andrea,

 

It is perfectly acceptable for your homeschool group to refund the class dues since you never delivered the service (i.e. the classes).

 

Since you didn’t deliver the classes the customer is due a refund.

 

What is not allowed for a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit group like yours is to distribute any funds if your group dissolves. The IRS requires that assets (money in the bank and anything you own) of a 501(c)(3) organization must go to another 501(c)(3) organization when it closes. The assets cannot be divvied up among the members or leaders.

 

This refund is not taxable income to the parents. It is just a refund of a payment for services that were never delivered.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Money Tips for Homeschool Leaders: Don’t Ignore Your Balance Sheet

 

Do you know what a Balance Sheet is?

Homeschool board members don’t understand a balance sheet, so it is often ignored, but Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, explains why that is a big mistake. In this short podcast she explains what a balance sheet is and what are red flags in a Balance Sheet that you should look out for.

You’ll be a better informed board member after listening to this podcast episode.

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned the Balance Sheet (or as she prefers to call it the Statement of Financial Position). Here is what it might look like for a homeschool organization:

Featured resource

Carol Topp, CPA has written a book just for homeschool treasurers:

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

  • 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.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Save

How to Read a Financial Statement for Your Homeschool Group

 

When your homeschool treasurer hands you a financial statement, do you know what you’re looking at?

HomeschoolCPA Carol Topp explains how to read and understand the statement of revenues and expenses better known as the Profit and Loss or P&L . This  15 minute podcast will help your treasurer prepare a statement that is easy to read and understand.

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned the statement of revenues and expenses better known as the Profit and Loss or P&L. Here is what it might look like for a homeschool group:

Featured resource

 

Carol Topp, CPA has written a book just for homeschool treasurers:

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

  • 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.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Save

Accounting Software for Homeschool Groups

 

Does your homeschool group use software to manage it’s finances?

It’s something you should consider. Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, discusses when you should use software and offers  her opinion on software that’s best for homeschool groups.

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned:

QuickBooks Online. You may be eligible for a free version of QuickBooks Online. I wrote about it here: Use QuickBooks Online for free

Wave Accounting. I set up a small nonprofit on Wave recently. It’s working for them and it’s free!

Aplos Software which is popular with nonprofits and churches.

Ace Money Lite free personal finance software

 

Featured resource
Carol Topp, CPA has written a book just for homeschool treasurers:

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

  • 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.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Save

Why Your Homeschool Group Needs to Do a Bank Reconciliation

 

Is your homeschool group reconciling your bank account every month? You should be!

Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, explains why bank reconciliation is the most important task you should do to manage your group’s finances. But don’t let your treasurer balance the checking account! It should be someone else. Listen to the podcast to understand why.

 

 

Featured resource

Carol Topp, CPA has written a book just for homeschool treasurers:

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

  • 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.

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Save

Preventing Fraud in Your Homeschool Group: Separation of Duties

What’s the best way to to prevent fraud or mistakes in the finances of your homeschool group?

It’s called separation of duties and Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA explains why your treasurer should not be doing all the financial tasks in your homeschool organization. In this 12 minute podcast episode Carol explains how you can separate and share the money management tasks.

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned a list of suggestions to prevent fraud.

Excerpt from Money Management in a Homeschool Organization on preventing fraud (opens as a pdf)

 

Featured resource

Carol Topp, CPA has written a book just for homeschool treasurers:

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization

  • 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.

Carol Topp, CPA

Save

Save