Should a Classical Conversations Director be an LLC?

I am a CC director. I am not sure what is the best option when it comes to register our community. A LLC or as a Sole Proprietor? Thank you so much for your help.

Maria

 

Maria,

By default, if you are the only owner of your business, you are a sole proprietor. You could consider adding LLC status to your sole proprietorship business if you want the limited liability protections that LLC status offers.

The reason that most businesses use the LLC structure is for limited liability. That means the liability is limited to your business and its assets and not your personal assets. I organized my own sole proprietorship accounting practice as an LLC  because I wanted limited liability and protection of my personal assets. LLC status can be added to your sole proprietorship business at any time. I ran my accounting business for 3 years and then added LLC status.

I recommend that you read up on LLC status, how to get it, maintain it (there are things you should do like not co-mingle funds and sign contracts in the name of the LLC, etc) , and what is required in your state regarding fees and reports. Some states charge a one-time fee, some charge a yearly fee and annual reports.

 

Since this is a website mainly for homeschool nonprofit organizations, I will add this note: For a nonprofit organization, such as most homeschool groups, I typically do not recommend LLC status since nonprofit corporation status in your state brings similar protections of limited liability. 

Here is a podcast episode where I discuss Should Your Homeschool Group Be An LLC?

 

But Maria is asking about LLC status for her for-profit business, not a nonprofit organization, and my advice to her may be very different from my advice to a nonprofit organization.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

I am not an attorney, nor am I offering legal advice. I recommend that you seek legal counsel if you have additional questions about Limited Liability Company status.

 

Holding a fundraiser to pay for homeschool curriculum

Photo credit TheMagicOnions.com

 

I homeschool my 3 children and 3 children of another family. As a project, we learned how to create a school website and as a idea to raise money for curriculum, supplies and hopefully a field trip or two. We’re in NC and also considered a private school.

We thought of an idea to sell Fairy Gardens that we personally make and accept donations on our website. Am I breaking any laws by not being registered as a business or non profit? 100% of profits will be spent on the school, but it goes to my own PayPal account and I state on the website that receipts for the donation being spent on the school and states that the donations are not tax deductible.

It dawned on me that it might not be allowed to do this without some kind of permit. I’m not sure though because I would be allowed to make fairy gardens and sell at a yard sale, so is it different if I sold them online?

Also, can I be a non-profit since I homeschool the children of two families and not just my own? I would greatly appreciate your feedback on this and thank you so much for all of the knowledgeable information you’ve shared on your site!

Best wishes,

April in North Carolina

 

 

April,
You and the other family are not a nonprofit organization, even if North Carolina classifies your homeschool as a private school. Private school  only means you are not funded with public (i.e. government) funds. It does not make you or your business a nonprofit organization. (BTW, some private schools are for-profit businesses.)

In order to be a tax exempt nonprofit, the IRS says you must be operated and organized as a nonprofit.

A tax exempt nonprofit organization “must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests” (Source: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/exemption-requirements-section-501c3-organizations).

So benefiting only you and the other family is “private interests” and not serving a public good, therefore you cannot be a nonprofit organization with only two families getting all the benefits.

Your fairy garden business is NOT a nonprofit. It is a business, probably a micro business. Stop calling your sales “donations.” They are simply sales of products (fairy gardens in your case) by a business.

You probably need to register in North Carolina as a business and probably get a vendors license to collect and pay sales tax.
Better start googling “Start a small business in North Carolina.”

 

My books Micro Business for Teens could help your children start this as their business (not yours) and learn a lot too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, your comment about selling your products at a yard sale is not quite correct. You can sell fairy gardens at a yard sale, but then you’re running a business and the profit is taxable. In yard sales, you are generally selling household items you bought over many years and used personally and selling them for less than you paid for them. But that’s not true for your fairy gardens. You did not use them personally and you are selling them at a profit, so it’s a business and you should register it and apply for a vendor’s license.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Small charity grows and gets audited by the IRS for it!

A fellow CPA told me the story of what happened to a small charity.

The small charity thought they were eligible to file the new, easy, short IRS Form 1023-EZ to apply for 501c3 status.

Organizations can use the shorter, cheaper, online Form 1023-EZ if their annual gross revenues are less than $50,000/year and expect to be less than $50,000 for the next 3 years.

So off went the Form 1023-EZ application and the charity was granted 501c3 tax exempt status!

Then they held a fundraiser (or several fundraisers) that were successful beyond their dreams and their total revenue was OVER $50,000 in their second and third year. They filed (correctly) their annual information returns, Form 990-EZ, to report all their income and expenses.

That’s when they got a letter from the IRS.

The IRS was auditing them because the IRS claimed the charity should have filed the longer, more expensive, full Form 1023 when they applied because their annual revenues were more than $50,000/year. And the IRS was right, in hindsight.

The IRS auditor asked for:

  • The full application to be completed (its 26 pages!) along with copies of
  • Bylaws
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Financial statements for 5 years
  • A narrative explaining the activities of the organization
  • Minutes of meetings

That last requirement surprised me because the Form 1023 application doesn’t ask for minutes of meetings, but the IRS auditor did.

Fortunately this group had those minutes and with the help of their CPA, passed the audit!

Lessons learned:

  • Keep minutes of your meetings.
  • Have all your documents ready in case the IRS asks to see them.
  • If you are close to the $50,000 annual gross revenues threshold and think you could exceed it in your first 3 years, use the full length Form 1023 application form when applying for 501c3 tax exempt status.

 

 

Have more questions about the IRS, 501c3 tax exempt status, and your nonprofit?

Carol Topp’s book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization can help!

  • The benefits of 501(c)(3) status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Order here.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Nonprofit Incorporation for Your Homeschool Co-op

 

Should your homeschool co-op be a nonprofit corporation?

This podcast is an excerpt from a workshop titled Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out.

In this short podcast episode (12 minutes) Carol Topp, CPA explains the benefits of forming your homeschool co-op as a nonprofit corporation and why a leader would want limited liability protection.

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned other podcast episodes in this series. Find them (#121-125) at HomeschoolCPA.com/Podcast

 

Featured resource

The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization

Does your homeschool group need to pay taxes?  Could they avoid paying taxes by being a 501c3 tax exempt organization? Do you know the pros and cons of 501c3 status? Do you know what 501c3 status could mean for your homeschool group?  I have the answers for you in my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization. The information I share in my book has been helpful to homeschool support groups, co-ops, music and sports groups and will help you understand:

  • The benefits of 501c3 status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Click Here to request more information!

Carol Topp, CPA

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Using QuickBooks Online for small nonprofits & churches

 

Here are some helpful books written by Lisa London, CPA from The Accountant Beside You, if you are using QuickBooks in your homeschool nonprofit organization.

Using QuickBooks Online for Small Nonprofits & Churches

is for users of QuickBooks Online. I recommend  QuickBooks online so that several people can log into the record keeping system including a bookkeeper, board members, the Treasurer and an outside accountant. i wish all my larger homeschool clients would use QuickBooks online.

http://accountantbesideyou.com/using-qbo-for-small-nonprofits-churches/

 

 

If you use the desktop version of QuickBooks, there’s a different book for you.

Using QuickBooks For Nonprofit Organizations, Associations & Clubs

http://accountantbesideyou.com/using-quickbooks-for-nonprofit-organizations-associations-clubs-paperback/

 

Lisa London, CPA from The Accountant Beside You, also offers classes on QuickBooks which some people prefer to reading books.

Carol Topp, CPA

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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

Classical Conversations community rejected by a church

Hi! I am a Classical Conversations Director in Illinois. Our church is asking us to leave as they believe hosting us threatens their tax exempt status. Other churches who have heard this claim do not want to accept us. Any advice? -Kimberly in IL

Kimberly,

I’m very sorry to hear about your problems with finding a church host.

The church is probably worried about their property tax exemption in Illinois since your Classical Conversations (CC) community is a business and not a religious or educational nonprofit.

Property tax exemption is different from federal income tax exemption granted by the IRS. The IRS grants churches automatic status as 501(c)(3) religious organizations. That’s not what is being threatened here.

Property tax exemptions are determined by the state and sometimes the county laws. That’s what has the church worried. If they lose property tax exemption, it will be very expensive for them to pay property tax.

I did a little digging and found some information about church property tax exemption in Illinois. Illinois may deny property tax exemption to the church if an organization using the church’s property has a “view to profit.” Illinois says that having a “view to profit” is incompatible with property tax exemption.

Unfortunately, as currently structured, your CC community has a “view to profit” and the church doesn’t want to offer your group space to meet and risk losing its property tax exemption.

The only advice I have is to ask the church if they would offer space with your CC community if it were a nonprofit organization with a religious and/or educational purpose. Illinois does grant property tax exemption to some educational organizations.

If you wish to re-form as a nonprofit organization, I can help you understand the pros and cons.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

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What Does It Take to be a Nonprofit?

 

It takes two things to be a nonprofit. Do you know what they are?

Which one are homeschool leaders doing well and which do they mess up most often?

HomeschoolCPA, Carol Topp, will explain what it takes to be a nonprofit in this short podcast episode (13 minutes).

In the podcast Carol mentioned that she offers consultations with your homeschool group leadership via phone or conference call.

To schedule a private phone consultation with Carol Topp, the Homeschool CPA visit: http://homeschoolcpa.com/services/consultation/

 

 

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The Difference Between Nonprofit and Tax Exempt Status

 

Do you know the difference between nonprofit and tax exempt status?

The difference can be confusing, so HomeschoolCPA, Carol Topp, explains the difference in plain  English and gives a real life example in this podcast episode.

 

 

Featured resource

The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization book.

The information in this book has been helpful to homeschool support groups, co-ops, music and sports groups to understand:

  • The benefits of 501c3 status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Carol Topp, CPA

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How can a nonprofit board receive benefits (properly)?

A homeschool organization sent me their bylaws to look over. They had two conflicting statements about offering compensation or benefits to their board members, especially the officers (the officers of a nonprofit organization are President/Chair, VP, Secretary and Treasurer).

Article 4 Section 1 Board members shall receive no compensation (other than reasonable expenses) for their service on the Board.”

Article 5 Section 4 Officers of the Board are eligible for benefits such as discounts, retreats and/or priority registration as well as other meeting expenses deemed reasonable by majority vote.

So which is it? Are officers allowed compensation/benefits or not? Tuition discounts are taxable compensation according to the IRS (unless they are “insignificant“).

Also the benefits are approved by a “majority vote.” Majority of whom? The board? This organization has no voting members except the board. And a nonprofit board cannot vote themselves benefits because that is a conflict of interest and private benefit which is forbidden by the IRS (if excessive).

I understand the desire to thank hard-working board officers, but be careful that it doesn’t become taxable income or a conflict or interest or worse private inurement which is forbidden by the IRS for 501(c)(3) organizations.

Here’s what I recommend:
1. Change the wording of Article 5 Section 4 to read Officers of the Board are eligible for  benefits (such as insignificant discounts, training (retreats and conferences) and/or priority registration) deemed reasonable, but not significant enough to be taxable income, by majority vote of the non-officers of the board or recommended by an independent committee.

and then

2. Hold a board meeting where the officers leave the room and the remaining board members vote on what benefits the officers will receive that year. That means you need to have a large enough board to do this. And it needs to be done every year.

Or

appoint an independent committee (no one on the committee is related to any of the officers) to make a recommendation. The board votes to accept the committee’s recommendation (but without the officers allowed to vote since they will personally benefit).

These changes in their bylaws and having other board members vote for the officer benefits will keep the organization from having a #1) conflict of interest and #2) the appearance of private benefit. It also means the officers are being thanked for their service without receiving any taxable income.

 

If your organization needs help in understanding how to thank your board members (properly), read

or my new Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It’s a template for you to create your own board manuals as a place to store important papers and policies.

Carol Topp, CPA

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