The IRS is on the prowl in 2019!

Every year the IRS Tax Exempt division releases a list of areas and issues they plan to focus on for audits and investigations. The IRS Tax Exempt division calls it their Program Letter. The Exempt Division is the branch of the IRS that grants 501c tax exempt status to nonprofit organizations.

The Charity Law blog discussed the IRS Tax Exempt work plan for 2019.

 

I found the list of things the IRS considers “the highest known priority and emerging risks” to be interesting, especially these two issues that affect homeschool programs, both nonprofit and for-profit:

  • Previous for-profit: focus on organizations formerly operated as for-profit entities prior to their conversion to IRC Section 501(c)(3) organizations.
  • Worker classification (misclassified workers): determine whether misclassified workers result in incorrectly treating employees as independent contractors.

 

So if you are converting a for-profit homeschool business to a nonprofit organization, be prepared for some extra questioning and scrutiny from the IRS. You’ll have to file the longer Form 1023 to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status and explain in your Narrative why you are converting to nonprofit status. You will not be eligible for using the shorter IRS Form 1023-EZ.

 

My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization  explains how to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status.

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, if you are treating your homeschool program teachers or tutors as Independent Contractors, be prepared for the IRS to keep an eye on you and they may open an investigation into your worker classification.

 

 

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization will be a big help to you in paying workers.

 

 

 

Additionally, the IRS is hiring approximately 40 new revenue agents to process determination applications. Is that good news? More IRS revenue agents should mean both faster processing and increased audits and investigations! Both good and bad, in my opinion.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

 

Should You Pay Homeschool Teachers

 

Should your homeschool program pay teachers? Jamie Buckland, a homeschool leader from West Virginia started Appalachia Classical Academy and pays her teachers as employees. How and why would she do that? This podcast (19 minutes) will give you something to think about and consider for your homeschool program.

Jamie explains to host Carol Topp how she started her classical homeschool program including:

  • How she received advice from other homeschool leaders
  • Why her program charges tuition
  • Why she pays teachers as employees
  • The benefits of having employees
  • The difficulties of using volunteers

Carol and Jamie both belong to a Facebook group for homeschool leaders called I Am a Homeschool Group Leader Facebook Group. It is a closed group (meaning you have to request to join) of 600+ homeschool leaders from across the USA. You can join us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/

 

Jamie is the owner of Classical Program Consultant a consulting service for homeschool leaders interested in launching a classical homeschool program. Her website is JamieBuckland.net.

Are you interested in starting a homeschool program like Jamie described? Jamie and Carol teamed up to give a webinar on the ABCs of Starting an Academic Homeschool Program. You can benefit from their combined knowledge in this webinar (and several extra resources are included as well). http://homeschoolcpa.com/how-to-start-an-academic-homeschool-program/

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

In the podcast Jamie mentioned paying teachers or tutors as employees. My book, Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization has more information about paying Independent Contractors and employees.

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization

Are you paying workers in your homeschool organization?

  • Can a volunteer be paid?
  • Should a worker be treated as an employee or independent contractor?
  • Do you know the difference?

Homeschool leader and CPA, Carol Topp, has the answers to your questions in her book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization.

This 130 page book covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Top tax mistakes homeschool business owners make

I’ve talked to a lot of homeschool (for-profit) program directors over the past few years. These people have a huge heart for homeschooling, but many do not understand that when they start their programs, they began operating a business. They don’t see themselves as business owners (but they are!), and so they neglect getting educated about running a business and make a lot of mistakes.

Here are the top tax mistakes I see homeschool for-profit directors make:

  1. Giving themselves a 1099-MISC.
  2. Not understand that they are business owners.
  3. Paying tutors as Independent Contractors but treat them as employees.
  4. Not understanding their tax obligations.
  5. Not being prepared for self-employment tax.
  6. Not being aware of potential penalties for worker misclassification.
  7. Not keeping good records.
  8. Not seeking professional advice before signing an agreement or launching a program.
  9. Not getting tax advice.
  10. Asking Independent Contractors or employees to volunteer their time. That is Illegal in most states.
  11. Not realizing fundraisers are taxable income.
  12. Thinking they can form a nonprofit by filing a piece of paper but not forming a board or drafting bylaws.

I explain a lot of these tax mistakes in my webinar on Tax Preparation for Homeschool Business Owners. It should be a lot of help to for-profit directors, tutors, co-op teachers and other homeschool business owners! For details visit HomeschoolCPA.com/HSBIZTAXES

 

Additionally my book on  Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization  explains in detail why tutors should be paid as employees and the risk a homeschool business owner is taking if she pays her teachers or tutors as Independent Contractors.

 

I’m not trying to scare anyone!  Sorry if I did, but maybe it will compel you to change your actions.

I’m not trying to talk you out of being a homeschool business owner, director of a for-profit program, or tutor if you love it.

But I am trying to help you stay out of trouble with the IRS and your state government.

The last thing I want is an audit of homeschool programs or businesses by the IRS or state governments! No one wants the reputation of homeschooling tainted in the eyes of our government. We don’t need that!

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Helping homeschool leaders

ABC Test for Independent Contractors

 

Is your homeschool teacher an employee or Independent Contractor?

In 2018 California Supreme Court tried to make that questions easier to answer with a simpler 3 part test: The ABC Test for Independent Contractor status.

Can You Pass The Three-Part ABC Test?

Listen to the podcast (11 Minutes) for Carol’s reply.

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned …

In the podcast I mentioned my paying teachers or tutors of others in a homeschool business or nonprofit organization. My book, Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization has more information about paying Independent Contractors and employees.

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization

Are you paying workers in your homeschool organization?

  • Can a volunteer be paid?
  • Should a worker be treated as an employee or independent contractor?
  • Do you know the difference?

Homeschool leader and CPA, Carol Topp, has the answers to your questions in her book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization.

This 130 page book covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

 

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The federal government might be shut down, but you still have to file 1099-MISC by January 31

The US government is partially shut down, but taxpayers still must file their 1099-MISC forms by January 31, 2019.

Your homeschool business, tutoring program, nonprofit organization, co-op or community must give a 1099-MISC to anyone you paid more than $600 in 2018.

 

Greatland cpa academy webinar yearli logo

I recommend you use an online filing system like Yearli.com Core program by Greatland (my affiliate link). I’ve used them for years.

Yearli by Greatland is the best way for businesses to file 1099 and W-2 forms.

I used to buy forms at an office supply store, upload the software, type in the data, run the forms through my printer, and mail them all off! Even just a few 1099-MISC could take a long time! And heaven forbid you misfeed the red ink IRS forms into your printer (I did!). You could not make a mistake or back to the office supply store to but another set! Ugh!

Yearli by Greatland makes it so easy and they charge only $4.99 per 1099-MISC. They send a copy to the IRS and mail a copy to the recipient. Simple!

You’ll receive 15% off your filings because I referred you.
You will need the following information:

  • Your business or organization’s legal name, address and EIN number
  • The recipient’s name, address, SSN number and total amount paid in 2018.

Don’t forget you have to have the 1099-MISCs completed by January 31, 2019!

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

 

Is ignorance of tax law a good defense for homeschool teachers?

A homeschool leader became concerned about a paid teacher in her homeschool group. It seems this woman has not reported her income from teaching at the homeschool program for 7 years!

The teacher has refused to listen when others try to explain her tax obligation.

The leader told me that the teacher “stops me in mid sentence because she wants to claim ignorance if she were to get audited.”

She believes she could claim, “I didn’t know.”

 So is ignorance of the tax laws a good defense?

Not typically!

Typically, ignorance of the law is not a defense in our criminal justice system.  Under a long-standing legal fiction, defendants are, instead, presumed to know the law. Source: https://www.freemanlaw-pllc.com/cheek-defense-federal-tax-crimes/

 

But in this case, the teacher is NOT ignorant of her obligation to report her income.

She is willfully blind.

“Most courts agree that if the taxpayer willfully remains “blind” to his or her obligations under the tax laws, no valid defense can exist.” Source: https://thetaxlawyer.com/…/tax-law-mistake-ignorance…

 

In other words, since the paid teacher is being willfully blind, she has no defense as to why she is evading income tax.

And as a taxpayer I don’t like it when other people evade taxes!

 

Your responsibility as a homeschool leader is to file the required reports, either a 1099-MISC (for Independent Contractors) or W-2 (for employees) with the IRS by January 31 each year.

 

My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization explains the required reports your homeschool group should be giving to its workers (and a whole lot more!)

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

Should your homeschool Director serve as a board member?

Sometimes a homeschool groups gets large enough that they want to hire or pay their Director. In nonprofits that position is usually called the Executive Director or even Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

It is usually the first paid position in a nonprofit.

The Executive Director is similar to a pastor at a church. He (or she, depending on your denomination) is hired by the board of the church and does a lot of the day-to-day running of the church.

It’s similar in a homeschool nonprofit: the paid director is hired by the board to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization.

But should that hired Director serve on your board?

BoardSource (an excellent website for help in running your nonprofit board) says., ”

BoardSource also recommends nonvoting status for chief executives, unless not permitted by law. We embrace nonvoting status in recognition of the fact that actual or perceived conflicts of interest may naturally come along with the pairing of this position with board member status.

 

I, too, like the idea of a paid Director serving as a nonvoting board member.

I’ve seen it work well on some boards to have the Director attend meetings, give a report, share her opinion, etc, but not be allowed a vote.

When I served on my church’s board of trustees, the pastor came to the meeting, gave a report, was free to voice an opinion, but had no vote. That way he avoided a conflict of interest.

The paid Director should not vote because she has a conflict of interest: Is she thinking of the good of the group first and foremost or is she thinking about her job and her paycheck?

The volunteer Director does not have that conflict of interest, so he or she is usually still given voting rights.

If you decide to pay your Director:

  • Make sure you update your bylaws
  • Adopt a Conflict of Interest policy.
  • Read about paying people in your homeschool organization.

Need help with those issues?

 

My book, Homeschool Organization Board Manual can help with:

  • Sample Conflict of Interest policies
  • Sample Bylaws
  • Board descriptions
  • Compensation and Benefits for Board Members

 

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com

 

 

Summer reading for homeschool leaders: Paying Workers in a 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,

 

This book began in 2009 as a 20 page ebook. Homeschooling has changed a lot in the past 9 years and homeschool leaders are asking a lot of questions about paying workers. The book grew from 20 to 130 pages!
I expanded it in 2016 and then it needed an update in late 2017!
 

This 130 page book covers paying workers as employees or independent contractors. There are also chapters on paying volunteers and board members. It includes sample forms, tips and advice to help you pay workers in accordance with the IRS laws to help your organization pay their workers correctly. Written specifically for homeschool organizations.

 Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Can You Pay a Volunteer?Chapter 2: Paying Board Members and Other LeadersChapter 3: Employee or Independent Contractor? Worker ClassificationChapter 4: Guidelines for Hiring Independent Contractors

Chapter 5: Tax Forms for Independent Contractors

Chapter 6: Payroll Taxes for Employers

Chapter 7: Tax Forms for Employers

Chapter 8: Sample Agreements

Chapter 9: Resources

Who should read this book?
  • Anyone running a homeschool organization that pays workers of any kind.
  • Anyone who wonders is a volunteer be paid?
  • Anyone who has ever asked,”Should a worker be treated as an employee or independent contractor?”
  • Anyone who gives payments or significant discounts to board members or volunteers.
 Carol Topp, CPA

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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

 

Why I think most homeschool teachers should be paid as employees

 

I state pretty clearly in my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization (3rd edition) that teachers in a homeschool program should be treated as employees not Independent Contractors.

I’ve gotten some push back on my opinion.  I understand why. No one likes the expense and paperwork involved in employees, especially when they are  hiring part-time and seasonal employees.


But my goal is to keep homeschool organizations and their leaders out of trouble with the IRS and state governments. We don’t need a target on our backs! So I’m going to stick to my opinion because I think it’s correct and best protects homeschool leaders.


So let me explain why I have the opinion I do:

The IRS guidelines on worker classification are where I start. The IRS has the old 20-factor test and the newer 3 factor common law rules. I wrote about both of these guidelines extensively in Paying Workers.

But, I base my opinion on more than the IRS guidelines. I base it on hours of reading IRS rulings and tax court cases and my understanding of how homeschool programs operate.

I also base my opinion on this statement given by Bertrand M Harding, an attorney who specializes in nonprofit law. In his book The Tax Law of Colleges and Universities (Third Edition, Wiley, 2008) he writes,

“In at least one audit, the IRS agents asserted that, because instruction is such a basic and fundamental component of a college or university*, individuals who are hired to provide instruction should always be treated as employees because the school is so interested and involved in what they do that it will always exercise significant direction and control over their activities.” (emphasis added)

* The IRS was specifically addressing instructors at colleges and universities, but I believe their conclusion applies to public schools, private schools, and homeschool programs as well.

Some homeschool leaders differ with my opinion. I believe they are putting themselves at risk and I caution them about IRS penalties, etc. The Landry Academy IRS problems was a wake up call of how bad it can get. Although I don’t know the particular details on the financial penalties faced by Landry Academy, it was significant enough that the business declared bankruptcy.

I released a podcast on creative ways that homeschool co-ops can hire teachers without paying them as employees. Creative Ways to Run Your Co-op Without Employees

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com