Should your homeschool group be collecting sales tax?

Sales tax. Ugh!! As if dealing with the IRS and income tax isn’t enough of a headache, your homeschool organization might need to be collecting and paying sales tax as well!

From the Church Law and Tax blog comes some helpful information about sales tax that applies to homeschool organizations.

Sales taxes are collected in 44 states. Each state has a different sales tax statute and exempts certain types of purchasers from the payment of sales tax.

Some states exempt any organization with 501(c)(3) status from paying sales tax on purchases. Other states offer limited sales tax exemptions.

Collecting Sales Tax

But I’m not talking about paying sales tax when you buy stuff like paper towels or microscopes.

I’m talking about when your homeschool group sells stuff (aka tangible personal property).

What kind of stuff? How about:

  • Text books (some states exempt textbooks form sales tax.)
  • Tickets to drama performances (yes, some states add sales tax to ticket sales!!)
  • Food sales (in some states food sales, especially snack foods and soft drinks are sales-taxable)
  • T shirts, even if they are a fundraiser!

The rules for when an organization is exempt from collecting sales tax are different form the rules about paying sales tax.

Most states do not exempt churches from collecting sales tax on taxable transactions. As a result, a church that conducts taxable transactions is required to have a sales tax permit.

Most states have a nuisance exception to the requirement of having a sales tax permit, which allows churches to have taxable sales a couple of days a year without the requirement of collecting sales tax. Since every state is different, you should check with your state revenue department. (Source: https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2008/september/exceptions-to-exemption.html)

 

For example: In Ohio a homeschool co-op with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status can buy things (like books, supplies, etc) without paying sales tax.

But Ohio only allows nonprofits 5 days a year to hold sales without collecting sales tax. It’s kind of like they are saying, “use those 5 days wisely…you only get 5 sales-tax free days to sell stuff each year!” So maybe the co-op wants to have a big fundraising event and sell items. That’s one of the 5 days they can sell items and not have to collect sales tax.

 

Sales Tax on Fundraiser Sales

You may be thinking your homeschool group can avoid collecting sales tax because you only sell things as part of a fundraiser. Sorry, bed news…

Virtually any form of fundraiser that involves the sale of a product will also require the collection of sales tax. (Source: https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2008/september/exceptions-to-exemption.html)

Sales Tax Laws vary by State

Each state has different rules about how and what they apply sales tax to and what organizations can be exempt from collecting sales tax.

It will take some detective work to figure out what your state’s rules are! It’s one of the headaches of living in a country with 50 states (and Washington DC!).

How to Get Help

  • Start with your state’s department of revenue website. Look for words like “sales tax” and then “exemptions” Then look for words like “nonprofit” and “exemption.” Happy reading. The states don’t make it easy to find the exceptions to taxes!
  • Google “Sales tax exemption nonprofit YOUR STATE” and start hunting.
  • I find TaxJar.com and Avalara.com are two helpful websites with information on sales tax.
  • Contact me, Carol Topp, CPA. I’ve done the detective work for several states (about 30) and can sometimes help you or at least point you in the right direction. I charge a fee for this research of $50.

Carol Topp, CPA

HomeschoolCPA.com