My homeschool is a private school. Can I use 529 funds?

I explained in “Can homeschoolers use 529 plans? Maybe!” that you can use 529 savings account funds for tuition paid to 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 without  penalty or taxes.

So that begs the question,

“In my state, my homeschool is considered a private school. So can I use 529 funds for my private school/homeschool expenses?”

No. Sorry!

Here’s why:

The expenses must be to pay tuition. You don’t pay yourself tuition! That would be silly and not tax-smart.

Your other homeschool expenses such as books, curriculum, school supplies, field trips and are not paymnets for tuition and so you cannot use 529 funds without paying a hefty penalty!

Tuition payments to organizations that are not schools like your local co-op, Classical Conversations, etc.  cannot use 529 funds either (without incurring taxes and a 10% penalty!)

Carol Topp, CPA

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

What homeschool expenses can I deduct on my taxes?

Here’s a list of homeschool expenses you can deduct on your federal income tax return (Form 1040):

1.

Yes, that’s the list! It’s empty. There are NO homeschool expenses that you can deduct on your individual federal income tax return.

(Sorry for the click bait in the title!)

Homeschooling expenses are personal expenses, like groceries or clothes, and are not tax deductible on the US federal income tax return.

You cannot deduct your groceries or your clothes on your tax return and you cannot deduct your homeschooling expenses on your federal income tax return, either.

A few states may allow a tax deduction, a tax credit, or an educational saving account. But not your Uncle Sam (the US federal government).

 

Clever ideas to dodge taxes (that won’t work)

Sometimes homeschool families try to get clever and think that they will form a homeschool business and deduct the expenses. The idea is for the dad to hire his wife to teach their children. Then they can deduct school supplies, the mom’s wages as a homeschool teacher, etc.

Sounds pretty clever, huh? Except it doesn’t work anymore than paying mom to cook and feed the family by running an “in-house restaurant” won’t work. That’s because in both these plans (homeschooling as a business and in-house restaurant) there are no customers that are paying for the mom’s services.

Also, the mom has to declare her income to the IRS and she will have to pay taxes on it! That’s why families don’t hire mom to run an in-house restaurant and they shouldn’t hire mom to homeschool the kids either.

So forget the idea of forming your family homeschool as a business.

Homeschools as private school. Any tax breaks?

Some states treat homeschools as private schools, so some families think they can avoid taxes by declaring their private homeschool as a nonprofit organizations and get tax exempt status as a private school. That’s pretty clever too, huh? Only it won’t work.

Briefly, a nonprofit organization exists to serve a group, not an individual. The IRS will not grant “recognized charity” 501(c)(3) tax exempt status to a group that is formed solely to benefit the founder’s family. A tax exempt organization must serve a public good.

The IRS forbids private “inurement” in 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations. Inurement means to be beneficial or advantageous. Inurement occurs when an organization is formed or operates with an incorrect charitable purpose that allows individuals in control to directly and personally benefit from the organization. 501(c)(3) organizations can lose their tax exempt status for practicing inurement.

So forget the idea of your family homeschool becoming a nonprofit organization.

 

In the end, do what the rest of use do, pay your taxes.

Don’t look to Uncle Sam to give you a tax break because you choose to educate your children at home. Instead appreciate the freedom we have an Americans to homeschool.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Ebook Taxes for CC Licensed Directors almost ready!

I just sent the final (I hope) version of my  ebook Taxes for Classical Conversions Licensed Directors off to Classical Conversations, Inc!

The ebook will be distributed by Classical Conversations, Inc to their licensed directors. It is my understanding that the ebook will be available at no charge to the licensed directors.

Update: The ebook was released on the Directors License Guide in late March 2018. Find it here.

If you’ve already prepared your tax return for 2017, you should STILL read this ebook to be sure you did everything correctly!

If you are not a licensed director with CC, I cannot share or sell a copy with you (sorry!), but I recommend you read the following blog posts:

CC Directors: Do not give yourself a 1099-MISC

Tax return for a Classical Conversations homeschool business

I’m a Classical Conversations Director. Do I have to file any forms with the IRS?

Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

 

Carol Topp, CPA


Free Resource

In the ebook, I mention a bookkeeping spreadsheet for CC Directors. You can get the spreadsheet now (all it costs is your email!)

 


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Any Tax Deductions for Homeschoolers This Year?

 

Are there any tax deductions for homeschoolers this year?

Carol Topp, CPA answered this question originally back in 2014, but the answer is still the same-even with the new tax laws passed in 2017. Additionally, Carol gives some details on college expenses that are tax deductible and tax advantaged college savings plans.

This is a repeat of a podcast episode aired in 2014. I (Carol) caught a nasty cold and sinus infection and couldn’t talk without coughing for several weeks. I hope you find the re-broadcast of this episode helpful!

 

In the podcast Carol mentioned these resources:

Home School Legal Defense Association has an explanation of some states’ tax breaks or credits:http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200504150.asp

Ann Zeise of A to Z Home’s Cool has a great, detailed and lengthy post of tax write-offs for homeschoolers:
https://a2zhomeschooling.com/laws/homeschool_laws_legalities/tax_deductions_educational_writeoffs/

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Taxes for Classical Conversations Directors

Last tax year I was asked a lot of questions about taxes by Classical Conversations directors and tutors. Things like:

  • What tax form should I to use to report my income and expenses?
  • What expenses were tax deductible?
  • What tax forms do I need to give to my tutors?
  • How should tutors be paid?
  • How do I pay myself as a CC Director?

Fortunately, there is an ebook in the works to help CC Directors titled:

Taxes for Classical Conversions Directors

The ebook is available only to Licensed CC Directors from Classical Conversations, Inc

You can find the ebook here

 

I recommend the following blog posts:

CC Directors: Do not give yourself a 1099-MISC

Tax return for a Classical Conversations homeschool business

I’m a Classical Conversations Director. Do I have to file any forms with the IRS?

Understanding Taxes for a small homeschool business

Consult a local small business CPA. To find a local tax preparer I recommend two sources:

Both of these websites allow you to search for a local tax preparer who is knowledgeable about taxes for small sole proprietor businesses.

 

Carol Topp, CPA


Free Resource

In the ebook, I mention a bookkeeping spreadsheet for CC Directors. You can get the spreadsheet now (all it costs is your email!)

 


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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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Can my landlord get a tax deduction for the free rent he gives us?

I have a few questions for you about a tax deduction for our “landlord.” We just received 501(c)(3) tax exempt status form the IRS. Does this mean that our landlord can claim a deduction the reduced rent she gave us?  RW

 

Dear RW,

Donations of cash or physical goods to your organization are tax deductible charitable donations.  But donations of services or use of leased property is not a tax deduction.

If your landlord gave your homeschool organization free or reduced rent, that is not a tax deductible donation for the landlord. Sorry.

Here are some articles that explain the IRS rules on donating leased space.
Can landlords take a tax-deduction for the donation of leased space?

When a property owner transfers title to a charity of all or part of real property, the owner can generally take a tax deduction for the gift.  However, offering a charity leased space for free or at a reduced rate is a not a gift of an ownership interest and is not considered deductible by the IRS.

Landlords do a good deed by donating leased space to a charity but they are not permitted to receive a tax benefit for their action.

Tax treatment of the provision of rent free

For this reason, donations of services or loans of property to a charity do not qualify as gifts because they do not transfer a property interest to the charity. They simply allow the charity to use the property of the donor, or to benefit from the donor’s services, free of charge.

Here’s the official word from the IRS from Revenue Ruling 70-477.

“a contribution, made after July 31, 1969, to a charitable organization of the right to use property is treated as a contribution of less than the entire interest in the property and does not give rise to a deduction.”

In other words, if someone donates a building (i.e. “the entire interest in the property” ) to a charity, it is a tax deductible donation. But if the contribution is the right to use the property, then there is no tax deductible donation.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Accepting contributions for a needy family

Hi Carol,
We just suddenly lost a dad from our homeschool co-op.  He leaves a wife and 6 children.  We have been receiving donations for them left and right through PayPal.  We will also start receiving checks from various people and churches.
As a 501c3 organization, what is our responsibility with donation letters and such?  For PayPal payments, I’ve been forwarding the receipt to the donor, thanking them for their donation and reminding them to hold on to their PayPal receipt for tax purposes as we are a 501c3 and their donation is tax deductible.
MG in NJ

So sorry for the loss of one of your fathers. How horribly sad.

What are you doing with these contributions? Are you passing them along to the family who lost their father/husband? I imagine that you are and that is very kind of you, but then these are not tax deductible donations. These contributions are gifts to the family (funneled through your co-op). Gifts to an individual family are NOT tax deductible donations to the donor.

The IRS rules for tax deductible donations are quite clear: contributions earmarked for a certain individual (or family) including those that are needy or worthy are not deductible.

IRS Publication 526

Contributions to Individuals

You can’t deduct contributions to specific individuals, including the following.

Contributions to individuals who are needy or worthy. You can’t deduct these contributions even if you make them to a qualified organization for the benefit of a specific person. But you can deduct a contribution to a qualified organization that helps needy or worthy individuals if you don’t indicate that your contribution is for a specific person.

The reason the donors funneled these gifts through your homeschool organization is that they want a tax deductible receipt, but you should not give the donors a tax deductible receipt for these gifts that are designated to go to the specific family.

My advice at this point is to thank people for their contributions, but do not give out tax deductible receipts. Some nonprofit experts advise that you tell the donors that their gift is not a tax-deductible contribution.

 

P.S. You might want to contact The Homeschool Foundation, a benevolent fund established by Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). They have a fund just for widows to help purchase curriculum.

Carol Topp, CPA
HomeschoolCPA.com

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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