Tax deductible donations without IRS determination letter

We have an EIN and file 990-N annually but fall under the classification of a group self declares our tax exempt status because we make less than $5,000 a year. We have not gone through the formal 501(c)(3) application process with the IRS. I was talking with IRS today and I believe I understood them to say we cannot give a form to a donor stating their contribution is tax deductible.

If that is the case how can we assure potential donors we are tax deductible and doesn’t a donor need documentation for when they file their taxes?

Mark

 

Mark,

One of the major drawbacks for small 501(c)(3) organizations who chose to “self-declare” their tax exempt status is that they lack the official IRS determination letter proving that donations are tax deductible (See the photo above for an example of the IRS determination letter).

This important letter can give donors assurance that their donations are indeed tax deductible.

Technically, your organization can still receive tax deductible donations, but your organization lacks “proof” to show a donor.

A donor must keep a record if the donation is more than $250. This record is usually a letter from the charity, but a bank record (a cancelled check) may suffice. This record is only given to the IRS if the donor is being audited by the IRS.

Your homeschool group may be listed in the IRS database of Exempt Organizations since you have been filing your  Form 990-Ns every year. Visit IRS Select Check and see if your can find your organization listed as “Has filed Form 990-N” or “Are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.” If you are in the IRS database you can be assured that you can accept tax deductible contributions.

The best way to assure potential donors would be to file the Form 1023-EZ (fee $275 to the IRS and takes about 3-4 weeks). Then you get the official IRS determination letter.

I can assist you in filing the Form 1023-EZ. While it is a much simpler form than the full Form 1023, it can be confusing and you will want to be sure it is filed correctly.

Email me if you’d like my help.
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

Q&A: Adding another program under your homeschool group’s umbrella

Super Bowl LII is over. Did your team win? Perhaps your homeschool group is considering adding football team.

Tricia, a treasurer if a homeschool program in Texas asked questions here and here about adding a football program. The homeschool group has 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

She had several questions about tax exempt status and financial oversight.

  1.  What steps with the IRS do we need to follow to bring them under our homeschool group’s tax exempt umbrella?
  2. What forms would we need to file?
  3. Would they share our tax ID number or would they need their own?  What are concerns should we consider in doing this?
  4. The benefits to our members are obvious, but we don’t want to overlook concerns if there are any.  They would handle their own bank account, but how much would we need to manage?

 

Tricia,

I read your 501(c)(3) tax exempt application given to the IRS and see that sports teams was part of your mission. That’s good, because you do not have to approach the IRS and ask for permission to add the football program; it was included in your original tax exempt application.

Here are my answers to your questions:

1. When you file your 990 or 990-EZ Annual Information Return with the IRS, you simply list the football program as one of your programs. If your gross revenues are under $50,000 per year, you’ll file the simple Form 990-N and no explanation is required.

2. There are no additional forms to file beyond the annual Form 990/990-EZ or 990-N. That’s because sports teams was part of your mission in your original tax exempt application.

3. Use your main group’s EIN (tax ID number). The football program is just another activity run by the main group, so you should expect the typical concerns such as: Are they following policies, being careful, keeping good financial records and practices, etc? My book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization can help in this area.

4. Your main organization should have oversight of the football program’s bank balances. This includes allowing you, as the main group’s treasurer, access to their bank account online and require they give you a monthly bank reconciliation report and monthly reports of the income and expenses.

This may be a lot of extra work for you as a volunteer treasurer, so you may need to hire a bookkeeper or recruit more help from volunteers.

Tricia asked her questions by email. I can do that  for your homeschool program, but it is very time consuming to read and reply to emails. I charge a reduced rate of $50/hour to read and reply to emails. Or perhaps a phone call would be better. Contact me to arrange a private phone consultation.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

What is the IRS planning to do in 2018 for tax exempt organizations?

The IRS Exempt Organization (EO) released their 2018 work plan. It reviews what they did in 2017 and what they will focus on in 2018.

(Note: this is not the individual or business part of the the IRS. This is only the tax exempt part of the IRS.)
Here’s an excerpt that affects homeschool tax exempt organizations:

IRS EO expects to receive an increased number of determination applications in FY 2018. In early 2018, the EO will implement revisions to the Form 1023-EZ, including a required activity description and additional questions on gross receipts, asset thresholds, and foundation classification. As a result of these changes, EO expects the average processing time for a Form 1023-EZ to increase. EO will continue pre-determination reviews of a statistical sample of Form 1023-EZ applications and will continue to analyze the data from these applications to mitigate risks and identify opportunities to improve this form and its instructions.

Okay, now in plain English, the IRS EO (Exempt Organization) will:

  • Ask for a short description of your activities when applying for 501(c)(3) status using the short Form 1023-EZ.
  • They will ask more questions about:
    • Your gross receipts (your sources of income)
    • Your assets (what you own) and
    • what kind of foundation you are. Most homeschool groups are public charities and not private foundations, so most likely this won’t affect you.

The IRS expects it will take longer to get 501(c)(3) approval using Form 1023-EZ. Right now it takes about 2-3 weeks.

They will still randomly sample some 1023-EZ applications and decide if they need to make changes to the form in the future.

 

If your homeschool group has questions about tax exempt status or would like to apply for tax exempt status, please contact me.

Carol Topp, CPA

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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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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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Is there a difference between a 501c3 and an association?

Carol,
Is there a difference between a 501c3 and an association?
T.W.

T.W.,
501(c)(3) is a tax exempt status granted by the IRS to qualified nonprofit organizations (most of them are nonprofit corporations) whose purposes include charity, religious, and educational (and a few other purposes).

The word “association” does not have a specific legal definition. Associations are a gathering of people for a cause. Associations are typically nonprofit organizations. They can be unincorporated or be formed as nonprofit corporations.

Some associations may qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, some may not. For example I am a member of the Ohio Society of CPAs. It is a business association for CPAs in Ohio. It has tax exempt status as a 501(c)(6) business league, but not 501(c)(3) status.

If you’re confused by the words, nonprofit, association, 501(c)(3), this short video may help clear things up:

 

I hope that helps,

Carol Topp, CPA

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Tax Exempt Q&A with Homeschool Leaders

 

Have questions about tax exempt status for your homeschool group?

This short podcast episode (16 minutes) from Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA,  is an excerpt from the Indiana Homeschool Leaders Retreat. Carol Topp discusses tax exempt status and answers questions from homeschool leaders about self-declaring tax exempt status for your homeschool support group.

 

 

In the podcast I mentioned my book

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

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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How Do I Get a Tax Exempt Number?

How does a nonprofit get tax exempt number from the IRS? They don’t!

In this short podcast Carol Topp CPA explains tax ID numbers and the various state agencies that may assign tax numbers.

Listen to the podcast (9 1/2 minutes)

FEATURED PRODUCT from HomeschoolCPA:

State Filings for Non-Profits

You’re not finished with paperwork when you receive tax exemption from the IRS. Your state may have several required forms for you to file as well. Carol Topp, CPA can help your homeschool nonprofit understand what forms to file with your state.

Click Here to request more information!

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Don’t tell the IRS your homeschool group is a private foundation (if it’s not).

upset_womansquare

Oh this is a sad, sad story.

I’ve seen this twice recently: a homeschool group prepares their own 501(c)(3) application (Form 1023 or 1023-EZ) with the IRS and incorrectly tells the IRS they are a private foundation.

Homeschool co-ops or other nonprofit educational programs are not private foundations. Private foundations are charitable organizations that are funded by an individual, family, or corporation, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Homeschool organizations are public charities, serving the public good (the education of children). Both of these homeschool organizations didn’t think of themselves as charities. They misunderstood that the IRS uses the word charity to include educational organizations. They also didn’t think of themselves as “public,” because they didn’t not understand the IRS use of that word.

The IRS means serving a public good and being supported financially by the “public” (meaning lots of people) but that does not mean you have to open your doors to the general public! You may still have an application process and limit your membership or participation to your programs.

I spend a lot of time with my nonprofit clients explaining the IRS terms and proper classification, but neither of these organizations hired me to prepare their Form 1023/1023-EZ. Neither of them even asked for a phone consultation or for me to look over the application before sending it to the IRS.

Now they have a real mess on their hands.

They have to file an IRS form to change their status. This requires providing financial statements, explanations, and supporting documents and IRS fees.  Meanwhile, they have to be filing a Form 990-PF, which is quite complex. You need an experienced CPA to prepare a 990-PF.

This is going to be expensive and time consuming. It will probably cost hundreds of dollars in IRS and CPA fees to get it straightened out.

Sad, sad, sad…

Carol Topp, CPA

Helping homeschool leaders with tax and legal compliance

 

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