Can you discount a homeschool co-op class in lieu of paying the teacher?

Are volunteer teachers in a homeschool co-op allowed to get free or discounted classes? Do they need to claim the amount on their yearly income?

We have independent contractors  who work for our homeschool organization. Are they allowed to get discounted classes instead of getting paid their full amount of payment?

How do we do the paperwork properly?

Mr M.

 

Dear Mr M,

Volunteers are treated differently than your paid independent contractor teachers, so I will respond to each separately.

Volunteers

Volunteers may receive discounts or free classes from your homeschool organization. It is not included in their taxable income, if it is insignificant. It should be understood by everyone that the discount is in appreciation of the volunteer’s efforts and not payment for services. The volunteers should understand that discounts are not guaranteed.

Independent Contractors

Independent Contractors (IC) can receive discounts from their class fees, but the discount needs to be added to their compensation when reported on a 1099MISC. Even if the IC doesn’t receive an 1099MISC from you, the value of the discounted classes should be reported as income on his or her tax return. You may want to explain that in a  letter or include it in your written Independent Contractor agreement.

Can you discount a class in lieu of paying a teacher?

Homeschool organizations should not be offsetting an independent contractor’s payments for her services, which is taxable earned income, by the amount the contractor owes for her child to attend your co-op classes,  which is a personal  expense (i.e. not tax deductible).

I recommend that the teacher should be paid the full amount earned and in a separate transaction, she should pay her tuition to your co-op. 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 IC needs to report to the IRS. It’s mixing taxable income with a non-tax-deductible personal expense.

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

 

Are homeschool co-op tuition discounts taxable income? Probably!

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Carol,

I see a lot of schools (homeschooling co-ops, private schools, etc) that offer tuition discounts or reduction for parent volunteer hours. If a parent volunteers to teach a  class a few hours a week and receives a tuition reduction for this commitment, is this considered taxable income for the parent?

I have also read this:

“IRS has broadly interpreted a worker’s “compensation” to also include the amount of free or reduced tuition that is given to a parent in consideration for his or her service to the school or church. A worker is no longer considered to be “volunteering” if he or she receives something of value “in kind” for his or her service. In the situation of a working parent whose child is enrolled in the school, it is the student’s waived tuition amount normally charged to nonworking parents that will constitute the worker’s taxable wage amount.”

I would love any follow up information you have about this. Thanks again!

Joanna R.

 

Dear Joanna,

I read the quote you provided with a lot of interest. I did a little research and came across IRS Publication 3079 which, although its title is “Tax Exempt Organizations and Gaming,” had a helpful section titled, “Volunteer Labor”

It stated something I didn’t want to read,

“Compensation is interpreted broadly. A worker who obtains goods or services at a reduced price in return for his services may be considered to be compensated.”

 

When the IRS says “compensated,” they mean taxable income. Ugh! That could mean that hard working volunteers in a homeschool organization, who get a discount on tuition, could have to report and pay taxes on this “compensation.”

But, as with all IRS documents, I kept reading Publication 3079 and found this:

On the other hand, a worker who receives merely insignificant monetary or non-monetary benefits is considered a volunteer, not a compensated worker.
Determining whether a benefit is insignificant requires consideration not only of the value of the benefit but also:
•The quantity and quality of the work performed;
•The cost to the organization of providing the benefit; and
•The connection between the benefit received and the performance of services.
(emphasis added)

 

So, if a co-op gives an insignificant monetary benefit to its volunteers, it is not taxable income. The IRS does not define insignificant, but here ares two examples that might help:

Insignificant benefits to a volunteer
A volunteer teacher was given a $50 discount off her $250 tuition for teaching a class. She put in a minimum of 30 hours preparing and teaching this semester-long class. That’s is an hourly rate of less than $2/hour. That seems pretty insignificant to me! It cost nothing for the co-op to offer this benefit. The co-op offered this discount as an incentive to increase volunteerism and it was not payment for services.

Significant benefits are taxable income
Another co-op gave their director several thousands of dollars in gift cards to grocery stores and Target, gave her children free tuition worth $1,500,  waived all field trip fees, theater ticket fees and registration fees amounting to hundreds more in benefits. These were NOT insignificant and were compensation for her services. The co-op thought that by giving gift cards and reduced tuition they could avoid payroll taxes and the paperwork of hiring and paying their director as an employee. They were wrong! The director should be treated as an employee. She should report all these benefits as taxable compensation.

Conclusion
Homeschool leaders should determine if the benefits of reduced tuition of fees they are giving to volunteers are insignificant. Look to the IRS guidelines in IRS Publication 3079 listed above. If the benefits are significant and are compensation for services, then it needs to be reported as taxable income to the worker/volunteer.

My ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help you determine the paperwork and reporting for workers.

Carol Topp, CPA

Will a nonprofit owe taxes on income from selling ads?

GirlThrowsMoney
We considering including advertising in our conference brochure. Can we consider this conference (exhibitor) income? Or is it UBI (Unrelated Business Income)?
We are also considering placing advertising in our magazine (and our website). Is this UBI? And how do we track it? And how do we report it? And what percent taxes would we pay on it?
Dorothy in OR
Dear Dorothy,
Advertising revenue is definitely Unrelated Business Income (UBIT) in the eyes of the IRS, because selling ads is not related to your tax exempt purpose (education), but you can avoid paying taxes on the unrelated business income in several ways.

The IRS offers several exceptions to UBI Tax (UBIT):

  1.     A $1,000 threshold allows that the first $1,000 in income from an unrelated business will not be taxed.
  2.     If the fundraiser (or unrelated business) is run substantially by volunteer efforts (i.e., no paid staff) then the proceeds are not taxed.
  3.     If the fundraiser is not regularly carried on, such as a once-a-year spaghetti supper, then the proceeds are not subject to UBIT.
  4.     If you are selling donated items, like in a garage sale, the income raised is not taxed.

I think #1 or #2 will apply to your group, so can get income from advertising without worrying about paying tax on it.

It’s a good idea to create a line item in your record keeping labeled “Advertising Income” so it’s clearly differentiated from other income.

Carol Topp, CPA

Can homeschool teachers be allowed to keep extra money as a donation?

Dollarsinhand

Dear Carol,

I have purchased and am reading your ebook Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization. Thank you for making this available!

We are a co-operative, so all are teachers are basically volunteers. I do, however, collect on their behalf an estimated class contribution to help them cover costs related to teaching: curriculum, printing handouts and lesson plans, consumables used in class etc. This amount is determined by the teacher, usually $5-10 up to $50 per semester depending on the class. These funds are collected and then dispersed to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. We don’t require receipts or an accounting to be submitted. Any remaining funds are considered a “donation” to the teacher to recognize their time and effort in preparing and teaching the class. Teachers are not required refund monies back to the families.

Most of us feel that this structure is reasonable. However, one member is questioning. Does our policy seem acceptable from a legal position?

Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to answer my questions.

God bless your service,
Rose

Rose,

Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the book was helpful. It’s been updated since you read it and has grown from a 20 page ebook, to a 130-page paperback.

This statement bothers me greatly, “We don’t require receipts or an accounting to be submitted. Any remaining funds are considered a “donation” to the teacher to recognize their time and effort in preparing and teaching the class.”

When you do not request receipts, you are running what the IRS calls an “non-accountable” plan for reimbursements.

The remaining funds that you let your teachers keep is not a donation, it is a payment for services and is taxable income that needs to be reported to the IRS. Actually, the full amount you give to the teachers is taxable income under a non-accountable plan.

I have written a few blog posts on the topic of paying volunteers, requesting receipts for reimbursements, etc. Please read these:

No receipts for expenses can get you in trouble
and
Should my homeschool co-op be giving any tax forms to our teachers?

In my book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization I discuss how to properly set up an accountable reimbursement plan (Chapter 7).

I hope you will change your practices (i.e set up an accountable plan for reimbursements and start requiring receipts) so that your teachers do not have to report their payments as taxable income.

You may also find my updated version of Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization helpful.

Carol Topp, CPA

 


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Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

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Congratulations to homeschool groups on tax exempt status!

Congratulations501c3

 

Congratulations to several homeschool organizations recently granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status by the IRS!

  • LifeShine from San Antonio, TX
  • Grace Home Educators of Martinsville, IN
  • United Christian Homeschool Association in Belton, KY
  • SCOPE Homeschool Group in Ashville, AL

Both Lifeshine and Grace had their tax exempt status automatically revoked for failure to file the IRS Form 990 for 3 consecutive years. Fortunately, I was able to help them get their tax exempt status reinstated and neither group owed any back taxes. Yeah!

Do you know about the IRS required annual reporting for ALL nonprofit organizations (that means your homeschool group, even if you never had to file any reports with the IRS before)?

Do you have questions about the tax exempt status of your organization?

Contact me and I will help your homeschool organization get tax exempt status (or get it back if it was revoked).

It’s better than paying taxes!

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Will fundraisers cause a homeschool support group to pay taxes?

uncle_sam_holding_money_pc_400_clr_1727

I looked at the description of the 501c(7) Social Club status, and also reviewed your comparison chart between c3 and c7 status. I agree that our homeschool group most closely fit the 501(c)(7) Social Club status.

However, I was wondering if our periodic fundraisers would cause us to be taxed – your chart says on income from other sources.  We hold the fundraisers when our funds from membership are too low to pay the rent and other costs.
Thank you,
Lisa R

 

Lisa,

I’m glad you’ve figured out the differences between 501c3 charity and 501c7 Social club status. It’s important to figure out where your group fits.

You asked if periodic fundraisers would cause you to be taxed. It could be a problem, but not likely.

In general, fundraisers are considered “unrelated income” and nonprofits must pay tax on unrelated income (called Unrelated Business Income Tax, or UBIT).

Fortunately, the IRS offers several ways to avoid the UBIT tax. The exceptions include:

1. If the fundraiser was substantially conducted by volunteers (if no one was paid to run the fundraiser, then the proceeds are not taxed)

2. The fundraiser proceeds under $1,000 is not taxed.

The IRS has more exceptions to UBIT, but one or both of these exceptions to paying unrelated business income tax probably apply to your group.

Additionally, the IRS requires 501c7 Social Clubs to have most of their income come from membership fees (65% or more). You probably saw that on the chart comparing 501c3 to a 501c7 Social Club.

So make sure that your fundraisers stay under 35% of your total income. You said they are periodic and sound as if they are secondary to your membership fees (“We hold the fundraisers when our funds from membership are too low to pay the rent and other costs”).

I hope that helps.

Carol Topp, CPA

Can board members be responsible for a nonprofit’s employer taxes?

taxCheck

If the IRS rules that a 501c3 nonprofit organization has misclassified its workers as independent contractors instead of employees, and the back taxes, fines, and/or penalties exceed the resources of the organization, what happens? Is it possible that the membership of the organization and/or members of the board could be financially responsible?

Lisa

Lisa,

Yes, the board members can be held personally responsible for employment taxes owed by a nonprofit organization. That’s why many nonprofits with employees have Director and Officers insurance.

Here’s a website that discusses paying employer taxes. (Employer taxes are slightly different from what you asked, but its still a tax/fine imposed by the IRS or state govt).

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/governancevoice/5516-not-paying-your-taxes-your-board-could-be-personally-liable.html

The author, a nonprofit attorney,  states

“If a nonprofit fails to pay taxes, the IRS may go after individual board members and executives to repay the money.…The IRS doesn’t want to discourage service on the boards of charitable organizations. But the IRS wants its money and will get it any way it can and from whomever it can prove was a responsible person.

Board members and senior executives of any charitable organization should be vigilant in ensuring that an organization is current in all its payment obligations to taxing authorities.”

Carol Topp, CPA

Tax forms for a special ed homeschool teacher

TaxAdviceLetters

Carol,

We started homeschooling our daughter who is special needs. We hired a special ed teacher and now with taxes around the corner we don’t know what we need to file.

Regards, B

Dear B,

I wrote a blog post on this topic that you may find helpful: Can I hire a homeschool governess?

In the article I mention the term “Household employee.” That’s the IRS term for nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, etc. who work in or around a personal residence.

Your hired teacher is probably not a “household employee.” Your hired teacher is probably similar to hiring a piano teacher or a tutor.Piano teachers and tutors are business owners, not household employees.  You are a customer of a person who is running her own business.

The teacher is the one who has to worry about reporting her income from you (or anyone else she works for) and deducing her expenses on her tax return.

I hope you had a clear discussion or written agreement with the special ed teacher about her employment status.

You do not get a tax deduction for what you pay her. There are (probably) no tax forms for you to give her.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

IRS reports your homeschool group needs to file every year

IRS reports for homeschool groups

Your homeschool group should be filing some reports every year with the IRS. Did you know that?

Carol Topp, the HomeschoolCPA, explains what forms homeschool groups should be filing with the IRS in this episode of the Dollars and Sense Show podcast.

Listen to the podcast here

In the podcast, Carol answers common questions from homeschool leaders such as:

  • We were told if our income is under $25,000 a year, we don’t have to file anything with the IRS. Is that true?
  • What changed? We never had to file anything with the IRS before!
  • But we’re not a 501c3 organizations (or don’t want to be), so why do we need to file anything with the IRS?
  • We don’t like government intervention. Why do we need to have anything to do with the IRS?
  • Our homeschool group doesn’t make any profit, so why do we have to file a tax return?
  • We’ve never filed anything with the IRS? We didn’t know we had to! Now what? Will be owe back taxes?

Here’s a helpful FAQ page explaining the IRS Form 990-N.

How to get added to the IRS database to file the Form 990-N.

If all this is new to you, don’t panic!

We can arrange a phone consultation with your homeschool leaders. Together we can sort out what needs to be done.

Contact me here.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Is this a gift or compensation to a homeschool leader?

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I just purchased your e-book, Paying Workers in an Homeschool Organization.   It only briefly touched upon the issue I am most interested in, and I am wondering if you have additional resources to answer my question.

Our Steering Committee decided years ago to provide certain gifts and perks to our chairman whom they were in danger of loosing due to her family suffering financially at the time.   The financial hardship has passed, but the gifts and perks remain. Currently, our chairman receives these annual benefits:

  1. $1,000 in gift cards (usually grocery and gas gift cards)
  2. $700 in classes for her children – these are the fees paid directly to the independent contractor teachers
  3. $100 -200 in waived registration fees (These are fees that the co-op charges members.)
  4. $160 in free pizza/drinks/snacks
  5. reimbursements for costumes and drama-related costs for her children (all other members pay for these)
  6. $300-$500 in cash gifts collected from members and given directly to the chairman.

She is the only one to receive gifts and perks out of the co-op budget.

This has been a very difficult conversation at our co-op because our chairman does do an enormous amount of work.

Thank you!

Anne in PA

 

Anne,

When I read the list of “perks” your chairman receives I was shocked! Wow!

Most board members are happy with flowers or a small gift card.

According to the IRS,  an officer who is paid is an employee. That means the gift cards, tuition discounts, and cash she received should have been reported to her on a W-2 and your group was supposed to pay employer taxes (SS/Medicare) on her “wages” and file quarterly tax forms with the IRS!

When you pay independent contractor teachers on her behalf, you are paying her personal expenses. The IRS considers payment of personal expenses as taxable compensation and it needs to be reported on a W-2. See  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopici93.pdf

My recommendation is to stop these excessive payments immediately. The IRS calls this “excess benefits” and can impose penalties and a 25% tax on what they deem “excessive.”

Here’s an excellent article on excessive benefits (they consider paying personal expenses for members of an officer’s family to be “excessive.”)
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/reporting-excess-benefit-transactions-the-irs.html

Here’s what they recommend:

If your nonprofit discovers an excess benefit transaction with a DP (disqualified person; i.e. , an insider or leader), it should make good faith efforts to correct it. To do this, you must have the disqualified person repay or return the excess benefit, plus interest, and then adopt measures to make sure the same situation doesn’t occur again. The IRS will take into account these efforts in deciding what penalties to impose and especially whether to revoke the nonprofit’s tax exemption. (emphasis added)

You can, of course, start paying her a salary that she will report as taxable income to the IRS. My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help with that!

Carol Topp, CPA


payingworkerscoveroutlined

Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization-2nd edition

$9.95 paperback
130 pages
Copyright 2017
ISBN 978-0-9909579-3-5

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