What tax forms do I file for a homeschool co-op?

IRS 1040 Forms Post Office April 14, 20112
Creative Commons License photo credit: stevendepolo

Carol’s book has been so helpful in getting our co-op organized. We have determined we are going to file Articles with our state and create by-laws and set ourselves up for a non profit corporation. With our fundraising and dues, we never bring in more than  $5,000. We probably have around 50-60 families returning this year. We are 100% volunteer based for our fundraising (silent auctions, garage sale.)
Come tax time, do we file with the IRS (like I do for our household every year?) For example, do we use turbo tax and file for our co-op? And if we have let’s say, $1,000 left at the end of the year, is that taxable? We do not want to zero out our account as it is nice to have a cushion for various reasons.

Lisa

Lisa,

Good questions!

Q: Come tax time, do we  file with the IRS (like I do for our household every year?) For example, do we  use turbo tax and file for our co-op?

A: Nope. This is a nonprofit organization, not part of your family/individual income, and not a for-profit business, either. Don’t use TurboTax. Please! (we tax preparers are not crazy about TT in general)

Technically, you would file a corporate tax return (Form 1120), but I would not recommend doing that.

Since your group qualifies as an automatic 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization (under $5,000 gross annual income), you could file a Form 990N. It’s an online form of only 5 questions. You may have to call and register with the IRS first, since you are not in their database. But many small nonprofits do not file the Form 990N at all.

(If you make more than $5,000 gross annual income, you must apply for tax exempt status and then will file the Form 990N or the Form 990EZ or the full 990 depending on the gross income of your organization. If your nonprofit has gross income of $50,000 or less, you file the Form 990N. That covers 99% of all homeschool organizations.  So the paperwork is quite small and easy to deal with.)

The IRS expects nonprofit corporations to file for tax exempt status with in 27 months of formation (the date of your nonprofit incorporation status from your state). So you have about 2 years to run your program before you have to file for tax exempt status. In the meantime, you can file Form 990N each year.

Q: And if we have let’s say, $1,000 left at the end of the year, is that taxable?
A: Taxable, unless you qualify for tax exempt status (either automatically or by application).
Q:We do not want to zero out our account as it is nice to have a cushion for various reasons.
A: Yes, that the reason why groups want tax exempt status. To reserve their surplus for future use. It’s a wonderful blessing in the USA that our gov’t allows charitable, religious and educational organizations to exist tax free. Not every country allows that!

Hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

P.S. I’m glad my books were helpful. I have just updated my book on  501(c)(3) tax exempt status for homeschool groups. It’s called  The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization and covers all this information in greater detail. Read about it here.

Paying teachers in a homeschool co-op is a sticky situation!

Amy asks a common question: paying teachers at a homeschool co-op

For the past several years, our group has spent more (thousands more) than we have charged our members. We’re not technically “in the red” because of more prosperous years in the past. The reason   we are spending so much money is that over 90% of our income goes to paying our parent-teachers ($15-$20/hour)! The rest of the money goes toward classroom supplies. I am sure that most parents are unaware of how the finances of this group are managed.

Have you heard of groups paying their teacher/parents? What do I need to understand about the various homeschool support and cooperative group structures that I don’t currently comprehend?  Help!
-Amy

Amy,

Your situation sounds very familiar to me. I too was treasurer of my 40 family co-op and found that 75% of our budget was going to pay four paid teachers. The other 20 teachers were volunteer parents, myself included. Not all the families were using a paid teacher, but all were chipping in to pay for them. We also were finding that people were offering to teach because they thought they could get paid. We were losing our cooperative spirit. I knew something needed to change.

About the same time I was helping another homeschool group with some independent contractor/employee issues with the IRS. I wrote about it on my blog. You can read about it here:

Is your homeschool group’s hired teacher really an employee?

Update on Independent Contractors.

We decided to follow IRS guidelines and have the parents pay the teachers directly, like you would pay a piano teacher. The co-op was no longer paying the teachers.

I did some number crunching and found that we could lower our co-op fee from $150/family/semester to $75/family/semester. In addition we offered a $50 discount for teaching a class.

What happened was amazing! Wonderful, talented homeschooling mothers volunteered to teach a class! We had more volunteers than we could accommodate. REALLY! If a mother volunteers to teach a class she only pays $25/semester for her family to attend 3 hours of classes at our co-op. If her child attends one of our paid classes (there are only 3, guitar, art and Spanish) then she pays the teacher directly. For example, I pay $65/semester for my daughter to take an art class. I think the teacher is worth it.

This got us out of the sticky employee/IC situation with the IRS. I’m writing fewer checks. It made my job as treasurer a lot easier and no 1099-MISC forms at the end of the year. No one complained. The spirit of cooperation has returned. YEAH!  I’ll also add that we let the volunteers decide what they wish to teach. If we cannot find a Spanish volunteer, no Spanish class is offered. If enough parents want Spanish we may see if a teacher can come to the co-op. We give her a room and she collects her fees from the parents directly.

My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help homeschool leaders understand the correct way to pay workers and volunteers in your homeschool group !

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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What is Unrelated Business Income Tax?

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Sometimes a homeschool group brings in a lot of money from fund raising. These efforts are so successful you may wonder if your group owes anything to the government in taxes. For the most part, fund raising is not considered part of your group’s mission; it is just a means to the end. After all, your group’s mission is to encourage homeschooling, not to sell ads, pizza or other products.

The Internal Revenue Service calls the money you raise “Unrelated Business Income,” meaning it is money collected in a trade or business that is not related to your primary mission. The IRS assess a tax on unrelated business income called the Unrelated Business Income Tax or UBIT. The purpose of this tax is to prevent nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations from having an unfair advantage over the for-profit marketplace.

The best example of unrelated business income is a gift shop in a nonprofit hospital. The income from a gift shop is not related to the hospital’s primary purpose of giving medical treatment, so the profits from the gift shop are taxed.

Your homeschool organization could have unrelated business income if you sell T-shirts, candy bars, entertainment books, candles, pizza coupons and a host of other products or if you make money from ads or Amazon commissions on your website.

Fortunately, the IRS has several exceptions to paying the UBIT tax:

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

One of these exceptions are bound to apply to most homeschool organizations.

The rules regarding UBIT are complex. You can read more about UBIT in IRS Publication 598 Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p598.pdf).

Carol Topp, CPA

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Educator Tax Deduction for Homeschoolers?

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The IRS gives a $250 tax deduction to educators for unreimbursed supplies they spend in the classroom.

Can homeschoolers take this deduction?

The IRS guidelines say to be an eligible educator:

“You work at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under state law.”

To work means to get paid for your work as a teacher-employee. Homeschool parents are not employees of a school. We do not get paid; we do not get a W-2. The IRS will check for a W-2 from a school if a taxpayer takes the Educator Expense deduction. Homeschoolers would not have a W-2 from a school, even if your state classifies your homeschool as a private school.

The Educator Expense Deduction was initiated by President Geo W. Bush  attempting to get support from teachers and their powerful unions. It was extended at the end of 2010 for one more year.

I do not recommend that homeschool parents take the Educators Expense deduction. Sorry.

Carol Topp, CPA

P.S. Here are my required “lawyer” words:
Internal Revenue Service Circular 230 Disclosure: Advice relating to federal taxes that is contained in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Do homeschool teachers get the Educators Expense deduction?

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I am frequently, “Are there any tax breaks for homeschooling parents?”  My usual reply is, “No; there are no tax credits or deductions for homeschool expenses at the federal level.” There are tax breaks offered by some states that I discuss in another blog post.

But here’s a bit of a new twist on the question from a homeschool mother.

I spoke with an IRS representative just today about an educator’s expense tax break.
The IRS rep stated that IRS laws specifically prohibit homeschoolers from getting up to $250 credit for educational items purchased. However, he stated congressional law overrides IRS law and that congressional law requires teachers work in a school as defined by state law. In our home state, Kentucky, we are considered private schools. The IRS rep suggested I give the credit a go next year but be prepared for an audit. Can you shed some light on the situation?

She is referring to the Educators Expense deduction of up to $250 in unreimbursed expenses.

The IRS guidelines say to be an eligible educator:

“You work at least 900 hours a school year in a school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under state law.”

To work means to get paid (to the IRS, not to all of us SAHMs!).  Homeschool parents are not employees of a school.  We do not get paid; we do not get a W-2.  I attended a tax workshop where we were told that the IRS will check for a W-2 from a school if a taxpayer takes the Educator Expense deduction. Homeschoolers would not have a W-2 from a school, even if your state classifies your homeschool as a private school.

The intention of the tax deduction was to move the deduction from the Schedule A (Itemized deductions) Miscellaneous Deductions where it was subject to a 2% of Adjusted Gross Income limit (meaning anything over 2% of your AGI could be deducted) and put the deduction on the front page of the 1040, so even teachers who don’t itemize deductions can take advantage of the $250 deduction.

The Educator Expense Deduction was nearly eliminated in 2006, but received an extension.  I predict the deduction will not be around for much longer.  IMHO, it was President Bush’s attempt to get a few votes from paid teachers.

So in short, I do not take the Educators Expense deduction, nor recommend that other homeschool families take the deduction.  The IRS rep was right, be prepared for an audit.  But without a W-2 from a school, you won’t win.

HTH,
Carol

P.S.  Here are my required “lawyer” words:
Internal Revenue Service Circular 230 Disclosure:  Advice relating to federal taxes that is contained in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of  avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or  promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Bank account for your family homeschool

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This homeschooling mother in NC ran into a problem when she tried to open a bank account for her family homeschool.

I live in North Carolina, homeschool my children and want to do some fund raising for some projects and field trips and also school supplies.

I went to the bank, wanting to open an account in the homeschool’s name and they said that I would have to open up an account in my name doing business as my homeschool’s name.

My question to you is, how do I go about paying taxes on the money? I do not want to get into trouble with the IRS. Was that the right thing for me to have done? Waiting to hear from you soon!
Kim

Dear Kim,

I’ve been asked questions like yours before. I answered them in two posts on my blog.

Can we (an individual homeschool) be allowed to do fund raising similar to youth sports groups, scouts,etc?

Yes, you can participate in a fund raiser if the fund raising organization allows it. BUT, the profit you make is taxable income and you’ll need to report it on your tax return.

Can my individual homeschool have a fundraiser?

Individual fundraisers and homeschool groups

I hope that answers your question; let me know if it doesn’t.

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool group avoids IRS tax notices

A homeschool group in Georgia asked for my help because they had been getting letters from the IRS about back taxes.

We are in dire need of your help. Our homeschool group has received notices from the IRS saying that we need to contact them regarding our overdue taxes. Our group was incorporated (in 2003) but we have not filed any paper work (tax returns or corporate updates) since. Please advise, as soon as possible.
TD, Georgia

I e-mailed and spoke to this homeschool leader several times, so I’ll summarize the resolution:

The treasurer e-mailed me because she had been getting letters from the IRS stating that the homeschool group was late in filing their corporate income tax return. The group ignored these letters for a few years until they found my website. It seems that the original founder had mistakenly thought that the group owed corporate income tax on their surplus. She had filed a Form 1120 (Corporate Income Tax Return ) with the IRS and paid them $71 several years ago. The IRS expected to see corporate tax returns every year thereafter and was mailing the letters when the returns were not filed.

Fortunately, the group had filed for nonprofit incorporation status with the State of Georgia several years before. This was solid documentation that the group was a nonprofit organization (even they did not have 501 tax exempt status with the IRS).

I called the IRS on behalf of the group and the IRS employee told me to mail a cover letter and a copy of the nonprofit incorporation certificate from the State of Georgia. I did so and when I called the IRS two weeks later, the IRS employee told me that the situation was taken care of, the case was closed and the group wouldn’t be getting any more letters! (We didn’t ask for a refund of the $71 previously paid, though!)

That is an excellent example of how nonprofit incorporation status helped one group avoid paying federal corporate income tax. I’m not sure that I could have convinced the IRS of their nonprofit status without the nonprofit incorporation certificate from the State of Georgia.

This is NOT to say that state nonprofit incorporation is the same as tax exempt status with the IRS. Tax exempt status with the IRS (granted by applying to the IRS using Form 1023 and paying the IRS fee) is the only way to guarantee that your group’s financial surplus will truly be classified as tax exempt.

You can read more about the benefits of nonprofit incorporation and tax exempt status in my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization.

Carol Topp, CPA