Better for a homeschool group to file for 501c3 or pay taxes?

TaxAdviceLetters

I read your book The IRS And Your Homeschool Organization. What a Godsend! I am the director of a small homeschool academy in Missouri. We are in the process of deciding whether to do a 501(c)(3) or not. My board has two questions.

1. You state the IRS filing fee is $850. That may be a struggle for us. Would there be a cost savings to just file income taxes? You mentioned a 15% corporate tax. We have been a non-profit corporation since 11/04/11.

2. Would taxes have to be paid on years prior to 2011….whether we file or not? We have had a gross income over $5,000.

Diann

 

Dear Diann,

Thank you for contacting me and your kind words!

1. Some nonprofits find it cheaper to pay taxes at 15% of their profit than the IRS filing fee. That’s a shame! Of course the $850 IRS filing fee is one time only, taxes go on forever. 🙁

The corporate income tax form is Form 1120. The corporate income tax rate is 15% of your profit.

Additionally, you will not receive other tax exempt benefits such as sales tax exemption, ability to accept tax deductible donations, and participation in fund raisers like Box Tops for Education without 501(c)(3) status.

2. Taxes will have to be paid from your date of incorporation, which in your case was November 4, 2011. You’re already late in filing a corporate income tax return, Form 1120, for 2011 (or whatever you fiscal year is). You’re probably be late for 2012 too! Since you never applied to be tax exempt, your organization could owe back taxes.

The IRS allows 27 months after date of formation (incorporation) to apply for tax exempt status and be back-dated to your date of formation. So if you apply for tax exempt status before February 4, 2014, you will be tax exempt and not owe any income tax. Better hurry!

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Diann found my book The IRS And Your Homeschool Organization helpful. You might too!

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

“Incorporate yourself and write off homeschool expenses.” Really?

TaxAdviceLetters

 

Hello. I’ve been doing some research lately on how best to write of homeschool expenses in the state of Florida and came across your website. I’m hoping that you can assist me.

I’ve contacted my accountant who was able to confirm that the only way to write off homeschool expenses in Florida is to incorporate yourself.

If I go through that process, is there a site or a list of what I will be able to write off? Is it 100% of costs like curriculum and field trips? I’ve also heard that I can write off mileage related to homeschool events and even a portion of my mortgage.

I haven’t been able to find a good list anywhere that will tell me what steps I need to take and what advantages I will have once I take those steps.

Can you help or direct me to a good site that can help me?

Thank you so much for your time.

Becky C in FL

Becky,

To “incorporate yourself” you need a legitimate trade or business with a source of revenue (i.e. sales of a product or service). Paying yourself for homeschooling your own children does not count as a trade or business or revenue, so you cannot legally form a corporation.

Even if you do somehow form a corporation without revenue, your homeschool expenses are personal expenses and cannot be deducted on your corporate income tax return.

The advice you received from the accountant you found was incorrect.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Will being an Amazon affiliate cause tax problems for a homeschool group?

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I have a question about affiliate relationships with companies like Amazon. We want to receive the benefits offered by Amazon (and others) by placing a link on our website for members and non members to use when ordering products.

I read through one article on your blog regarding Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT). One point in your article refers to exemptions for the tax and I believe we will qualify for at least two:

  • 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.

Do you have anything to add to that article or any others I haven’t seen?  Specifically, should we avoid these types of programs?

I appreciate your insight as well as your being a resource to the homeschool community.

Sincerely,

Jeanne R

 

Jeanne,

Thank you for contacting me and your kind words.

I think you understand Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) and the exemptions quite well.

UBIT is a tax that tax exempt organizations must pay when they earn a profit on activities that are unrelated to their tax exempt purpose. The classic example is that a nonprofit hospital must pay the IRS taxes on profit from their gift store, because running a gift store is not related to the hospitals tax exempt purpose (treating illness).

Most charities qualify for exemption from UBIT and you found two common exemptions.

I think the affiliate program with Amazon is a fine idea.

Have it run by volunteers and you’ll avoid any UBIT.

Carol Topp, CPA

New homeschool group wants to avoid paying taxes

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I’m heading up a small group of about 20 homeschooling families. We may grow a bit, but we are in a small town, so I can’t imagine we’d ever be over 40 families big.

I’ve also set up a website and Google group. This is just information and communication for any area homeschooler, not a co-op of families who attend anything. It has about 50 families and growing.

What do I need to be aware of to be sure that we don’t become the kind of organizations (either of these groups) that have to file or pay taxes. We do not collect dues. If there is a field trip with a fee, each family just pays it at that time.

Thank you!
Kaysha

 

Kayla,

It sounds as if both groups are a small gathering of like-minded people. You said you don’t even collect dues! Amazing!

If you ever do collect dues, then open a checking account in the group’s name, so the money doesn’t look like your own personal money. This might involve getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to open a checking account.

So long as you organize and operate like a nonprofit (no profit motive and decisions made by a group of leaders not one person) and stay under $5,000 gross income per year, you will be tax exempt in the eyes of the IRS. The  IRS does request that all nonprofits , even very small ones, file an annual Form 990N. It’s only 8 questions.

This checklist will keep you on track:  A checklist for new homeschool organizations

Then read the following articles in order:

  1. What’s in a name?
  2. Choosing a leadership team
  3. Writing your mission statement
  4. Getting an EIN from the IRS
  5. Identifying who you are by writing bylaws
  6. Sample bylaws
  7. Budgeting basics

I hope that helps!
Carol Topp, CPA

Can my family’s homeschool be a nonprofit?

I see several articles (on your website www.HomeschoolCPA.com) on setting up as a not-for-profit for homeschool organizations (e.g. homeschool co-ops), but I wonder if I could set my own family’s homeschool up as a non-profit. We’re in Texas, so we are considered a private school.
-Lauren in TX

Lauren,
You asked a good question and I’ve been asked it before in different ways. Nonprofit organizations have a lot of benefits including tax free income, discounts, and sometimes pay no sales tax!
I’m not a lawyer, nor familiar with Texas private school laws, but I’ll try to explain how I see things.

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 profit from the organization. 501(c)(3) organizations can lose their tax exempt status for practicing inurement.

Inurement/Private Benefit – Charitable Organizations

A section 501(c)(3) organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests. No part of the net earnings of a section 501(c)(3) organization may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. A private shareholder or individual is a person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization.
From the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/inurement-private-benefit-charitable-organizations

So, in short the answer is no, your family homeschool cannot be set up as a nonprofit organization, even if your state classifies a homeschool as a private school. That’s how I see it.

Carol Topp, CPA

Now, here are my “lawyer words…”
Any tax advice contained in this communication was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.

Any Tax Breaks for Homeschoolers?

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Tax season has officially launched, so it’s time to address a question I am frequently asked,

Do homeschoolers get any tax breaks for their homeschooling expenses? Can a homeschool family deduct any of their homeschool expenses?

Sorry, but the federal government does not give a tax credits for homeschool expenses

State tax credits or deductions for homeschool expenses

But, several states have an educational tax credit. Iowa, Arizona, Minnesota and Illinois all have some sort of  tax break for individuals. The credit is available to any public or private school student, so it is not unique to homeschoolers. Florida and Pennsylvania offer businesses tax credits if they sponsor a scholarship.

This document has a chart of education tax credits and deductions by state (updated November 2008). Scroll to page 6 to see the chart.

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/feelaw.pdf

Home School Legal Defense Association has an explanation of some states’ tax breaks or credits:

http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200504150.asp

Homeschool business or nonprofit as a tax dodge?

Some homeschoolers think they can start a business or a nonprofit organization of their homeschool activities and then deduct their expenses.  It doesn’t work that way. See my blog post  “Can you set up homeschooling as a business?”

Ann Zeise of A to Z Home’s Cool addresses these ideas:

You cannot contribute to your own child’s K12 education and get any tax deduction for it, no more than if you sent him to a private school and tried to write off the tuition.

Carol Topp, CPA

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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.