Paying Workers update will be available November 1

payingworkerscoveroutlined

I’m working hard at getting my book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization updated. It’s grown from a 20 page ebook, to a 130 page paperback (ebook version will be available soon as well).

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Can You Pay a Volunteer?
Chapter 2: Paying Board Members and Other Leaders
Chapter 3: Employee or Independent Contractor? Worker Classification
Chapter 4: Guidelines for Hiring Independent Contractors
Chapter 5: Tax Forms for Independent Contractors
Chapter 6: Payroll Taxes for Employers
Chapter 7: Tax Forms for Employers
Chapter 8: Sample Independent Contractor Agreements
Chapter 9: Resources

 

The book is in the editing phase now and I hope it will be ready for sale by November 1st, 2016.

I know that can’t happen quickly enough for some of you! Just this week I received two emails from homeschool leaders asking if they are paying their teachers correctly.

I will also be offering a service to help assist homeschool leaders to make worker determinations. It will be a phone consultation followed up my helpful guidance on the next steps to take.

Be sure to sign up for my email list so you will be notified when the book is ready and when I will be offering worker determination consultations.

Carol Topp, CPA

Summer reading for homeschool leaders: Homeschool Co-ops

 

This summer, I’ll be featuring one of my books for homeschool leaders every few weeks (and offering special discounts!). I’m also updating one of my books this summer…can you guess which one?

I’ll start with my first book for homeschool leaders,

I published this book in 2008 with a different cover. In 2013 I updated it and chose a new cover.
HomeschoolCo-opsCover

Original cover

HS Co-ops Cover_400

Updated cover

This book will help homeschool leaders start and run a homeschool co-op.

It has chapters on:

Part One: Starting a Homeschool Co-op
Chapter One: Benefits of Co-ops
Chapter Two: Disadvantages of Co-ops
Chapter Three: Different Types of Co-ops
Chapter Four: Your First Planning Meeting
Chapter Five: What’s in a Name? Names, Missions

Part Two: Running a Homeschool Co-op
Chapter Six: Leadership
Chapter Seven: Co-op Offerings
Chapter Eight: Money Management
Chapter Nine: Managing Volunteers and Conflict
Chapter Ten: Ready for the Next Step? 501c3 Tax Exempt Status

Part Three: Not Burning Out
Chapter Eleven: Avoiding Burn out

Read a sample chapter

Read more about Homeschool Co-ops the book


Here’s a special for the summer. Buy Homeschool Co-ops at 25% off. Get the paperback version for $7.50 (usual price $9.95) or ebook version for $3.99 (usual price is $4.95).


Order Homeschool Co-ops in paperback

Order Homeschool Co-ops in ebook Kindle  or pdf

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

uncle_sam_holding_money_pc_400_clr_1727

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.

I can help you determine if your fee waivers or discounts are “insignificant.” Just contact me.

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

Carol Topp, CPA

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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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Co-ops, Support group? How to define homeschool organizations

kidz00a

I frequently ask homeschool leaders, “Is your homeschool group a co-op or a support group?”

It’s a basic questions that will influence how I advise them. It should be easy to answer, but more often I hear “Both” or “Well…I’m not sure” or even “We’re sort of a school for homeschoolers.”

The world of homeschooling is changing and it’s getting harder to define our groups.  Support groups morph into co-ops. Co-ops add many support activities. Some co-ops grown into school-like programs.

The Arizona Home Education website has a definition of each type of homeschool group.

Homeschool Support Group Definitions

What do you think of their definitions?

Pretty good, I think.

Here’s my attempt to define each type of homeschool group. It’s incomplete and will probably change over time as creative homeschoolers start new types of groups to meet the needs of future homeschooling families..

Support Group: a gathering of homeschool parents or those interested in homeschooling for information and support. Typically hold monthly meetings for parents and may organize field trips or social events for children and families.

Homeschool Co-op: A gathering of homeschool parents and students who cooperate together in sharing teaching responsibilities for their homeschooled students. Usually meets once a week and frequently all-volunteer.

Homeschool Educational Program: Academic and enrichment classes for homeschooled students. May hire qualified teachers to conduct the program. Usually more expensive than an all volunteer co-op.

Homeschool Sport/Music/Art Program: Similar to a homeschool program , but focuses on sports, music, or art.

Homeschool Club (Lego, Speech/Debate, Yearbook, etc): A club focusing on a specific topic for homeschooled students. Frequently organized under a homeschool support group, but clubs can be stand-alone as well.

Homeschool Business: a for-profit business offering services to homeschooling families. Can be tutors, book sellers, and even my, business HomeschoolCPA offering accounting and tax advice to homeschool organizations.

 How did I do? Leave your comments here or on my Facebook page.

Carol Topp, CPA

Coming soon…how to motivate every member in your homeschool group

Way back in 2009, I was asked by Denise Hyde to review her book One By One: The Homeschool Group Leader’s Guide to Motivating Your Members.

It was fantastic! Really good. Really helpful. Here was my review:

“One by One is a book that every homeschool leader needs, but does not realize the need until it is too late! Every leader has difficulty motivating members or getting volunteers, but they only ask for help when it’s too late and they are tired, frustrated and want to quit! Instead, leaders should read Kristen and Denise’s very practical and encouraging book.

Inside you will find the three secrets to successfully motivating every member and then practical, real-life ways to apply those skills to everyone from moms to teenagers. I especially appreciated the true stories of how Kristen and Denise implemented everything they suggest.

They know their stuff and have a heart to share what they know with others. Take some of the advice, share it with your fellow leaders, apply it and you will find happier members, a more relaxed leader and a successful group!”

 

Well, now I’m pleased to announce that Denise is updating the book and I will be helping her get out the word about this terrific resource.

She’s going to set the price a bit (well, a lot) lower and offer it in print and in ebook format.

There is a little more work to do on the book, but it should be ready  in a few weeks.

I’ll send out an email when it’s ready. And I’ll probably have Denise on my Dollars and Sense podcast to help you motivate every member!

 

Carol Topp

 

Can a teacher work off their tuition to a homeschool co-op?

TOSMoneyTaxesHSFamily

We have recently started an inclusive homeschool co-op. I have three of your ebooks and I’m a bit confused on a few issues.

1. Each family pays the outside teachers directly. We do a registration process, but the cash or checks go to the teacher, not the co-op. Do we mark that money “in the books” or is that outside of co-op money?

2. I am also confused with the differences between volunteer parents teaching a class for reduced fees for classes and  an Independent Contractor working off their tuition.

What am I missing?

Thank you so much for your time,
Heather

Heather,
Thank you for contacting me. To answer your questions:
1. Since the funds never come to your group, they are not recorded in your books as income to your group.

2. Volunteer vs Independent Contractor (IC). It’s a world of difference because an IC is not supposed to receive any fringe benefits such as free or reduced tuition. If you give an IC fringe benefits, then they are an employee and you need to set up payroll, pay unemployment taxes, workers comp, SS/Medicare taxes, etc…The IRS is very clear and very strict about ICs not receiving benefits.
Employees of educational institutions can receive tax-free tuition discounts. Colleges and private schools do that a lot for their employees.

On the other hand, a volunteer can receive reduced or free tuition as a nontaxable benefit if it is insubstantial. If the free tuition is substantial, then the IRS would consider this compensation and the volunteer should report it as taxable income on her tax return. Read more about insubstantial benefits to volunteers.

This explanation may help:
(this is from an article “Money, Taxes and Your Homeschool Family” in the March/April edition of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Read the full article here: http://ow.ly/uAkhI

Teresa, a homeschool mom who teaches at a co-op where her own children take classes, was told by her co-op that they would just deduct her co-op tuition from her income as a teacher. Teresa’s co-op paid her as an independent contractor and this arrangement didn’t seem correct to her.

Fortunately, she emailed me, asking, “Can I work off my co-op fees by teaching a class?”

The answer is no, you cannot.

The homeschool co-op should pay Teresa with a paycheck. Then, as a separate transaction, Teresa should pay her fees to the co-op. It is important to separate the two transactions because of taxes. Being paid for teaching is earning taxable income. Paying tuition is a personal expense and not tax deductible. The two do not negate each other for tax purposes.

It may seem like more work for the co-op’s treasurer to pay and collect money from the same person, but the separation is important for clarity and correct reporting of taxable income to Teresa.

I hope that helps explain the difference.

My new book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization can help homeschool leaders understand how to properly set up compensation for volunteers and Independent Contractors.

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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Homeschool co-op has a super volunteer. Can she be paid?

SuperMom Cartoon

Hi Carol,

Our co-op is a nonprofit corporation. Almost all of our tutors in the co-op are moms with kids in the program. The moms do not get pay in money for teaching but are offered “credits” against tuition.

1) Are we correct to assume that we are not dealing with either Independent Contractors (IC) or employees in this circumstance?

2) We have one tutor who gets “credits” and payment. Can we regard her as an IC if she submit an invoice?

We do have a few tutors whom we pay and we will need to look more closely into invoices and 1099 MISC.

Thank you so much for your advice. If these questions are covered in your ebook, please let me know.

-MG

 

Dear MG,

Thank you for contacting me. Let’s see if I can answer your questions.

1. Sounds like your tutors are volunteers. You thank them with tuition discounts (or “credits” as you call them). The more a person volunteers, the larger the discount/credit. There is no problem with doing that, except the “credits” are really a form of compensation for her services and are taxable income to the recipient. Your”volunteers” won’t like hearing that news!

Paying a Volunteer

2. Paying a volunteer gets very tricky. She’s no longer a volunteer because she is paid. She’s actually a mix; some volunteer and some paid. That’s what’s confusing. If you can clearly separate her volunteering from her paid tasks, then do that. For example, if she tutors and gets credits (which are taxable compensation) and then in addition designs your website for free, it’s pretty easy to separate those two jobs.

Super volunteers

But some people are what I call “super volunteers.” They volunteer so much beyond their discounts or credits that the organization pays them for their extra volunteering. But volunteers cannot get paid, so she’s either an employee or an IC.I cannot determine her worker status with the information you gave me.

If you want to treat her like an independent contractor, then she cannot receive benefits like tuition credits. The value of these credits need to be reported to the IRS and added to her taxable income.
I discuss this in Money Management in a Homeschool Organization. See Chapter 12.

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org

The Money Management book will be helpful and so will my Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization book, because it shows the forms needed for employees and Independent contrcators.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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Can a teacher work off her homeschool co-op tuition by teaching?

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org
Carol,
Some of our paid teachers who have kids in our homeschool program still owe our group money. Can we just reduce their salary to reflect their net debt to us?
For example, one of our teachers will make $1000 for teaching next semester, but she will owe us $1,588 for all of her kids’ classes. Can I just bill her for $588 and call it a day?
Another teacher might make $2,000 and owe $,1000. Can we just offer a salary of $1,000?

Kay B in IL

 

Kay,

Oh I wish things were as simple as you describe!

Unfortunately for the teachers you pay, you cannot simply net what they owe you with what you owe them. The reason has to do with taxes. Earned income from teaching is taxable income, but tuition the teacher pays to your co-op is not a tax deduction. 🙁

In my latest book, Money Management in a Homeschool Organization, I address this issue. Here’s what I wrote:

I heard of a homeschool leader who let parents work off their tuition by teaching classes as independent contractors. One morning she announced to her teachers, “You all just got paid today!” but no paychecks were given out because they still owed tuition.

Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

Being paid for rendering services is one transaction (earning taxable income). Paying tuition (which is a personal expense like food or clothing and not tax deductible) is another transaction. The two do not negate each other.

The correct method would be for the homeschool group to pay the independent contractor teachers with paychecks and then they pay their tuition fee as a separate transaction.

Why is it so important to separate the two transactions?

It has to do with taxes. The teachers need to report the income they earned on their tax returns at the end of the year. Tuition for their child’s homeschool class is not a tax deduction, so they should not be seen as canceling out.

If you’d like more information on managing the money in your homeschool group, order a copy of Money Management in a Homeschool Organization.

Carol Topp, CPA

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Can a homeschool athletic booster club be a 501c3?

FreeDigitalPhotos.net Credit: Salvatore Vuono

FreeDigitalPhotos.net Credit: Salvatore Vuono

Mrs Topp,

For several years my wife has operated a group here in Lubbock Texas.  The purpose of the group is to raise funds for our homeschool athletic teams to pay for various aspects of their sporting endeavors.

 The group receives a percentage of sales from concession stands operated at Texas Tech University and are paid by Ovations, the current concessions operator for Texas Tech.   Ovations uses non-profit groups to operate all concession stands.

 We have never sought non-profit status and now Ovations is insisting that we do so or they will no longer use us.

We has always paid each individual working in the stand based on how much time they worked, and given out 1099MISC to those making over the minimum $600.  Those working come from homeschool athletic teams though we do not dictate how the money each receives is spent.

 In reading the IRS website I can see that sports organizations are eligible for non-profit status, but is the way we pay those working acceptable?

 Paul H

Lubbock, Texas

 

Paul,

Your organization sounds like a parent booster club in that you raise funds to support athletic teams. Yes, booster clubs and athletic teams can be 501c3 tax exempt organizations.

The issue of paying parents working a concession stand has come up with the IRS in the past.
Here is a blog post I have written on the topic.
http://homeschoolcpa.com/the-irss-word-on-fundraising-dos-and-donts/
I think the IRS would approve of the way you are paying the parents. Giving them a 1099MISC is the correct way to report their earnings.

You might also find this website ParentBooster.org helpful.

ParentBooster.org offers tax exempt status to athletic booster clubs that support the activities of a school under their group tax exempt status. I asked the founder, Sandy Englund, if homeschool booster clubs would be eligible for 501c3 tax exempt status under ParentBooster.org, but she said no. Maybe you should ask and see if you get a different answer. It would be a very easy way to obtain your 501c3 tax exempt status.